Just A Cat
On Saturday, November 10, 2001, at 2:27 PM CST, the first cat
I ever owned died. Her name was Bacall, and she was my special
girl. She was the one who stole my heart and made it possible for
me to admit that I was capable of love. She was magnificent; she
was my gateway to a better self.
I have a great many friends and acquaintances in the animal rights field, and have received a great amount of support from them to help me during this time of loss. Even a few friends who aren't animal lovers have expressed sympathy. And then there was a co-worker of mine. I took the day off work when she died to be with my wife while I grieved, telling my boss that the flu shot I had received last week was making me ill. (It was close to the truth.)
When I was asked why I looked so tired by this co-worker of mine, I mentioned that I hadn't been sleeping well because my cat died. She said to me, "Well, what's the problem? It was just a cat."
"It was just a cat." That is the attitude that I have been trying to change since I got involved with the animal rights movement. The idea that the animal is disposable, and can be tossed aside when it is no longer convenient for someone to take care of it.
I first saw the results of that attitude first hand when I worked for a shelter in the faces of the hundreds of dogs and cats I personally had to euthanize because someone was no longer going to take the responsibility to take care of an animal that, when they took the animal into their home, they promised to care for it for life.
I see it in the faces of the feral cats that I assist in feeding in my yard and in the two colonies that we run here in the city. The cats that were kicked out of their homes and allowed to breed because an owner was not responsible enough to take the time to have the animal spayed or neutered, thus increasing the problem on the streets by having generations of cats - literally thousands - breed from one mating pair and all their offspring.
I saw it in the face of the driver who I stopped when he intentionally ran over a cat trying to cross the street. His smug superiority, and his blatant disregard for life, proved him to be no better - and probably a great deal less - than the animal he killed.
I know that there are good and caring people in the world, people who genuinely are concerned for their neighbors, their communities and the animals that are sharing this planet with us. But on days like today, they seem so far and few between.
If you are reading this article, you probably have a dog or cat or some other small animal that you call yours. You know its name, its habits and its emotions. And it knows you as well as you know it. And when that animal dies, it is only natural to feel grief at its passing.
Bacall was not "just a cat." She was my friend. Like all close relationships, it was similar to a marriage. She stuck by me in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. And when it came time for her to die, I held her and let her know that I loved her. And when she was gone, I cried for days.
But the time for crying is over now. It is time again to act, and to remember the special bond I was able to share with her in the nine short years she was my cat. And I hope that, when my time to die comes, I can face it with the dignity and grace that she showed me, and that if there is an afterlife, she will be there to share it with me.
Now, it is time to act.
Read the essay Brian wrote about Bacall June 6, 2001. The Dangers of Reading the Newspaper
Brian Baker is a writer and animal rights proponent. He has been published locally and nationally, most notably in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul. Currently, Baker spends his time working with a local organization (www.safehavenforpets.org) that not only operates a shelter for animals but also does extensive work with feral cats. To exchange correspondence with the author, write to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org