In my last entry I was afraid that I would be writ­ing a eulo­gy soon for my cat Socrates. Sad­ly, this is the case.

We had to put Socrates to sleep yes­ter­day. The growth that was obstruct­ing his low­er intes­tine was tech­ni­cal­ly oper­a­ble, but the oper­a­tion would have involved some dif­fi­cult and painful surgery, includ­ing break­ing the poor animal’s pelvis in order to get at what­ev­er was there. After much painful delib­er­a­tion (espe­cial­ly because the seem­ing­ly nor­mal cat we were vis­it­ing for the last time didn’t seem to be in any pain — yet), we decid­ed that it would be cru­el to put him through a pro­ce­dure that would be chal­leng­ing for a healthy young cat, and more impor­tant­ly, would leave him with poor uri­nary func­tion. With his poor heart and kid­neys, he might not even have sur­vived the oper­a­tion.

Socrates was one of two cats that we got from a neigh­bor­hood lit­ter short­ly before we moved into our house. The lit­ter par­ents brought the whole lit­ter over to our house so that we could choose among them. One lit­tle cat snug­gled on my knee, where he stayed for near­ly the whole vis­it. The oth­er cat (who would be called Stef­fi after one of Pam’s rel­a­tives) was cho­sen main­ly because she seemed to be his play­mate.

I liked to name cats with S’s in their names because I had heard that their hear­ing is well-attuned to the hiss­ing of the ‘S’. As I said the pre­vi­ous entry, we real­ly should have called him ‘Fran­cis’ like the Saint, and his chat­ter­ing sounds at the birds were a real delight to Pam.

While Stef­fi was a typ­i­cal cat, aloof, quick to use her claws and fierce­ly loy­al to us (and dis­trust­ful of strangers) Socrates was any­thing but that. As a neigh­bor (and some­times cat-sit­ter) once put it: That cat’s a dog! Out­go­ing and vocal, Socrates was a con­stant com­pan­ion to Pam and me, see­ing us through good times and bad. When his sis­ter died in 2001, he helped com­fort us, and adjust­ed to being an ‘only child’ sur­pris­ing­ly well. He did give us a cou­ple scares, and per­haps even lost one of his nine lives the time that he end­ed up under the floor for about 3 hours (in dread­ful 90-degree heat) in the heating/air con­di­tion­ing duct­work when a care­less installer left the open­ing in the util­i­ty room uncov­ered. He was our soft, purring part­ner on the sofa for count­less movies and episodes of ‘The Sopra­nos’, and nev­er seemed to scold us when we returned from trips. He came down the stairs every day (again, like a dog), when I came home from work. Toward the end, we had to start call­ing him ‘Limpy’, because our poor arthrit­ic kit­ty was hav­ing trou­ble nego­ti­at­ing all of those flights. He did get picky and needy as he grew old­er, demand­ing that he get brushed by Pam after break­fast, and refus­ing to drink any water that wasn’t com­ing out of the bath­tub tap.

His absence leaves a gap­ing hole in our lives, and our once-homey cocoon of a town­house now feels, as Pam says ‘Like a Hotel Room’.

A last anec­dote that sums it up:
At the ani­mal hos­pi­tal where he spent his final few days, he was pret­ty much nor­mal, so on what turned out to be his last night alive, they had a ‘slow’ night. Since he was fine and they had time, they let him out to roam the wait­ing room and front desk area. I’m told that he was his usu­al charm­ing and affec­tion­ate self, rub­bing against all these strange peo­ple and purring. The tech said they all ‘bond­ed’ with him, and appar­ent­ly there were many tears by the staff before we said our final good-byes. As I always said, he was the cat that every­body loved, even if they didn’t like cats.

So, to my lit­tle bud­dy, my lit­tle gray friend, muf­fin-head, bright-eyes, but­ton, you’ll always be the cat who loved me back, not just as anoth­er acquain­tance, but as a spe­cial friend, and that I’ll always cher­ish.