Sugar has passed on

Sugar’s NYT appearance last week was her last hurrah. We had to have her euthanized today. She died peacefully about an hour ago.

Her decline had been extremely rapid. Three weeks ago, even, Sugar barely looked aged and it was still possible to believe she might live another year. But the chronic nephritis, and possibly other organ failures, caught up with her. She started losing weight rapidly and her legs (already affected by arthritis) weakened. Her appetite waned, and her frequency of self-grooming diminished.

The signs were clear, but we hoped that she would bounce back – she was a very tough cat and had surprised us and our veterinarians that way before. Over the weekend she showed serious problems walking. When I saw her fall partway down the basement stairs Saturday evening because she couldn’t keep her footing, I suspected it was time. Sunday she almost couldn’t walk, and began sounding distress calls a few times an hour – stopped eating and drinking. Then I knew it was time. So did Cathy.

It’s hard to write a eulogy for a cat without descending into cliche or mawkishness. All cat people think their beloved moggies are special. But Sugar really was an outlier, if only by living to 21 and – until very recently – remaining so healthy and youthful-looking that humans we introduced her to had trouble believing her actual age.

Part of that was good genes, of course; we think Sugar was part Maine Coon, a breed which tends to be longer-lived than average. But most of it was personality. Sugar was a happy cat – friendly, alert, outgoing, and extremely sociable with humans in the way Coons often are. She retained all those qualities until she was getting so weak that she seldom had the energy to exercise them. Even then, there wasn’t anything she liked as much as snuggling up to a friendly person for a good purr and some petting.

And to Sugar every person was friendly. She had no fear of strangers at all – in fact, in her later and less active years new company would noticeably perk her up. It was usual for houseguests sleeping in our basement that Sugar would join them on the folding bed as they settled in for a night’s rest. Many are the wandering hackers who Sugar charmed; it was wonderful to see them relax, stress and weariness soothed away by her innocent affection.

She understood about children, too. I’ll never forget watching her play with my niece Rosalie, when Rosalie couldn’t have been over five and didn’t know cat etiquette yet. Sugar taught her, gently. And there were a couple of big burly contractors I recall, meeting Sugar while working on our house and instantly melting into a state of awwww – I’m convinced this got us superior service more than once.

Sugar was not especially remarkable at first sight – a rather ordinary American tabby in gray, black and white. It was her sunny disposition, grace, and good manners that made her attractive. That whole aloof-and-mysterious thing cats are supposed to do was utterly not her. She loved people, and wanted to be loved back, and pretty much always got what she wanted in that.

We were so very lucky. Many of our cat-owning friends told sad stories of destructive habits, expensive medical conditions, bites and scratches, or just cats that for no good reason were nervous and shy all their lives. Meanwhile Sugar sailed along, tail high and eyes bright, costing us almost nothing but catfood and sharing her gift for happiness with humans in ways that never failed to make us proud of her.

When we came home, you could bet your fillings that if Sugar wasn’t asleep she’d greet us at the door – sometime meowing reproachfully as if to ask “Where have you been?”, which is as close as she ever got to bad temper – ten seconds of petting would fix that right up, bringing thunderous purrs. And when we were ill or unhappy, she tried to comfort us as though we were her kittens. Her constant trust and love got us through a couple of crisis times.

When I sat at my desk programming, so my hands weren’t available, Sugar would lie against my legs and rest her furry chin just behind the toes of my right foot – always on the same spot, for some reason. When Cathy and I went to bed at night, Sugar would prowl around the edge of the bed looking for intruders, then oscillate a couple of times between sprawling over Cathy and sprawling over me until she was satisfied that we’d both had our minimum nightly requirement of purring. Then she’d randomly pick a human to sleep beside, serene in the knowledge that her day was complete.

We want to have another cat, but…Sugar was such a sweetheart that I fear we’ll make unfair comparisons. We’ll miss her a lot. We’re not as desolated as we could be, though, because we know her last several years were overtime. On the odds, she should have died six years ago, and her good health three years past an acute kidney infection was a minor miracle that visibly amazed our vets. But we knew this was coming (if not when) and have been gradually saying our goodbyes for months.

