You may have read that our wonderful, terrible, hilarious, completely lovable cat Abby met with a terrible end a few weeks ago. We are still not even a little over it, and two sentences in, I’m already a blubbering mess. This tiny creature filled our house and our lives, and she has left a giant emptiness in her wake.
Let me back up a bit. At the beginning of Covid, right before the shutdown, I read an article that said that shelter animals were in trouble because the people who worked in the shelters weren’t going to be able to go to work. They were each taking home as many animals as they could, but they couldn’t handle all of them. We decided we’d better help, so we went on Petfinder and looked for Maine Coon cats. Our Big Boy Henry VIII had been a Maine Coon, so we wanted another large senior cat like he was. We stumbled upon Abby, who was listed as a Maine Coon/Abyssinian mix, and we fell in love with that face. We applied and were approved to foster the little darling. Off we went to Westchester to pick Herself up. The nice lady who had been fostering her told us she was “a little defensive” around new people, but she would warm up to us eventually. We learned that Abby had been kept in a basement for 12 years by people who got her as a plaything for their grandson. I guess Abby’s difficult temperament was too much for them, so they locked her in the basement by herself nearly all the time. She never got to love or be loved. She didn’t know how to handle affection, even though she was truly desperate for it. She must have been so terribly lonely and bored. She was essentially feral, and very, very angry when we got her.
We brought her home and let her out in the living room, thinking she would hide until she got hungry or felt more comfortable. Wrong. Though she swatted at us when we tried to pet her, she immediately set herself up on our favorite purple chair (where she looked magnificent) and proceeded to ignore us. We had company that night, since it was going to be our last get together for what we assumed was a few weeks. Abby stayed on her chair and we just warned the little ones to leave her alone. All seemed fine.
We opened up the guest room for her. It’s got a very comfortable low bed and the room was always warm and got lots of sun. She loved it right away and claimed it as hers. Every couple of hours, I would go in and sit on the edge of the bed. I talked quietly to her and left my hand on the bed near her so she could get used to my smell without feeling threatened. Beloved was a little more… let’s say direct. She’s more of a dog person, so she would go in there and talk for a minute, but then she’d get impatient and try to touch her. “She’s my pet. I’m going to pet her.” By the end of the first week, Beloved had been scratched and bitten so much, she looked like a cutter. Abby (then dubbed Stabby Abby) made that poor woman bleed nearly the entire time we had together. She absolutely came to love Beloved (who could help it?) and they spent plenty of time cuddling, but Abby always played extra rough with her. When Beloved got up in the morning, she had to put on boots or sneakers before she left our room to protect her ankles from our little house monster who stalked her daily.
After that first night, we were all in lockdown, so it was just the three of us for months. Abby began to relax and started coming to us for affection. Eventually, she learned to love being picked up and carried around, as long as it was on her terms. She played hard every day, and definitely wanted to be where her people were. It was obvious she was a very, very happy cat, at least during the day.
Every night when it was time for me to go to bed, my floofy darling would try every trick in the book to keep me from going upstairs. She wanted to play, she wanted a treat, she wanted me to chase her, she wanted me to pick her up, she needed to give me kisses, she wanted a drink water (the little weirdo would only drink from the running faucet in the bathroom). And while Abby never meowed and only ever made little chirruping noises when we were awake, in the middle of the night, she would stand in the hallway and scream and cry. It was just heartbreaking. We wondered if she had bad dreams and woke up thinking she was alone again. Whatever it was, she made a terrible, LOUD, lonely sound. We eventually had to train ourselves not to get up and go to her because no one was getting any sleep. On her worst nights, one of us would still sneak out of bed to hug her and tell her everything was okay. It was like having an infant, and it really brought me back to those days when my baby would wake up scared and need me to comfort her. In her odd way, Abby made us feel important.
I do a lot of work from home, so every few hours, Abby would come in to the office and chirrup at me to let me know it was time for a break. I’d pick her up, and we’d spend a perfect 5 minutes together until it was time for me to get back at it. And when I’d come out of our home office for the day, Abby would come running to greet me. When I had to be someplace other than home, I spent a lot of time wishing she were with me.
If we went out, even if it was just from a brief errand or trip outside to do something, our return to the house was always a big deal. Herself would run to the door and wait anxiously for me to put down my bag, remove my coat, take off my mask, and pick her up. Then Beloved and I would need to take at least 5 minutes for hugs and love and kisses and snuggles and head scratches. Beloved and I hate walking in the door now because our ridiculous welcoming committee is gone.
The remarkable thing about this little creature is that we thought we were doing her a favor, but it turned out we needed her at least as much as she needed us. When I told the woman who gave her to us that Abby was gone, she said “When animals like her love, they love hard.” She was really exactly right. Abby may have been a weird collection of tics and bad behavior and dislikes and quirks, but life without her is unspeakably empty, and the hole she’s left in our lives can be seen from space. She turned our lives into The Abby Show, and I miss it terribly.
It’s hard to imagine that our time together was just short of 2 years. I know she’s made as big an impact on me as the animals I got to love for much, much longer. I’m going to have to figure out how to get over this, but right now it feels impossible.
Beloved and I have talked a little about getting another pet, but we always come to the same conclusion. We don’t just want some average pet. We want OUR pet. We want our weird, funny, frustrating, heartbreaking, gorgeous little idiot. It may be a very long time before we’re ready to do this again, and when we do, I suspect it will be a lot less exciting.