Cleo, 1995-2012

Send to Kindle

She was my Mom’s cat.  I was there when Mom went to the SPCA to find a new friend.  Mom had recently moved here to Virginia from New Hampshire and was finally settled into a lovely small home.  Now she was ready for a companion to share her days with.

There were so many cats waiting for their forever homes, all ready to curl up in a lap and cuddle their days away.  Mom chose two feral kittens about five months old who were hiding in a corner under a table.  They were scared to death and difficult to capture. She named them Cleo and Leo. Leo was a ginger colored tabby and Cleo a beautiful calico.

The first few weeks at home, they made a nest under Mom’s bed in the box springs.  They came out only for food, but after a while realized that she wasn’t going to harm them and took up following her around the house.  When she finally let them go outside, they roamed the neighborhood by day, always returning for their evening meal.  They were afraid of everyone but Mom.  They would occasionally put up with a pat on the head from me, but Cleo had a distinct dislike for men, especially Bill.

When Mom’s health began to decline and she moved in with Bill and me, her buddies naturally came along.  They weren’t happy at first, afraid of our aging dog, Charlie and old Hannah, our Maine Coon Cat.  Leo disappeared a few months later.  We checked the SPCA daily, put up posters in the area and even called the folks that Mom had sold her house to, across town.  But he was never seen again.  There had been reports of Coyotes in our neighborhood. We figured the worst had happened.

When Mom broke her shoulder and then her leg in two separate falls, and I could no longer take care of her, we moved her into a nursing home until she was able to walk again and then into an assisted living situation. Cleo couldn’t go with her, so she came upstairs to join our pack of now two new dogs, Molly and Sam, and recently adopted cats, Peppermint and Lily. She wasn’t happy at first but slowly adjusted but always seemed to be the odd man out.  She disliked most prepared cat food. I cooked chicken thighs especially for her.  Pepper and Lily would have none of it, preferring Fancy Feast and other kitty fast foods that come in cans or bags.  Mom died a few months later and Cleo became a true member of our pack.

We moved here to the city two years ago. Cleo’s behavior changed dramatically.  I have no clue as to why, but suddenly she was greeting guests on her own standoffish terms and spent TV time in the evening settled in Bill’s lap.  But she was also aging and we were told she’d probably be gone in the next six months.  She began losing weight and her kidneys were beginning to fail. We chose not to take any heroic measures to keep her alive because of her advanced age and the invasiveness of many medical procedures.

Most recently she looked like a walking cat skeleton dressed in a fur suit. She hadn’t been eating much including her favorite home cooked chicken.  We knew her time was drawing near.  A few weeks ago I noticed that someone had been peeing on a new carpet we’d had installed and caught her red-handed. One evening while I was out doing some weeding in the garden, I noticed she was straining to pee and looked terribly uncomfortable.

We decided it was time and a week or so ago on June first, at noon, as she sat on a towel in my lap, my friend and Veterinarian, Richard, injected a magic sleep potion into her veins.  As she slowly let go and the light went out of her eyes, I imagine she was scampering off across the Rainbow Bridge to her other Mom, who was waiting on the other side. I feel sad that Cleo is gone, but also relieved. It is so hard to watch a loved one in pain slowly slip away.

With such a loss, there is always an ensuing emptiness.  Cleo’s spirit and energy is no longer here. We all feel it and miss her. In a week or two she will return home in a small box in the form of ashes. We will sprinkle them in the garden where we sprinkled Molly’s ashes not too long ago.


  1. patti stark says:

    Cleo had a delightful life with both your Mother and then you and Bill – Oh, those chicken breasts! RIP precious kitty –

    • yes, I still have a big package of already cooked ones in the freezer. I guess some chicken salad will be on the dinner table soon!

  2. Now that I have two pets of my own–the first pup didn’t come into my life until six years ago and I’d never had pets before that–I can understand the feelings of loss and sadness. A lovely tribute.

    • Thanks, Clara. I’ve always had pets and each loss is so very hard. But it is well worth it. As my Vet Richard told me that day, “If you can’t afford to be sad, you can’t afford to love.”

  3. As always, well said. RIP Cleo.

  4. What a beautiful celebratory piece on an important member of your family. I am sorry for your loss. I can imagine that it was made more difficult due to the fact she belonged to your mom. Anyone who has had to say goodbye to a loved pet knows your sadness.

    • Thanks, Tracey. It most definitely connected to my Mom, whose death anniversary was 11 days before we had to put Cleo to sleep. Hard, very hard.