When pets have been with you for years, it’s easy to believe that they’ll be by your side forever. But even the most stalwart space cats can’t fight old age and pneumonia, as I learned yesterday afternoon when I came home to find my beloved Kylee dead.
I was 12 going on 13 when I walked out of a supermarket with my mom and noticed a small pet store with caged Siamese cats out in front. Pet stores in a dog-loving country almost never sell cats, so I ran over for a look and was delighted to see a female Siamese cat with two kittens. The kittens were actually kind of lifeless and scrawny – I guess the pet store owners were the kind that only cared that their pets were alive enough to be sold – but they were the most darling things I’d ever laid my eyes on. Before I could even ask if I could take one home, my mom said no – my dad was allergic to cats and he’d never allow it. But I’ve been wanting to have a cat so badly and saw this as my only chance. I pleaded and begged as much as I could until one day, my dad relented and my mom surprised my sister and I at choir practice, a tiny kitten curled up in the palm of her hand.
Kylee, for the early part of his life, was an outdoor cat. We discovered that he was male a little late in life and by the time the vet cut his balls off, he’d gotten into the habit of patrolling the areas around our house. Neutering a cat is supposed to make them lazy, fat, and absolutely uninterested in the world beyond the comfort of their favorite sleeping spot. Not Kylee. He did get fat and he did sleep more often, but the moment he woke up and cleaned out his food bowl, he’d squeeze his way out the sliding door and go gallivanting to places unknown. Kylee got along well with some of the neighborhood strays; sometimes I’d see him taking off with another tom cat. But Kylee had his own territories to protect. I’d hear neighborhood cats fighting every now and then, and I could always tell when Kylee was involved because none of other catd had such a high-pitched roar (he never did outgrow his cute kitten meow). Once, Kylee went out adventuring for a week, and I got so sick with worry that I started hanging “Have you seen my kitty?” posters on all the lampposts I could find. He came back though, as he always does, noticeably thinner, with a hoarse meow and a newfound appreciation indoor laziness. I can only speculate what went on in the 7 days he was gone.
“Maybe Kylee is a space cat,” Marco suggested. “Maybe he has a cat-sized space ship hidden in your backyard that he rides when he feels the need for adventure.” One day, he told me, he will write a picture book about Kylee’s adventures in the open universe.
Most people think that Siamese cats are vicious and mean, a myth they probably picked up from Lady and The Tramp and other such cat-hating Hollywood products. But Siamese cats are as affectionate and gentle as they come, and Kylee was among the gentlest of them all. He doesn’t jump onto my lap the way Missy does, but he was sweet in a way only the typical aloof cat can be. I love how he butts his head against my hand when I reach out to stroke his ear, the way he chirps a greeting when he hears me call his name. Before curling up next to me in bed, he’d always give my tummy or legs a long cat massage, and his claws never really bothered me because they had grown dull from years of sparring with the neighborhood cats. When you laugh too loudly he gets gigil and gives your hand or foot an affectionate nip. Ugh, I’m still talking about him in the present tense, as though he were merely sleeping in the next room. I’m still trying to get used to the fact that he is gone.
Kylee has been my loyal animal companion for a very long time. To put things into perspective – I was entering the seventh grade when he came into our lives. He has seen me through three graduations, witnessed the death of the relationships that led me to Marco, and even outlived my brother. He was very set in his ways and I knew his eccentricities inside and out: his Maru-like love for boxes, how he’d prefer to drink water from a tabo in my bathroom instead of a proper water dish, how he’ll sleep on a specific spot for weeks before moving to a different one. We pretty much grew up together, except that he was 102 cat years to my 26 human years when he finally passed away.
A few months ago, he frightened me to death when he unexpectedly had a feline stroke. Aside from a skin allergy that refused to heal, he had shown no other warnings that his health was failing; in fact, he could still sprint and play with the younger Missy when he felt like it. He did recover from the stroke and started walking on unstable legs after just a day, but it was a real warning that he may not live for as long as I thought he would. True enough, he caught pneumonia just days ago, which I failed to notice until he’d been suffering from the symptoms for about 24 hours. An emergency call to the vet gave me some hope, and I force-fed him some antibiotics last night, confident that he’d bounce back from the disease like he did from the stroke.
The next day, I overslept and made a mad scramble to get ready for a meeting. Kylee walked out to the dining room on shaky legs, an unusual thing for him to do now that he spends most of his days resting inside a closet. He stopped to sit by the bar, breathing hard with lungs so inflamed that he could no longer purr. I stayed a few minutes to pet him despite being late, and made a note to buy steroids like the vet said if he didn’t get better within the day. I’d like to think that Kylee enjoyed that brief moment I spent with him, and I’m glad he chose to emerge out of his closet to say bye. I only wish I’d been around to comfort him when he took his last breath.
We had his body picked up by Pet Valley Park and Crematory, a very compassionate pet cremation service I discovered through Butch Dalisay. Kylee is so special to me that I couldn’t bear the thought of his body getting eaten by worms, in a hole at a garden that gets flooded when it rains. I finally stopped crying by the time the Pet Valley van arrived, but the tears came again when I handed him over, his body stiff and nothing like the soft, cuddly creature I’d held and loved for the last 14 years.
I thought that writing all this down might help me come to terms with Kylee’s passing, but I’m still crying as hard as I did when I discovered him lifeless and alone. It feels like someone carved a cat-shaped hole inside of me that will probably stay empty for a very long time. As much as I love our house cats Missy and Billy, my future kitty companion, and all the other cats in the world, I don’t think I could love another feline soul the way I love my space-faring cat Kylee, who always knew to come home after every adventure.