Note: This is a very sad and personal post, and it really has nothing to do with living in Hawaii, so you might want to skip reading it. I decided to write about this here because many of my friends and family read my blog, and I didn’t want to have to tell this story more than once. So here it is, for those who should know …
My heart has been broken. This morning, my neighbor across the street came to my door to ask if the cat that was “lying in her driveway” was mine. At first I thought she meant Amy was hanging around her house, bothering her little dog — Amy had a history of loitering around houses that have dogs inside them, making them bark.
When I went across the street to see what my neighbor was talking about, I saw a motionless gray cat lying near the sidewalk. I could tell right away it was either dead or very badly hurt and not just sunning itself, because it was making no attempt to move. The cat’s coloring looked like Amy, but everything else looked so unlike her — the lifelessness, the strange pose. But as I approached closer and spotted her collar, I couldn’t deny anymore that it was indeed her.
I touched her fur and it didn’t feel like her — it felt matted, like she had been wet or something, but I couldn’t tell why. Her body was already stiff to the touch. It was obvious she’d been hit by a car, and that she’d taken most of the impact on one side of her face, which was bloodied. Her head was turned at a strange angle, and I prayed that this meant the impact had broken her neck and killed her instantly. The rest of her body seemed intact.
In a daze, I carried her body across the street to my house, put it inside the kennel in which she’d made the long journey to Hawaii, and wondered what to do next. A young man walked over from across the street, and asked me if it was my cat. He told me he’d been working on a nearby house when he saw my cat dart into the street to get away from someone walking toward her. Unfortunately there were cars coming down the street at that time, and she dashed right in front of one. He said the driver didn’t stop. He then called my cell phone (the number was on Amy’s collar tag) and left a voicemail. Then he called the Humane Society to pick her up.
That voicemail was received at 9am. I’m ashamed to admit I had been stirring awake at the time — I’d slept later than I wanted to because my other cat, Alice, had woken me up twice in the middle of the night with a gecko in her mouth that she’d brought inside from the backyard. She ate the first one before I could rescue it from her, and the second one she killed before I woke up to stop her from “playing” with it. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often, but last night was a particularly bad night.
When I went upstairs to have breakfast, I still did not realize I had a voicemail, or that anything had happened to Amy. I saw that there was a small dead bird in the middle of the living room floor, undoubtedly the handiwork of Amy. She must have brought it inside in the middle of the night. This was something new she had started doing in the last few weeks, and I wasn’t happy about it at all.
I’d tried to keep my cats inside the house, particularly right after Amy went missing for seven weeks and was finally found. Alice tolerated it somewhat, but Amy went absolutely crazy when I forced her to stay indoors. She clawed at every window screen she could, desperate to get out. I even tried installing an electric fence to keep her from roaming outside our yard and across the street, but she would just jump past the electric boundary — to her, freedom was well worth the pain of the electric shock.
So I finally gave up on trying to confine her. I absolutely hated that she crossed our busy street, and knew there was a chance she’d get hit by a car someday. But I saw how miserable she was when I forced her to stay indoors, and decided it was better to let her live a happy but risky life, rather than an unhappy but safe one. But now that “someday” has come, and I’ve seen how violently she died, I wish I’d forced the issue with her. Maybe she would have eventually gotten used to being inside. One thing is for sure — she would still be alive.
It was around 10am that my neighbor came over to tell me about Amy. I can’t help but wonder what happened during that hour between the time the young man left the voicemail and my neighbor came over. I hope to god she wasn’t still alive while I was across the street eating breakfast. This is probably the thing that haunts me the most right now.
I got rid of her body as quickly as I could. It wasn’t her any longer — the big, strong girl I knew who moved like a panther was nowhere to be seen. I called up the Humane Society and asked them what I was supposed to do with the body. They said they could cremate it if I didn’t care about getting any ashes back, otherwise I should go to my vet for cremation. I decided there was no point in getting any ashes. She was already gone, and I just wanted to remember her as she was when I saw her for the last time — it was right before I went to bed last night, and she was sleeping contentedly on her favorite red pillow on the living room couch.
So I packed up the kennel holding her body inside the car and drove down to the Humane Society, where I had to fill out a “surrender” form. Just a little over seven years ago, I’d adopted Amy from a Humane Society much like this one, in California. She was 10 months old at the time, and as soon as I saw her, I knew she’d be one of the two cats I’d adopt that day. I’d always had a fondness for “tiger kitties,” and with her gray-and-white stripes, she fit the bill. According to her paperwork, her original name was “Sophie” and her first owners had surrendered her to the Humane Society because their children became allergic to her. Their loss was my gain.
Please take a word of advice from me: If you have cats and they have not yet experienced the great outdoors, do NOT let them out. Not even once. Because once they’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be outside, they might never want to stay inside again. This is what happened with Amy, and now she’s prematurely dead at the age of 8 because of it.
Friends and family: I know some of you might want to call, but at the moment I can’t talk without crying and becoming incomprehensible. I know things will get easier with time, though, and for now, I’m trying to stay busy and stick to my usual routines so I don’t think about this every single second.