To tell this story, I’ll have to start at the beginning. Because all my life I’ve had pets and all my life I’ve loved animals. And losing an animal always hurts. I cried for every guinea pig that I buried, I cried for every cat that I’ve loved and lost.
When I was a small kid, we had a cat called Whisky. I can vaguely remember chasing her and pulling her tail, not understanding this was stressing her out. My mom rehomed her and as I got older, realising this fact made me feel so guilty. When I was seven we got another cat called Toto, a Chartreux. In the beginning all was well. But, he had a tumour in his head and he started attacking people. It was quite severe. One minute he’d be playing with my hair, next he’d be digging his claws into my head agressively. He also attacked a neighbour’s legs, digging right into her arteries, making her need medical assistance. My parents decided to euthanise him at only two years old. He was in pain. As animal parents, you have to make that decision for an animal, as hard as it may be. Besides that, he was dangerous. Rehoming him would have been the wrong decision and not in the cat’s best interest at all. Needless to say, my family was quite weary of cats for a while because of him.
That all changed when I was fifteen. My parents had just divorced and we got ourselves two kittens: a black and white one named Florry, and a calico cat named Shandy. It’s hard to describe how much these cats meant to me and still mean to me. Because although they’re gone, I’ll never stop thinking about them and I’ll never stop loving them. They were my visions of hope, furballs to love unconditionally and who loved me back unconditonally. The cats that would ignore me when I came back after months of backpacking Down Under, yet couldn’t contain their excitement for me being back home. The cats that would come for cuddles and gave purs in return. Cats that trusted us 100% and the cats I’d go through the fire for. Cats that were so much better than humans ever will. The cats that made my life better, just because they were in it.
We had to euthanise Florry five years ago (she was 19) and Shandy passed away four years ago (a day before her 20th birthday), which left the biggest gaping holes in my heart. These cats are engrained into my heart and soul. I know it may sound dramatic, but these cats were so so important to me. Losing these two cats is something I don’t think I’ll ever fully heal from.
Fast forward to 2017/2018, when my mom and I went on a holiday to New Zealand. I was so excited to show her the country I love so much. And those who’ve been following my blog for a while may know that she loved it too! New Zealand left a big impression on my mom and she says it’s the best holiday she’s ever had. Nice!
Mom had expressed the desire to have cats again off and on for the past few years, but nothing as concrete as at the end of last year, a year after our big adventure. I had said that I’d pitch in so that when the right time came along, my mom could get two cats, like she really wanted (that way the cats are never truly alone). It’s a huge committment and we also had to be honest and ask ourselves: are we ready for new cats? After all, we’re still loving and missing our old ladies. While one can never predict exactly what the future holds, we decided that our hearts were big enough for new cats. We were ready.
My mom had been eyeing a local Ragdoll cattery for a few years. It was important to us that our new cats looked totally different from our old ladies. We don’t want to compare. Plus, Ragdolls are known for their gentle characters. Early this year my mom sent me a message ‘soooo about that second cat…’. We had an option to look at two kittens and when our hearts melted on the spot, we decided to go for it and co-parent these cats. We agreed that they would live with my mom, because she has the time and space. While I’d love to have a cat in my own home, it just wouldn’t work right now. Not just because of all the things that could come tumbling down in my apartment (I live in an old apartment building with barely a straight wall in sight), but also because I’m away from home way too often. It just wouldn’t be fair to the cats, especially when they’re so young.
My mom’s idea was to give our kitties Maori names. Our travel around New Zealand has left a huge impression on her and she wanted something that connected us and our holiday together. We decided on Aroha (Maori for love) and Hine (Maori for girl). On Good Friday we were finally allowed to take them home. I had taken the day off, because I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss this! That Saturday I was cat sitting and fell even more in love with these adorable little soft furballs. They were such social kitties and had such an amazing start in life at the cattery. True passion for animals can’t be faked and I commend the people for their hard work.
Then…doom struck with Aroha’s health. She wasn’t eating, she was listless, didn’t play. Kittens shouldn’t be like that, so that was a huge worry. Mom has a great intuition and consulted the vet several times. Aroha had a high fever, had to be force fed and needed medication. It seemed to improve slightly, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. Tuesday night I dreamt about her and had this feeling I would never see her as an adult cat. I could only picture her as a kitten. As if it was a premonition…
Last Wednesday morning mom took Aroha to the vet again for further research as her stomach had swollen. And this is when I learnt that she couldn’t be saved. Aroha had the wet version of FIP, which stands for Feline Infectious Peritonitis. An uncommon but usually fatal aberrant immune response to infection with feline coronavirus (which is a very common, usually innocent virus). We were heartbroken to have to say goodbye to our sweet bundle of love so soon. Aroha was only four months old. I’m proud of my mom for making the hard decision not to wake her up from her anesthesia and to have the vet euthanise her to avoid any suffering. Mom caught it early and Aroha didn’t suffer any pain. No matter how much pain and sadness we feel over losing her, knowing that she wasn’t in pain helps a little. Because that’s the responsibility you carry as an animal parent. And little Hine is so confused. Hope we can find her another friend this year!
Aroha was perfect, maybe too perfect for this world. She was the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen. Etherial and elusive even. Like she belonged with us, but was never meant to stay wih us and already belonged to the other side. My mom had the same feeling. It’s as if little Aroha had fulfilled her task already: opening our hearts to love for another cat. To dare go on another journey with a cat where we can love without reservations. Nomen est omen. She did her name proud. Our perfect, sweet, loving, Aroha.
Sweet Aroha, I love you and I miss you ❤