I had planned a totally different post for today after looking through photos of Mewsette as a tiny kitten and remembering her purrsonality from those days. I decided to wait until this morning to finish it and this post evolved, in part because I feel the grief lifting a bit today and I wanted to share some observations about the nature of caretaking which led me to a remembrance of a very happy moment in the past few months, and how grief evolves if we let it. I can’t wait to share Mewsette’s baby pictures, though.
We have a small patch of concrete outside the basement door that catches the sun from the time it comes over the trees until early afternoon nearly all days of the year, warming the concrete even in winter. We know cats who have the opportunity love a good roll on warm concrete, and a few of my other garden cats have taken advantage of this special spot seemingly set up just for feline enjoyment.
Of all the sweet and silly things Mewsette did in the back yard that just enhanced her joy was a roll on this little spot in the sun as often as possible. In the middle of winter, if the snow and ice were melted from it and it was fairly dry, she’d have an enthusiastic roll. And with this mild winter and early spring, so warm and sunny, there were few breaks. As soon as she and Mimi stepped out the back door onto the deck she’d have a quick sniff of things and then hurry down the steps and around on the flagstone path to the brick patio and leap onto the concrete, slither down onto her side, and have a really good roll. On March 13 Mewsette had snowflakes on her*, but here she is on March 16 this year (I wanted a more fun featured image but no go on YouTube):
All her rolls are a great memory for me mostly because of her joy in that moment, her silly urgency to get there, her absolute sense of freedom and satisfaction. Unlike most other cats Mewsette was not coy or sly about her joy, she was totally in the moment. I’ve captured other rolls in video but many more in photos, and that I did for me, not to use for any purpose but to scroll back through my photos and remember that morning and that moment.
Note even the simple changes
This roll was the last I have recorded for Mewsette, so I found when I went back in my photos looking for the latest roll because at some point she’d stopped even though the weather grew better. Some days after it I remember seeing some troubling symptoms, ataxia—unsteadiness, a wobbly gait—decreasing appetite, the beginnings of constipation, and she just wasn’t as active. I thought it might be a reaction to her morning dose of gabapentin since that seemed to be the time it was most noticeable. I called my veterinarian to see the next appointment, and switched one I had made for a workup for Morty, May 2, to Mewsette. Dr. Elgersma came to give her (and the rest of her siblings as it turned out) a PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic frequency) treatment. I took her to PetWellClinic for an exam and blood tests where nothing in particular showed up except that her T4 was still really high and she had lost a little more weight. My veterinarian increased her dose of Felimazole and we changed gabapentin to buprenorphine to see if that made a difference.
I remember thinking from then on that getting her back to rolling on that concrete was a goal, just to get her back to that level of activity, then I’d know she was back to a state in which she was comfortable. But she never did, even when we went out the basement door on a warm a sunny morning and she seemed to feel well otherwise.
Tempering the grief with sweet memories
This morning when I look at that spot, crimson wild strawberries dot the green leaves that replaced last year’s fallen and in the barrel next to it the cucumber seeds I planted in late April have produced searching vines, and the cherry tomato plant has little green marbles at the top and blossoms at the bottom. I remember the hopes I had for Mewsette, but I also remember how happy she was there, how happy she was in general, and how, even though she was not feeling her best and was slowly declining she made every moment the best it could be. She might not have been able to enjoy her favorite places and activities in the way she had before, but she loved what she could do, and gave it all of herself, and she loved and trusted me completely through it all and let me know that every day. I am honored.
It’s very common during grief for any reason to mark anniversaries, a place in time when an incident or memory happened a measured amount of time ago: an hour, a day, a week, 10 years. Last Sunday I stayed at my desk with her very late after she’d passed trying to stay awake so that the day would not end, that last day that began when she was still here and feeling well, even though it was well past midnight and I was practically falling out of my chair with exhaustion, fearing waking up later without her for the first time.
As I moved through my 20s and 30s I certainly had things to remember, childhood, college, first jobs, my father’s illnesses and loss, discovering my art and beginning to paint cats and other animals, losing my first cat, relationships come and gone, buying my home, planning the eventual self-employment I’d enter into. But in those years my present day experiences occupied far more than any memories.
Lately I’ve noticed I have more and more anniversaries of memories and loss. I add another year onto my own experience each March so it stands to reason that I would have more things to remember. I’ve also noticed this seems to be a natural part of aging as well, remembering, intentionally or not, moments of my life that stayed with me, significant or not, and cats and people and things I love still that are no longer here for me to experience day to day, yet I recall the experiences we had to refresh that memory and reaffirm that love. Unlike when I was young and recalled these, time has given me a more rounded perspective on these experiences from my past. This retrospect makes my experience of life richer, even with the pain that sometimes accompanies it. I can’t change what was, but I can still experience and learn from it and resolve issues that arose, experience it and bask in the sweetness of a treasured moment.
