Yesterday, I lost a member of my family–Jilly-bean, aka Blind Cat.
Mum got her from a shelter when she was about nine months old. She’s always loved torties, and when she brought this little kitty out of the cage and held her on her back like a baby, she purred and ran her front paws over Mum’s face. And that was when she knew she needed to bring her home.
And that right there was Jilly-bean for the duration of her life: no matter where she was or what was going on, she wanted to cuddle. Very little bothered her, she didn’t seek out trouble, she was never bitchy. From day one, she was happy and affectionate, the kind of cat everyone who met her fell in love with.
Including me. I was a teen when Mum got her and later when I got my own place, I asked a few times if I could have Jilly-bean. Mum declined (I didn’t blame her).
Then on September 15, 2005, I lost my babydoll, Hanna. Devastation doesn’t even begin to describe it–she was my everything.
The day after she died, Mum showed up at my door with Jilly-bean. That was nearly nine years ago.
Her eyesight was never good and failed bit by bit over the years. While that might’ve stressed out many cats, it never bothered her. She navigated our different homes with ease, learning the layouts. She never missed the litter box and easily found the bowls of water. She learned how to get on and off the bed with ease. She spent her days sitting on the arm of the couch beside me, trilling and purring whenever I reached over to pet her.
She never much cared for the other cats, mostly because she had trouble understanding their intentions when they approached. Generally they didn’t bother with her, except Rodney, who loves everyone. When Jilly-bean would give a hiss of warning and smack him, utter bafflement would come over his face and he’d swat back while giving me a look of, “MUM! SHE DOESN’T WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?” It never failed to make me chuckle, two simple cats not entirely sure of what was going on as they half-heartedly slapped one another.
Despite getting up in age, she never stopped playing, usually with me where she’d roll around on the bed and bat my fingers. She also chased the toys with bells in them so she could track them across the carpet, though had the most fun pouncing on the phantom mice apparently only she could see on the living room floor. This continued right up until the past month.
There’s now a small (but no less gaping) hole where she used to be, tucked at my side all day every day. I waver between the numb shock of coming to the realization that she’s really gone and the soul-deep grief that feels like it’s cleaving me in two and makes it impossible to breathe.
My cats and dog are, really, all I have. I spend all day, every day, in their company–there are days I don’t have contact with a single human but I always have a couple of animals in close proximity. As most people know, I bond with animals more than humans; being able to unconditionally love something that’s never going to disappoint or hurt you is a wonderful–and I’d say necessary-gift. But even when they have a good long life, it’s always too short. Always.
I’m offline for a few days as I try to adjust to not having her curled up beside me when I sleep at night, not having her paw my shoulder to be let out of the room precisely two hours before I normally wake up, not having her trundling over when I get up in the morning. I still have to remind myself not to call her at meal time when I fell like someone’s missing.
I do encourage people, if able, to speak to their local shelter and/or rescue groups about adopting a special needs animal. It doesn’t always mean medication or costly procedures–blind cats can be harder to place in homes (and periodically are euthanized right off the bat) but with a few extra considerations, they are no different from any sighted cat.
Goodbye, Jilly-bean. You were pure light and my home–and heart–is much darker without you.