This week marks Fretta’s Yahrzeit. One year ago was her final trip to the vet and our sad farewell. My daily connection to her has diminished over the year (in contrast to those first weeks when I sensed her everywhere and kept finding globs of her fur), but I found many emotions returning for this anniversary.
Throughout the year people have asked if we are getting another cat. My answer is yes, at some point. At some point. The time has not yet been right. Even when my desire to have a cat has intensified, I’ve not been ready.
The truth is, Fretta was a lot of work. When she was about eight years old, she developed kidney disease and became very sick. I rapidly entered the world of subcutaneous fluids—giving fluids by inserting a needle under the skin and letting water flow in. At first Fretta was so sick she didn’t fuss or move, and I gave her fluids without incident. But the minute she felt well again, she had a different attitude.
Thus began the years of Watering Fretta. When she heard me preparing the water and setting up the equipment, she scuttled off to find the tiniest, most cramped hiding space available. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but it’s hard to trick a cat. Ultimately I learned her hiding places and developed a stealth approach to finding and grabbing her. Sometimes I had to use a yardstick to poke her out from underneath the bed, and I became used to crawling into little-used corners under furniture. Sometimes I found her but wasn’t quick enough, and she zoomed off to yet another hard-to-reach spot. She became quite creative in discovering new (often dusty) places.
For the first few months I wasn’t very skilled with inserting the needle, and I had many sticks where the water didn’t flow properly. Needless to say, Fretta didn’t like repeated pokes, and we had some wrestling matches to keep her on the table. Eventually I refined my technique (and effectively used a three-sided box, a brilliant suggestion from my husband). I had fewer false starts, but every once in a while Fretta rebelled and leapt off the table, yanking out the needle so that water sprayed everywhere.
When Fretta was diagnosed, the vet told me to expect her to live about two years. But Fretta stayed healthy for eight years. Giving her fluids was part of our life together. When the watering went smoothly, I experienced it as a time of bonding; when the watering was rough or incomplete, I ended up frustrated, tired, worried, and guilty. Every day my schedule was shaped in part by whether I had to give her fluids (frequency of watering increased over the years), when I would be able to do it, and when she would be a likely catch (my best bet was when she was sleeping, preferably out in the open).
I missed Fretta terribly in those first months after her death, but I was relieved, too. She had been a lot of work and emotional energy. Admittedly, I was a determined worrier and unfailingly oversolicitous: was she eating enough? Was she drinking enough? Was jumping beginning to hurt? Our house was set up to accommodate her gradually declining health—water bowls everywhere, particularly at heights she preferred; specially situated chairs so she could jump onto the bed or leap to spots that provided viewing points; rag-lined boxes in every closet to suit her different moods.
With her passing, I was grateful for a rest.
And now? Now the desire for a cat is returning. I trust that a cat—my cat—will arrive somehow, at the right time. Perhaps a stray will arrive as Fretta did. Perhaps we will learn of an older cat needing a home. Perhaps some day I’ll awake and say, “It’s time.”
For today, however, for this week, it is enough to remember Fretta with affection and sweet memory. I would gladly water her today if she were here.
Questions for Reflection: How do anniversaries of a death affect you? Have you ever experienced both sadness and relief upon a death? If you have lost a pet, when did you become ready for a new pet? In what ways do you remember a person or pet upon an anniversary?
Writing Prompts: “When I come to the anniversary of a death, I notice ______” (then keep writing); “I remember losing ______, when I ______” (then keep writing); “The idea of feeling relief at a death makes me ______” (then keep writing); “I like to memorialize a loss by ______” (then keep writing).