Around my 10th birthday, my mother told me that we could get a kitten. After all, we had to leave my original cat, Bailey, in Maryland after my parent’s divorce. As a 10 year old, I felt strongly that no one could ever replace Bailey. I thought that I would give it a shot anyway.
We went to the local PetSmart and I walked excitedly to the kitten area. I was distracted by the playful kitties and felt that I couldn’t pick just one. Then I saw her. She was an older cat, who looked sad at the back of her cage. I thought that it was love at first sight. I was immediately disinterested in all of the other animals in the building and my heart was set on her, and only her. She was grumpy, but I liked that about her.
I told my mom that she was the cat that I wanted. Her name was “Petunia” and I hated it because it did not fit her, but she already knew her name because she had been there for so long without being adopted. I didn’t care that she was fully grown and aloof. We found out that she had been neglected by her previous owners and rescued by animal patrol. I had to have her.
The first days that she spent in our home, she hid in the basement. I was sad but I knew that she was just finding her bearings.
It wasn’t long before Petunia and I bonded like I always knew that we would. She began to sleep in my bed with me at night and, slowly, it evolved to her sleeping under the covers with me, her head on the pillow.
As I grew older and entered the trying years of middle school and high school, it was Petunia who witnessed the instances of my broken heart and my failures. She was there for me the day that I found out that my father was killed in a car accident. She was there for me when I had mono and I could barely breathe. If I was sad, Petunia somehow always knew and was quick to curl up in my lap and remind me that everything was going to be okay.
When I went away to college, Petunia would sit in front of my room and cry because she was worried that I was gone. When I came home for Christmas, the first thing that I did was search for her, and give her a huge hug and a kiss to remind her that I had not forgotten about her. I realized then that I was her whole world when she was only part of mine. I always felt guilty going back to school because I could sense her getting older with time.
It’s now 15 years after I first saw Petunia. I’ve moved home for graduate school and she and I have been lucky enough to spend every night together again like old times. She’s weak now, and can’t jump up onto my bed. I am always mindful and remember to build makeshift steps out of clothes and boxes to make it easier for her. When she falls trying, I am always there to help her up. I get frustrated with her when she has accidents, but I know it’s not her fault — she just no longer has that control. I sometimes don’t have time to carry her around with me like I wish I could, because I am always on the go. Because even though my life is continuing, hers isn’t. One day, it will end.
Even though some people would say she’s just a cat, I know she means so much more than that. She’s family. I want her to remember that I love her more than anything in the world and I will be lost without her. I argued with the veterinarian about the “final appointment” because I believe in Petunia. I believe that she will pull through for as long as she can. She’s been there for me through so many hardships and I can’t let her go that easily. I know that I will never be able to replace her. I might try one day to fill the void, but it will never be the same.
I will not take our final moments together for granted. My love for Petunia remains the same as it was the first day that I saw her. When the day comes that she needs to let go, I will be there and hold her as she drifts peacefully out of this world. I will hold her until she takes her final breaths, and I will feel at peace because I know that she was loved whole-heartedly and that she loved me whole-heartedly back.