Zoe: Instakitty, Princess, Family (2001–2016)

Yesterday, August 15th, the McNutt family said its goodbyes to our beloved cat Zoe, who would have been 15 in a few weeks’ time.

Well, we think she would have been 15 in a few weeks. Zoe’s date of birth is something of a mystery — she was born on the Rath farm in Camden, Nova Scotia, a true barn cat and the product of what we suspect was a visiting tomcat from up the lane. She was brought into our lives by my Aunt Bernice, who found her covered in burrs, and took her to a groomer to have them removed one by one (as opposed to shaving her). The story goes that the groomer tried to convince her that Zoe was feral in an attempt to keep her for herself, but instead she arrived in Hammonds Plains a ball of puff with a shaved tail.

She arrived as a bit of an insurgent, replacing a son — the one who’s allergic to cats, not a coincidence — who was off to university and disrupting the world of the dog who had five years as the only animal in the house. And although Zoe was never one for compromise, she settled into lifelong friendships with Ryan and Cody, provided we define friendship as “occasional tolerance and general disinterest” and “regularly hiding and jumping up to (playfully) attack as he walked by,” respectively.

I was fifteen when Zoe — the family’s first cat during my lifetime, what with the brother’s allergy — arrived, and she was notable for being my first photographic “subject” as I started to take photos with first a new model film camera, and then — thankfully for the people paying for the film — digital.

She was only three when I too went away to university, but we developed a bond: I picked her up and generally bothered her, and she allowed me to do so, which continued right through my time home this summer.

But ultimately, Zoe was my mother’s cat. She sometimes made demands of the rest of us, and would certainly accept treats and the like, but she went to my mother for comfort, snuggling up to her in a way she would never do with us unless my mother was out of town for extended periods and Zoe got desperate. While Zoe was a family cat who was loved — and will be missed — by all of us, her absence will be most felt by the person who woke up with her, watched over her, and gave her an enviable life.

Zoe was an indoor cat, although she didn’t really mind most of the time— the house was one big adventure to her, and you’d regularly find her testing out which baskets she fit into (answer: none and yet somehow all) or seeing how stuck she could get herself.

However, Zoe was an indoor cat who also loved to be outdoors: once she adjusted to her harness (and after at least one concerning tree climbing incident), she constantly demanded to be outside if the weather was nice, even managing to snare a few birds — sorry, birds —early on despite being leashed to a stake.

There is no doubt that aging changed Zoe. She was a bit more restless at night after Cody passed away (we suspect she had bothered him instead of us), she gradually spent more time sleeping as the years wore on, and over the past year or so she went through those types of issues that older cats face. But while this was her time to go, it’s still hard to say goodbye to Zoe given that she’s been there for half my life: I may not have been “young” when she arrived, and I may not have been living at home for much of her life, but I also never really imagined the family home without her, and I know it will be hard to return for the holidays and not see her run out to greet me (okay, this is fiction, typically I showed up and she’d be asleep and I’d wake her up and she’d be like “Oh brother, him again”).

She lives on in memory, of course, and through a somewhat robust — okay, hilariously robust — archive of photos. Over the past number of years, I’ve been sharing photos of Zoe — or, in the paralance of the social media age, #Instakitty — on Instagram during my trips home.

It’s an extension of her earlier years as my photographic muse on one level, but I also appreciated how much my friends and followers seemed to connect with Zoe, as cheesy as that might sound. She was a beautiful cat, sometimes impossibly so, but also an incredibly silly one, and I was incredibly glad to get a chance to share that with people — I thank everyone who followed along with her antics from afar.

While it’s incredibly tough to say goodbye, I’m comforted by the idea that she has accrued something of a legacy beyond her immediate family, and that on some level I share this goodbye with so many others.

Farewell, Zoe — you were, and will forever be, much loved.