Where do I begin?
Ever since I was a little girl, cats weren’t exactly my favorite animals. I didn’t hate them but I didn’t like them either. I loved dogs, gold fish, turtles, but cats – nah. It probably had to do with Pamela’s kitten who scratched me when I was in first grade in Virginia. I was a kid so I didn’t go through the whole mature understanding that hey, cats scratch too if they feel threatened. I thought: All cats are evil four-legged beings who hate me. It was silly, I know.
We came back to Pakistan a while ago. We kept three beautiful dogs – one after the other – and they all lived happy, enriched lives until one got kidnapped and the other two got sick so they had to be put down. I was a kid so the pain of losing a pet was limited to the pain of losing a friend you’d play with every now and then. I cried, sure, but I never felt my heart fall to my stomach with anxiety or fear. I never lost sleep over it. I didn’t grow desperate while walking through narrow corridors of barely attended clinics.
I met Cookie – my Turkish Angora kitten – a few months ago. The very lovely and generous Hanifa Tareen gifted me her from the bunch of adorable kittens Cookie’s mommy, Moto, had. I remember the first time I saw her sitting on the backseat of the car. She was so tiny and afraid. That’s when our bond began; She was like my baby.
The thing with Cookie – and I know every cat owner says that – was that she was exceptionally intelligent and beautiful. My mother, not so fond of felines, fell in instant love with Cookie. My father, a man known for his reserved attitude towards all living beings, morphed into a little boy with Cookie; He couldn’t stop snuggling her, taking care of her needs, making sure I was doing my best job at raising her. My sisters, fond of animals, had the most amusing, fun-filled, warm relationship with Cookie. She became family.
This little tribute is for her.
You were so tiny when I met you! Your little pink paws and your little pink nose. And for someone so delicate and tiny in size, you sure had the nerve of a very naughty monkey. You’d hop on book shelves and push my journals down while meowing happily. You’d run around the house with mama’s chador in your mouth. You’d jump from one couch to the other while papa browsed the newspaper. You couldn’t stop pouncing at us for fun. And my oh my, you really did love taking naps with us in bed. Your little paw on my cheek while I snoozed.
Taking a nap in my sister’s arms in July.
Remember the time when you broke my favorite mirror? Or the time you literally tore pages out of my book and hid your face between the pages. Or the time you ruined the curtains. I couldn’t even bring myself to snub you; You looked so innocent while standing in the door. Remember how silly you looked after a bath, huddled up in a warm towel. You taught me so much. From little things like taking responsibility, making sure everything was okay, teaching you manners, learning to build patience to bigger things like preparing myself for losing you, holding you throughout the night, trying not to cry while you breathed your last.
Sometimes when I’d eat a mango slice, you’d snuggle up against me and meow at me. You really liked mango for some reason. Your furry white mouth would be covered with sweet yellow pulp. You used to hide the mango seeds under the bed!
The street below was a sight for you to behold whenever you’d get the chance. Papa would pick you up; hold you in his arms and walk outside, letting you take in the sights and sounds of the city around you. Today when papa was buried you, he was crying. He said he felt a fatherly kind of joy while holding you, showing you the world around you. Remember how adorably clumsy he was with you initially? He didn’t know how to hold you or pet you even but he wanted to show his love so he tried. And you graciously allowed him to. I still remember how you would hop on his knees while he watched TV.
Mama says you left too soon. We tried everything. Three vets and dozens of recommendations but when someone’s time arrives, there’s no stopping it. You had chronic renal failure – your kidneys stopped functioning, your system initiated a quick shut down. It was painful to watch. In the last few hours we spent together, I learned so much from you. I learned that a baby can be a fighter, a warrior in tough times. That a small kitten like you had the spirit of a lioness. That no matter how many times your legs gave in making you collapse to the ground, you did everything in your fragile heart to bring yourself back up. I learned that love should never be measured in the number of weeks, months spent with a cherished one but in the moments that never die, that continue to live forever in our hearts. I learned that lying next to you, my forehead against yours, taught me how to say good bye far better than any other time I’ve said good bye to someone. And I’ve lost human friends to death – not once, not twice but thrice – but I learned that saying good bye to anything, anyone – regardless of what and who they are – can put a little hole in your heart. I learned you took pieces of me, of papa, of mama, of us, with you to heaven.
Her favorite spot.
Before you left us, I held you in my arms and took you to your favorite place in the world: The terrace. Under the full, milky white moon, I strolled to and fro while you blinked weakly at the azure sky. I can’t remember how many times I kissed you and cried against your neck while you breathed slowly. I don’t know if you’ll ever know that I held your paw to my lips and talked to you while you trembled as your system started to shut down. I even tried bribing you back to life. You could have anything you wanted. If only you could have stayed with me a bit longer.
I woke the other two sisters up to let them know you’re about to go. We sat around you, rubbed your cold paws, kissed your forehead, and talked to you. We wanted you to know that we were here, we were trying. And I think you understood. When you started breathing your last, my youngest sister rubbed your belly to keep your warm. We took a clean towel, placed you in it gently, kissed you and closed your eyes. You didn’t wake up.
It was Fajr time – dawn. It was a cool, quiet time. I have never cried for anyone like this before but your sudden departure broke us all. Before the sun would rise, papa took you and buried you near a tree. He wept when he came home. He really loved you. Home is hollow without you.
I lied down. I couldn’t sleep. I half-expected you to pounce at me from somewhere, like you played with me. When the sun was out, its rays reflected on the marble floor and I saw your little paw prints. I cried and tried to remember you in the best moments we shared.
I just wanted to say: Thank you for coming in my life. You taught me a lot but most importantly you taught me to love. Mama, papa, the sisters and I will always, deep down inside, look for you around the corner, playing with your toys. We will sometimes look at your bowl and think you’ll be here for your snack. Sometimes I will cry to sleep and imagine you lying right next to me. You will live forever in our memories.
I love you, Cookie. Enjoy kitty heaven.