You may be wondering why I haven’t posted anything this week since I had written that I’d be back in the swing of things on April 30th. Well, there’s a reason why I haven’t posted anything since I’ve been back and that’s because my best friend, my cat Mister White, passed away a week ago yesterday. Below is a eulogy of sorts that I wrote for him. I’d love it if you would read it, but it could bring tears to your eyes so I’ll understand if you’d prefer not to.
A EULOGY FOR MISTER WHITE, BELOVED CAT
by Michael McCarthy
Mister White had two female owners before I adopted him from an organization called Pets in Need. Both women had him in apartments where they weren’t allowed to have pets and ended up having to give him up after a year or so. You might find it amusing to know that his first owner had named him Piglet. I guess she was a big Winnie the Pooh fan. It was his second owner who was a wise woman because she is the one who gave him the name Mister White. We thought it was an adorable name for a cat and we didn’t want the poor guy to have to learn yet another name, so Mister White he was to remain.
Some may find this bizarre, or even in poor taste, but I adopted Mister White the same night my previous cat, Footprints, was put to sleep. I loved Footy like a son. A rebellious son prone to mischief, but a son nevertheless. You see, before being put to sleep, Footprints had been sick for a couple of weeks where we’d been to the animal hospital – Wignall in Dracut – just about every other day. There at Wignall, was a single cat in a cage. That was Mister White, who’d been placed there by a rescue organization called Pets in Need and I’d fallen in love with him long before I knew Footy was losing his battle with a large tumor that we hadn’t realized he had until it was too late. When I would go over to say hi to Mister White he’d meow and stick his paw out of the cage so I could pet it. He had the sweetest little meow. He was a three-year-old male at that point, but he sounded like a six-month-old kitten. When the women who worked at Wignall would walk by his cage, he’d stick his paw out and tap them on the bum to get their attention. Half the time they just ignored him, which made me feel bad for him. There was one time when I even heard the women working there whining about who had him – Mister White – that day. Like it was such a big burden to feed him and clean his little litter box. I felt like getting up and saying, hey, you don’t want to take care of him, let me, I’d be happy to.
The night Footprints died was traumatic for me. Absolutely. My parents were away so I’d had to have my Aunt Paula drive me to the appointment where I’d have to make the decision to have him put to sleep. It killed me to give that permission, but Footy wasn’t eating or drinking and forcing him to was only making him more miserable. He was in pain and I didn’t want him to keep suffering, so that’s why I made the decision that I did. I felt like the biggest hypocrite in the world, too, because I’d always sworn that I would never have one of my pets put to sleep, that I’d never give up on them. I guess I was young and naive and didn’t realize that was the kind thing to do in some instances, as the vet that night assured me. He told me how some people will take their animal home to die and it can end up suffering horribly for days before it finally passes. He said that when people do that they’re mostly doing it for themselves, not for the benefit of the pet. It made sense enough.
I stayed with Footy while they gave him the injections. There was no way I was leaving him to die alone. I was petting him and talking to him right up until the end. I held it together for that. Then I completely lost it, collapsing to the floor and crying hysterically, saying I was going to go home and kill myself. My aunt said she’d buy me another cat and I found the idea offensive. I didn’t want another cat, I wanted Footy back! She said that didn’t mean I couldn’t love another cat. I wasn’t even considering her offer until I calmed down a bit and suddenly remembered Mister White out in the waiting room in that small cage. Then it was like a bell went off in my head. I yelled, “I want Mister White!” My aunt and the nurse or technician – I never know what to call them – were confused until I reminded them that he was the cat on display out there.
Someone from the animal hospital told my aunt that you had to go through an adoption process with the rescue organization to adopt one of their cats. That you couldn’t just pay for it and take it home right on the spot. Well, I wasn’t having that. I said I wouldn’t leave without him. “He’s been stuck here too long and you don’t love him and I want to give him a home,” I said over and over until the animal hospital person and my aunt stepped out of the room to talk. I just sat there and cried about Footy while also worrying about Mister White. Footy I couldn’t save, but I could save Mister White, liberate him from that small cage.
