He joined our family on a beautiful spring evening. Nine years later, he left us on a cold November morning.
None of us have gotten used to the silence his absence left behind.
Milo James, a svelte tuxedo cat, was our family’s first pet – unless you count sea monkeys and goldfish.
We’d intended to adopt an older female cat. Preferably a white, fluffy, princess-y type feline, because I’d grown tired of being the only girl in our house.
But a hyperactive ball of dusty gray fluff caught my eye at the pet adoption event. He was literally bouncing off the walls.
“My goodness!” I said. “This little guy needs Ritalin.”
He jumped. He hopped. He spun in circles. In short, he was just like the rest of the boys in my house.
“No,” Derek said. “Not that one.”
I dutifully looked at the other cats, but I couldn’t help wondering if all Milo’s frantic activity was just a desperate plea for attention.
“I want to hold him,” I said.
“Not a good idea,” Derek replied.
But a store employee unlocked Milo’s cage. I picked him up, fully expecting him to squirm, or scratch, or climb up my hair, but instead he laid his head on my shoulder and sighed.
“Let’s go pick out a bed for our new cat,” Derek told the boys.
That playful kitten grew into a sleek, bossy cat who quickly took charge of the household. He was a creature of order and habit. He expected breakfast to be on time, at the same time every morning, and the ruckus he raised if it wasn’t, was impossible to sleep through.
When it was bedtime, all I had to say was, “Night night, Milo,” and he ran downstairs to the boy’s room he’d chosen as his own.
He never slept in that fancy cat bed. Not once. Why would he when the other beds in the house were bigger and contained warm humans to snuggle with?
Milo appointed himself the household greeter. His was the first face each of us saw when we returned from work or school.
But he did have some less charming habits.
He was a committed and dedicated swiper, and he focused his attention on my desk. Anything left unsecured was fair game. Most mornings I come down to my desk and find my notebooks, calendar, pens, post-it notes and mouse on the floor.
Sam would catch him in the act and yell, “Milo! Leave Mom’s desk alone!”
Milo would gaze at him, unblinking, and proceed to knock everything to the floor.
He was also a prodigious and sloppy sneezer. Few things are more disgusting than stepping on a spot of cat snot in your bare feet first thing in the morning.
For someone with sneezing issues, he was mightily offended if anyone in his vicinity did the same. A sneeze from one of us prompted a loud yowling lecture, followed by an annoyed exit.
He didn’t like change of any kind. Re-arranging the furniture elicited anxious mutterings, so imagine his reaction seven years ago when we brought home a tiny tabby kitten named Thor.
Milo sulked for days. He hid under our bed and refused to come out, until hunger finally made slink downstairs.
Thor became his devoted, annoying acolyte, and Milo eventually tolerated his presence.
Two weeks ago Milo got sick. Really sick. I rushed him to the vet and was told his bladder was completely blocked. Urinary problems are common in boy cats who only eat dry food, and Milo turned up his nose at wet food or treats. He was a stubborn creature of habit.
His illness resulted in a four-night stay at the Pet Emergency Hospital. He seemed to rally, and we brought him home on a Monday evening.
He made his rounds. Cuddled with each of us, and spent the night on the couch curled up with Thor. But in the morning he was worse. Much worse. He hid under Zach’s bed or in his laundry basket. He refused to eat.
A miserable week passed, with daily trips to the vet. It was too much for Milo, who hated any kind of disruption to his schedule.
He grew silent. We grew sad.
And one evening the four of us made the choice to let him go. It was an agonizing decision, but Milo let us know he was done. He was sick. He was tired. He wanted to go.
So, on a Friday morning we gathered around him in the vet’s office. We held him. Kissed him. Told him how much we loved him.
He laid his head in my hand as the vet gave him the first injection. My face was the last thing he saw and the last thing he heard was my voice telling him what a good boy he was.
Turns out Milo didn’t have nine lives. He only had one. And we are forever grateful that he spent it with us.