Venus died last Friday. As my two middle Kiddos put it, “Now we have only two cats?”
Venus came late into the house. We acquired the first two cats around the time we got married, the first one winning over my Patient Boyfriend by being helpless, tiny and orphaned. A construction worker handed him the kitten as he walked across campus one morning, saying, “Hey, do they have a vet school here or something?” (Uh, yeah, only the number one vet school in the universe.) My Patient Boyfriend walked her over to the vet school where they patched her up, and thereafter I got a timid phone call back in Brooklyn saying, “Um, I’m looking at a very tiny kitten.”
And so before we got married, my Patient Husband had another female living with him. And shortly afterward, we acquired the second cat, who was the punchline to a story I won’t relate here (but in essence, she was an “I’m sorry” gift, and the apology was accepted.)
In the interests of anyonymity, they will be Cat One and Cat Two. They had the best relationship I’ve ever seen in cats. Cat One should have been the dominant cat, but she always thought of herself as a little human, even trying to walk on her hind legs. When Cat Two arrived, she loved her because it was someone like her in the world. Cat Two didn’t want to push the dominance issue and get her butt kicked, so instead they co-existed. There was no dominant cat. They had achieved feline friendship.
Venus ended that: she wanted dominance, and Cat One found she didn’t like that so much. Cue years of tension.
Last Saturday, Cat Two realized right away that Venus wasn’t coming home, and she immediately reverted to who she had been six years ago, before Venus arrived. She’s all over the house now, hanging out on my bed, lying on my pillows, and lounging around as if she owns the place. She’s even renewed her friendship with Cat One, sitting near her and appearing more relaxed than I’ve seen in years.
Cat One took until Thursday night to come downstairs and start yowling. That’s her way of saying, “Where is she?” She does that when she’s missing someone, and although I know she didn’t like Venus — at all — she knows the cat should be here. And instead, Venus is nowhere. As the days go by, her scent fades, and Cat One still doesn’t find her, and yet she knows Venus should be around. It makes no sense that Venus isn’t hiding somewhere, so Cat One checks all her haunts and wanders, yowling, calling.
My cat is grieving. I knew it could happen, but I didn’t expect Cat One to grieve for her enemy.
I know what to do for grieving people. I’m not so sure what to do for her, whether I should let her sniff Venus’s collar or give her extra petting time or just let her explore and wonder. There’s no language to explain to her what happened. Over time, I suppose cats forget, but easing the transition isn’t something you find in the literature.
And in the meantime, Cat One prowls the house, looking for the cat she despised, uneasy, unsettled, grieving the way cats grieve.