Home is the Cat (Memorial for Baby)

0ccc33af-b96b-469f-8eb5-fa3f99f709bf

Baby (whose real name is Theo – but we never called him that).

Just over a week ago today, my beloved cat, whose name was Theo, but whom we always called “Baby”, died from a sudden and very aggressive onset of feline lymphoma. With his passing, something inside me died.

For as long as this very blog has existed, Baby has been in our lives. We found him, off the streets in Singapore, some ten years ago. He literally sauntered right into the cat-carrier bag a friend of ours who lived nearby had lent us, and sat himself down, refusing to move.

Just like that, he chose us as his forever humans. And it was good he did, because a week later – so our friend told us – Baby’s close cat-pal, a ginger cat we decided not to bring home, had been crushed by a car.

When we moved from Singapore to New York in 2010, Baby came along. I personally checked him into the flight and at JFK Airport, where he did not appear on the odd-sized baggage carousel, we had to hail a cab and search all over JFK’s enormous cargo area. We finally found him, cringing with fear at the Singapore Airlines and Emirates offices.

In New York City, he experienced snow for the first time, and stood at our basement patio, peering quizzically at the two inch pile of white stuff that had magically appeared overnight.  I’m not sure he liked snow very much. I’m not sure he liked New York very much.

When we returned from New York in late 2012, he came with us again, this time in the cabin, under the seat before me, at my feet, where, in a black cat-carrier bag, he would make barely a sound at all throughout the 24-hour flight via Tokyo Narita to Singapore. And then he had to be quarantined for 10 days – the only time he had ever been apart from either of us. When he returned to us, to our new home in Singapore, he was overjoyed, and took to the verdant surroundings with glee.

In the early days of this blog, I once wrote a post entitled “Home is the Cat (or Dog)”, where I argued – partly serious and partly tongue-in-cheek – that the cat (or dog) is part of the very fabric and personality of the Home itself; or to put it another way, home is the extension of the Cat (or Dog). I include the link here:

https://dreamofacity.com/2012/03/07/home-is-the-cat-or-the-dog/

Certainly, I have never so strongly felt the truth in this statement of mine than during this past week, in the aftermath of Baby’s passing.

To say that Baby has been Home for me, is to grossly understate.

Whenever I return home from work or travel, I anticipate hearing that excited mewing behind the door I am about to open, and when the door is opened, my heart would leap upon seeing the familiar presence of Baby – all tabby-and-white joy, indignation and infinite cuteness – welcoming me home and “scolding” me for leaving him alone all day (or all week – or even weeks – if I had been travelling).

If he wasn’t at the door, I would call out his name in my usual high-pitched “cat-voice” – “Baby! Where’s Baby?!” – and there he would come, scurrying towards me in haste.  He always came when I called him, and only when I called him.  He was an affectionate – some said needy – kitty. But that was part of his charm, and people loved that about him.

This past week, it has been difficult coming home.  I keep wanting to call out his name when I open the door; and I keep expecting him to come running towards me from his little blue-blanket-bed on my writing desk, or from my own bed, where he would have been napping, waiting for me to get home.

My daily routine has been thrown awry. I no longer have to feed him or clear his litter in the mornings, I no longer have to feed him dinner or cuddle him a little at night.  His empty litter tray, food dishes and final scratching pole are still there – I cannot bear to throw them out… just yet. To make things worse, just before he went to hospital, from which he would never return, I had bought great amounts of new wet and dry food and litter – these now sit useless and accusatory in the kitchen.

It’s been difficult to get over his passing because there is a nagging feeling inside of me that it was entirely my fault. I had been too busy at work, and in the two weeks before his passing, I had been made even more busy by additional commitments that I’d been forced to take on. And so I didn’t get him into hospital until it was too late; until he had lost so much weight, and the cancer had advanced to a close-to-final stage.

Perhaps if I had noticed earlier, and brought him in earlier, I could have extended his life and his well-being, for just a little bit.

My friends and family have advised that it’s not healthy to think this way; that I did what I could have, given the circumstances.

