I, like most pet owners with no children, often refer to my cats as 'my children', but while there is some truth in that, it doesn't represent a true reflection of what a relationship with a pet becomes. It's more like a great friendship or companionship. When I watch my sister with her children or friends with theirs, there is a different sort of interaction that occurs. I socialize with my cats. I work at home and they are a part of every day life. We walk together in the garden, they smell the flowers or the catnip. They sit or lay and groom or play with bugs, while I sit and have a glass of wine or cup of coffee. Each of us enjoys the time in our own way, and although we do speak to each other, the time is also spent well in silence.
I lost them both this year. Ira passed away on March 16, 2006 and Klaus passed away on July 11, 2006. They are brothers we found as infants under some shrubs in the spring of 1992. They were such significant influences in the household, the world is like a different place without their presence.
Ira's death was shocking and it took quite a long time to get beyond the pain to the mourning. However, Klaus was sick and he needed so much interaction and time, that the change wasn't unexpected. However, when Klaus left us, the change seemed immense. My entire social life has changed. I'm not trying to imply I don't have human friends, but as we all know, it's pretty time-consuming to live our lives, keep up the home and still maintain friendships with others in the same position. The cats were here all the time and were a part of every day living. Now they're gone and it's sadly silent.
It amazes me that such a small degree of change can cause such a huge difference in perception.
It's been over a year now since they left us. Another cat has adopted us since, Guy, and he's a totally unique cat. Here's what I think he would say about his life if he could speak human.
Even though time passes and the hurt of the loss diminishes, there are still mornings I wake up wishing to see Klaus at the end of the bed 'telepathing' me his breakfast order. Or walk into a room and visualize Ira curving his body around the door with that 'question mark' tail working it's magic.
So many times, we will be sitting outside or in the kitchen and become very quiet. It never fails that we're missing one or other of the boys, thinking about something they would be doing 'right now'. We can see Klaus lying on his back, back legs out straight, front paws relaxed on his breast. He looks at us with those winky eyes and voices a silent meow.
And of course, every time we have fish or seafood dinners, we silently contemplate Ira's anxious chatter and gentle paw on our thigh, requesting a taste (or a plate of his own?).
Grace, their sister, has become our dining attendant, often requesting a bit be served to her as well. She's insistent that any time we have unfocused is spent with her. She is constantly talking to us about any little thing. Her voice has become quite loud and intense. Our time with her is mingled with concern that we may lose her soon, however she still dashes around the house chasing imaginary bugs or mice and generally seems fairly healthy other than what seems to be a touch of arthritis.
Sam has also become extremely attached...to the degree that he is now a lapcat when I'm working. All of his life, he has hated to be picked up or held, but now he insists on lying in my lap between me and my desk, purring and kissing my hands as I type (naturally this leads to some problems...).
Things in this household are very different now.
There comes a day when our pets leave us for another place. I suspect none of us knows for certain just where they go, whether it be pet-heaven or some other version. I think most of us who have loved a pet believe they are somewhere wishing they were still with us, even as we wish we were still with them.