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Home: The Toast

On Saturday evening a friend of ours was over, and our cat, Eliza, who is a sociable creature, came out to say hello as she always does. We gave her some attention and some love and chatted about where calico cats come from — how tricolor cats are almost all girls, and this makes us even more fond of them.

I happened to wake up several times in the night because I sliced my finger while helping to make dinner on Saturday, and it was throbbing painfully. Every time I woke up Eliza was at my feet at the foot of our bed, her favorite place to sleep. At seven Dan woke me up to say he found her curled up on the living room rug after breakfast. He couldn’t wake her.

We are all so sad — and shocked, too. She was getting up there in years, but we hadn’t noticed any changes in her eating or behavior. On Thursday my daughter’s Girl Scout troop made some cat toys to donate to an animal shelter, and my daughter made an extra and brought it home for Liza, who attacked it with her usual vim and vigor. A couple of days ago she was leaping around the window seat, chasing birds and falling leaves through the glass as she always has. I feel bad for not noticing any signs of discomfort or illness — she just seemed like her normal self. I hope she wasn’t in pain.

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She was a truly great kitty. Dan and I adopted her from the no-kill shelter in Raleigh shortly after we moved to Durham. It was the first time we’d had a house of our own, the first time we hadn’t lived in an apartment building that forbade pets, and I was excited to get a pet because, to me, a household just doesn’t feel homey without one. Eliza had been abandoned in a cardboard box, along with her three tabby brothers, then found and brought to the shelter. She was the prettiest cat I’d ever seen, five pounds and 90% fluff (she only ended up being nine pounds, full grown, though all the fur made her look bigger), with a loud, rumbly, easy purr. She talked to us, would do call-and-answer in an almost conversational way, and chirruped aggressively at birds and squirrels.

She adjusted beautifully when our first daughter was born and was terrific with both our girls, especially when they were little. When they cried she would come find me, wherever I happened to be, and stare at me as if to say Your young one needs you. She seemed to understand they were just kittens, and was unfailingly patient whenever they chased her or grabbed her tail or tried to pick her up or sit on her or hug her. Among the girls’ first words, after “Mama” and “Dada,” were “tee-tee” (kitty) and “Za-za” (Liza). She’d come when you called, play fetch with bits of crumpled-up paper. She had a tiny orangey-brown patch under her chin that Dan and I referred to as her “coffee stain”:

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She was playful, always, but also had a sweet dignity about her. We all loved her and will miss her a lot. I know you guys will be thinking about us, because you’re kind and full of empathy and, let’s be honest, most of you probably have cat hair all over your cardigans right now. What I’d really love today is to hear your stories about your favorite pets, living and gone — so please let’s talk about our best animal friends, who should really live forever, or at least exactly as long as we do, to the day.

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