Hey y’all-I’m starting off the week with a very personal post. This past Thursday, my family had to put one of our beloved 15 year old cats to sleep. We found out about five weeks prior that Timex had cancer and didn’t have much longer with us. Although we had some time to process that reality and cherish our final moments with him, the day that we put him down was still incredibly gut-wrenching, and definitely one of the saddest experiences of my life. In addition to reminiscing on the 15 years I had with Timex, I’ve also reflected a lot on what having a cat has taught me about life and love. So today I’m sharing with y’all the story of how Timex came into my life, some of my favorite memories with him, and some lessons he taught me.

What my cat taught me about life and love

Childhood Pets

First off, I want to share a little background about how Timex became part of my life. During my entire childhood, the only pets I had were hermit crabs and a hamster. The hermit crabs were leftover from a 4th grade science class unit. Although they had names, they definitely weren’t cuddly, and I honestly thought it was a bit creepy that would change shells during the course of their short life. And while my hamster was cute and it was sad when it died, it’s lifespan was only a couple years, and it lived in a cage. There simply wasn’t the opportunity to become attached at the level there is with a cat. I mean, I’m referring to my childhood hamster as “it” because I can’t even remember for sure if Cookie was a girl or a boy.

I admired four-legged pets at friends’ houses, and my cousins always had an assortment of cats and dogs. When I was 11, a gray kitten showed up at our house, but my grandparents ended up taking him in. Sometimes I would casually ask my parents about getting a pet that didn’t live in a cage, and my mom would typically reply with “but it’s so sad when something happens to them.”

Once I got into my late teen years, I really started to develop a love for cats. The summer after either my junior or senior year of high school, I took care of a friend’s family’s cats while they were on vacation. Prior to leaving, my friend’s mom told me I probably wouldn’t see Jenny, their shy orange tabby, at all when I stopped by. Well, guess what? I not only saw Jenny every single day, but she also purred and rubbed up against my legs. This convinced me I was a cat person and needed my own. I started to become more persistent in begging my parents for a cat.

Then fast forward to the summer after my freshman year in college. My parents had moved to a new house in town earlier that year, and their neighbors had a really cute and sweet cat named Sylvie. I took advantage of any opportunity to pet Sylvie, and her mom expressed surprise at how willingly this kitty let me pet her. Apparently another notoriously shy and neurotic cat had taken a liking to me.

Timex and Me

life lessons from my cat

Finally, in the middle of that first summer home from college, my persistence paid off. My parents agreed to let me get a cat. After browsing the Humane Society’s website, we saw pictures of a medium-haired black & white kitten named “Twinkle,” and planned to go meet him at an adoption fair the Human Society was having at a local mall.

We met “Twinkle,” liked him just as much in person, and decided we wanted to bring him home. However, something else happened at that adoption fair on that summer day back in 2004. We met “Twinkle’s” brother, Timex, and quickly took a liking to him as well. My brother suggested we get Timex as well, and my parents immediately obliged. We really didn’t give it much consideration, because bringing Timex home as well was the obvious choice.

And 15 years later, I’m so glad we did. We filled out the adoption paperwork on the spot at the adoption fair. Then that evening while I was out babysitting, the Humane Society came and did a home visit. When I got home later that night, I had two kittens waiting for me, Timex and his brother (whose name we changed from Twinkle to Blizzard). The kittens quickly grew up into adult cats, but for the next 15 years I would always have two feline friends waiting for me every time I went to my parents’ house. I couldn’t take Timex and his brother back to college with me. But always looked forward to them during breaks from school. Then once I graduated from college, my parents had become so attached to Timex & Blizzard that I couldn’t simply take them to live with me in my various post-grad apartments.

But even though Timex lived with my parents his entire life, I still considered him mine. He was all of ours. I looked forward to seeing him and his brother, Blizzard, every time I stopped by my parents’ house, even though I no longer had four-week Christmas breaks and three-month summers to spend there. However, I did live with my parents for a season when I was in-between jobs, and it was during this time that I suffered the worst heartbreak of my life. I know Timex brought me a lot of comfort during that period.

