Sunday, January 19, 2014

To Whitey

He was just an outdoor cat, or so he appeared. He was a bit dirty, a bit shopworn, and as thin as a rail, but those flaws couldn't hide the remembrance of what he had been when we first met. 

His name was Whitecat, Whitey for short, a rather unimaginative name for a pure white cat with pale blue eyes. The man who had lived in the house here before me had seen him as a very young feral cat and had gradually won his trust and companionship. Whitey went for walks with the man and his dog, kept  them company inside and out, and generally was a member in good standing of their little family. When I bought the place, Whitey was part of the package. I didn't mind a bit; he was a beautiful cat, a lovely gentleman and I am nuts about cats anyway. 

Whitey was part of my share of the neighborhood for the past five and a half years. He only came inside once; I brought him in one night last winter when the temperature was well below freezing. He wasn't happy and wanted out first thing next morning. He had a pal, Tigger, who was often curled up next to him or sitting next to him on the front step. I made sure they never went hungry and, I'm afraid, in the process, attracted a few more cats. I tried to keep them away until after Whitey ate but I noticed that if there was a pregnant female or almost any female, for that matter, he would back off and let them eat first, no matter how hungry he was.

He was a gentle cat, not a fighter by any stretch, but he would defend himself if need be. Occasionally he got the worse of the match and I wouldn't see him for a few days. That was worrisome because I was always afraid he would never come back. Sooner or later, though, he would show up, sitting on the doorstep when I opened the door, and things would be back to normal.

About six months ago he began to go downhill. He clawed at his mouth after he ate like someone who needed a toothpick. I couldn't get close enough to him at that point to check to see what it was, but I could see it bothered him. Then he started looking a bit unkempt. His beautiful white coat got dirty and never really got clean again although he did wash his face diligently after every meal. He lost weight and, about a week or so ago, he was almost skin and bones except for a badly bloated abdomen. Four days ago he sat on my doorstep and meowed at me, following me closely when I went outside, checking the water dish and putting out food for him. He would eat a tiny bit, then go off under the truck or wherever it was he went when he wanted to be alone.

Thursday he was much worse and meowed continually when he saw me. It was like he wanted help and I felt totally helpless. He would let me pet him, even brush him gently as he ate the few bites he wanted to take. The look in those pale blue eyes and that quiet little meow, a sound I had almost never heard in the whole five and a half years of our association, told me something had to be done and it was time to do it.

Friday, with a very heavy heart, I put him on a new blanket in a cat carrier and took him to the vet. They wrapped his body up in the new blanket and I took him over to the man who used to be his caregiver. Whitey was buried under a tree in his yard, next to the dog with whom he and the man shared walks. I think he would be happy to be there.

I still drive around the corner where my house is and when I pull into my driveway I still look to see if he is there waiting for me like he was so many times. Tigger is looking too, but neither of us see him. I can't explain to her what happened, but I so wish I could. That's the curse of being human and not feline; I can't communicate with them more than on a certain level. I hope I conveyed to Whitey how much he was loved, though.

I miss him. I still have my four indoor cats and I love them dearly, but Whitey was in a class all by himself. I miss my gentleman cat.  I have to take heart, though, and deep down I have a feeling that Whitey and I will meet again one day, just as I will meet the others I have loved. If I get to heaven and Whitey, Jane, Maggie, Nick, Tinker, Dammit and Emerson aren't there, I'm not going in. It wouldn't be heaven without them.

A friend sent this poem to us, Whitey's family:

The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
a Candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf.
A dolphin death.  O this particular loss
is Heaven-mourned, for if no angel cried,
If this small one was tossed away as dross
The very galaxies then would have lied.

How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and start show how
The universe is part of this one cry.
That every life is noted and is cherished.
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished. 
         -- Madeline L’Engle from “A Ring of Endless Light”

Rest in peace, Whitey.


  1. I had a cat that lived with me for seventeen wonderful years. He died about a year ago and I still miss him. I had him from a little kitten that I was not certain that I wanted. The first night that he was at my house was all the time that it took for me to know that he and I would be together for a long time. Cats seem to have a way of doing that for some of us folks.

  2. Yes, Richard, they do. My first indoor cat was Dammit. I picked her out of a litter at 2 weeks and 20 years and a month later she left me for Rainbow Bridge. Each cat since then has had a special place in my heart and none of them can be replaced. Thanks for commenting.