This is our cat, OJ. She came back into our lives after a long hiatus. This cat had been with me before my husband and I got married, before we were even engaged. I was never truly a cat person. My heart was with dogs. Dogs were fluffy, energetic and goofy balls of love. Cats were aloof and judgemental.
After my ex husband divorced his second wife, he needed a place to take the cat. I was not a big fan of cats. I was not a big fan of taking his cat, as she was truly his. She never took a shine to me. But, knowing her advanced age (21 yrs.) and that she would more than likely pass on in a shelter, I took her in.
The adjustment period was rough. She was a talker. Always a vocal cat, she had no problem letting you know what was wrong. This was a big problem, especially at night, as that when her opinions were heartily expressed.
I didn’t sleep much.
But, as we got to know each other, and she slowly realized that I was her human now, she imprinted on me. N adored her. OJ didn’t always want N’s affections, but she tolerated his constant need to pick her up. We both loved her.
In February, she had not been eating and was losing weight. She was diagnosed with kidney disease, and we changed her food to try to get her to eat better. At 4lbs, this was a challenge. N started asking if she was going to die and how he wasn’t ready for it. I certainly wasn’t ready for it. I researched pets and death and how to approach it with children. They all said the same thing: to be honest, but not gory or scary. But nothing I found specifically dealt with having a child with Asperger’s dealing with a pet’s passing. I had to begin from scratch.
In late April, her tooth abscessed and she was very dehydrated. The vet said she would not survive the tooth extraction and that the medication may or may not work. N was very anxious about her dying. I was, too. This was the first time I was watching a pet until the end. I delayed taking her to the vet to put her down out of fear of how N and truly, how I would react. I always told him that we may have to help her along to the other side, as she was quite old. I was truthful when I told him that her time was close.
We were thankful that she did get better for a short while, but it did not last long. Her tooth became infected a few weeks later and her health deteriorated. She was very fragile and weak. Her purring was incredibly faint and she wanted to be held and kept warm constantly. It was then I knew that the time had arrived to guide her over the rainbow bridge. I had taken a day off to go to an appointment, and then made plans for her later that morning.
The veterinarians were incredibly kind and respectful of our OJ cat. I was with her the whole time, loved on her and told her how much we cared about her and how much we would miss her.
After crying myself stupid in the car, I had a few hours to collect myself and to pick up N from school. I had to tell him and it felt like the heaviest thing on my heart. He could sense something was wrong the second I walked in. He said, “Mom, it’s OJ, right?”
I told him I had taken her to the vet because she was sick and that she died there. I wasn’t sure if he could handle the entire truth at that moment, so I didn’t offer it. I was prepared to tell him if he did. Then again, I didn’t have a choice not to tell him as it would be difficult to explain her absence.
His eyes welled up but he did not cry at that moment.
“Mom, did you put her to sleep?” he asked.
I hadn’t mentioned that I was doing it, but since he asked me and we are an honest family, I told him yes.
He asked if it hurt, and I told him no. I repeated how I stayed with her, petted her and kissed her and that she was never alone.
He asked for a hug and he cried a little bit.
“I love OJ, Mom,” he whispered.
“I do, too,” I replied.
A few weeks later, as I was driving home, I saw a cat that looked like our OJ. I knew that wasn’t possible, but it looked just like her. As I entered our house, a delivery was sitting in our living room. As I opened it, a delicate cedar box with OJ’s ashes was inside. N quickly took the box and put her in his room. It sits with her paw print (she was polydactyl, so she had 7 toes on her right foot).
We miss our OJ and sometimes we think we hear her walking our floorboards at night. If she’s a ghost, she’s the Casper kind: friendly and loving. I don’t know if this is how every Aspie deals with death, but this is how we did it here. I hope it helps.