Good Cat

“One of the farm cats had kittens. So cute. Do you want the orange one?” asked my friend. We were petless at the time, and my kids were at good ages for a cat to come into the home–four and six–so what the hell? I’d grown up with cats. Cats are easy.

“There’s just one thing,” said my friend a week later when she arrived in town with our kitten. “He has been watching over of the runt, a little black-and-white female. I don’t know if I can separate them!”

Which was how we ended up with two kittens. And they were perfect.

RG Daughter named them–Koko and Lilly. I have no idea why she selected those names; she just did. Everyone loved the orange kitten Koko, with his wild fur and enormous paws. Lilly was much more skittish and hid from everyone except RG Daughter, who dressed her up in baby’s clothing and carried her around like a rag doll.

One evening, six months later, four-year-old RG Daughter came to me and said solemnly, “Lilly’s sick. She’s going to die.”

I looked at her in shock. “No, no, Lilly’s fine,” I said, glancing at the cat draped over her arm.

“No, she’s sick.” With that, RG Daughter placed Lilly on the floor at my feet. “See? She won’t run and hide from you.”

The cat was, indeed, laying calmly at my feet. I figured she was finally getting used to all of us.

“Look, she seems very content and happy, and it’s bedtime for you,” I said, convinced the cat was fine. “But I’ll check on her later tonight, okay?”

“Okay, but she’s going to die,” said RG Daughter in an eerie, matter-of-fact way, before she turned and sighed and walked down the hall to her bedroom.

I awoke quite suddenly at two in the morning. The cat. Check on the cat. And when I did, she didn’t run away, she lay quietly, purring. Koko was perched next to her, purring as well. “You’re a good brother,” I said to the enormous orange pumpkin he’d come to resemble.

The next morning, I found them–still next to each other, Koko still keeping watch over Lilly, and Lilly who had obviously died sometime after two in the morning. Of all days, it was RG Daughter’s birthday, and I cry every time I remember that horrible moment. I think we all do.

Koko continued to thrive, getting bigger and fatter and ever more lovable. We discovered he liked to fetch–especially crumpled up paper–and we would entertain him and ourselves for hours sending him after paper “mice.” Every time we moved over the years, we’d find his hidden stashes of mice all over the house.

Over the years, Koko peacefully tolerated the parade of new animals that joined our household, and he outlived them all. He calmly allowed himself to be the subject of unending school projects for both kids, including one which measured “How High Can Koko Jump?” I believe it was four feet, and when he sailed over the broomstick for this record-breaking leap, with his paws tucked under his fat belly, he resembled more a baby seal than a cat. I laugh every time I look at the photo we took of that exact moment.

Koko was there for RG Daughter as she navigated the awkward middle school years, always just a pat and a purr away after a particularly tough day. He was there for RG Son when he was in high school, happy to sit on the floor next to his desk and keep him company on a weekend night when plans had fallen through. He was there for all us if we were sick in bed, laying close to our feet to keep them warm.

Koko was a favorite subject of everyone’s camera. What was not to love about his fluffy fur and orange eyes and wise demeanor? Koko at Christmas when he allowed himself to be cajoled into wearing cat-sized antler ears or a Santa hat. Koko at Halloween next to the pumpkin he outweighed. Koko sporting his summer “Lion” cut. Koko in the background, Koko in the foreground, Koko always in the picture. I think Mr. RG still has the mug emblazoned with the cat’s sprawled, 22-pound heft.

Koko moved with us three times, always adapting just fine as long as he could start a new collection of paper mice. He watched one, then the other of his “litter mates” head off to college, which at first confused him, then delighted him, when they came home on breaks. When I moved to Florida two years ago, he attached himself to Mr. RG, which, I am sure, Mr. RG found both annoying and somewhat comforting.

Koko was the cat who bore witness to it all. He never judged nor took sides nor showed favorites. He never did anything but love us all.

Last week, after 18 years of faithful companionship, Mr. RG made the painful decision that Koko was sick and in pain and that his time had come. Rather than let him suffer, he took the cat to the vet who’d given him his first check-up on a similar summer’s day 18 years ago, and he stayed with him until the end. I am so sorry he had to do this on his own.

“Good cat,” said the vet on a sad day that quietly represented the end of an era for my family. “Good cat.”

Koko at age 16

Koko with Rouletta






25 responses to “Good Cat”

  1. RG Son Avatar
    RG Son

    Great post, I wish could stop crying =)

  2. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    RG Son–I know, me too.

  3. Annapolitan Avatar

    A life of eighteen years is a testament to you all. My Sampson looks a lot like your Koko: he’s a red and white floofy boy. He’s only 10 and weighs only about 16 lbs. I’d be delighted if he equals your boy in age. (But not in weight… please no!)

    I’m sorry for your loss, RG. It really does sound like he had a great life and has left an imprint on your hearts. That’s a wonderful legacy for a cat to have.

