Ziggy and Stardust Help Grieving Tiki

The day after my birthday last year, my very-much-loved 17 year-old cat, Calypso, succumbed to kidney failure and had to be put to sleep. I’d gotten her, my first-ever cat, just a few months after I moved out on my own as a young adult, and home didn’t feel like home without her. My remaining cat, Tiki, was thirteen years old and had never been alone, either. No matter how much we cuddled, we both felt lost.

One night, so sad I hardly knew what to do with myself, I logged into Petfinder to look at pictures of kittens. Seeing so many images of adorable kittens, all without owners, made me remember the first night I’d brought Calypso home, when she spun around the apartment like a tiny black bouncing ball and then collapsed at my feet while I was doing dishes. Somehow, looking at all the kittens, I began to feel a little better. I became captivated by the photo of a calico kitten and her brother, who had been rescued by Homeward Trails from a high-kill shelter and were now in a foster home. Tiki needed a friend; and “Mango’s kittens” needed a new home. No matter how much I was grieving for Calypso, it seemed selfish to wait till I healed to adopt.

The first time all three napped together

The first time all three napped together

Tiki was healthy and strong for his age, but I knew a pair of kittens would be best for him because they could play with each other when he wanted to be left alone. When I went to visit the calico and her brother, I can’t say it was love at first sight: the calico was busy playing with her foster friends, and Ziggy, her brother, ran up the stairs and hid from me at first. Nevertheless, I somehow couldn’t walk away. I played with the calico, and I picked up Ziggy. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard him purr,” his foster mom told me. I rubbed his ears, stroked under his chin, and pulled him close to my chest, and after a while felt a low rumble coming from his belly.

Needless to say, I took them home. I changed the calico’s name to Stardust, which turned out to be prescient when she grew a feather-duster plume of a tail. With the exception of a little hissing, the introductions went beautifully. Tiki’s eyes brightened and he followed the little ones around, hovering over all their antics. Within a few weeks, he was joining in their games and letting them sleep next to him; and within a few months, he and Stardust were play-wrestling and grooming each other. He’d never had that close a relationship with Calypso, and I’d never seen him so happy. Stardust’s joie-de-vivre and Ziggy’s sweetness – and their kitten acrobatics – were just what I needed to get through the painful first months without Calypso. This past summer, I was thrilled when the vet told us Tiki’s blood work was perfect and pronounced him in perfect health. Seeing him roughhouse with Stardust several times a day, I was so grateful he had found such happiness in his senior years that sometimes, watching them, I wept.

On Halloween morning a month ago, the cats had breakfast and had started chasing each other and wrestling as usual, when suddenly I heard loud breathing. Tiki was on his side, his lips blue – probably, I was told later, hidden heart failure he’d been masking. Before I could even finish my panicked call to the vet, he had died, Stardust anxiously sniffing his ears. I am told that for Tiki it would have been like suddenly disappearing while he was playing – and while he was still strong, beautiful, and powerful. For me, it has been harder. Losing two much-loved cats in less than a year, I don’t know what I would have done without Ziggy and Stardust. But there is nothing that happens at home now that is not interrupted and investigated by Stardust’s wet nose, and no sadness that can’t be salved by Ziggy’s gentle expression and now-rumbling purr. I miss Calypso and Tiki terribly, but not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for the two new friends I adopted to honor my love for my old ones.

-Jill Kronstadt

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