A Huge Purr-sonality

Overall, Timex provided us with endless antics, entertainment, and unconditional love during his 15 years of life. He loved to eat paper, and we quickly learned we could no longer keep presents under the tree at Christmas, especially because he would go for the ribbon too. Once he took a piece of notebook paper that my best friend was using as a bookmark right out of the book, and then proceeded to casually chew it up in front of us like it was no big deal. Then another time he chewed up my late grandmother’s hearing aid, and he also destroyed a couple sets of iPod earbuds.

Timex also loved him a box, and especially enjoyed cramming his large kitty body (he weighed 13 pounds at one point in his adult life!) into a little box. He also loved jumping right up in front of the TV to watch sports. He particularly had an affinity for curling, intently following the disc with his eyes and looking very confused when it was no longer visible on the screen. Timex also liked to “guard” my Lilly Pulitzer bags when I would visit, and was known to nap in or on them at times.

Lounging on the deck at the beach house was another one of Timex’s favorite past-times. He also had periodic hyper spurts, especially during his younger days, where he would “chase” and make noises at nothing in particular. We referred to this as him playing with his “imaginary friends.”  Finally, Timex loved to jump up on the kitchen table and countertops. In 15 years of life, he never quite learned he wasn’t allowed to do this. Or maybe he did, but chose to do it anyway.

Timex was fiercely independent, but even more fiercely loyal. He loved his humans (even if he had interesting ways of showing it at times). As my best friend put it so perfectly, “he was always there for anyone who needed him.”

Life Lessons from Timex

Having to say goodbye to Timex last week was my first true experience with the death of a pet. Because as I mentioned earlier, hermit crabs and hamsters just aren’t the same. During the final weeks of Timex’s life, I reflected a lot on what having a cat has taught me about life and love, and here are a few that come to mind. PS. If you’re a dog person, then still keep reading, because I feel like these can be applicable to anyone who has loved a pet!

1. Live in the Moment

As an Enneagram Six, I often have difficulty living in the moment, because I am thinking of things that could do wrong, aka “borrowing trouble from tomorrow.” It’s a known fact that cats (and dogs) live long enough to get significantly attached to, but not nearly as long as humans. There’s a very high likelihood that any generally healthy person under the age of 70 who gets a little kitten (or puppy) will outlive their pet.

However, even though I knew that Timex wouldn’t live forever, I didn’t dwell on that. When his adorable kitten self first became part of our family, I wasn’t thinking about how one day we would gather around the exam table in the vet’s office to say goodbye. I simply soaked up and enjoyed each day God gave us with Timex.

As Timex got older, particularly after he hit 15 earlier this year, it did hit me that the amount of time we had left with him would be much shorter than the amount of time he had been with us thus far. Nevertheless, I still didn’t think much about the day in the future that we would have to put him to sleep. I still continued to cherish each moment I had to love and be loved by Timex, not knowing if he would be with us for several more months, several more years, or somewhere in between. It wasn’t until we got the news five weeks before his death that Timex was terminally ill that I gave extensive forethought to the reality that we would have to say goodbye to Timex.

I’m realizing that if would serve me well to carry this mentality into other areas of my life, to cherish the good moments and not worry about when future troubles will come.

2.You can avoid pain, but in doing so you will also miss out on great joy.

There is one definite way to ensure that you will never have to endure the pain and heartache of putting a beloved pet to sleep. That is to not get one in the first place. However, in doing so, you also miss out on years of entertainment and unconditional love. I’ve now experienced firsthand exactly how hard it is to watch the vet give your sweet pet a shot, and then watch them take their final breath. I now know how heart wrenching it is to stroke your pet’s lifeless body one last time as you say your final goodbyes.

However, I would do it all over again. Timex gave us 15 years of joy and laughter (he was a silly boy for sure!). The privilege to experience all that is more than worth the pain of saying goodbye and missing him.

