We had to say goodbye to a friend yesterday. One who’s been with us for 18 years. She suffered from anxiety — eating large chunks of our blankets as a nervous coping mechanism— and later, an eating disorder — overeating as a way to deal with stress — and came out the other side as a survivor. And she taught me about forgiveness.
When she was eating blankets as a kitten and a young cat, I would get frustrated and angry. Blankets weren’t cheap and we were newly married, just starting out and money was tight. I saw that as something she was consciously doing and not as a response to her environment or a coping mechanism. In fact, it wasn’t until years later, when we had kids and met some kids who had similar habits that I started to understand more of why she might have been doing that and begin to empathize. But at the time, I used my physical presence to try to get her to stop. I was the owner and this was “bad kitty” behavior. I would stomp or yell or use my body to scare her into stopping. When we came home to chunks of our blanket missing, i I would vocalize my frustration. And, as a result, she was terrified of me for years.
For a long time she avoided me. And I got to live with the repercussions of what my anger and frustration caused. Eventually, after a few years of putting her into a large kennel at night so she wouldn’t eat the blankets, we started leaving the cat food out all the time, and this seemed to help. She replaced blanket biting with overeating, and we decided that was somewhat better and stopped putting her in the kennel. She went from avoiding me to merely tolerant of me.
She never really got on particularly well with our other cats, and as she outlasted all the cats we had had when she was a kitten, she had less in common with the younger and more playful new additions. Getting a dog didn’t help, nor did taking in a stray male who liked to assert his dominance over the other cats. She became reclusive and antisocial. But at night, when the kids were in bed, she’d come and hang out with us while we watched TV, finding a comfortable lap to sit on. Usually it was Erin’s, but eventually mine, too. I remember thinking when she started sitting on my lap that I couldn’t believe that she actually liked me, after all the horrible shit I did, scaring her when she was a kitten.
When we moved, we found new homes for those animals and she became far more sociable, coming out to greet visitors, even, when previously she’d avoid everyone. Even with two young kittens for the kids, who seemed to see her as a weird grandma, she was visibly happier. And when she hung out with us, it was me she looked for first. In the morning, I woke up every day to her meowing in my face and licking my beard to tell me that she needed more food in her bowl.
She always seemed to have poor eyesight, something that obviously got worse as she got older. She also seemed to have difficulty moving around — we suspected maybe she had arthritis or something similar based on how she walked and favored certain paws. But she always sought us out. She always wanted to be around us.
She fought for so long through so much and forgave me when I’m not sure I even forgive myself.
Yesterday was hard. She was in so much discomfort, she couldn’t eat, she could only walk a few feet at a time before she needed to rest. We spent the day with her, trying to make her as comfortable as possible. Talking to her and recalling memories and stroking her. And through her pain, she purred. Until the pain was gone.
Goodbye Kendra. I love you. ❤️