  4. Jennifer Avatar

    Oh, I just knew, halfway through the post, what the ending had to be. 🙁 As a “mommy” to four cats (three of them around age 10, one just under a year old), I dread the day I’m going to have to make the decision Mr RG made about Koko. I’m tearing up just knowing about your loss. This is why I still won’t read the last book about Polar Bear.
    Like Annapolitan said, at least he had a great life and left an imprint.
    I’m going to hug all my cats now.

  5. Suz Avatar

    Oh, so sorry. I’m in touch with this emotion with 14 and 16 year-old kitties in my care. Your family was lucky to have Koko in your lives. And Koko was lucky to find you for his family.

  6. savannah Avatar

    today i seem to be crying for everyone, over everything, everywhere. i am sorry fr your loss, sugar. i think today, i’m remembering every one of mine. xoxo

  7. […] View post:  Good Cat […]

  8. Andy London UK Avatar
    Andy London UK

    Hi RG. I’m not much of a cat person.

    Have you seen the cats at Hemmingway’s hours in Key West? I took my son there a couple of years ago. We followed a guide around the house and he mentioned one book and what happened at the end. My son shook his hand at the end of the tour and said ‘I’m currently reading that book so thanks for spoiling the ending.’

    I’m trying to remember what’s so unique about the cats at Hemmingway’s hourse. 2 tails, 5 legs. Can’t remember.

    Are you settled in Key West RG? I love the place. I’ve been there so may times.

    BTW we had a great time at that restaurant you recommended in DC. Old Ebbit’s Grill. We met a friend there and had a nice meal. Great city I thought. Bloody cold in winter though.


  9. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Annapolitan–Thank you. He leaves a great legacy, for sure.

    Jennifer–Hug your cats. They are good friends to us.

    Suz–He was awesome and will be missed by us forever.

    savannah–Hugs to you. No more tears.

    Andy–Glad you enjoyed Old Ebbitt. It is one of my favorite places to go when I am back in town. And it’s the cats’ toes–they have more than the usual count, I believe.

  10. mkh Avatar

    This is a beautiful tribute to a lost family member. You were all lucky to have found each other.

  11. Jennifer Avatar

    I am SO sorry for your loss, RG, and for your family’s loss. When we’re fortunate enough to have furry companions who stay with us that long, there’s obviously going to be a huge hole in our lives where they used to be (still thinking about you, Milady). Tthere is no question that precious kitty had an exceptional life chock full of love.

  12. Christine in LA Avatar
    Christine in LA

    Oh that just broke my heart. I’m sitting in a coffee shop silently crying. Losing pets has been some of the most painful memories in my life precisely because of all the things you wrote about your lovely Koko. They are so loyal…sometimes more then human family! My heart goes out to you, your son, daughter and especially Mr. RG. Hugs C

  13. Molly Avatar

    When I was in kindergarten, we got a Yorkie. Sweet, gentle, dumb and brilliant all at once. My freshman year of college, I got a call from my mother. While toweling Misty off after a bath, my dad noticed she was shaking. She laid down, and never stood up again. That was almost ten years ago. I still cry every time I think of her, and I still love her more than anything in the world. I’m terrified of the day that any of my three kitties go. My heart goes out to you and your family, and I know there’s nothing quite like the pain of losing the unconditional love of a pet family member.

  14. L. Avatar

    Beautiful Eulogy, thank you for sharing RG.

  15. Sarah Avatar

    I can only add my condolences to the others here. I realize no words can make you feel better but your words about Koko were beautiful. What a lovely tribute to a beloved.

  16. Jenny Avatar

    I’m so sorry for your loss RG, I have lost two beautiful dogs in the last few years, my thoughts are with you and your family. It will get easier, take solace in Rouletta she’ll be a great comfort to you.

  17. Echo Avatar

    What a beautiful tribute to such an important member of your family.

  18. Lisa Avatar

    Oh, RG (and RG Son and Daughter) – he looks like such a big, beautiful, orange and white fluff ball with loads of personality. Thinking of you and hoping you find some solace in all of the wonderful memories a truly loved pet can give.

  19. JoeInVegas Avatar

    Oh, sorry, we just lost one of our boys, and the other isn’t doing so well. You spend more hours with the animals than with the kids.

  20. DodgerGirl Avatar

    Sadness for their loss is the price we pay for the joy of having pets in our life.

  21. Anon Avatar

    We have three dogs and I can’t imagine losing one of them. They are all unqiue with their own personalities and we adore them. I’m sorry for your lose

  22. Belle Avatar

    Nothing has the power to break a heart in quite the way that the passing of our furred, feathered, finned or scaled babies does. Something about that sweet, trusting spirit housed in even the biggest goofball haunts us as we laugh
    through tear soaked memories. May you carry always the warmth of his love wrapped around your heart , a reminder that you, too, are protected…


  23. kgrrrl Avatar

    I’ve lost a couple of kitties in my lifetime – very close to my heart and I miss them everyday. Thank you for sharing – I can’t wait to get my next one as they make a house a home.

  24. Esme Avatar

    I have had one cat in my life and he was my best friend. 21 years of joy and companionship that only a cat can give. You never own a cat but share your home with him.