Grieving a pet is a curious thing. One moment, the sorrow hides in the shadows, and the next, the memories scorch your soul like a branding iron.
Several months ago, I lost my kitty. His name was Toby.
We considered calling him October in honor of my birthday month, or Tobias Maximus Catamus, but settled on Toby.
He loved to sit on the highest cabinet in the kitchen and stare down at us while we rummaged for food in the fridge. Secretly, I think he hoped we’d pull out something for him.
Ziplock bags of leftover cornbread, jerky or muffins were unsafe around Toby. Neither was Salmon. His favorite snack? The occasional morsel of a roast beef sandwich. No sauce, of course, but he wouldn’t pass up a chunk of curly fry with cheese.
It’s funny how every animal has their own personality.
Toby leaned toward a chonky, fluffy friend who loved to eat.
He was a superb listener.
A happy little companion.
I guess you can say I’m a cat person.
So, when I heard a cat cafe had opened downtown, I couldn’t resist going to check them out.
From the moment I walked into Don’t Stress Meowt, comfort and warmth wrapped around me. Whether it was the kind workers, the smell of lattes, or the glass-walled room revealing a chamber full of adorable kitties, Don’t Stress Meowt was like no other cafe I’d visited.
I had a friend staying for a writer’s conference and she’s a cat person too, so we made the cat cafe our pre-dinner stop.
We arrived a few minutes before our appointment, but enjoyed an unhurried perusal of cat art, feline-themed retail items, and watched other cat lovers through the glass wall to the kitty room.
Such a magical place!
A quick note: if you want to spend time in the kitties domain, the cafe requires an appointment. Or you can just drop in to watch the kitties play behind the glass while enjoying something sweet. https://dontstressmeowt-catcafe.com/
At last, we could go in!
After we ditched our shoes and sanitized, we slipped into the cozy realm of the kitty kingdom. One adorable furbaby made a beeline for the door. She was clearly the group’s escape artist. By the look on the rest of their whisker-lined faces, the kitties enjoyed the human changeover.
As we entered, I surveyed my surroundings dappled with adoptable sweet-faced friends. The glass-enclosed play space included a few pieces of antique furniture, rugs, pillows, large windows, and plenty of kitty toys and climbers.
I sat on an antique bench by the window and waited. Both humans and fur babies watched to see who would make the first move.
The kitty room fosters camaraderie among strangers. A feeling of connection. Some patrons may come to find a lifelong friend, but we’re all there to enjoy the feline company.
Near the halfway point of our time together, I had a sweet little friend look at me from across the room, prance over, jump in my lap, and bathe himself. His name was Walt. Walt was the quintessential lap cat. He paused his belly cleaning to give me a sweet look of contentment.
As the kitties roamed around, I read off their name tags.
I met Quinoa, Frye, Tammy, Gerald, and Priscilla.
However, the next encounter truly stole my heart.
There was an elder cat, orange, large and fluffy. His name was Stanley.
Stanley took his time.
He took his time playing. He took his time walking. He took his time deciding which human he should cuddle next to.
When he walked over, he took his time jumping next to me. I was unsure of what level of touch he’d prefer, so I just held on to Walt and let Stanley get comfortable.
Stanley did a full circle, plopped down, and pushed his body into my side. My heart dropped. This was the same way my Toby showed his affection. Reflexively, I reached for Stanely’s belly and scratched. He turned over, giving me access to all his fluffiness.
Within seconds, my eyes welled with tears. The memories of my kitty had crawled to the surface and tugged at my heart.
As I continued to love on Stanely, a few rogue tears trickled down my cheeks. I forgot how many times I’d grown used to Toby’s round little body just lying next to me while I sat on the couch watching TV.
And I hadn’t fully recognized how much I missed Toby.
I swiped at my tears, received an understanding smile from my friend, then pressed into the moment and enjoyed the rest of my time in the kitty cafe.
No one judged me for my tears.
Not the cats. Or the humans.
My heart felt lighter after leaving Don’t Stress Meowt, which speaks volumes about the atmosphere they’ve created.
Days have morphed into months. October is just around the bend. Toby won’t be at my door in the morning or rummaging through the pantry for his treats.
And I miss him.
But I count my blessings.
To have loved a pet and to have lost one brings pain, but the happy memories are the parting gift we’re left with when they’re gone.
I dedicate this blog to Toby and to anyone who’s ever lost a pet.
*Check out my writer friend Taylor and fellow cat lover on Facebook @HinsonFiction