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Inspirational Reads

On Parenting...And Dead Cats

May 17, 2010

Now, I realize that mothers have a lot more they have to deal with, what with the pushing a baby out of their vagoo and having it latch onto a nipple for the next twelve months. The baby, not the vagoo. I hope. But there's some unpleasant shit that fathers have to do, too.

The care and handling of dead kittens is one of these things.

In a fine tradition going back to at least my dad, I had to take care of the dead kittens on Saturday. Unlike my father, however, who told me that he had buried my cat Katie--despite the fact that I watched him throw her carcass into the garbage can and mutter something about the unpleasantness of cats--I followed through and buried the kittens on Saturday morning.

Backstory time! You see, my first real cat was a gray kitten my mom grabbed at her hairdresser's place. Her hairdresser at the time lived on a farm and so she, naturally, had an army of cats plaguing the premises. My mom figured the hairdresser wouldn't miss one little kitten, so she brought her home for me. I had just read a story with a character named "Katie the Kat" (or some such nonsense) and so I named my new kitten (who, fortunately, was a girl) for Katie the Kat. I was all of about 7 at the time, maybe even younger.

Two weekends later, we went away for the weekend to go to The Lake, as we did almost every weekend. When we came home, we found Katie's lifeless body lying in the driveway where she had been mauled by the dog up the street. That's when I saw the unpleasant and unceremonious disposal of my cat's body, though I was told--on three separate occasions--that she was buried behind the garage, under the cherry tree and out by the hedge.

Incidentally, that same dog mauled my next cat, Fluffy, though she lived. I hated that fucking dog, but since my mom wouldn't let me have a BB gun, its reign of terror continued for many years. My hatred had waned just enough by the time I had a .22 that its life was spared. Besides, I lived inside the city limits and, if I've learned anything, it's that the local constabulary frowns of shooting rifles in the middle of the street. Fucking dog.

Anyway, Saturday morning should have been a lovely morning, with a cloudless sky, warm sunshine, and the twittering of birds going about their pleasant, avian lives. But, with a growing sense of dread, I knew that I had to take care of the dead kittens. Just so you know, I have a minor in biology, so I'm well familiar with the handling of dead animals. When Peachigo finally died Friday night around midnight, I carefully took her limp little body and laid it next to her sister. I then stood over the two and stared at them, trying to compose myself, before returning inside.

Apparently, something changed between midnight Friday night and 10:00 Saturday morning, and that change would be "rigor mortis". I guess I was fine with dealing with her dead body when it was limp, but when I went to put Peachigo into the shoebox I had picked out for her, I couldn't handle touching her stiff form. So, I took the towel in which they were both placed and I carefully put it into the shoebox coffin. I put the lid on the box and taped it shut, because, honestly, I didn't need any zombie kittehs coming after my brains--and catnip--and took the coffin out to the hole I had dug to serve as their final resting place.

Let me tell you something else: it's a lot easier to dig a grave than it is to fill one in. When you're digging the grave, your mind is set on the task, of slashing through the spiderweb of roots that are criss-crossing the soil in which you're digging, of picking around the rocks in the way, and on making sure that the hole is deep enough so that scavengers won't smell the dead kittens and dig them up, only to have their half-eaten remains be left in the middle of the backyard where the children and/or your wife may find them at a later date. Honestly, I was stressed enough over taking care of the funeral arrangements for the dead strays, I didn't need to deal with the psychic scarring that THAT particular scenario would leave.

But filling in the grave? It's easier physically, but mentally, it's a whole different ballgame. It was the final admission that they were dead, that they weren't going to spring up to life and mew "You've been punk'd, sucker!" The cats were dead, and this was good-bye. That's not an easy thing to get through, even if they weren't your cats initially and you only had them for four days. Sure, it provided closure, but that didn't make it easier.

So, the kittehs have been buried, as lovingly as possible, and their final resting spot marked with a stone, underneath one of our dogwood trees...which is probably sickly ironic, I know, but it's a very shady and quiet spot in the yard.

And so the book is closed on this blog's slow conversion into a Kitteh Blog. That is, until my wife goes to the pound and adopts a half dozen orphans...


Moooooog35 said...

I watched my dog chase a cat who just killed a chipmunk ON MY DECK.

It was like watching the Circle of Life unfold in front of you, except no singing lions and shit.

onebadmamajama said...

I had to go thru the same thing with a bunny (a couple of years ago) and our family dog last summer. I fuckin' hated it. But, I was determined not to lie to my kids like I had been lied to as a kid. My story is somewhat similar to yours, except my dad wanted to get some beagles to hunt rabbits with. In order to do this, he had to get rid of the two dogs my sister and I already had (Princess and Penny). He promised us he would find good homes for them. I later found the receipt from the vet's office for the euthanasia (I was about 10, so I knew enough to look the word up at school). I guess that's marginally better than throwing them in a garbage can. I never forgave him for the lie, though.

red said...

Dead kittehs give red a sad face :(

Bev said...

Very sad. RIP, kittehs.

Jidai said...

I have three bombshells waiting to happen with three pets in the house. I can only hope they live long till the twins are a more manageable age.

Wynn said...

So nice of you to actually bury them at least. No little kitty should ever be thrown in the trash. I hope you all can feel good about giving them a few good days and know that you couldn't have done it much better. That small animals can't make it without their moms.

You're good people.

Ed said...

Hate to see a good pussy die young.

Coincidentally, I said the same thing when Britney Murphy died.

MJenks said...

@ Moooooog35: But was there a monkey there, smearing melon juice all over everything? How about Robert Guillaume?

@ Onebadmamajama: Wow. That's terrible. And why did he have to get rid of the other dogs to get beagles? Beagles are perhaps the most lovably dumb animals I've ever met with the least amount of fight in them.

@ red: And me the sad eyes.

@ Bev: *nods*

@ Jidai: As horribly callous and jaded as it sounds, this is one of the reasons why I've held out against getting a pet for so long. Because they die, and I didn't want to deal with that sort of stress.

@ Wynn: Thanks, Wynn. We tried. They just...couldn't make it on their own.

@ Ed: Well, the mood in here went about 180 in the other direction.

And I was always impressed with her ass. That was one of the very finest poopers I've ever seen.

onebadmamajama said...

Actually, I think he just didn't want a bunch of dogs around and he had grand notions of the beagles "earning their keep" vs the other two who were strictly pets.

I love Beagles! It wasn't their fault my dad acted like an asshat. As a matter of fact, one of those Beagles ended up being the best dog I have ever had.

MJenks said...

@ Onebadmamajama: Ah, okay, that makes sense. I guess.

And, I, too, love beagles. I keep thinking that, if we get a dog, I wouldn't mind a little, dumb, lovable beagle to warm my feet in the winter.

corticoWhat said...

My dog chases cats. But if they stop running he totally looses interest. I suspect he got his ass kicked and he is just trying to keep up his image.