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Coal Kitty

Whenever we have had people over to the house, I've had the strong urge to hide the cats. It's not that either of them have ever really misbehaved (unless your definition of "misbehaving" is to maul a person with love), it's that you kind of have to see them both in order to not get the wrong idea. Anybody who ever only saw one of them had to think that we were the worst cat owners in the world.

Powder and Coal. Ying and Yang. Never before have two animals been more different. Powder is the almost dog-like cat who follows you around everywhere, but then realizes that he's not supposed to care about you and pretends that he isn't even slightly interested in you. You'll never catch him sitting in a lap by choice, and forcing him to do so is kind of like trying to make an ice sculpture out of warm butter. He's the smartest cat I've ever known, fully mastering the art of turning on faucets and opening doors at a very early age. He's also a beast. A 20-something pound tub of lard.


He would be a big cat even if he weren't fat, but the fact of the matter is that he is horribly obese. If you see just him, you're convinced that we feed our cats Monkey Bread and Doritos and lollipops, without any regard for their health. But, then there's Coal:


Mr. Husband doomed Coal when he was a tiny little kitten by saying something about wanting a gray cat because he had never seen a small gray cat. At his peak, Coal weighed a petite seven pounds and was generally a small little man of a cat. However, in recent years, he weighed as little as four pounds. He. was. tiny.

And sick.

While he was never meant to be a beast like Powder, he also wasn't meant to be a little mound of skin, fur, and bones. That's exactly what he has been for a few years. I have photos of him that show just how thin he was and that he looked like he was a concentration camp survivor. Comparing Powder with Coal is an exercise in opposites, with an almost Evil Science Experiment Gone Wrong twist.

The problem was that Coal had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. No matter how much food he ate, he couldn't fully digest it. He often battled diarrhea and epic vomiting. No medicines seemed to really help, so we tried our best to control it all through diet. We spent a fortune on a wide variety of foods for him, changing each time his system decided it was so over the flavor of the week. Through it all, Coal seemed happy and comfortable, so we just kept battling through the (literal) mess.

After all, he was my lap cat extraordinaire. A snuggler and a cuddler, he was always happiest when he all up in someone's business, giving the person every ounce of love he could muster. For a tiny little man, he could muster a hella lot of love.

That's why he has always been Alexis' favorite. By far. The kid discovered the joy of Coal right around her fourth birthday, and spent a great deal of her time swimming in his awesomeness.


Friday morning, Alexis and I barreled down the stairs at top speed, just as we do every weekday morning. There was hope that we would be ready to leave ahead of schedule, which basically amounts to me having time to grab a cup of coffee before heading to work. It's a really beautiful thing when it happens.

And it would have, except that we walked into the kitchen and found Coal laying on the floor in front of the fridge. The Little Man had spent the prior evening all up in my business on the couch, seemingly as healthy as ever, except that he had been refusing to eat anything much for about a week. It seemed that his body had finally gotten pissed off about the torture of puking and pooping all the time because he was in the midst of a full-blown seizure. As he lay there convulsing, howling with discomfort, I walked over and gently stroked his fur, whispering the most comforting words I could muster. When the seizure finally ended, I went looking for Alexis' shoes. There really wasn't anything else I could do but continue on with our day.

Alexis followed me, asking questions, and I did my best to answer them honestly, even when she asked, "Is he going to be OK?" With tears in my eyes, I grabbed her shoes out of the closet. I returned to find Alexis bent over Coal, gently petting him and whispering, "It's going to be OK, Little Buddy."

Alexis often referred to Coal as "Little Buddy." It was a nickname she came up with on her own.

Miraculously, her gentle touch seemed to give the Little Man the strength he needed to return to "normal." He meowed a few times, clearly begging to eat. I cracked open a jar of meat baby food for him (the only thing he seemed to be able to eat) and he chased after me as I took it down to the basement for him.


Later that evening, it was clear that the seizure had done its damage. Mr. Husband and I had The Conversation, agreeing to see how things went overnight before calling the vet. I sat with Coal in my lap for hours in the middle of the night, certain that he was moments away from his last breath. He was barely responsive, his breathing labored, and didn't have the energy to do much more than lift his head.

In the ultimate act of defiance, Coal made it through the night. Cats may have nine lives, but I swear he had at least 90. He was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going and going. While he probably should have passed away years earlier, he somehow managed to stay with us until late Saturday afternoon. It was as if he refused to let his body fail because he wanted to be with us.


