16 years ago we adopted a kitten from the SPCA in North Hollywood. She was old for a rescue kitten, having lived in the wild for several weeks before being found and taken in. Because of this, she was ‘semi-feral’ when we brought her home.
We decided to call her Mab, after the queen of the fairies talked about by Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet. Throughout her life we’d call her Mab, Mabby, Queen Mab, Mabita, Mabikins, Scaredy Cat, and the Princess with the Peach Toe.
As soon as we opened her carrier at our house, she ran under the bed. We thought she had had a rough few days, and figured we’d let her come out and introduce herself to us when she realized we weren’t going to eat her.
12 years later, she still thought we were going to eat her. She spent most of her time under the couch or under the bed (at least when we were home), and would scramble away when we got too close. She loved to snuggle with our big dumb tabby, Mojo, but thought we were ogres.
(Sometime in that first 12 years we had a shaman for a neighbor. He thought she had lost some part of her soul when she was feral, and that’s why she was scared all the time.)
Four years ago we moved to New Zealand. Cece was part of a 6-month competitive class at vet school, so we didn’t want to bring the cats over if we didn’t make it through. So Mab, Mojo, and Gordito went to live with Cece’s sister and bro-in-law Dana & Steve for that six months.
Once Cece was accepted into the full vet school, it took us three months to arrange to fly them over and put them through quarantine.
I’m not sure what happened throughout that time, but after a few weeks of normal under-bed behavior, Mab seemed to find her courage in New Zealand. At first she’d only come snuggle with us when we were flat on our backs in bed, and would scramble away as soon as we sat up. But soon she’d hop up on the couch with us, and would allow us to pet her when she was in her cat tree by the window.
Maybe the shaman was right. Maybe she had lost part of her soul, and it somehow returned to her in New Zealand.
In any case, if Mab has a soul — broken or otherwise — it has now left her body. Three months ago we learned that she was in renal failure. We put her on special food to slow her decline, but we knew the end was near. Over the last few weeks she has been quickly losing weight and getting painful urinary tract infections because her kidneys weren’t concentrating her urine enough to kill any germs in her plumbing. In the last few days she had started staggering and yowling. Cece got a dose of painkillers, hoping it was a temporary pain, but she kept getting worse. When she was doped up she’d sit on our laps and purr, but we couldn’t keep her stoned forever.
Yesterday was a public holiday, and the vet clinics were all closed. So we made an appointment for 8:30 this morning to let her go. None of us got much sleep last night.
This morning we gave her the last dose of painkillers and sat with her for an hour, waiting for the appointment time to come. She sat quietly, breathing slowly and occasionally purring. She didn’t know why we were crying.
When we got to the clinic, they quickly put us in a private room so we could have a few minutes with her. The vet (another graduate of Massey, where Cece is going) was kind and gentle with us. She put a catheter into Mab’s vein, asked if we wanted to continue, and slowly injected her with a cocktail that would gently make her unconscious and then stop her heart.
It only took a few seconds. She didn’t try to fight it. And now she’s gone.
I was sick all yesterday and have a hell of a lot of work to do today, but I’m having trouble concentrating. My thoughts keep turning to our scaredy cat, our princess with the peach toe. Our Mab.
She wouldn’t have the kind of existential questions that plague humans at times like these. In that I kind of envy her.
I don’t know if there’s a Heaven for cats. I kind of doubt it. But I do know that I miss her and some part of me hopes that some part of her continues to exist.
Goodbye Mab. My lap will be colder without you.