Saturday, November 7, 2009

From Fleaball to Cranky Cat

I always find that when a pet dies, it helps to write an obituary of sorts. So let me tell you a little about Armenia.

When I got Armenia in October 1995, she was tiny enough to fit inside my shoe (above), and she was riddled with fleas. She and her three litter-mates were found in a cardboard box by a former colleague of mine at the St. Petersburg Times. The colleague gladly let me take Armenia home.

I was living in Venice, Fla., at the time. I took Armenia to the vet, who sold me a can of flea spray. I treated Armenia several times; she was so tiny the spray made her woozy, but it did kill all the fleas.

Armenia was always the "second cat" to Howard, who was already seven at the time. I named Armenia to go with Howard, because Howard and Armenia are the two main streets through the Tampa neighborhood where I'd lived just a few years before.

Armenia was part Manx, which is why she didn't have a tail. Sometimes people looked at me accusingly as if I'd amputated it, but I swear, she came that way.

Armenia was always feisty and independent. But she loved Howard, and Howard -- who had a much more generous disposition -- loved her right back. Armenia seemed bereft after Howard died in 2004.

I eventually tried to get another kitten for Armenia to play with, but she would have none of it. She rebelled powerfully against the intruder -- she stopped using the litter box and essentially had a nervous breakdown. I had to give the kitten back to its previous owner, who fortunately had asked me to return it anyway. I didn't try again to find a companion for Armenia.

She was playful, in her feisty way. She loved paper and boxes and readily chased paper balls I threw across the floor.

And as I mentioned yesterday, she loved the heater -- her favorite place in my apartment.

She also loved to be with me, wherever I was. She'd lie on my chest or next to me as I worked on the computer.

I'm doing OK with this loss, surprisingly. When Howard died, I was a basket case, but with Armenia I just don't feel the same devastation. Not to diminish her, but she was always the "second cat," even when she was the only one. It was partly her personality, and partly just her place in the pride. (Any owner of multiple pets who's honest will admit they love their animals in different ways, and maybe even to different degrees.)

My only concern remains that she died by herself -- and died at a time when my own life is changing so dramatically, and I'm staying away from home more. I hope she didn't think I was leaving her behind or deserting her. I hope she didn't die sad.*

*When I told a friend of this fear, she said, "Cats don't die of depression, Steve. They're way too self-involved for that."


  1. Armenia had an excellent life, as cat lives go. She knew she had your love, especially when you gave in to her rejection of the intruder cat. She was probably dreaming sweet dreams about you when she slipped away.

    I know exactly what you mean about loving pets differently. They are all unique, just as we are.

  2. Just as Barbara said, Armenia had a full & rich life. When you rescue an abandoned animal, you're basically giving them a SECOND life. Armenia was left for dead, and you gave her a whole new life. Just think of how wonderful those "bonus" years have been for her!

  3. This is such a beautiful post, Steve. Great to learn about the origin of her unusual name.

    The images are great - esp the ones with paper and the one of her in the grocery bag.

    I, too, hope she did not die sad. Her timing was pretty exquisite, though, wasn't it? Cats know these things and I like to imagine they take off when the time is right, not due to sentimentality of any kind.

    I've been thinking about you all day. My brother had to put his cat down this morning, a much worse option than natural death.

    Armenia lived well and died well. What else can any being hope for.

    Much love to you,

  4. ah, this is a lovely post Steve, great photos. I'm glad you're not finding her absence too painful at the moment.

  5. My vet told me after my oldest cat died last year that cats do indeed grieve and that depression and sadness can be a factor in dying, but with all the years and all the love you gave to her, that wasn't likely with Armenia. She may have had something going on due to old age...

    In Sam's case, it was a presumed cancerous mass. A cat of fourteen or fifteen is equivalent to a ninety some odd year old human, and eventually, the body tires and slips away.

    Do not blame yourself. If she died peacefully, at least she was in her house amongst her things and not lingering with an illness of some sort. You were a good cat dad, and with any luck, you will be again one day.

  6. I'm glad you posted was nice to read about Armenia and the friend who said cats don't die of depression b/c they are too self involved - well, that made me really laugh! Armenia was loved and she knew this!


  7. I'm glad you posted was nice to read about Armenia and the friend who said cats don't die of depression b/c they are too self involved - well, that made me really laugh! Armenia was loved and she knew this!


  8. I love her kitten pic ... she has that feisty look in all of her photos. She's loving you from up above I bet. Nice post. I love the way you write. xoxo.

  9. She must have been a great companion.

  10. what a wonderful post, and the photos are such a joy for all of us who didn't have the pleasure to meet armenia - some of my best friends are cranky, so if that was her nature, so be it.

    she is now across that rainbow bridge hanging with howard!

    best to you bud! xxx

  11. Steve: A lovely tribute in photos and words. I'm sorry for your loss.

  12. we cats don't die sad, it was so much better to go on a bed at home rather than in a vet's office.