At least we know we did everything we could for her. And, if cats had any representation of such things, I’m sure Sugar would know she did right by her humans. Not just Cathy and myself, either, but everyone who knew her and found in her sweetness a respite from their cares.

Cathy’s reminiscence is here.

40 thoughts on “Sugar has passed on

  1. I only knew her through your posts, and I won’t forget her any time soon. Any person or pet should hope to have such a biography, and epitaph.

  2. I spent more than a few nights on said folding bed, and every time, Sugar took advantage of the welcome she knew was waiting for her – and also knew when to take her leave so I could take care of things that needed taking care of in peace. Even my roommate, who is not much of a fan of cats (most of the reason I don’t have one here), was charmed when he met her.

    She will be missed.

  3. Get one like Monster. This 100% black cat was also playful, but not in a Sugar-like way. If you crumpled up a piece of paper, you had his undivided attention, which hopefully you were aware of. Wherever you tossed that piece of paper, he would follow with at least twice the speed – into the garbage can in if applicable. His method of waking people up was to climb on top of the bed’s hutch and jump on your chest. His fate was worse than Sugar’s though. Some friend adopted him and renamed him “Pywacket”.

    I want to get a 100% black cat named Monster… and a 100% white cat named Workopolis just to make sure Lady Gaga doesn’t get confused.

  4. My condolences. My wife and myself tend to adopt older cats that others won’t, so we have gone through this too many times. It never gets easier, but you can console yourself with the thought that you did as much as you could and that her life as a junior family member was a happy one.

  5. I’m very sorry for your loss– Sugar was a great cat.

    I’m glad I got one last visit with her. She was wonderfully friendly and calming.

  6. Your descriptions of Sugar have always reminded me of our Robbie (also most likely a Maine Coon, and no less loved by his humans). I feel your pain as much as it’s possible to do so.

  7. Although we also lost a very dear cat that was part of our family named the Root Cat (Root for short), no one can truly know the anguish of losing a pet or a family member. Which is what our Root Cat was and what your Sugar obviously was.

    My heart goes out to you both!

  8. My condolences, Eric. Doing the right thing by your pet is so difficult…it’s the person’s responsibility to make the hard decision about when is the right time. It’s agonizing, but you did the right thing. Remember her, and celebrate her wonderful life…she sounds like an amazing cat. (Though I also believe that part of the reason that some cats are notably friendlier that the stereotypical standoffish cat is that they belong to good, caring people.)

    Take care.

  9. My condolences on your loss. I only met Sugar twice but was impressed by her friendliness and cheery disposition.

  10. My condolences. One of my favorite cats also passed, at 19, after three years of declining kidney function. Some day I’ll have a cat who outlives me, I hope there is someone who will adopt it.

  11. Sad day. I’m glad both of you and Sugar had such a good run.

    Brings back memories of when we had to have Friedrich put to sleep. He was an abused cat we took in, who was troubled and incredibly frightened by everything when we took him. It took years, but he became the most loving furry little monster I’ve ever had the privilege to cohabitate with. Especially via his interactions with my partner, I started to understand the notion of a familiar. I don’t know how old he was exactly when his kidneys went; at least 17 – not a bad run for an Abbyssinian.

    I understand the hard choice of a new cat – my partner took one in recently when she went to the other coast for grad school. I haven’t been quite able to, although it has been 3 years now. Maybe soon.

  12. Sad times, indeed. Please accept my condolences. Losing a pet is difficult under any circumstances, doing the right thing for one that is suffering even more so. I still recall every detail of a tough visit to the vet’s office twenty one years ago. The visit was for Ozzie, a miniature sheepdog mutt who compensated for his complete lack of intelligence with an insane love of people and tennis balls, preferably together.

    They trust you to the very end. Also, I don’t think they age mentally like we do. They just adapt to their body as it changes with advancing age. When their body can’t let them be who they are any more, they know when it’s time to leave, and they count on you to know, too.

