My Cats Have Turned Me Into a Sap Who Believes In Cat Heaven, and It's Embarrassing

The love you have for that first pet you deeply bond with borders on ridiculous. My first non-human love was a tuxedo cat named Pepper who I adopted when I was 12. He was my pre-puberty everything, and later he became my puberty's confidante and crying pillow. Or, rather, he would lick my tears away and then sit his 20-plus pound body down over my face until I stopped. I swear this was his attempt at comfort rather than suffocation. His style of affection tended to be aggressive and heavy.

me and my first cat, Pepper

me and my first cat, Pepper

That first pet love is so big and joyful and irritating to everyone around you who has to hear about how great your cat is, because, like first human loves, it feels like it must go on forever and ever. How can a thing so plainly wonderful end? But then it doesn't go on forever and ever. As with nearly all first love partners, that girl you swooned over turned out to be a lying little shit, and that little furry mammal you loved? It died. Our small furries from hamsters to dogs live for 3 to 20 years, and we get stuck with the grief.

Onion dreaming

Onion dreaming

It takes a while after that first loss, but you get there again. Eventually the ache eases enough that you think maybe another cat would be a good idea. You ignore the macabre truth long enough to scoop some stupid, sociopathic kitten up into your arms at the pound, poke its round little belly, and take it home with you. What you don't realize, though, at least not right away, is that this cat relationship will be different than your last. You're remembering the big and joyful love you had before, and you miss that love so damn much, but you can't have it the same way twice.

That big, joyful love was unfettered by the looming shade of mortality, but this love? It is decidedly more fettered. This difference will hit you one day when you're watching that gorgeous creature nap in a sunny spot on the sofa, and he's dreaming a dream that has him twitching his whiskers and pulling in his chubby stomach, and you'll be thinking about how sweet and warm and lovely he is to have in your life, and then his soft, warm vulnerability will throw you a stiff punch in the stomach.

HE IS GOING TO DIE TOO SOON.

GODDAMNIT.

You might start noticing all those friends on Facebook who post sad pictures of their cat's last day or heart-rending paragraphs about the dog who saved their life but now has a tumour that's killing him. You realize that your cat will go, too, and whether it's tomorrow or ten years from now, it will be one of the greatest injustices to your heart. Again.

Onion looking too old for his 11 years the other morning

Onion looking too old for his 11 years the other morning

I regularly tell Onion that this can't be true. I tell him that he's not allowed to get too old or too sick, as though his people-pleasing personality will save him. I take a picture of him that makes him look old, and I hold it in front of his face and say, "Dude, you're fucking up. Get it together."

He doesn't seem to care, though. I don't think he knows that he passed his life's middle mark at least a couple of years ago. Is it ridiculous that I am so sad I won't be an elderly person with him? When I'm old and trying not to catch my nipples in my pants zipper, he'll be at least 25 years gone already. I suppose I should count myself lucky if I'm doing anything in the 2040s, with or without the cat I had in 2017, but my love for him follows the romantic sensibility of that forever, fated love all the princes and princesses found when I was a little kid. He's supposed to stick it out until we're all rickety and smiling fondly down on our grandkittens playing in the yard.

If you're not a pet person, especially a cat kind of pet person, this might all sound terribly unhealthy, but I assure you that every last inch of this normal. It's all probably due to the toxoplasmosis we contract from scooping litter boxes, but it's still normal.

And that's why all kitties go to heaven. Because they have to. They just have to. Even this non-believer is given to belief over this one. The fluffy loves can't die in the end. Nothing less will do.