Mouf was my very first pet as an independent adult. I had just completed my undergraduate degree and was briefly living in my mother’s house while saving up funds for my first apartment when I adopted Mouf from the South Suburban Humane Society. She was a tiny little kitten 5 weeks old. She had been found in an abandoned car in a very rough neighborhood. That night, I gave her the first of many baths she submitted to over her life to get the last bits of tar out of her hair.
I named her Moufette after looking in my French-English, English-French dictionary for a translation of “skunk.” She looked like a little skunk to me when I adopted her, with her fluffy black and white hair and short little legs. A few years later while on vacation in France, I found that I had been misled and the word was incorrect. But, no matter: her name had become the diminutive “Mouf” by then anyway, and that was fine with both of us. She grew into a small, very fluffy cat that charmed nearly everyone who met her.
Mom was a bit unsure of me bringing a kitten into the house. My new stepfather, she said, didn’t care for cats. Mouf quickly won him over, though, and he was as amused as Mom and I at the way Mouf cleverly lay in wait for their dog and pounced on him every day. After I moved out to an apartment, he suggested they get a cat of their own.
Mouf charmed the landlady of my first apartment, a lovely older woman named Opal who had lived in her house for all of her nearly 80 years. Opal welcomed Mouf’s visits downstairs to her apartment while I was working. Both Mouf and I missed Opal when we moved into the city a few years later to ease my commute to a new job that gave me a step up in my career aspirations.
As I progressed in my career, started and ended a relationship, experienced highs and lows of dating activity, began a relationship with my current husband, changed careers, got married, moved to a condo, worked on a graduate degree, and moved yet again to our current house, Mouf was there. As she got older, she was obviously stressed by the disruptions of her routine brought on by changes in residence and vacations, but she kept adjusting. She seemed happy to be living in a house with lots of space to explore again, and to welcome having dogs around her again in the last two years.
Mouf wasn’t perfect, of course. She was never much of a lap cat, and did not like being held. She loved to be petted and stroked, but only on her own terms, which usually involved her plopping down on the floor just beyond my arm’s reach and rolling around softly meowing until I came over to pet her. She had long black and white fur, and keeping her brushed was quite a chore. While she would submit to the monthly baths I gave her to cut down on allergens that irritated some of my friends and family, she hated to be brushed or combed, especially around her back legs and tail. No matter what I wore, either dark or light colors, her long black or white hairs would always cling to my pants or skirts.
My last interaction with her involved a bit of tussling to run the mat-rake through the fur around her rear legs, as she was confined to the carrier for a trip to the veterinarian.
Mouf was going to have some routine surgical procedures today: teeth-cleaning, extraction of a bad tooth, and the removal of a little lump on her back. Going under anesthetic is always risky, but the vet and I had done all we could to ensure that it be safe. Mouf’s blood work, blood pressure, urinalysis, and heart and lung sounds were normal, and I had withheld her food last night so her stomach was empty. All seemed to be going well as the vet performed these procedures, but as she was finishing up, Mouf stopped breathing. Resuscitation attempts were unsuccessful and Mouf slipped away.
My little kitty is gone. No more will I hear her knocking things around the bedroom during the night or softly mewling for me to come and stroke her. No more will I step on a hairball in the dark, or feel her purring under my hands. No more will I be awakened by her jumping on my head, or amusedly watch her in the throws of a catnip high. My little kitty is gone. I mourn.