This post originally appeared on our Tumblr, where we frequently answer reader questions and sometimes post random unrelated things. This is one of those random posts, but it got quite a lot of positive feedback—so we’re posting it in full again here on the blog.
I just got a cat.
When New Cat is named and fully acclimated, she will def join the dogs, guinea pigs, and chickens as a Tumblr/Instagram regular.
But I have… mixed feelings.
My last cat died six months ago. We didn’t get another cat to replace her—c’est impossible, she was irreplaceable. Rather, we did it because we know two things:
- A house that’s had a cat in it will always feel empty without a cat in it.
- We have money and space and time and patience and love, and shelters are full of cats who don’t got none of those things.
Still, I’ve been thinking about my last cat Clementine a lot. And I think it would be healing to me to share a few photos of her.
A slow start
This was Clementine. We adopted her when she was 14 years old. That’s old. If she were human, she would’ve been in her early seventies. Her previous owner had moved into a nursing home. She was lucky to land in one of the few no-kill shelters with enough resources to accept a cat of her age. Many don’t.
Clementine was terribly stressed out being in the shelter after so many years in one person’s home. Her fur started to fall out, and she refused to eat. She hid all the time and hissed if approached. No one applied for her.
We saw a lot of great cats at the shelter. For some reason, she was the one my partner and I both couldn’t stop thinking about. We talked about it, and decided we had the patience, emotional maturity, and financial stability needed to address the realities of adopting a shy geriatric cat. So we took her home and released her under the bed.
“We might never see this cat,” I told my partner. “We might just know she’s here by periodic dips in the level of the food bowl.”
“I’d be okay with that,” he said.
“I would too.”
We didn’t see her for thirty-six hours.
Then, I heard a little sound while I was sitting in bed—not a meow, but a chirp. I looked down, and she was sitting there, looking up at me. She chirped again. I patted the blanket. She sprang up beside me and started purring. Surprised, I took this blurry, crappy photo.
Within a week, she was climbing into our laps and kneading us with rapturous abandon. Sometimes she would start to drool out of pure joy.
Now, one complication was our dog. Clementine had never met a dog before, and I’d intended to introduce them very slowly and carefully. When she caught her first glimpse of our dog Brother, I was focused wholly on him, making sure he didn’t lunge or startle her. She darted past me, and ran to rub her face against him.
She was sleeping on top of him by the end of the week.
Clementine the dog whisperer
To our complete surprise, Clementine was not scared of dogs.
Clementine loved dogs.
All dogs. Any dogs.
We foster dogs, and every new one that came home got the same treatment. She ran to them like an old lover, chirping her barely-audible chirps, paws warming up to give them a deep tissue massage the moment they sat down.
She put in an application to adopt Sunny, a red heeler mix who was our thirteenth or fourteenth foster. We accepted her application and made him our second dog.
In the course of her four-year career, she cat-trained over a dozen dogs, making each of them infinitely more adoptable. Many went on to permanent homes with cats.
I was always hovering around her and the dogs, incredibly nervous that one might injure her. She’d been declawed by her first owner; she was defenseless.
But she knew exactly how to handle each one. She sat calmly and accepted sloppy licks from overly-affectionate dogs. She hid from excitable, high-energy dogs until after their playtime. We had one that was so afraid of cats she was borderline aggressive towards them, but Clementine was absolutely determined. That dog was sleeping peacefully next to her after a month of relentless displays of patient friendliness.
Pushy healing energy
Clem was the Nurse Joy of the house. She always knew if someone was hurting, emotionally or physically.
In this photo, our older dog Brother was suddenly deathly sick. Underneath the blanket he’s swaddled in more blankets and many layers of towels, because he was uncontrollably oozing blood. When we brought him home from the emergency vet, Clementine immediately crouched on top of his head, purring and kneading so intensely that it felt like she was in some kind of trance. He recovered fully.
When a (human) friend of ours was recovering from a horrible trauma, Clementine parked herself on her chest and refused to budge.
“But… but… I don’t like cats…” our friend said, a last feeble protest before submitting to Clementine’s healing ministrations.
The best possible outcome
We had four glorious years with Clementine. She made it to 18—a great age for a cat. She died peacefully, without pain, and is buried on our property, underneath a her favorite catnip plant.
I don’t know what her life was like before we met, but I know she was happy in those four years. She showed it to us every single day.
I’m so glad we took a chance on a shy senior. There were a lot of risks and a lot of unknowns. We were so focused on accepting those that we weren’t prepared for what we got: the best outcome of all possible outcomes.
That’s all I wanted to say, really! Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.
New Cat is fourteen, the same age Clementine was when we adopted her. She’s in the early stages of renal disease, but we’re hoping she has a few good years left. I’m excited to get to know New Cat. I’m looking forward to posting pictures of her as she finds her place in our house.
I wrote an article soon after Clementine died about why I think senior pets are totally worth it. You can read it here:
And here are a few more of our pet-related articles:
- Pet Insurance: Is It Worth It?
- 30 Pets Ranked for Financial Efficiency by Cold, Unfeeling Human Overlords
- You Must Be This Big to Be an Emergency Fund
My original tag on this Tumblr post was “sad posts that are secretly super happy posts.” I stand by that assessment!
In my view, there isn’t a kernel or crumb of sadness in her story. Clem’s life was longer and happier than any of us could ask for. And let’s be real: she had a greater sense of purpose than 85% of human adults. Clementine is now where she deserves to be: in Dog Heaven with All of the Dogs.
When I posted this to Tumblr, I got so many nice responses from people, telling me about their awesome senior pets. Please keep them coming in the comments below—each and every one makes me smile.
Thinking about the lessons I personally learned… a whole lot of our advice boils down to one basic truism: hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I am really good at the latter part and really bad at the former—and I bet I’m not alone!
Many people who crave security—of a financial variety or otherwise—are risk-averse. With a lifetime of Precious Recession Memories to choose from, we’ve seen the way that unnecessary risks knock people off their feet like a rogue wave. All choices come with known and unknown risks, and it’s overwhelming to consider the full range of choices we have at any given time.
That’s why I think it’s important to celebrate the times when everything worked better than you could’ve expected. Especially when you put yourself out there for someone—or something—else who really needs your help.
Also, New Cat has been officially named Clover and you can see photos and videos of her on my Instagram, @BGRKitty.