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At the end of April, our family's beloved cat, Gynx passed away. My father found him lying dead next to the curb outside the house. There were no apparent signs of injury or trauma, so we don't think he was hit by a car. Perhaps he had a heart attack or a stroke? Because nobody was there to witness it, we'll never know for sure.

My sister took it particularly hard. She had just fed him his breakfast 20 or 30 minutes before my dad found him outside. All seemed well. Just another routine morning. My how suddenly things can change...

She was hit hard with grief, and felt responsible. "If only I hadn't let him outside", she said. But it wasn't her fault. She had no way of knowing. He could just as easily have passed inside the house.

Our cat Gynx died this month after 20 happy and loving years.

Yes, I do wish that we could have had some warning. One of my friends once lost an old cat who had become ill. She got to hold her cat and pet him and make him comfortable as he slowly passed and breathed his last breath. If I were a cat, that's how I'd want to go: comfortably resting in the lap of my beloved human. I wish that Gynx could have had that as well.

But as I said, none of us can feel responsible or guilty. We can't have known that his time was coming. He was healthy and active right up till the end. We all worried that someday he'd go outside and we'd never see him again, and over the years, it became harder and harder to let him go. But he loved to be outside, so keeping him locked inside would have just made him miserable and stressed, and probably only accelerated his demise.

A life worth celebrating; not grieving

I've written about the loss of pets before on this blog. Back in 2014, Nipper, a tortoise that I had since I was about 7 or 8 years old died after apparently becoming trapped in her burrow. The following year, I also lost my baby tortoise Koopa to some kind of tragic accident. Like with Gynx, I have little-to-no idea what actually happened, since I wasn't there to witness the event itself. The sudden and tragic loss of those tortoises was gut-wrenching and depressing, and I grieved very hard, and for a very long time.

I was much more prepared for Gynx's death than I was for the deaths of my tortoises Nipper and Koopa.

Though Gynx's death was also sudden, it was not altogether unexpected. Gynx was 20 years old, which is very old for a cat. I had thought cats only lived for 15-ish years, so I had spent the past 5 or 6 years thinking that Gynx's time could come any day now. I didn't expect for him to hit 20! So when his time finally came, I think I was emotionally prepared for it -- had been for a long time, in fact. I knew that phone call from my mom, dad, or sister would be coming eventually, and when it came, I knew what it would be.

Of course, I was heartbroken and sad that Gynx was gone, and that I would never be able to hold him or pet him again. I did some crying. But I was surprised that the grief did not last for weeks or months as it had with Nipper and Koopa. Desert tortoises in captivity can live for 50 to 80 years. There was a realistic expectation that those tortoises would outlive me, and that I'd be passing them down to my children as inheritance. So their deaths were made all the more depressing by how tragically premature they were, and how woefully unprepared I was to cope with them.

Gynx, on the other hand, lived a long, happy, and full life. In that sense, I don't see his death as tragic. Sad, yes; but not tragic. Further, he was relatively healthy right up until the end. He had a little bit of arthritis, but he was still active and could jump and climb walls like a cat half his age. Unlike the tortoises, who barely got to live their lives (especially Koopa), Gynx's life leaves nothing for us to mourn. It deserves celebrating. So let's go ahead and celebrate his life now!

Gynx was a spoiled neighborhood cat, probably going from house to house receiving food and shelter.

He adopted us

Gynx wasn't even technically our cat. Our neighbors across the street bought him for their daughter. I guess she graduated and moved out and couldn't (or didn't want to) take the cat with her, so he stayed with her parents, but they didn't really want him that much. He was supposed to be their daughter's cat, and I guess the parents saw him as more of a burden. As far as I know, they never mistreated him, but they were happy to let us care for him.

He was always an outdoors cat, and would wander around the neighborhood. My sister, who has always loved animals, found him around our house when he was young -- probably within his first year of life. He would spend more and more time around our house, even sneaking through the vents into our garage.

My sister's animals have always turned out
to be very good with the tortoises.

My sister would beg for us to let him in the house because she had always wanted a cat or a dog. I resisted the idea because I was always worried about what a dog or cat might do to the tortoises. Gynx, however, got along fine with the tortoises, and when I moved out, my sister finally got her dog. That dog turned out to be a very sweet and gentle animal who also treated the tortoises with kindness and affection. So my sister gets to say "I told you so!", and I can feel bad for having prevented her from getting a pet for so long. Though, I'm not sure if my parents were keen on the idea of a cat or a dog, so they might have said "no" regardless.

Anyway, Gynx was always a skinny cat. My mom and sister worried if the neighbors were feeding him enough, so they decided to start buying cat food and feeding him whenever he was over. I warned them that if they started feeding him, that he'd never go away. They did it anyway, and the cat slowly became a fixture at the house.

In fact, once I found him carrying one of Nipper's hatchling tortoises around in his mouth, and I worried that he was going to eat the tortoise. Instead, he took the hatchling to the corner of the backyard, set it down with the other baby tortoises from Nipper's recent clutch, and then proceeded to plop himself down next to him, as if he was protecting them. It was adorable. I wish I had taken a picture or video of it, but this was back in the ancient times before cameras were ubiquitous on cell phones.

Despite my sister taking him in,
Gynx seemed to imprint the strongest on me.

My cat?

Ironically, Gynx seemed to take a liking to me most of all. Part of that was because he liked hanging out in my room. He liked warmth, and my room (being west-facing) was the hottest room in the house. It also had a window overlooking the street that he loved to perch and look out of.

He basically became my cat.

And I grew to love him. He would cuddle up next to me in bed or sit on my lap when I would play video games. At night, I would often find him curled up sleeping in the middle of my bed. When it came time for me to go to sleep, I'd have to contort myself around him. It's amazing how an animal as small as a house cat can take up so much space on a bed!

When I would pack my bags to go off to football camp, Gynx would seem to worry and stress. My parents say that when I would be gone, he would search my room and the house for me and seem despondent when he couldn't find me. They say he took it hard when I moved out. But I made sure to visit often, and always gave him love and attention whenever I visited my parents.

I am always amazed by how much space something as small as a cat or young child can take up in a bed.

Cranky old cat

He was a sweet and affectionate cat in his youth, but he did turn into a cranky curmudgeon in his old age. He acted out a lot when my sister brought home her dog. By this time, he was already 10 or 12 years old, and wasn't as playful as he used to be. The puppy, however, wanted nothing more than to play with Gynx, and would bother him to no end. He acted out by clawing at furniture, which frustrated and upset my mom.

Eventually, he settled down and started to get along with the dog. We'd even catch them cuddled up together sleeping from time to time. The dog certainly loved him.

Gynx became a bit cranky and anti-social as he got older.

As he got older, he didn't like to be held as much, and he spent more time napping in the garage or wandering outside. Every now and then, though, he'd stick around in the house and cuddle up with us, just like old times.

In our hearts and memories forever

Gynx wormed his way into all of our hearts, and we all loved him dearly, and we'll miss him. Losing him is sad, but I am comforted in the knowledge that he lived a good life, to a ripe old age. There's a cat-sized hole in our lives now -- one that I'm not sure can ever be filled, even though I have other pets now. But it's a hole that is filled with happy memories of love, affection, and play.

We'll never again be able to play with Gynx, or hold him, or pet him, or let him cuddle up next to us when he sleeps. But he will always live on in our hearts and memories.

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Comments (2) -

06/23/2019 21:34:38 #

Im sorry for your loss

06/24/2019 20:21:00 #

Your meow-meow loved you. He was super cute and was obviously very happy. I'm sorry he passed.

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