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The Queen Is Dead; Long Live The Queen

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In 2006, I got a cat. She was the runt of the litter, the tiniest little thing.

When I went to pick her up from “Cathy” (the fake name I use to refer to the worst person I’ve ever met, who I’ve written about before), she said, “Now the other kittens can come downstairs.”

In a litter of four, the smallest one had been afraid to try the stairs. And she’d made sure her littermates weren’t going to try them, either.

I have a very strong belief in the importance and power of names. For example, if you ask me if I want to pet your German Shepherd, Loki, the answer is going to be absolutely not and I’m sorry about your furniture. You thought it was funny to name your Great Dane “Tiny,” but now that he thinks he’s Chihuahua-sized and wants to sit in your lap it’s not so clever, is it? Our children named our dog Coraline; she runs away at night. We once had a pair of kittens we named Fred and George. J.K. wrote that final book and bam, Fred died of a saddle embolism, the avada kedavra of the cat world. Names are important, so when Cathy handed me this kitten and said, “Her name is Deidre,” I was like fuck that. In mythology, Deidre brought sorrow to everyone she loved and I wasn’t keen to invite that energy into the house.

Turns out, I didn’t get a choice in what to name the cat. I brought the hissing, crying baby home and took her to my office, a room away from everything where she could slowly get used to her surroundings. I put her down, showed her where the litter box was, put food and water nearby, all while she growled and raised the hair on her back and lurked under my desk. I decided to back off, to go into the living room and give her space. I sat down and turned on the television and…

mew.

It was an angry mew, too. The tiny little kitten was standing in my hallway, loudly yowling for attention. I stood and she turned to go back to the office. I sat back down. She turned around again and angry-mewed.

She didn’t want me to interact with her, but she wanted me to keep trying.

After thirty minutes of confused groveling on my part, she strutted out from beneath my desk to wander around the house and complain loudly about everything she didn’t like. The television, for example, was scary and confusing. It had to go. The toilet was dangerous, so the bathroom door had to be closed. And there was something just wrong about where I’d put my beer on the coffee table. It looked better on the floor. When it came time to sleep, I put her on the end of the bed and got in, careful not to disturb her.

But I’d gotten it all wrong! She didn’t belong at the end of the bed like a common dog. She belonged on my pillow, on the top of my head, in my hair.

That went on for roughly her entire life. And even from that first night, my hair was never clean enough. Just washed it? Smells like shampoo. Needs to smell like cat breath. Came home from the bar back in 2006 when people could still smoke inside? Oh, my foolish, naughty human. But it was that first night, those first disparaging mews that let me know how unworthy was I to stand in her presence that I realized I would never, ever be good enough to be on a first-name basis with this cat.

So, we called her Her Majesty.

At the vet, they would say, “Oh, hello Her Majesty,” and I would sheepishly explain that it wasn’t her name, but her title, so the appropriate address was Your Majesty.

During my very last phone call with the vet, he said, “I’m calling about…Her Majesty? Is that right?” I confirmed and he muttered to himself, “That’s about right.”

Despite being in the very last hours of her life, she still demanded royal treatment.

Because of her small size, Her Majesty couldn’t be spayed before she went into heat the first time. Despite every precaution, she managed to slip past us, out the door, and it was all over. She became a teen mom to a brood of half-Maine Coon kittens from the intact tom that wandered the neighborhood. We never did manage to get him into family court.

As the birth approached, the vet told us to make a quiet, safe place for her, away from the main living areas, where she could go and be alone and feel safe. That’s what cats do, they explained. I was to check on her, but not too often, as cats often sneak off to give birth on their own, and if I disturbed her too much she might move somewhere I wouldn’t be able to monitor her.

Though Her Majesty thoroughly enjoyed lazing in the nesting box we arranged for her in my office (easily the least chaotic room in our home), when the time for the royal litter arrived she demanded a change of venue.

She preferred to give birth on the floor of my four-year-old’s toy closet. You know. Where anyone would want to be totally vulnerable.

I tried to move her, but after the third time, I gave up. I let her go into the closet and resigned myself to weeks of nail-biting terror as I tried to protect precious, delicate new lives from an affectionate pre-schooler. I brought the towels and blanket from the nesting box and got her all good and ready to ruin our floor. Then, I turned the light off and left the door half-open and resigned myself to a long, nervous wait. I knew I couldn’t disturb her further, so I turned the tv off and switched to a book.

Her Majesty came back to the living room, meowing furiously. Her cute little mew had lasted all of three weeks before it had turned into the most pissed-off sound any animal has ever made. But now, it was mad and in a hurry. She forced me to sit with her in the closet while she labored. I had to be completely motionless. If I shifted even a little bit, she would bite me. If I tried to leave, she would try to follow me.

So I had to sit and watch what was objectively the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. And I used to take people to the morgue.

She had five beautiful kittens, the care of which she found tedious at best. Our Springer Spaniel, Tucker, was selected to be the royal nanny. He didn’t apply for the job. He did not want it or anything to do with the kittens, who sent him into a state of trembling, farting terror. Which I understood; imagine you’re a dog who lives with a mean cat, and suddenly the cat multiplies. That’s a new and terrifying power. But day after day, when the kittens were finished nursing, Her Majesty brought the kittens to Tucker, who would lay motionless but for the panicked flicking of his eyelids as he signaled to us in morse code for help. And she went off and did whatever she wanted to.

