It was a painful week. We made the agonizing, distressing, heartbreaking decision to euthanize Raffa, our cat. It was the right decision; she was suffering, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t question whether it was the right thing to do, whether it was time to do it, whether there was any hope she could recover. It wasn’t entirely clear what was wrong, despite visits with the vet and testing.
Aside from the difficulty of making that decision, I knew I would just miss her.
Raffa, a black cat, came to me as a Chanukah present from my children 14 years ago. She was a rescue, six months old at the time. She came with her crate-mate, a male gray tabby. We named them Raffa and Roger, after the great tennis players Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. The two kitties were as different as the two tennis players. For those of you who don’t follow tennis, Federer is all grace and precision on the court, while Nadal is brute force and sweat. The kitties’ characteristics didn’t correspond to their namesakes, but they had very different personalities from the time they arrived. Roger is shy and skittish, and not very graceful. He is protective, especially of me. When I go to bed at night, he stands guard. Raffa was friendly with all visitors, leapt up on every surface, climbed in every box and explored every scent. Roger has his charms and I love him dearly, but he is the quintessential cat. Raffa was more like a puppy.
When I ate breakfast at the kitchen island, Raffa jumped up with ease and sat watching me eat. I know some people might be horrified that I allowed a cat to sit on a kitchen counter, but there was no training her otherwise. I took to putting a large cup of water on the counter – she liked drinking from a cup – to dissuade her from sticking her nose in my drink or food. Mostly I kept nudging her away so I could eat in peace. After a bit she would settle and just watch me, keeping me company. Over the last couple of weeks, she still wanted to join me but found it increasingly difficult to leap up, she would use a stool as a steppingstone, until she couldn’t do it without help. She was getting weaker and weaker, sleeping more and more.
Raffa had a magnificent black coat, long haired and soft. One of the clues that she was deteriorating was that I would find clumps of fur where she had been sitting. Her coat and her body were thinning. Gary liked to say that Raffa was a beautiful cat, and she knew it. She did kind of preen as she strutted around the house. She was queen of all she surveyed. But she was playful and sweet at the same time. She wasn’t aloof. I never heard her hiss at anyone. She just knew this house was her domain and she was comfortable in it.
Since I retired, over 7 years ago, I spend a lot of time at home – reading, writing, doing chores. Raffa often followed me from room to room. If I sat in the recliner to read, she climbed on and sat behind my head, positioning herself so she could look out the window. I could hear her purring. If I sat at the kitchen counter doing a crossword puzzle, she sat next to me, and I’d hear her little motor going. In the last week she stopped purring. I did get one final purr when I was scratching her neck and saying my goodbyes – a bittersweet moment to be sure. Gary had to remind me that her purring was a good thing, a good sendoff.
The few days that have passed since she has been gone have felt very strange. The house feels emptier. Sometimes I glimpse something out of the corner of my eye, and I think for a moment that it is Raffa, but I catch myself.
I know for some people their pets are as beloved as children. I didn’t put myself in that category, and I still don’t. But the loss is profound. I am grateful that I had such a loyal companion for 14 years. She was a happy kitty and I’m glad she isn’t suffering. She had such a light, good nature, it wasn’t right for her to be robbed of that.
As Gary said when we were saying goodbye to her, rest in peace, my little friend.