This is another lesson that would serve me well to take into other areas of my life. Sometimes I put walls up around myself because I don’t want people to hurt me. In fact, as much as I struggle with being single, there’s also a sense of relief that goes along with it. Because as long as I’m single, no one can break my heart. Although the heartbreak of losing a pet is different than the heartbreak of a failed romantic relationship, the idea is similar. Opening yourself up to receiving love and the rewards you get from that are worth any pain you experience in there process.

3. Pets give us a glimpse of God’s unconditional love.

I’m convinced that part of why it’s so hard to say goodbye to a pet is because their love has a purity and innocence to it that we can’t quite get from other humans. Because even the humans whom we love and love us the most will still hurt, disappoint, and let us down from time to time. While pets may be disobedient from time to time, (such as choosing to ignore the fact they aren’t allowed on the table), they don’t inflict emotional pain in the same way that even the most well-meaning humans are capable of doing. It is in this sense that pets give us a glimpse of God’s unconditional love in a way that humans can’t.

In addition, pets also reflect God’s unconditional love because they don’t care how attractive, smart, accomplished, etc., you are. They simply love and accept you for who you are as you open your heart and life up to let them in. And just like God’s love is constant and unchanging no matter the circumstances of life, Timex’s love and presence was one constant in our lives over 15 years of many life seasons and events.

4.Sometimes spontaneous, spur of the moment decisions are the best ones we make.

I’m very much a planner, and like things to go according to a schedule and routine. (Another Enneagram Six trait here.) However, Timex’s life is a perfect example of how spontaneous and spur of the moment decisions can be a blessing. As I mentioned earlier in this post, we went to the Humane Society adoption fair thinking we were going to get one kitten. But after meeting Timex, we couldn’t resist deciding on the spot to get him as well. While I’m not advocating making reckless and irresponsible decisions in the heat of the moment, I do want y’all to recognize that deviating from your original plan can be a very sweet thing at times.

5. Fifteen years is simultaneously a long time and not long at all.

It honestly feels like the 15 years from the time I first laid eyes on Timex at the adoption fair to the moment I watched him draw his last breath passed in no time at all. And while 15 years is longer than many people get with their pets, it still wasn’t long enough. However, looking back and thinking about all the things that happened during the 15 years Timex was alive, it occurred to me that a decade and a half really is a long time. Although I was already 19 and in college when we got Timex, I still feel like I grew up with him. I may have physically grown up during my childhood years, but I have mentally and spiritually grown up during my young adult years in a way that I didn’t necessarily do as a child and adolescent.

In the 15 years of Timex’s life, I graduated from college and graduate school, started my first “big girl” job, changed jobs and cities, and had many life experiences. I gained confidence I never knew I had, and a better sense of who I am and what I want out of life. And Timex was there through all that.

Furthermore, it hit me how much technology changed during Timex’s 15 years with us. When we first got Timex, I couldn’t even announce it on social media, because Facebook hadn’t made it to Furman’s campus yet, and Twitter & Instagram were nonexistent. So my “kitten announcement” consisted of a link to Timex (and Blizzard’s) Human Society adoption page in my AIM profile. And smartphones weren’t a thing, so my parents couldn’t text me pictures of Timex (and Blizzard) while I was away at college. I still remember my mom printing some pictures she took with her digital camera and snail-mailing them to be during the fall of my sophomore year.

Rest in Peace, Sweet Buddy

Thank you so much for coming along this trip down memory lane with me while I grieve the loss of my sweet Timex kitty. I hope this post also brought you some comfort and encouragement if you’re missing a pet who’s no longer with you physically.

I miss our sweet Timex so much already, but thankful he is no longer in any pain. He’s probably running around in kitty heaven right now chewing up paper and jumping on tables and countertops to his heart’s content. Although Timex is no longer with us physically, I am so thankful that his spirit and memories will be with us forever. He truly was a one-of-a-kind kitty, and will forever be the best spur of the moment decision.

-xoxo Liz

 

 

 

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