I don't know where cats' souls go when they die, but I hope Coal's finds its way to a comfy, cozy lap. He deserves an eternity of love and affection because that's all he ever gave to us.

Alexis misses him a lot.

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Reader Comments (72)

:-( I am so sorry about the loss of your dear kitty. The 2 kitties i grew up with have passed in recent years and both were hard, especially snowball who looked like Powder's twin. Literally. I didn't have to explain to a 4 yr old though.... I am so so sorry.....

I am so sorry.

There really aren't any other words. I know how much a cat can purr and cuddle themselves into your heart, and that makes it all the more painful when they're gone.

Many hugs to Alexis for all the grown-up lessons she's having to get with pets.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJayna

I'm so sorry.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Crappy

I'm so sorry. I wish I had something less banal to offer, but I don't.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermattieflap

There is no greater love than a family for a vomiting cat. When you have a cat like that you spend a lot of time on its behalf. Kinda bonding time. So sorry!

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTexasholly

I'm so sorry you lost your Coal Kitty.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErinPatricia

I'm sorry. :(

They are part of the family and we mourn them the way we mourn any two-legged loved one.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGoBobbo

*Tears* You know I feel your pain girl. So sorry for the loss of your kitty:(

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNap Warden

so sorry for your loss. you were a wonderful and patient kitty mommy to him!

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaur

I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty. My family lost two cats in the last 6 months due to old age. It's so hard when you've been with them so long and cared for them so much. Here's to Coal being healthy and happy in kitty heaven with all our other pets we've lost. I hope Alexis finds comfort in her other pets and has fond memories of Coal. <<Hugs>>

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrspa06

I'm so sorry for the loss of Coal. As I type this with tears rolling down my face, my old (he'll be 17 in July) cat, Kitty, sits beside me, purring. His hearing is gone and there are days when I come upon him sound asleep, and since can't hear me approaching or calling his name, I'm afraid he's dead; each time, my heart sinks. I know he won't live forever, but I've had my cat for more than half my life and II can't bear the thought of not having him around.

Hugs for you, Alexis. and Mr. Husband.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKylie

I'm so sorry for your loss. Recognizing that our beloved pets will never have as long of a life as us does no good when it comes to actually losing one of them. Take whatever comfort you can in knowing that had Coal not ended up in your home he would not have had as good of a life. It takes a lot of patience and love to deal with a perpetually sick pet and not everyone is willing to do it. Hugs from Arizona.

May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMirth

Thinking of you all. You were an awesome kitty momma and he's resting peacefully. So sorry for your loss.

I'm so sorry. My thoughts are with you, Alexis, and Mr. Husband.

My own two furbabies send their love as well. <3

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

I'm so sorry. Hugs to all of you.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCrista

*sniiiiff* As a life long cat lover, I cried a little for all of you tonight. I'm sorry you miss your kitty. He sounds like he was pretty awesome, despite the puke and poo stuff. ;)

*hugs* for all of you.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss

Very sad. So sorry.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMia

I'm so, so sorry for your loss. I went through the same thing with my Lucky Dog back in October. It's never easy. I'm sending you all a giant virtual hug

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J.

I am so sorry. Our animals are our kids. I fear the day that I have to make that choice with my girl, like coal a small 7lbs of fur.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMel

Oh, guys. I'm so sorry.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Aw, farewell, Coal! And hugs to you guys. I have a grey cat that looks a bit like Coal so this tugged at my heartstrings extra hard.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkdiddy

Oh, hon. I'm so sorry. One of my cats has had IBD -- and we've been treating her with a special diet and medicine for years now. It's a dance, it's often tough and frustrating, but if I'd been able to send you to my internal medicine doctor, maybe things with Coal could have turned out differently.

Hang in there. This is so sad -- and totally what I dread.

That sucks.

I feel sorry for people who don't have pets in their lives because they'll never understand how much they become part of your family. The worst part is that when you have pets you understand how much a part of your family they are - and losing them hurts almost as much.

I'm sorry for all of you - especially Alexis.

Hang in there.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Bainbridge

Give Alexis a hug for me will you. I'm so sorry for her loss - the families loss of such an amazing creature. I have no doubt he hung on, because he truly was loved and knew it. (Hugs)Indigo

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIndigo

I had to stop reading once I realized where this post was going. I try to avoid bawling in my cubicle when I can... But I do want to extend my deepest sympathies. Loosing a beloved pet is the hardest part about having them as part of the family. But the love they give makes it worth the pain.
Hugs to you and Alexis.