    At least that’s what I believe Ozzie was telling me as he left, and I trust that Sugar told you the same thing as well.

  13. I’m sorry that there’s no equivalent for cats what Byron penned for his Newfoundland, Bos’un. Cats deserve this, on their own merits and not just as a pale shadow of dogs for the poet.

  14. It must be very hard for you not to reach out now to pet your cat and then realize that she’s no longer there.

    Glad Sugar did not have to suffer a long old-age sickness. Hope you decide to get another cat at some point, even if he/she cannot replace Sugar. You are wonderful and model pet owners.

  15. And to mention: Cathy Raymond’s eulogy is much better than ESR’s. Tells the full history of this wonderful cat and her habits/behaviour. There’s also a picture.

  16. Again, I have known such a cat — one with unbounded love for humans and the urge to show it. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. Dogs love you by default because of an instinctual need to belong to a pack, but if a cat offers you such love… such a thing is rare and to be treasured.

  17. I usually just lurk here for the good commentary, but I wanted to offer my condolences for your loss. It’s obvious how much Sugar brought to your lives and you to hers.

  18. As a long-time lurker here, your gift for words has given me a mental image of Sugar that will linger on. Your loving descriptions of her unique personality have provided me a glimpse into her world, and have left a lasting impression without ever having met her. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    As a fellow cat person, my advice to you is to wait at least a year before taking in a new cat. I made the mistake before of jumping in too quickly, and was somewhat surprised by the feelings of guilt over having “replaced” her too soon. I have a fairly tight tolerance for irrational emotions, so I didn’t think I would be susceptible to such feelings, but alas…everyone is different, but give yourself time to grieve first.

  19. So sad to see this. My condolences. I only knew Sugar via this blog, but it seems quite clear she had a long happy life and caring caretakers. That is, after all, the best thing a human can give a cat.

    We also recently lost a cat, only 13 years old, to liver inflammation. He was survived by our older cat, and on recommendation of our trusted vet we quickly adopted a new cat friend for him. This new kitty, whom we named Hamilton after the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, happens to have very nearly the same black-white pattern in his fur, and some other similar traits as his predecessor. But still he is clearly a unique personality like every cat I’ve ever seen is. Having a new member in the family does not, in my experience, diminish or blur the memory of the one passed away.

    So I would recommend, in the absence of actual reasons against having a cat, to adopt a new one as soon as practical.

    In our case Hamilton had been in an animal shelter for half a year, and would probably have been the next in line to be put down unless somebody offered him a home.

  20. O Bubastis, Goddess of the Nile, pray keep watch for the arrival of a little white-and-gray-tabby cat named Sugar, who never scratched or bit without just cause, who was much loved by her people, Eric and Cathy, and who returned that love in full measure.  Guide her forthwith to the Eternal Catnip Fields, wherein she may enjoy a well-deserved rest.

    She joins my beloved Star there. Penny, our present cat, can never replace Star, but is a worthy successor.

  21. My deepest condolences. Having had four cats over the years, I’ve always read your posts about Sugar with pleasure. I’m so sorry she has finally passed, but as you noted in a previous post, it’s your duty to do the right thing when the time comes.

  22. My heart goes out to you and Cathy. It’s never easy losing a close member of the family.

    Blessed be.

  23. “My heart has joined The Thousand
    For my friend stopped running today.”
    (Watership Down)

  24. My condolences to both you, Eric, and Cathy. You are good people to not let her suffer, despite the personal cost, and I’m sure she appreciates that.

  25. I’m sorry. I’ve never lost a pet (my current dog is my first pet ever), but I know how much they mean, so I sympathize. May you and your wife find comfort in your stolen jewels and the knowledge that you gave her a long, happy life.

  26. I have been out of pocket or I would have responded sooner. I am pained by your loss. A good cat is a blessing to a family and the departure of a beloved pet is a cause to mourn.

    My condolences on your loss.

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