Stages of Grief for My Cat

Taken in October 2015

On Sunday, the day before my birthday, my husband and I found our youngest cat, Iggy, dead on the side of the road.

Little Iggy was almost a year old and hitting that age when it occurs to indoor/outdoor cats that there is a world beyond the yard. And that world is full of things to kill and maybe eat. Because Iggy was fixed, screwing pretty felines was not on his to do list but that didn’t slow down his urge to ramble.

In fact, if anyone tells you that neutering/spaying an animal will keep it from rambling at the very first scent of freedom, ask that person what they’re smoking. Then avoid whatever it is.

Iggy had been frightened of cars. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the “SHIT RUN” frightened. It was the “FREEZE” frightened. My guess is that he was crossing the road when one of our local“THIS IS THE COUNTRY SO I’M GOING TO DO EIGHTY” morons came flying down the pavement. In true Iggy fashion, he froze and ended up on one side of the highway and his collar on the other.

(That last detail is important. When we first found his fluffy little corpse, I thought he was the stray I had seen in the area. That delusion was shattered when Brad looked across the street and said, “What’s that?” And there, on edge of the road, was his cute little blue plaid collar with its cute little tag. I even read the stupid tag to make sure someone else hadn’t made the same design choices as myself.)

As an author, my brain does some weird stuff sometimes. I think all authors’ brains do odd things.

For example, in the slasher movie Hush the main character is also a writer and she thinks her way through the situation by imagining the ending to every possible scenario. For me, during a traumatic experience, one part of my brain stands off at a distance to analyze what’s happening in a detached manner because everything is fodder for a story.

EVERYTHING.

At one point during my tears and anger, that small part of my brain said, “Dude, you’re going through the five stages of grief.”

And darnit if my brain wasn’t right. So, for those interested, here are the five stages of grief I’ve experienced over the loss of my fur baby.

Denial

“That is not Iggy. He’s not wearing a collar!”

And then I promptly searched the house, rattling the treat box. Iggy was a walking stomach. He was known for stealing loaves of bread. When he didn’t appear, crying for food like he hadn’t seen kibble for a month, I knew something terrible had happened.

Even after we found his collar and my husband verified that all the coat markings were the same as our kitty, I kept waiting for Ig to appear. Maybe he was hanging out with his long lost twin, there was an accident, he somehow lost his collar, and went to hide in a cupboard somewhere.

I can come up with some really creative scenarios.

Anger

“Stupid jerks flying down the road!”

I was mad at people who don’t stop or slow down for furry creatures. I was mad at myself for taking so long getting home.

When I picked up Iggy, he was still very warm and flexible. Cats stiffen up from rigor mortis very quickly. I’ve seen rigor set in within an hour. We had only been gone three hours, maybe less. So, it was quite possible Iggy was hit shortly before we turned onto our road.

Iggy as a smaller kitten, about a month after getting him.

In my head, I thought that if we hadn’t lingered after our church event, then we could have somehow prevented Iggy’s death.

Bargaining

I didn’t bargain for Iggy’s return to life or a do-over for the day. I bargained for the chance to know which of my neighbors killed my cat so I could slash his tires.

I’m Scot-Irish. When I get pissed, I have to be restrained.

Depression

It wasn’t bad enough that Iggy was one month shy of his first birthday. It wasn’t bad enough that I bounded very closely with him because he followed me everywhere and had so many endearing qualities.

This happened the day before my 31st birthday. Turning 31 is a horror all on its own but do I have to find my cat’s carcass the day before?

I wanted to be comforted by my other cat, Frankie. But he had felt betrayed when I got Iggy, so getting him to stop being so damn aloof for five minutes was a challenge all on its own. And my dogs only knew that Momma was sobbing every few minutes but they’re dogs. You can’t expect them to pay attention for very long.

And my husband was kind and understanding and everything but I kept wondering if he thought I was insane for the level of crying I was doing.

Did I mention all of these emotions occurred over a twenty four hour period?

Acceptance

It’s two days after Iggy died. I have accepted he’s gone and that he isn’t coming back. I can think and talk about him without crying.

I’m still really sad about it. I keep looking for the little inkstain. Our other cat has wandered the house two or three times now, meowing and looking in odd corners, so we know he’s looking for Iggy. A small part of me dies every time I see him do it.

But I have accepted it.

Moral of the Story

Does there have to be one? Oh, right. This is a blog post. Blogs have to be about some sort of life lesson or an observation on life or something. Okay.

Moral of the story: use your damn breaks when you see a cat crossing the road.

Ignatius (Iggy), taken April 2016