My Cat's Miraculous Resurrection and Why I'll Never Sleep Again

Two nights ago, a strong feeling of unease woke me up at about 3:00 a.m. Something was distinctly not right.

I looked out the window, but the night was calm. Aidan was in a deep sleep. One of the cats was stretched out at the foot of the bed twitching through a dream.

And then I felt it.

Onion was lying alongside my right leg, and his body was cold. Well, it wasn't exactly cold, but it was far too cool.

I poked his back leg. He didn't respond. I poked his other back leg. He still didn't respond. I wrapped my fingers around his cold foot. Nothing. I shoved him gently with my hand. Nothing. I pulled his fur. Nothing.

I hoisted myself up and over his body, gasping, trying to speak. When my right thigh dragged heavily across him while I found the floor with my feet, he didn't stir.

"Onion, Onion, Onion."

When I pushed him hard from behind, his limp legs dragged along our coarse sheets with no resistance. 

"Onion," I stage-whispered. "Aidan, Aidan, Onion might be dead. He's dead." Aidan got up on one elbow, unable to figure out what was going on.

I pressed my palm against Onion's chest, hoping for a heartbeat, but there was nothing there. He had become an object.

I couldn't breathe now. I love this cat too much. I pulled his front leg. I tapped his nose. I pinched his ear. I thought I could annoy the life back into him if he was only newly dead, if he still had any attachment to his body. I had this idea that if he was very recently gone, he might not yet be completely gone.

My last move, the one I knew would confirm my panicked heart's banging, was to stick a finger in his ear. No cat, even one so apparently dead, can suffer such an indignity. I shoved my index finger straight into his ear until it hit the stiff folds deep towards the back.


He winced, and I poked him again, harder, until he opened an eye and let out a soft raptor cry.

He was alive!

I almost collapsed at the gorgeous way his lip suddenly curled where I pulled on a whisker, and, within a few minutes, his body warmed again under my gentle massage.

Hard ear pokes are the defibrillator equivalent for not quite entirely or only very newly dead cats, it turns out. It jolts them back to a life where you are annoying and they are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Since then, I have barely slept. Except for a handful of hours, I have been awake listening for his breath where he presses himself against my leg, and I wonder how a body can just quit like that and become an object. I know reasonably how it happens — it has happened to people I love — but it has never happened to someone pressed against me like that, even if that someone is not technically a person.

He's pawing at me right now to lie down for a nap with him, and I've never been so grateful for his stupid, warm feet.