I don’t know.

For the time being, I’m grieving. I’m overcome by grief and by guilt. And so to seek solace, I write and I write and I write. Because that’s all I can do. Until the grief and the guilt pass.

I’m taking things a day at a time, because there are certain obligations that, despite my best efforts, I cannot get myself out of. I have to keep smiling and pretending that everything is ok, even though I’m heartbroken.

Singapore is a cruel place to be in when one is grieving.

Just before his heart stopped, he said goodbye to me by moaning loudly, twice. He had already gone into a vegetative state – in fact, I feel, on hindsight, that I should’ve taken him back home so he could’ve died in less painful and ignominious a circumstance; or perhaps I should’ve pulled the plug. But then, everything always seems clear only on hindsight.

I took him into the hospital in the very same black cat-carrier bag he had come home in when we returned from New York. This past Monday, I collected his ashes from the hospital, together with the black cat-carrier, symbolically bringing him home with me, where a part of him will remain always.

This post is my memorial to Baby at his handsome, curious, energetic, intelligent, playful, comic, free-spirited, manja (affectionate), charismatic best, from some of the earliest days with us, to the last time he was seen healthy.

Goodbye Baby.  Rest in peace.

I love you and I will remember you always.

3 - EMPTY

I wrote this song in 2010. After I wrote it, I realised that it could just as well apply from Baby’s perspective (sorta kinda). So I placed him on the cover of the “single”. A demo of the single still exists online at: https://soundcloud.com/kennie-ting/e-m-p-t-y

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Baby in our apartment, New York City.

Home in NY (c) Kennie Ting 2011

Baby at home in NYC, supervising as I cooked dinner.

Kitty At Home (c) Kennie Ting 2011

Kitty in our basement patio, NYC 2011.

7 - Back in SG

Baby back in Singapore, late 2012.

8 - Sleeping

Sleeping Baby, all fluffy, purry and plump.

9 - Posing

Posing for the camera. He always was a charismatic fella.

10 - On the couch

Stretched out and asleep on the couch… 

11 - Peekaboo

Peekaboo… at our second address in Singapore.

12 - On the box

Kitty on the box. 

13 - On the Bed

Baby on the bed.

14 - On the couch

…VERY asleep on the couch.

15 - In the new home

Just posing… at our third new address in Singapore.

21 - Posing

Posing again, all handsome with his hazel-green eyes and that regal face.

17 - Wheres Baby

Where’s Baby?  Hiding from the tropical heat.

16 - Running when called

Coming to me when called.

Cat

Stretching out ‘cos he’s happy to see me.

18 - Rolling in the Sun

Rolling around and basking in the sunshine and the warmth.

19 - Rolling on the tiles

Rolling around on the cold tiled floor.

20 - Playing with his feather stick

Playing with his feather stick.

22 - On his blue blanket

Peering up from his blue-blanket-bed.

23 - Sleeping on his blankie

Fast asleep on his blue blanket bed.

24 - Sleeping on his blankie

Super soundly asleep….

25 - Sleeping in his poof

Curled up and asleep on a beanbag.

2 - THE LAST TIME

The last time he was photographed awake and alert (though he was probably already very ill).

26 - his last nap

The last time he was photographed asleep on the couch (and also the very last one of him before he became seriously ill). The next time I noticed, he had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and I had to rush him to the vet and onwards to the hospital.

27 - Saying hello

Baby, saying hello. 

28 - Baby

This is, in my view, the best portrait of Baby, capturing him as he always was – strikingly handsome (those hazel-green eyes!), always inquisitive and free-spirited, unstintingly affectionate, and a little out-of-focus, because he was a bundle of kinetic energy.  Goodbye Baby… goodbye. 

[Most of the recent photographs of Baby were taken by my cat-sitters, who took care of him during the many, many times I was absent due to a work-trip. I thank them both, from the bottom of my heart, not only for taking such great care of him while I was away, for coming to see him while he was in hospital, and also – very importantly – for leaving me a large and invaluable visual and video record of his last year with us.] 

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Home and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s