My cat Jason had the biggest heart and it killed him
Remembering the love that Jason brought to everyone that met him.
On Monday, April 9th, I had to make the horrible decision to put down my cat, Jason Todd. I had come home from a freelance job around 1:15 or so in the afternoon, and Jason seemed fine. He greeted me from the kitchen counter, as he often would when he could hear me putting my keys in the door. I happily tussled his fur and made my way to my bedroom. Everything seemed normal.
About ten minutes later, he and I are sitting on my bed, myself with my laptop, and he with my other cat, Penny. Jason and Penny were play-fighting, as cats do, but I noticed something slightly off. Jason was putting up his paws, as if to say, “I don’t feel like playing anymore.” This is odd because usually Penny is the one who has to tap out first. Jason is full of energy and spirit. It was slightly odd, but I didn’t think anything of it.
It when I saw Jason not once, but twice start inching himself towards me from the foot of the bed, pulling himself by his front legs, that I knew something was wrong. The first time he did it, briefly, I thought maybe he was being weird and playing. The second time he did, a few moments later, I knew something was wrong.
Before the afternoon was over, Jason would be put to sleep. It was a horrible day, and a terrible decision to have to make. Jason had a heart murmur, and had a clot in his midsection. It was unlikely he would regain the use of his hind legs again. It was very likely he would experience more clots. Which could activate in his lungs or brain, among other options. I had two vets explain this to me. First, at his normal routine vet location, who kept Jason for all of maybe five minutes before rushing me to a vet ER, where the vet staff went more in depth with what Jason was looking at in terms of quality of life.
Jason was five years old when he was put to rest. It’s important to understand that, out of his entire experience on Earth, Jason had one bad afternoon, out of five whole years. To say that Jason led an incredibly charmed and loved life, is an incredible understatement. I loved Jason more than anything, and he loved me back. So I wanted to tell the story of his life, because he was that extraordinary of a cat.
I adopted Jason in December of 2013. I had been eager to adopt a cat for years, but it was never the right timing, for one reason or another. I already had a pet bunny, Davey Havok, who I had adopted in 2008. Havok had been bonded with cats before, so I had wanted to get him a friend, and myself a cat.
The journey to adopting Jason actually started at an adoption shelter that I won’t name, because I actually had a bad experience there. My goal was simple. Adopt one kitten, so Havok would have a friend. I anticipated that I might get a few questions about adopting an older cat. Which is entirely a noble endeavor. My only concern was, an older cat might be set in its ways, and be indifferent to the bunny, or, at worst, see him as prey. But a kitten would grow up with a bunny around, and view the fellow animal as a member of the household.
When I arrived at the initial shelter, I explained my situation. I have a bunny, he has bonded with cats before. I’d like to get him a permanent cat friend. The shelter worker explained that I’d actually need to adopt two cats, so that the two would have each other. I wasn’t allowed the option of adopting just one cat.
At the time, that just wasn’t in my plan. I tried explaining that the kitten would actually have a friend. A very social bunny, who I already know likes cats. The shelter worker wouldn’t hear it, and loudly dressed me down in front of everyone within the shelter. Needless to say, I left.
Looking back on it now, I’m incredibly grateful that that particular shelter worker had terrible people skills and couldn’t grasp the concept that a bunny can be a social animal. Because that encounter got me out of the initial shelter, and instead I made my way to PAWS Chicago.
My experience at PAWS was night and day compared to the initial shelter. (This isn’t a native ad article for PAWS, by the way. It just so happened that I had a really positive experience there.) I went from room to room, visiting a number of cats and kitten who were available for adoption. I was hoping to find a calico, as I had had a pet calico years prior, and they’re gorgeous and very sweet cats. PAWS had one calico kitten available that day, and I decided to adopt her. Even though she was terrified of people, I thought I might be able to get her out of her shell, as it were. I generally work from home, and have a quiet home environment. I thought that by bringing her into an easy, calm, relaxing space, she could become comfortable around people, and maybe even become social. (This would work, by the way. Penny, the calico, is by my side as I type this, and now is comfortable and confident around people, even strangers. She loves making new friends and getting attention.)
Having selected the one calico kitten available that day, I felt that my mission was accomplished. I had set out to adopt one kitten as a friend for my bunny, and upon visiting two shelters, I had found my new cat. And that was that.
Or so I thought.
As I was getting ready to leave the cat adoption area of PAWS, I stopped in one more room, just to peak my head in. I don’t know why. I had already selected the kitten I was planning to take home. But just like I’m actually glad that the initial shelter ended up not working out, I’m incredibly grateful that I made one more visit to a cat and kitten room.
There, in that last room in the cat adoption area of PAWS, was a small and fluffy white cloud of a kitten. I bent down, and he immediately came towards me. I picked his little three month body up with one cupped hand, and, in an instant, he put his head in my other hand, closed his eyes, and started purring. That was one whole second into knowing him.
