Gina, an orange cat

Gina, always curious

On Sunday night, halfway between asleep and awake — although maybe tilting to more like 90% asleep — I dreamed that Greg, Suzanne’s husband, came to visit me, bringing with him Vivani, their cat.

Greg didn’t say anything, except maybe a wordless hello, but Vivi was irate. “Tell her I’m tired of waiting around for her,” she ordered in her most imperious voice. “We’ve got better things to do.”

“Mmm, okay,” I said in my dream, although I was thinking that it was a pretty rude message and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deliver it.

In the morning when I woke up, the memory was as vivid as if I had just dreamed it before waking instead of when I was falling asleep, except that I knew it had been the previous night. Suzanne was outside, feeding the chickens, so I went out and asked how Gina was doing.

“Still hanging in there,” she said (or something similar. I’m paraphrasing from memory, of course.)

Resigned, I said, “Okay if I go in and talk to her?”

“Of course,” she replied.

Gina was lying on the kitchen floor when I went in. So thin, so tired, and she’d stopped being able to jump onto the furniture at least a few days earlier. No more curling up in boxes, no more conversational chatter, no more requests for more and better food.

I sat down next to her, stroked her fur, hoping for a purr, but I didn’t get one. I relayed Vivi’s message. Gina let me know that Vivi was a jerk. I didn’t argue, but I did suggest that letting go of her body would probably be a good idea, that it was time.

She let me know that she didn’t want to leave. I suggested that she could come back, like Zelda/Sophie did. A new kitten body, fresh and young and able to jump and explore. It would be her turn to bully Olivia Murderpaws again, wouldn’t that be good?

She let me know that she was worried she’d get lost on the way, that she’d end up in the scary metal place again. I told her that I didn’t think that was inevitable, I was pretty sure she could manage things better than that, and that for a very good cat — a very good cat like she was, a best cat ever kind of cat; one with people waiting for her return, looking for her, and hoping for her — that maybe the universe could make gentler arrangements. I promised her that we would be looking for her, and listening too. That when a noisy kitten with an entire repertoire of demanding meows showed up, we would welcome her and celebrate her return. She let me know she’d think about it.

On Tuesday, I sat with her for a while when Suzanne had to be out. I didn’t feel like she said anything to me, but she felt very peaceful. Every once in a while, she’d stand up and move, shifting around, and I’d tell her she needed to leave her body behind next time. Just step out of it. Walk away from it.

On Wednesday morning, she finally did.

It has been clear that this moment was coming for a really, really, really long time. I was sure she was going in the summer of 2022, right before Suzanne broke her ankle. We’ve actually joked about whether she was somehow managing to steal life force from the other animals, because if you’d asked us in the winter of 2020 or thereabouts which pet was likely to die first, she would have been a front-runner. Almost every pet-sitter Suzanne has had over the past year has worried that Gina might die on her watch.

And yet I’ve finished off my box of tissues and started on a new one.

I’m not a cat person, mostly because I’m allergic to them, so I haven’t known a lot of cats. I’m still gonna say that Gina was the best cat ever. She was so conversational, so curious. She wanted to explore everything. She liked cubbies and corners and boxes. If I left the door of the van open, she’d be inside, making herself at home before I could turn around.

A screenshot of an instagram post

The first time she showed up in my Instagram feed, it was just as a tail and I was still in the van.

I called her Gina Bellina and told her she was beautiful, but really, I adored her because she was so interesting and interested. She talked a lot — a person who loved her less might say that she was shockingly noisy for a cat — and she was very opinionated.

When Zelda died, she basically moved into the tiny house for a few months. She didn’t get in my face or on top of me, but she’d curl up at the foot of my bed and purr. I’d carry her back to her house at night and meal times, but she’d show up again first thing in the morning. It was a period of immense grief for me — mourning the loss of my beloved dog, my beloved son, and a person I’d spent 30 years believing was a friend — and Gina… kept me company. Carried me through. Showed up and loved me on a daily basis when I felt as alone as I have ever felt.

another screenshot of instagram

A couple years later, she was on my pillows and I was writing my instagram captions from her point of view.

Suzanne kept her inside for the last couple of years, because she was worried Gina would wander off and die alone, so I saw a lot less of her. But she still said hello every time I went in or out, and not infrequently suggested that I could give her some cream cheese or mozzarella shreds when I did. I did my best to oblige.

I know that I can’t ever have a cat. I am much too allergic to actually safely sleep with a cat in my house. (Ten people a day die from asthma in the US and I would very much prefer not to be one of them.) But I loved Gina and I will miss her. She was #notmycat, but she was also #bestcatever. I hope she comes back to Suzanne very soon, because the Mighty Small Farm is much too quiet without her.

Another cat pictures