I held her lifeless body, telling myself that she was still alive and just wasn’t awake yet. But she wouldn’t wake, she was gone. A week earlier, I would not have wanted her in my life, but now life without her is harder. My heart still hurts. I didn’t think I could feel grief anymore, but I do for her. I did not choose to have her in my life, but she still touched me. I tried so hard to give her life, and somehow that melted my heart, because I found that I actually cared.
This morning marked the 2 week anniversary of my kitten Cali’s passing. Through tears that afternoon, I started the above passage. Later, I partially blacked out after only 3 glasses of wine. Feeling true grief over anything and blacking out are both firsts for me. I pretty much lost it and am having trouble bouncing back emotionally. I can still function, as many critters depend on me, but I still have that cliche’d hole in my heart.
Even with my decades of animal care-giving for more animals (namely cats) than I ever wanted, I had never created a strong bond with an animal. Sure, I care for animals, and the puppy mill dogs see me as a “mom” figure, but I’m not overly sentimental nor am I the bonding type. Especially since I resent having to take care of so many many animals because my disabled partner wants them all but won’t/can’t care for them.
I do seem to have a gift for nurturing, though.
Animals come and go, whether it be through adoption or otherwise. That’s rescue life. I’m fine, even relieved, when they go to new homes. If they pass away, it’s sad, but I get over it. At most, a quick sob and then on with life, even for those we’ve had for years and years.
For me, sentimentality has nothing to do with nurturing. Being able to nurture doesn’t mean going to pieces when someone is sick or even passes away.
Cali was different, though. She was the first pet I genuinely loved enough to cry for. A lot. I did not want her to go, even though I had my time back, which is a precious commodity. I was more than willing to sacrifice anything to care for her. This was more than just nurturing.
I thought I had gotten over her passing by now, since I was only feeling sadness when I occasionally thought of her.
But I saw her body again the past 2 mornings (the bodies are in the freezer until we can take them to the pet crematorium), and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Writing this was almost impossible at times.
I have never had such an emotional time writing. And I never thought my hardest post would be about a kitten.
Cali was a dark calico with a white belly. She survived 6 days, and we bonded. She was the sole kitten for the last day of her life, leaving her without siblings to cuddle with, so after her feedings she would curl up into my hand and fall asleep. I even thought I heard a tiny purr here and there. I was momma, and she loved me. The first night she was alone, I would keep my hand in her warmed kennel so she would have something living to sleep by. The second night, before she passed, I kept my had in her kennel less because my partner was paranoid that I would somehow hurt Cali after I fell asleep. I can’t help but wonder if she would have made it had I had stayed awake and let her sleep in my hand, kept next to my body like I wanted to keep her, for the extra warmth and attention. Would the cuddling have made a difference?
The momma cat’s owner had brought Cali and 3 of her siblings to us less than 24 hours after their birth. My partner received the call and agreed to take them in without consulting me, even though I would be the one to care for the newborns. I did resent, as I always do, her agreeing to give me more responsibilities, but the resentment lessened when I cared for the newborns.
This outside momma cat had no maternal instincts. Cali had 4 other siblings, and the biggest baby passed away before the kittens were brought to us, and the 2nd biggest passed away within hours of them being in our care. With each passing, I was a little sad and then just proceeded to take care of the other babies like I always do. After all, they are just babies that didn’t have a chance, so while I tried my best, I knew the odds were against them. Newborn kittens are nearly impossible to save, especially if they hadn’t nursed at all from their momma. We do have an emergency supply of all-species colostrum for the first day we had them, to help supplement since they received no momma’s milk, then on to the Kitten Milk Replacer, using eyedroppers at first, but eventually Cali got the hang of nursing from a bottle. Babies can’t go potty without help, so I did the momma’s job of making them go potty before and after feedings, and burping them after their feedings. Then they would go into their make-shift bed full of blankets and fuzzy material, with a heating pad underneath to keep them warm.
Cali hang on the longest. She was 6 days old, and I had cared for her 5 of those 6 days.
I had hope that she would live and was rooting for her, and I just thought it was my normal positive outlook. I didn’t know it was because I fell in love with her and was starting to think that the odds turned to be in her favor, that my positive outlook was more wishing that she would not die on me. I didn’t know that I would feel real grief after she passed, and that I would still be feeling it two weeks later.
That never happened before.
Perhaps she was filling a void. All she asked for was to help give her life, and she would be my baby in return. She would love the care I gave her and wouldn’t ever yell at me for caring for her the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. If she needed something I wasn’t giving her, she would just meow. And anything she asked for was vital for her to live and she was happy to receive anything I gave her. And while I cared for her, I could forget about all the frustrations and disappointments of my regular life.
Sure, I was losing sleep and time, and figuring out how to care for her while working my day job and performing all my other necessary duties wasn’t easy. But that was OK. She was taking to the bottle nicely, and while she wasn’t gaining weight, she still seemed strong and full of as much life as a baby kitten can have.
I honestly don’t know if I would have kept her as my personal pet after she grew up, or if I would have allowed her to be adopted and provide another person/family with joy. I may not have felt that same bond after Cali grew up and would be able to take care of herself. I tend to be a person that nurtures until they are strong enough to go on their way and then I let go.
Regardless, I wish Cali was still here with me. Should would have been stronger and starting to play by now, and by next week would learn to drink milk from a bowl.
But she’s gone. I will have her cremated separately so I can have her with me always. A reminder that I actually do have feelings and can care deeply for something.
I don’t wish to have any more kittens. That will not fill the void, and I don’t know that I will feel this again for another animal.
I just know that I loved my Cali, and I miss her more that I have missed anything.