She sniffed at the edges of the carrier box, uncertain about stepping into the middle of the room with a stranger. She looked around and glanced at me, sitting cross-legged on the floor. I held my breath. Would she like me? Would I like her? Would this end horribly?
Then, like a windfall, she stepped out of the box, made a beeline for me and pushed her head into my hands.
And my heart.
My heart. Just. Melted.
Of course I took her home with me. How could I not? Her name was Portia and I kept the name. I fed her tuna biscuits and raw chicken necks and gave her cuddles every night (and often throughout the day). She was a highly affectionate cat.
She was also a little bit nutty. She would dart through the house without warning, starting at one end and racing to the other, gaining momentum, sliding, losing her footing, crashing into the back door. She never seemed hurt; she’d just look up at me. Apparently it was important that I watched her.
She was a highly affectionate cat. She was also a little bit nutty.
Portia was a hopeless bug-catcher. One time she found a spider on the floor with its front legs raised in that horrible defensive position. I egged her on. ‘Go on! Kill!’ I urged. She looked at me, an expression of utter disdain on her face. Useless. I had to kill the spider myself.
She was a dancer and her favourite move was a sideways bunny-hop as she ran up to me. She was quite talented. She also had an impressive voice, and would sing through the night to show me. If she failed to rouse me, she would start on the percussive section, tugging noisily at closed doors until I got up to see what she so desperately needed. And then she’d look at me and wander off.
She was quite talented.
As she got older, she developed arthritis in her hips. Bit by bit, she shied away from jumping. Then she developed hyperthyroidism which enlarged her heart and gave her a murmur. Her heart got so big it crept up into her throat and made her cough and gag. We gave her medication and she seemed to get better. For a while she was well.
But in late May 2022, her behaviour changed. She went off her food. She started peeing on the floor beside her litter tray (why??) instead of in it. She lost weight rapidly. When I patted her, I could feel every rib sticking out and every vertebrae protruding along her back. At nineteen years old, it could simply be old age.
But it didn’t seem right.
Her personality changed too. She became vacant. She still gave me cuddles but stopped talking to me. She stopped winking or blinking at me when I talked to her. She kept purring, but it was a different purr—low and soft like a distant thunderstorm, rather than loud and rambunctious like the prima donna she was.
The big flag was the way she stared. She would lie down and just stare ahead of her. When I walked in the room, she would raise her head, stare right through me, and then go back to staring at the wall. My stomach started turning. Something is really wrong here. She is not herself.
Something is really wrong here.
Time to take her to the vet.
I rang and booked her in first thing the following morning. That night, she sat on my lap for our usual cuddle. I was patting her when suddenly she got up, turned around on my lap and looked dead at me. It was a look that made my heart tremble.
I felt like she was trying to tell me she was finished. She was done.
When I took her to the vet the next morning, the vet took one look at her and went, ‘That’s not right.’ She examined her and Portia growled when the vet prodded her kidneys. I told her about the red flags I had noticed, the changes in her behaviour and personality.
‘I think she’s in renal failure,’ the vet told me.
’She’s in renal failure.’
Just like that. It was over.
I arranged to have her put down and spent the next three days lavishing her with love. I cuddled her. I gave her treats. I fed her opiates (from the vet) to keep her comfortable. Her appetite picked up a little. I sang her a lullaby. I told her what she meant to me. I did everything I could to remind her she was loved.
On the last day, we had an extended cuddle. She was still vacant and listless, staring blankly into space. As I patted her head, she roused a little and pushed her head into my hands. Just like she did on the day we first met.
She went to sleep that evening, completely at peace.
I farewelled my best friend, my confidante, and in a way, my saviour. She kept me company on the loneliest days, kissed me when I was sick and made me laugh when I was down. She gave so much to me. I thought I was saving her by giving her a forever home. What I never expected was the way she would save me.
I thought I was saving her. What I never expected was the way she would save me.
God knew I needed her. I thank God for our time together. She brought something special into my life, and then, just like a lady, she knew it was time to leave.
Farewell, my furbaby. See you on the other side.
Have you ever farewelled a furbaby? What was it like? How did you preserve those precious memories? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.