I don’t know what kind of strings she had to pull or what she had to pay, but my Aunt Paula worked a miracle that night because I did indeed leave there with Mister White. It was the strangest day of my life, carrying one cat into the vet’s and leaving with another. In the same carrier, of course.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted another cat for months after Footy died if it wasn’t for Mister White being there and needing a home already. I’d read his story about the two previous owners on his card from Pets in Need and the idea that someone else could adopt him only to give him up offended me. No, I had to take him home with me. I would never give him up. Or, as it turned out, give up on him. Because it was obvious that he loved us and would never give up on us.
I still grieved Footy even though I had Mister White, but having Mister White to love and to love me certainly helped. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Mister White kept me from falling too deep into the darkness. Nothing like a pet dying to send me plummeting into a dark night of the soul. But I had to soldier on. I had Mister White to take care of now.
It’s impossible for me to write any of this without tears. Mister White truly became my best friend. It hurts so much now that he’s gone. Our house feels so empty. Part of me does wish I could die and just go be with Mister White already. (The idea that I might have to live another 40 years without him feels like torture.) But I asked for a sign that he was in a better place and a few days after his passing I was in the kitchen alone when I heard him meow. Just like he was right there beside me.
I always felt so lucky to have Mister White. He didn’t come visit me in my room every day, but whenever he did I always felt so special. It felt like Christmas, that my sweet little boy was coming upstairs, going out of his way, just to see me. “Hi, my Mister White!” I would say and immediately stop what I was doing – no matter how important – to get down on the floor with him to pet him and give him a good brushing, which he always seemed to enjoy. And when my feet would be falling asleep or my back would start killing me, I always felt guilty when I got up. But most of the time I stayed there on the floor with him until he’d finally get bored with me and leave my room. Throughout the entire 12 years we had him, I always felt just as lucky and special whenever he’d come to my room. I just did. And during the eight years that he was sick with an immune system disorder, I felt even luckier to still have him.
I thought I would tell you a few interesting things about Mister White.
When we were trying to get Footprints to eat when he was sick at the end we bought him Fancy Feast canned food, which I’ve since been told is like the fast food of cats. Well, we had a lot of it left when we adopted Mister White so we fed it to him. Little did we know that he’d get so addicted to it that he would then refuse to eat anything else. Only during the last year of his life did he eat a few other things, probably because he was tired of Fancy Feast after over a decade. You see, Mister White was much like a person in the sense that he would not eat the same food two days in a row. They loved us at Petsmart when I would buy his food for the month and they’d have 75 cans to scan because there was such a large variety.
You might also find it interesting to know that Mister White wouldn’t eat anything that sounded gross. From chicken hearts to liver to giblets to sardines or trout, he wouldn’t touch them. He did have some Fancy Feast favorites, though. He loved Savory Salmon Feast. That was one of his biggest faves. He also loved Fish and Shrimp – the type with the chunks of shrimp in it, not the pureed version – Grilled Beef and Whitefish and Cheddar. He also liked a line of Fancy Feast food made with scrambled eggs and was disappointed when they stopped making them. Seriously, I’d feed him and even if it was something he loved, after a while he’d give us the sad eyes, which was his way of telling us we’d given him the wrong food. It was weeks after they’d stopped making the eggy food, as we called it, before Mister White stopped looking for it. So, damn you, Fancy Feast, for discontinuing it.
There was a new line of Fancy Feast gourmet foods that came out a couple of years ago. “The green cans,” we called them, simply because that was their color. The other big difference between those and the regular Fancy Feast varieties is that the green cans cost 30 cents more a pop. So, don’t you know Mister White went through a period where that was just about all he would eat. Eventually, he stopped being so obsessed with them and welcomed back his old favorites. At that point, the only green cans he would eat were the patees. Mister White was a big fan of patees. Except for when it came to Fish and Shrimp then he needed actual chunks of shrimp to munch on.
