It was eleven years ago tomorrow, precisely.
My wife and I had decided to buy a cat. However, we often had people over for meetings and so on related to our work, and so we wanted to get a cat that was hypoallergenic, or “relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.” After a bit of research, we settled on a Devon Rex, a breed that comes from England in the 1960’s.
There was a breeder outside of town that we discovered was selling some Devon Rex cats that she no longer wanted, so we went and had a look. The first one we saw was a bit skittish and nervous, and we thought that wouldn’t be a nice animal to have. The second was a bit lazier and nicer, but really weird looking – with a fat body and a tiny head. We could just imagine the jokes that our friends would make if we got an animal that looked like that.
The third cat was quite a nice looking cat. It was bit nervous but also curious, and we decided to take it. Her name was Kamala.
We couldn’t take her right away because the breeder needed to desex her first (she didn’t want someone else breeding with her, after all). And so a few weeks later, on July 9, 2005, I went to pick her up.
I was by myself at the time since it was a bit of a drive and it was easier if for my wife to just stay with our two children (who were at the time were nearly 3 and nearly 1). So I put Kamala into a cat carrier, set that down on the seat next to me, and started to drive home.
Kamala wasn’t happy about being in the cat-carrier, and let me know it. After a few minutes, her meows stopped. Then after another pause, she suddenly started attacking the little plastic pegs that kept the door of the container shut. First one and then the other came loose, and then I saw this thin cat sort of snake her way out of the door and stand on the container next to me.
But wasn’t content to just sit there, and she started exploring the car. For a while she was even sitting on the dashboard, which of course was a bit of a concern (I was on a highway, so there wasn’t any easy place to stop). I remember thinking how ridiculous this was going to be if I ended up in an accident because of this cat!
Eventually, Kamala settled down. She went to the back of the car, found my daughter’s car seat, and made herself comfortable. That was how this animal entered our lives, eleven years ago.
Today, I again put her into a cat-carrier, and drove her in the car to a place she probably did not want to go. My wife is away but my three daughters and I did what was possible to make her last day pleasant, to reassure her as she was brought into the vet’s office. My youngest daughter out of the three of them opted to come in with me to the actual office, where we sat close to her and looked into her eyes to give her whatever comfort was possible as her life faded away before us. Then we brought her home, said a little prayer and buried her, marking her grave with a cross with her name on it.
As you can imagine, today’s been a day with lots of tears and hugs and sadness and memories.
All of this is kind of interesting because in truth, Kamala wasn’t really all that nice of a cat. She’s never really been the fun house-pet we were hoping for. She could be friendly when she wanted to be, but she generally didn’t give the impression that she actually liked people. And other animals came into our lives from time to time–like Smudge (another cat) or Charlie (our dog)–and they would have been happy to have been her friend but she wasn’t remotely interested in being theirs.
She could be a bit needy in her seeking attention, and she wasn’t the sort of cat that was very fun to play with. Kamala also developed a number of nervous habits, the worst of which was to over-groom herself to the point where she’d lick huge patches of fur and get her skin infected. We did a lot to try to work with this cat. Lots of vet visits, repeated steroid shots, months with a cone on her head. Whatever money we saved by buying her from a breeder who was selling her cheaply we more than made up for in medical visits since then. She had periods where she’d do fairly well, but invariably the bad stuff came around again.
The last few months has been a particularly bad patch, and we finally came to the point where we knew that there was no avoiding it, we were going to have to put her down. Or maybe I realized it, when I finally saw how much she was actually suffering. My wife, much more canny with animals and maybe life than I am, had already seen it. Even so, I didn’t wake up this morning with this on my agenda. But as the day began it just became clear that this was something we could no longer put off. And so we said goodbye, as I’ve mentioned, with many tears.
Because it seems that with all that stuff about Kamala that was difficult or annoying or expensive to deal with, she was still our cat. For eleven years–longer than my youngest daughter! With all her irritable habits and all the inconvenience of the fact that she left gross puss wherever she sat from her disgusting hairless stomach (I still have the wash the sheets from my bed). She wasn’t really the cat we wanted, but she was the cat we had, and so we loved her and we’re going to miss her.
Farewell, Kamala. Thanks for being part of our family.