A Tribute to My Favorite Feline
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
I never want a cat. I have always been a dog person. I remember growing up, my brother and I BEGGING my parents for a dog for YEARS! We went as far as putting together a presentation on how we were going to care for a dog- complete with graphs on posters. I don't know if our presentation was that good, if we were that stinking cute, or if we were just that pathetic, either way it worked and in 1996 we got our dog! His name was Kasey and he was the best dog anyone could ever ask for.
We had him for a few years when I started to work as a kennel tech at a vet clinic in '99. My favorite part of the job was assisting the vet and taking the dogs out for playtime. My least favorite part of the gig was cleaning the cat cages. It was a pretty big room- maybe 5 chairs or so on one side of the room, a glass wall facing the reception area, a wall with a sink and cleaning supplies, and the wall of around 20 cages. It kinda smelled...always, and plus, some of the cats were real jerks. Since most of them were young, they all had small hand knives, er, I mean claws. I was trained by a few different people and each had their own style of tackling the task of feeding and cleaning. My favorite (and go to) method was to open ALL the cages at the same time for one giant group play time! I mean why not, this maximizes the amount of time they are each out. Yea, a fight would break out from time to time and yea, it was hard running around and scooping them all up to put BACK into their cages, but I think it was worth the effort.
Now, there was one cat in particular that got my attention around September 2001. He was in one of the bottom cages- those are the double suites, twice as big and always with another cat. Zeus and Dexter were about 6 month old white and orange tabby cats. Dexter had a small patch of orange on his head and Zeus had a big patch of orange on his head and back with a white stripe down his side- that orange looked like tiger stripes and it was gorgeous. These two were hilarious and would do what looked like parkour bouncing off the walls. While most cats indulged in the chaos of playtime, Zeus would follow me around while I was cleaning. While I was at the sink, he'd jump up and sit next me demanding pets and giving me head butts. While I was walking around, he would follow me like a cute little four legged fluffy shadow. On the glass wall, there was a section holding a cork board with an index card for each animal. Among Zeus's information card was his birth date, not all the cats were lucky enough to have theirs known. His date of birth, March 17, 2001, or St. Patricks Day and THE day that my husband (then boyfriend) and I had our first date and I knew it was a sign that he was meant to be with me.
Looking at this photo, I remembered that one of the rats we had around 2005 bit Zeus on the ear, you can see a little chunk missing...
Eventually, it got to the point where he would always be the first cat I let out and the last one I would put away. I would think about him when I was at home and was always excited to see him when I clocked in. It was around November that I finally got the courage to ask my parents to adopt that cat. Remember how difficult it was to get a dog? My dad owned a company down the street and on a lunch break, I took Zeus to his office to meet our dog Kasey- oh I forgot to mention, Kasey was totally my dad's buddy and he took him to work a lot. Zeus and Kasey were a bit cautious of each other at first, but got along. My parents thankfully agreed and December 1st, 2001 was Zeus's gotcha day! My freshman year of college at the dorms was incredibly difficult for me. At this point, I was now in my sophomore year and living back at home, but I was still healing and processing from my freshman year. Zeus was a ray of sunshine and brought much needed comfort.
For nearly 20 years, he was my sunshine and companion. 2 decades is such a long time- okay its about perspective, but at this point in my life, that is over half of my life AND all of my adult life with this cat. When life would changing, Zeus was my constant. He was with me through my first apartment, and many more moves; in apartments, a duplex, a rental home, and my first house. He was with me through 3 deployments. He was with me through love and heartache. He was there before I was a mom and 12 years after. College, jobs, unemployment, my old man was always there for me. To most, he might just be a cat, but to me, he was my best friend and ally through it all. It is so hard and scary to think about life without when most of my life has been with him.
In his early years, he was quite playful. He liked to hide behind the curtains and bat full force with both of his front paws at the unsuspecting Kasey when he walked by. He never really did get along with other cats- for some reason they would always pick on him. One time when I was living in an apartment with another friend, we had 4 cats and 2 birds... you can probably already see where this is going. We went away for the weekend and when we came back, the only thing that was left of those two birds was a drop of blood on the carpet and some tail feathers. The cage was up 10 feet high and the cats NEVER bothered them before... clever cats. In that same apartment, I used to let him out on the balcony and he gave me quite the fright every time he would be sitting on the handrail three stories up!
He always loved being outside. When I moved back home again, there was one time I was laying on the outdoor swing holding him in my arms and I accidentally feel asleep. I woke in terror thinking he'd run away, but my sweetie was right there napping with me. His last summer, every morning when the sun was out he would sit by the door to be let out and he would just sit all day and bask in the sunlight. His last year he was pretty obsessed with eating popcorn too...
He was always the best snuggle buddy. If you picked him up, he would put a paw on either side of your shoulders, like he's giving you a big ole hug. His last year, he was pretty solitary. Every night up until last year, he would curl up under my arm, purring away as we drift off to sleep. Three nights before he passed, he somehow managed to jump into bed to snuggle just like the old days. Two nights before he passed, he had lost most of the use of his back legs and he somehow managed to make it to my room and meowed to be let up. His last day, I found him laying in places he wouldn't normally be and I knew the end was coming soon. From Fiona's cage to the litter box, he wanted to be left alone. I couldn't let him spend his last moments on Earth in the litter box. I wrapped him up in a towel and we laid on the couch for about 4 hours. At around 4am, sore and unable to sleep, I told him I loved him, thanked him for being my best friend and to say hi to Kasey and Allie for me. Kissing him on his head, I knew that when I woke up, that this was the last moment I would see him alive.
The last week and a half has been hard. Really hard. Not just with the passing of my best furry buddy, but other things going on between work and relationships and the state of the World. However, it was time. 2 months shy of 20 years and he was showing every second of a life well lived. Caring for an older cat is a great privilege and it is also a lot of work. My husband- who, by the way I used to be so jealous of because when I first got Zeus he was always sit with him when we were playing cards- has been incredibly helpful. He arranged to take Z to the Pines Pet Cemetery for cremation. He also has been very consoling me when I was sobbing about not spending enough time with him or snuggle him enough. Jack's words were comforting when he brought me to the realization that I would never think that I had enough time with Zeus or enough cuddles and that he was a very loved & well cared for.
Having two big dogs, the water dish is typically lapped dry at least once a day. "Fat Lassie" would be the only one to ever let us know by sitting in the empty water dish...
Having old man Z through my twenties and most of my thirties (a.k.a young and "invulnerable"), I wish I knew then what I know now- not to take any moment for granted. Twenty years sounds like a long time, but it is just a blink. Appreciate the ones you are with and let them know how much you love them. Be present in the moment. As cliche as it sounds, life is short and you have to make the most of what time you have here. It has been a rough couple of years and I truly believe that he held on until he knew that Connor and I were going to be okay...
Rest In Peace Zeus Connolly, March 17, 2001- January 12, 2021