On a happier note, my parents have an over weight white cat that looks a lot like your Powder... but he is annoyingly affectionate variety and meows a ton. My daughter loves visiting with him!

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I am so sorry for your loss. It's is horrible to lose a pet, especially when you have a child who loved the pet, too,

There is a children's book by Cynthia Rylant called Dog Heaven that we bought when our first dog was put to sleep several years ago. Our son was quite young then, so it was more for hubby and I. When our second dog was put to sleep last year, we brought the book out again, and it actually made my son feel better. A few weeks later when he was feeling especially sad about it again, he asked me to read it again. She also wrote a version called Cat Heaven, which I haven't read, but can only assume is just as comforting. :-)

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter3carnations

Having to explain the death of anything to a child is just not fair. It's one of the "reasons" my husband gives for why we don't yet have a pet. I'm sorry that this happened to you and your family.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mommy

I am so sorry to hear about Coal. Hugs.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty. :( How's Alexis doing?

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertrinity

I so sorry. It sounds like Coal Kitty was very sweet. What a loss. I hope Alexis (as well as you and your husband) are doing okay.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim Z

I am so sorry. Our thoughts are with your whole family.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeckyD

Oh I cried while I read this cuz I knew where it was headed. Lost a four-legged friend myself this year and I know how much it makes your heart hurt. Its good that Coal loved so much and was loved so much & the Little Buddy couldnt have asked for a better life...and thats all that matters.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermindymin

Oh, that is so hard. We had a cat go about a year ago, and my oldest still asks about her.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer I

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. I lost our family dog of 13 years over a year ago, and posts like this still bring me to tears because it still hurts. I don't know where dogs and kittens go when they pass, but I have extremed confidence that they will be with their ownders when it is their time. With the amount of happiness, comfort and innocence that pets bring into our lives, there is no way I can imagine heaven without our beloved pets :)

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAng

So sorry for yourfamilies loss. Hope Alexis, you and Mr. Husband are doing ok. It is so hard to lose a pet. I swore after I lost my last one there would be no more but we have a wonderful dog that warmed her way into our house.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatsbynp

I'm so sorry, dear. Having been there, I know it's a loss that never goes away. Best to remember all the good snuggles and know that your Little Man is not suffering any more.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluzdude

You have me crying. Poor kitty.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterC @ Kid Things

Oh, I'm so sorry! But, it sounds like you were all so good to Coal. A lot of people wouldn't have put up with all that. I'm glad Coal stuck around as long as he did.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I'm so sorry. Tears here. I hope A (and all of you) are doing okay.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen B.

I went through the same thing with Pussty. He was so skinny from his thyroid problem that I always found myself explaining it to people, lest they think I was starving him. And like Coal, he lived a long life - hanging on linger than I thought. Luckily, when he took a turn for the worse, it was quick - he didn't linger and we didn't have to make The Decision (which we had to do for our dog - awful). I know it sucks to lose a pet and sucks even more for your kid to lose one. I'm so sorry.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your post made me cry...and I'm at work! LOL. it is awful to lose a pet, just awful. I am truly sorry. Coal is in a better place, I"m sure.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTTG

Im sitting here crying my eyes out reading this, and my 2 year old is patting me on the back saying "momma its okay" I am so sorry for your loss. Cats are my weakness we have 3 and I just cant imagine. My heart goes out to you and your family, especially your daughter for her lil'buddy.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your lapcat. My husband and I have 2 that sound a lot like yours. Our condolences.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Wow. That just downright sucks. Sorry to hear. xoxox

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

I'm so sorry. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination a cat lover, but no matter. It hurts when a loved one passes on. Hope your little girl is okay without her little buddy.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterred pen mama

I'm so sorry. It's so hard to say goodbye to a pet.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSunshine

I'm so sorry.

I had a cat that was unlike any other cat once...he was so amazing but lived a short life. I've never been able to get another cat since because none would measure up.

Sorry Alexis has to learn about such awful things as death so young.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

This made me weepy!
I am sorry about your dear pet kitty :D It sounds like he will really be missed.
**sniff, sniff**

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke G

I'm so so sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was a wonderful kitty who had a very lucky life with you, Mr. Husband and Alexis. I'm sure he's also having a wonderful afterlife.

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercaramama

Damnit, you need to put tissue warnings on these! If anyone's looking for me, I'll be hiding in the ladies' room for a minute. <sniffle>

Sending happy thoughts to you, The Husband, and Alexis...

May 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie in MA
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