I remember how sweet it was to see these two head for the back door in all kinds of weather, waiting for me to open it and let them out, and so many others before them. From May 24, 2023, the last time I have a photo of them here, and the last time I believe Mewsette went to the door.
Visions of the future
In 1996 I was six years into this house and still fixing things and planning renovations. When Kublai really began to decline I quit planning renovations—I realized that I was visualizing every change with him literally in it, sleeping in the sun on the sunroom studio floor I’d add off the side, and sitting on the windowsill at the southern exposure window I’d add to the kitchen, sleeping on the bed in the extra bedroom I’d add off the back. I couldn’t bring myself to visualize a future in any way that did not have him in it. I had already decided it might be better with my day job and six to eight hours of freelancing in the evening to hold off on home renovations until after I left my day job, and not wanting to envision my future without him sealed that decision.
I will soon be having some repairs and renovations done to my home in the near future through a county program for seniors. I will finally be getting that roof along with the roofs on my front porch and deck, electrical service upgrades, an interior French drain in the basement, and a few other necessities.
I have wanted to screen my deck as a catio since the 1990s, but it’s 40 years old and that was too big of an investment for a deck that might be considered a tear-down to anyone but me. But it’s in good shape and will have some restorations in addition to the roof. I’ll do the screening myself with the plans I drew up years ago, when I can afford it, but I am hoping that will be this summer.
When I picked up the orange and white carpet out of a neighbor’s trash pile and discovered it was in great shape and I loved the color and pattern I first thought it would be cool for my vendor tent, but knew that carrying it and rolling it out and back up every time at the size it is would not be feasible unless I had a team for setup and teardown. So I put it out on the deck and knew that was where it belonged, and Mimi and Mewsette embraced it immediately. This photo of Mewsette and Mimi from June 7 was a hope for the future, and even though it will be difficult for me to follow through with the catio knowing she won’t be there to enjoy it in her own unique way—I thought of her and Mimi most as I dreamed about it— just as her memory still remains in my garden, I will think of the silly Mewsette I love giving the rug a good scratch and rolling in the sun when the catio is finished.
A couple of notes
In the first photo in this post you can see a light-colored dot on Mewsette’s forehead. I’m not sure what that is and I only took this one photo of her walking the plank, all the others around are daffodils, so I can’t see it from different angles. But I think it’s water droplets as she had been grazing in the grass soon before that, and one of them in particular is catching the sun. But an interesting and noteworthy effect, purrhaps like the feather later. It’s interesting how these things appear—I’ve looked at this photo several times as I scrolled photos, and I fully edited and cropped that photo but did not see the dot until I placed it in this post.
I realized I hadn’t shared this Instagram post from March 13! “What are these things on me?!!” Unexpected snow flurry this morning. while the girls were grazing. Simple things could startle her sometimes.
Here is a list of the articles I’ve written about Mewsette in the past few months. I also have smaller mentions in my daily photo posts from the back yard, from veterinary visits and visiting the pet food store.
Veterinary Visits (August 2022)
Outdoor Fun and a Vet Visit With Mewsette (March 2023)
Cruising With Mewsette (May 2023)
Mewsette in June (June 2023)
Updates and Things (June 2023)
Cats and Flowers (June 2023)
I Would Not Have Missed a Moment (June 2023)
Mewsette’s Dancing Lights (June 2023)
I hate to keep asking, but if you’d like to help us with the costs…
As always, if you would like to help me with veterinary costs, Jelly Bean had his exam and has hyperthyroid disease, but his veterinarian also mentioned some possible GI issues, which is the same thing she mentioned with Mewsette two months ago. Giuseppe needs a full workup with our veterinarian along with his heart function. Mimi is due for her annual visit. Morty still needs prescription foods until I can get him back to the veterinarian for some blood tests so we can find out more about his particular condition, and all of them need to eat. I want to keep them all comfortable in whatever way is best for each cat.
- Consider a Custom Pet Memorial Votive for yourself or a family member or friend. Remember that they don’t actually have to be memorials—a votive with someone’s pet on it while they are very much alive is also a nice custom gift!
- Visit www.PortraitsOfAnimals.net. I just uploaded all my new keepsake boxes and votive lamps. I will give you a coupon to shop with when you donate.
- I am building a “One of a Kind Shop” on my website so that it’s easier to see exactly what handmade goods are available, like those keepsake boxes up at the top and all new votive lamps. I had hoped to have it set up by now, but things are taking a little longer than expected.
- And consider even a small portrait of one or more of your fine felines.
If you have any questions, please let me know! And thanks for any help.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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Tuesday: Rescue Stories
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And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!