On a snowy day in January, 1997, a tiny grey face peered up at me from underneath our front porch and meowed. It was love at first sight.
When Heidi moved into our home, she was Cat #4, and, as it turned out, was carrying Cats #5, 6, 7 and 8 in her furry belly. I called her “Heidi” because half the time we had no idea where she was, a habit that became even more evident when she got close to giving birth.
At first, she was skittish, and although she clearly appreciated being inside, warm and fed, she was not a cuddler. I was determined, though, and I wore her down – and when she went into labour, she sought me out, following me around all day and sticking to me like glue. She gave birth (to four kittens that seemed impossibly large for such a petite mother) in our bedroom closet… I was pregnant myself at the time, and Dr. T was away, and this tiny grey ball of pain and fury looked straight at me and screamed as each huge kitten emerged.
One by one, her kittens went to their new homes, and one by one, our original trio of cats left us, and eventually Heidi was Cat #1, a status that she enjoyed for almost a decade. She curled up next to my babies when they slept on the couch, and tolerated toddlers testing to see is her fur came off.
She was the tiniest cat with the biggest purr. She brought me mice. She sat on my lap as I wrote blog posts and sat on my students’ essays when I marked papers. She “helped” the boys with their homework, and kept Dr. T company when he sat up too late watching TV.
She used to follow me to the Metro and follow the boys to the playground (and she even got it when I suggested that other parents might frown upon a cat in the sandbox). Once, she followed us about six blocks when we went to vote – apparently she was very civic-minded.
Heidi has been the other female in the house, making me feel a little less outnumbered. She’s snuggled with me in bed and on the couch, and enjoyed the laps of many friends over the years (particular favourites being Terence and Erin, and one memorable, almost pornographic moment with Kevin B.).
Earlier this year, it became clear that Heidi was in decline. Over the past few months, we’ve been monitoring her condition with the world’s best vet, so we knew that the end was coming – her kidneys were showing signs of failure. In the past couple of weeks, things have gone downhill quickly. We don’t think that she’s in any pain, yet, but she’s stopped eating – even Fancy Feast – and is almost literally a shadow of her former self.
This evening, our vet will come to our home, so Heidi can be at home, with her family, and we’ll say goodbye to the best cat we’ve ever known. She’s had, I like to think, a good life, and she’s made our lives better, immeasurably.
I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss her.