The dining room window is Her Majesty’s window. As in, only Her Majesty is allowed to look through that window. If you don’t obey, you get a scratch.

When offering Her Majesty catnip or treats, one does not simply shake an amount onto the floor and call the task done. Nay, one must wait until the offering has been inspected and is indeed sufficient. Her Majesty decides what is enough.

My husband once asked why I let Her Majesty kiss me by booping her nose on my mouth. “We are best friends!” I shrieked in outrage. “I was her labor coach!” I don’t think my family truly understood why I loved Her Majesty so much because, despite their best efforts, she treated them all like garbage. She adored the kids…when they were little. Once they turned ten, she lost all interest. Though she loved to use my husband as furniture while he slept, she spent much of her time with him glaring accusingly. He referred to her as Lady Cuntington. She never referred to him, at all.

Her Majesty could talk. At least, I talked to her and she made noises back and that was enough conversation for me. We talked about a lot of stuff. Once, I tried to explain lizards to her until she walked out of the room. Another time, I asked her why the fuck she wasn’t helping while I tried to chase a bat out of the house. She stood up, stretched, made a big show of yawning, and moved to a different position to go back to sleep. Her Majesty did not catch mice. And she found the movie Cats offensive.

This was her default facial expression:

Her Majesty is a fluffy tiger cat who looks both offended and bored. She's laying in a recliner covered in claw marks, in our clean laundry.

Her Majesty died on March 30, 2021, after a sudden decline in her health. On Thursday, she walked with a little hitch in her giddyup, but nothing serious. I thought I’d keep an eye on it and call the vet. She came into my room that night and slept on my head, for the first time in a long time. Friday, she was sleepy and not interested in her food. I called the vet and took the earliest appointment they had on Monday. But Her Majesty got worse. She went from not being interested in her food to not being interested in treats by Saturday night. Sunday, she sat quietly by herself all day long. I held her in my lap and Mr. Jen offered her some chicken broth to get her to eat, but she turned her head away.

She still wanted the water bowl refreshed and the surface of the food undented. And she still wanted to be offered treats. So she could decline them.

After a night at the cat hospital, I got the call. Her Majesty’s white cell count and blood sugar were through the roof. She’d been diabetic, but we hadn’t noticed the symptoms. Her dry skin, I chalked up to the fact that she’d always had acne, to the point that she’d been on steroids and antibiotics for it on and off through her adult years. As a senior cat, she put on weight. Diabetic cats lose weight. There was never a noticeable increase in her thirst, but because we have dogs, there are multiple sources of water in the house, so it’s possible that she could have increased her intake. Because she’d been hospitalized several times for a bladder issue that required surgery, I always checked the litter box to make sure she was peeing, and everything seemed like normal cat pee in usual amounts. By the time her symptoms were noticeable, it was Thursday, and it was too late.

I guess I should feel like I failed her for not seeing it. At the same time, I can’t say for sure that she wanted me to know. She’d never been shy about telling anyone anything. Maybe she just decided that she had graced me with her presence for fifteen years, and that was more than enough for an undeserving mortal like me.

It was just me and her in the room after the vet gave Her Majesty the euthanasia shots. I kissed her nose and held her and petted her. I played “God Save The Queen,” the real version, not the cool punk rock version, on my phone as she died. When I came home, I announced somberly to the dogs, “London Bridge is Down.” I bought her an urn that I hope she would find befitting of the life she lived and the legacy she left behind:

The urn is in the style of an ancient egyptian coptic jar with Bast's head on it.

She has been entombed among the crystals and house plants on my desk, all of which she absolutely lived to fuck with. Hence the dirt on the table.

I couldn’t bear to clean it up.

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24 Comments

  1. Lee Weatherbee
    Lee Weatherbee

    I am so sorry for your loss

    April 12, 2021
    |Reply
  2. Well – that’s one hell of a cat. Thank you for sharing all of that. Lovely and Awesome and Terrible.

    I absolutely agree that names are essential.
    I lost a half of my pair of cats in COVID-August. And got a new pair of pretty terrified feral shelter kitties in September. They were given the names Jupiter and Saturn. I wasn’t leaving the name of a terrifying child eater on the head of this frightened girl kitty – she became Sati. Jupiter kept his name. He thinks he’s indestructible and everything is his, and is super chill as long as he thinks he’s in control. If he thinks he’s not – he becomes a trembling mess. He’s hilariously incapable of holding a grudge.
    Sati – all she wants most in the world is to be the absolute center of your undivided attention… when it is is petting time. The rest is the goddesses time – so just don’t even try. She remembers.

    April 12, 2021
    |Reply
  3. Jodi Scaife
    Jodi Scaife

    Her Majesty was one hell of a cat. Long live the Queen!

    April 12, 2021
    |Reply
  4. Angelica
    Angelica

    I am crying. As unworthy as Her Majesty might have seen you, I think she would have been pleased by her obituary. Though she probably wouldn’t tell you that.