That was Jason Todd.
Over the next five years, and up until last week, Jason Todd was my best friend, every day. I named him after my favorite of Batman’s Robin sidekicks. (There have been many. It’s a long story.) Like Jason Todd, the comic character, my cat Jason Todd just wanted to be loved. Unlike Jason Todd, the comic character, my cat was not killed by the Joker and then brought back to life by a long-forgotten character literally breaking the walls of reality and continuity, followed by a bath in a life restoring pool with mystical healing qualities. (Again, a long and frankly convoluted story. Comics are fun!)
From day one, Jason happily took to his role as welcoming committee of the house. Anytime a friend came over, Jason was there cuddling their lap or rubbing his head against their hands. When I began offering podcasting classes out of my space in summer 2017 (I’m not hyperlinking that. This is not an advertisement for my classes.), Jason came out to visit every single attendee. Same thing with podcast guests, right up until the night before he would be put down. I used to joke that someone could break in in the middle of the night and murder me in some horrible fashion, ala The Strangers, and Jason would just think that he’d found yet another friend. He just loved everybody he met. And, as I found out in the outpouring of support I’ve received over the last week, it seems like the feeling was mutual from so many friends and acquaintances.
If you’ve ever met a dog that was scared of people, or startled easily at loud noises or sudden movements, it’s often attributed to some early life trauma the animal endured. Which is obviously a heartbreaking thought. But Jason must not have had a bad day in the three months before I met him, because he lived his life with absolutely no hesitation when it came to being social and loving. I really believe that Jason had no idea that life could be bad, or people could be cold. I was always loving to him, and so was everyone he ever encountered. So as far as Jason knew, life is always good and people are always kind. It’s an enviable kind of optimism, to so fully believe in fearlessly loving others and accepting love.
In the quiet moments, when there was no one else at the apartments we lived in together, Jason would visit with me endlessly. Some people believe cats to be aloof and unfeeling, incapable of love, and indifferent to showing affection. Obviously Jason didn’t fall into that stereotype. Anytime I was on the computer, Jason was there next to me. Anytime I was on my bed, working on my laptop or reading, Jason would sit on my shoulder or my chest. Blocking whatever I was trying to read or work on, if possible. He wanted to connect, and that was that. And yeah, I won’t lie. Sometimes it would get to be a little much. I’d be trying to work on a project, and he’d come sit on my chest. I’d gently move him, and he’d come back again. Now, most animals would get the hint after getting moved once or twice. Not Jason. You could remove him from your space 16 times, and he’d bounce right back. Which again, sometimes could wear a little thin. But he just couldn’t concieve of the idea that sometimes it wasn’t the right time to cuddle. He just wanted to love and be loved. That was his only mode.
Jason wasn’t just all-loving with me, either. He loved his sister Penny, and she loved him. The two of them came home from PAWS together, and, up until this last week, have never been apart. Hearing Penny call out for Jason in the middle of the night his first night gone was both haunting and heartbreaking. She won’t be able to understand why her brother is gone. Just that he is. But during Jason and Penny’s time living together, they were inseparable and always loving, as shown below.
I’m so thankful that I instinctively took a photo of the two cats together one last time. The photo below is the morning of April 9th, before any of us knew it would be Jason’s last day with us. It was just another morning of Penny and Jason waking up together after cuddling together in their sleep.
In the hours and days after Jason was laid to rest, I have been heartened and humbled by the response from friends, acquaintances, and even business collaborators. It seems losing a pet is one of the few things in this world that is truly universal. It doesn’t matter your age or background or politics. Losing an animal you love is indiscriminately awful. Friends posted Instagram tributes and came to visit me. Past podcast guests left supportive messages on my social media, or texted me to express their well wishes. All of which was so helpful to me over the last week. But what was most surprising to me was how hard Jason’s passing actually hit other people. I’ve had close friends tell me they’ve been tearing up thinking about him. To have other people tell me they’ve felt Jason’s loss only cements how special and loving he was, and how that carried over into people’s everyday lives, even after they’d left my house.
If you’ve read all of this — and, I should state, I’m really only writing this for myself. I don’t know that I expect anyone else to read my grieving thoughts on the passing of my cat. But if you’ve read all of this, it probably goes without saying that I’m never going to forget Jason Todd. He was a once in a lifetime cat. Which is not to say I don’t love my calico Penny. Of course I do. And we’ll need each other more right now, as we both navigate life without Jason. Me understanding why he’s gone. Her having no kind of closure. So I’ll be there for her, and her, me. In fact, she was sitting on my leg for a bit while I wrote this, as seen below.
Jason was always there for me when I needed him. He was pure love and support, and had the kind of spirit that I honestly didn’t think existed in this world. I loved him with all my heart. My son. My best friend. A good soldier.