When it came to the actual act of eating, Mister White thought he was human. When eating his canned cat food, he would usually scoop some up with his paw and eat it right off of his paw, which I swear he learned from watching us eat with utensils. On a related note, Mister White always loved to eat human food. Provided it was fresh. My parents eat cold cuts for lunch often enough and Mister White would be seated on the floor in between them looking for scraps. My mother would have to give him some meat before she even made her sandwich because he’d start pawing her until she did. Interestingly, Mister White would only eat cold cuts that were no more than a few days old. While they usually stay good for a week, he would not eat them after day three. He could tell the quality was going downhill, apparently. Or maybe his sense of smell was so great that he could smell that they weren’t fresh anymore come day four? Somehow he knew and would only fresh ones.
Mister White didn’t just come to the table for cold cuts. Whatever type of meat my parents were eating, he would want some. You’d think he wouldn’t eat meat with sauce on it, but it didn’t phase him much. In fact, he actually loved tomato sauce, especially on chicken and meatloaf. During recent months, we discovered that a generic version of Fancy Feast had Chicken Cacciatore and he loved that one. Sometimes he’d even just slurp up the tomato sauce and leave the meat, although he usually ate it later.
Much of Mister White’s eating was done at night. He’d just pick at his food some days but then you’d get up the next morning and his bowl would be empty. I know from the many times I’d go down to the kitchen for a midnight snack that Mister White was usually wide awake during the evening. Just not so much so during the last six months we had with him because he was prescribed melatonin for its immune system boosting properties and he probably needed a long nap after that. Speaking of naps, Mister White loved his naps. He had his favorite places to lie down and he could usually be found napping in one of those spots. Which isn’t to say he slept most of the time. I don’t believe he slept any more than your average adult cat. But he had his spots and he’d look annoyed with you if you bothered him when he was lying in one of them and you disturbed him.
For the last eight years that we had Mister White, I had to give him meds twice a day, sometimes three, mostly for his immune system disorder. With his disorder, which is extremely rare, the white blood cells mistake the red blood cells for bacteria or something that doesn’t belong there, and thus these white blood cells aggressively killed his red blood cells. To that end, he was always on a steroid, prednisolone, to increase his red blood cell count, while also taking Cyclosporine to suppress the white blood cells so they couldn’t kill as many red. Cyclosporine is actually a drug that they give donor organ reciprients to suppress their immune systems so that their system won’t reject their new organs. And cheap it was not. But, I always told Mister White, “I would do anything for my little boy.” And I did. For the eight years he was sick, I constantly put him before myself. I couldn’t afford to take a vacation or even date, but I rarely complained about that and when I did it was never me complaining about spending my money on Mister White. Never.
You might think that an older cat with chronic illness would not have any patience with kids, but Mister White was actually great with them. It’s like he knew they were just children because they could get away with petting him three times as long as I could. I mean, Mister White loved attention and he loved being petted. But after, say, ten minutes, then he would decide that he needed some alone time and he’d either hurry off away from you or, most likely, smack you with his paw, sometimes with claws out. Or, if you were me, he might bite you. During the 12 years we had him, the only time he ever bit my mother was when she was picking him up on the day that he ended up passing and he was obviously feeling miserable and in pain at that point, so it’s totally understandable. I don’t know why he liked to bite me. I think he might’ve done it because he knew that I never really got mad at him. So, he knew he could bite me without any retaliation or even screaming. When he did that, I would just get up and walk away. But there were times when he’d bite me just because we were playing and he got so excited that he just kind of lost control for a moment. Even when he bit me out of anger, I don’t think he was trying to hurt me. He was just expressing how he happened to feel in the moment.
Mister White had a game that he liked to play, especially when it was time to take his meds. He would just find a really good hiding place and wait for me to come find him. As soon as I did, he’d start purring and purring. I don’t know if he did that because he was pleased with himself because it took me 15 minutes to find him or if he was just happy to see that his Mister Mike looked for him and found him.