    April 12, 2021
    |Reply
  5. Zev
    Zev

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    April 13, 2021
    |Reply
  6. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    (By the way, does anyone know the meaning of the name Manny? I named my cat that, but have no idea what it means.)

    What a character! From demanding labor couches and nannies…to stuff she wanted offered to her just so she could refuse them. Her Majesty, you ruled!

    April 13, 2021
    |Reply
    • Person
      Person

      Well, Manny is a common nickname for Manuel, which came from the Hebrew Immanuel and means, “God is with us.” If that’s fitting for your cat, you may have a stealth Manuel on your hands.

      April 15, 2021
      |Reply
      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        He’s really snippy when he’s hungry, but so innocent when he sleeps 😉 Thanks for the explanation!

        April 15, 2021
        |Reply
  7. DANIELLE
    DANIELLE

    I’m sorry for your loss. She sounded like a true bitch of a cat. I say that with affection as I currently own two incredibly bitchy cats. My beloved sweet Oreo, however, we had put down in September. He was 19 and just a love.

    As always, love your storytelling!

    April 13, 2021
    |Reply
  8. This is a lovely tribute. May Her Majesty spend whatever afterlife cats have happy. Or as happy as she can be.

    April 13, 2021
    |Reply
  9. Amber Rose
    Amber Rose

    You were blessed by her royal presence for 15 years, that’s quite an honor. May she rule with grace in the next life. <3

    Alas, I named my cat after a terrifying dragon and ended up with something like a clingy boyfriend.

    April 13, 2021
    |Reply
  10. Anon
    Anon

    I’m so sorry. I also lost my nearly 16-year-old Queen Elizabeth I on March 28. She hated everyone but my husband, and refused to acknowledge that she wouldn’t even have ever met him if not for me. ❤

    April 14, 2021
    |Reply
  11. HSavinien
    HSavinien

    What an exceptionally cattish cat. I’m glad you got to be her human.

    April 14, 2021
    |Reply
  12. Sarah Dixon
    Sarah Dixon

    I’m so sorry. It’s rough

    April 14, 2021
    |Reply
  13. Lee
    Lee

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It seems like Her Majesty left this life as she lived it, in charge. You did all you could. The urn is amazing.

    April 14, 2021
    |Reply
  14. Kat
    Kat

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Fifteen years is a good long time for a cat, but it’s never easy to say goodbye. I’m glad you were able to be with her, and that you were able to have her remains returned. That is an urn fit for a queen.

    April 14, 2021
    |Reply
  15. Jane Doe
    Jane Doe

    Sorry for your loss.
    I’m at work and freakin’ crying.
    I currently have 7 felines gracing me with their presence. 3 actually live with me, the other 4 are with my mom, but we’re next door neighbors, so yeah.
    I have 3 that have crossed the rainbow bridge and have kept their ashes. One of them wasn’t even my cat. He was a stray that had seen better days, and after trying to find help for him and being unable to, I took him to the vet and paid out of pocket to get him checked out. It was found out that he had FIV and scabies. They gave him a bath for the scabies and I didn’t see him in a month. When he returned, he no longer wanted to eat, and slept most of the time so I made an appointment to put him to sleep. I felt bad just leaving him to be disposed of like yesterday’s trash, so even though he was never my cat, I have his ashes at home.

    April 16, 2021
    |Reply
  16. Agm
    Agm

    I’m sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute to an uncompromising cat. Glad you could be there for the end.

    April 16, 2021
    |Reply
  17. So sorry for your loss.

    We’re currently battling a condition our older tomcat (“Grumpyfart” – that’s not his real name, but it is so fitting!) has developed, and right now it looks as if he might be fine with some meds … for now.
    My sister saved him and his sister from being drowned, bottle-fed them and passed then to us when her life became to hectic (young child, sick husband, sick dog, … ).
    His sister past away from lung cancer 18 months back, and we miss her so much. <3

    April 19, 2021
    |Reply
  18. Karen
    Karen

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Your tribute is both beautiful and funny.

    April 19, 2021
    |Reply
  19. Kitt
    Kitt

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a tribute to Her Majesty. I wish you solace and love and healing.

    April 20, 2021
    |Reply
  20. Emily Barnard
    Emily Barnard

    It’s taken me a while to write a response to this, because losing our animal companions is like a melon-baller to the heart, and I too-recently had to say goodbye to two of mine. They keep little chunks of your soul with them when they leave us. I’m so sorry for you loss, Jenny, and am sending you so much love and sympathy. You gave her a life worthy of her name.

    April 22, 2021
    |Reply
  21. Dayna
    Dayna

    I am so sorry for your loss. I recently lost my cat Severus a month ago and it has been so hard.

    Try to take comfort that you had 15 years with her and you did the best you could to keep Her Majesty healthy and happy.

    That is also a kick-ass and majestic as fuck urn. The crematorium that the vet who treated Sev uses gave him a very nice box with a name plate.

    May 3, 2021
    |Reply
  22. Kim
    Kim

    God save the queen!

    Who looks so much like my dearly departed Catlyn

    May 28, 2021
    |Reply

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