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Kinship Circle Column runs monthly in The Healthy Planet. Ms. Shoss is also a contributing writer for The Animals Voice, Satya Magazine, VegNews, and other publications.


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Goodbye Kitty, 1985-2002

by Brenda Shoss
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Kitty crossed over today. The 17-year-old striped tabby leaves behind his human parents, Brenda and Grady, along with animal siblings Stanley, Cleveland, Rebekkah and Tikvah.

When my husband and I wed two years ago at Farm Sanctuary, I acquired more than a good-looking guy willing to inhabit a meat-free home. I inherited three stepchildren ages 9, 13 and 14. I got Elijah, our 2-year-old vegan son. And I got Kitty.

A bold outdoor cat left behind after my husband's divorce, Kitty ruled our backyard with the clout of a wild beast and the heart of a kitten. Much to his chagrin, I immediately dubbed him "Sweetest Pea On The Whole Planet Earth." But behind Kitty's back, I read Grady the outdoor-cat riot act: "You cannot be the spouse of an animal rights activist while your cat fends for his life. Outdoor cats contract feline AIDS, diseases, parasites, fleas. They are prey for dogs or other critters. Pranksters abuse them. Cars hit them. Weather extremes leave them panting or shivering."

Moreover, they never know the comfort of the warm spot between your head and shoulder. They can't block your view of the television from their perch upon your stomach. They aren't present to sprawl across your morning newspaper to purringly accept a chin rub.

I brought Kitty to my veterinarian. I collared him. Tagged him. Chipped him. Restored his dental hygiene. Removed a long-standing benign lump. We set up a heated shelter and fenced off a patio section so he could dine without the interruption of crows.

Then I tried to bring him inside.

Kitty thought I was crazy. He stood at the backdoor and caterwauled with the siren pitch of a bawling baby. Already 14 when I came into his life, Kitty was a curmudgeonly old chap who cherished sunlight on his back and grass beneath his belly. Often, our lawn was lined with soft indents where Kitty last slept.

Still, he was the "poster cat" for outdoor hazards. Late one night, Kitty lost his back right leg to an unleashed dog who wandered into our yard in search of food. As Kitty tried to scale an air conditioning unit, the dog yanked on Kitty's leg causing it to shatter into irreparable fragments. The next day I carried Kitty from veterinarian to veterinary specialist, only to learn the leg would have to go. Post-surgery, Kitty seemed baffled about the missing appendage. But he never conveyed depression. He carefully calculated each new leap. Soon, he ran, darted, played.

On another routine visit to the vet we discovered that Kitty had contracted feline AIDS, most likely the result of a bite from an outdoor cat. Now when I brought him inside during heat, rain, snow, or sleet, I separated him from my indoor cats, Rebekkah and Tikvah.

Nevertheless, we always found pockets of time to cuddle with Kitty. The backyard warrior turned into mush when stretched across one of his humans. I'll always remember his paws: Kitty had a sixth digit on each front paw that shaped them into two tiny baseball mitts. He sometimes squeezed an oversized feline hand around my finger.

Perhaps no one loved Kitty more than Stanley, my 12-year-old Lhasa Apso. A shaggy black and white one-foot-high wonder with huge brown eyes set in a Muppet-like face, Stanley greeted Kitty with kisses and nuzzles. He waddled behind his three-legged buddy, until the two toppled into a pile of intertwined fur. Kitty didn't seem to mind, for he never tried to escape. He gazed over Stanley with his cockeyed grin, as if to say: "We're cool. Don't worry." One time we found the two of them inside Kitty's cathouse, apparently on a date.



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