Sometimes Mister White would stalk you around the house. Something you’d do would irritate him – often you didn’t even know what – and he would parade around the house behind you and claw you or bite you if he caught up with you. He chased my mother up the stairs a few times. But that was when we first got him and he was only two or three years old. By the time he took ill in 2010, he wasn’t doing that at all anymore. It wasn’t funny when it was happening, but now I look back on it and I think it’s hilarious.
Losing Mister White when we did was hard. Losing him anytime would’ve been the worst day of my life, but what made losing him now even worse is the fact that my parents are going away for a few weeks soon and I was looking forward to that for one reason only and it wasn’t because I’d have the house to myself. It was because Mister White would spend more time with me when they were away. Normally, he’d stay downstairs with my parents much of the day. Maybe once or twice a week he’d come see me in my room. It was like Christmas whenever he’d go out of his way to come see me. Getting back to my point, when my parents would go away I’d be able to sit in the living room on the recliner and watch TV downstairs so I could be with him. Recently, he’d started lying on the recliner beside my mother’s legs and I’d so hoped he would do that for me when they were gone on their trip. Lately, I’d been busy writing a novel and not going downstairs to see him quite as often, but I kept telling him that he’d have me all to himself when the ‘rents were gone on their trip. I still feel so cheated that we won’t have that time together. Or any time together. Not in this lifetime anyway. My friends keep telling me about this rainbow bridge that animals cross to get into Heaven, or to get into Summerland, depending on which religion you are. There, animals happily play until the day you pass and then they come running to you before you even meet up with your dead friends and relatives. I so hope that’s true. I’ve lost a lot of people that I love, but I still think I’d always want to see Mister White first when I arrive in the afterlife.
I could tell you more about Mister White because I could talk all day about my late best friend. I’ve loved all my cats, but if I’m being entirely honest, Mister White was my favorite. He was so different from most cats that it seems like I’m insulting him when I call him a cat. To me, he was my little boy. And he was also my patient since I had to give him meds twice a day, including insulin shots after he developed diabetes a year or so before he died. I think that nurse/patient relationship brought us even closer than people usually are with their cats.
Mister White was such a good sport when it came to taking his meds. I’d sit him on my lap with his back facing me and then I’d tilt his chin back and bring the pill popper – this thing that shoots the pill into their mouths – to his teeth and he’d open his mouth and take the medication. Sure, there were times when he would lock his jaw shut for ten minutes just to give me a hard time, but that was pretty rare. And I swear he would grin when he finally opened his mouth, proud that he’d played games with you. Usually, though, he’d just keep his teeth shut for ten seconds if he wanted to mess with me.
I don’t want to stop writing this because once this eulogy is done, that’s one less Mister White thing to be taken care of. Coming to an end with this is making his death feel even more final than before. Another thing that reminded me that his death is indeed permanent was when we went to Chelmsford Animal Hospital today to pick up his ashes. I had an individual cremation and got his ashes back in an urn. Although, the urn is pretty small. About half the size of Footy’s urn. Makes me wonder if they gave me all of Mister White’s ashes or if they just gave us a small amount. Obviously, I wanted them all. But the people who do the cremations scatter ashes outside on their property, which I’m told is really nice. So, I guess it’s OK if some of Mister White’s ashes are there. Maybe I should let them all fly free? I don’t think I could ever do that, though. That would feel like losing him all over again and I don’t think I could ever stand losing my sweet little boy again.
Do me and yourself a favor and hug your pets today. And try to spend more time with them. Otherwise, someday they’ll be gone and you’ll hate yourself for not having cherished them more.
Oh, Mister White. I truly hope you’ve crossed over the rainbow bridge that animals cross to get to the Summerland (or Heaven, if you’d rather call it that). I miss you like crazy and not a day will go by that I don’t think of you even if I live to be 100 years old. You were so special and amazing. You were my everything.