In memory of a lost cat

April 12, 2010 | 23 comments

Our cat is gone. We have no idea what happened to her: animal control and the local pounds don’t have her, and the neighbors haven’t seen her recently either. She simply disappeared.

We didn’t exactly sign up to be cat owners. She belonged to the ex-wife of the house’s previous owner, and we were under the impression that he would take her to the pound before we moved in if we didn’t want her. My husband is allergic to cats and we were expecting our third baby in three years at the time, so we weren’t exactly looking for another little mammal to keep alive; but she was an outdoor cat and very friendly, so we agreed that she could stay.

I hadn’t realized how much I associated her with my religious conversion until she was gone: we moved into this house the night of my first confession during Lent 2007. The fluffy, all-white cat was there, out in her kitty bed on the back porch, looking on through the window as I stood in the kitchen among moving boxes and told my husband all about the amazing experience I’d had.

It was thanks to her throwing up on our carpet that I first learned what it means to die to self, and the surprising story of her ownership history taught me a lesson about “little” sins that I’ll never forget. She helped me learn how to grow in faith despite the imperfections of life, such as the morning that I was praying Lauds as part of my reckless experiment with prayer, standing at the back door and soaking in the glow of the morning sun, only to glance down from my prayer book and see a decapitated squirrel that the cat had left at our doorstep. (I will note, though, that her tendency to drop these little gifts was balanced by the fact that she helped out with the whole terrifying scorpion infestation thing.)

We never did decide on a name. The previous owner named her Emma. My then-three-year-old son came up with White House, presumably inspired by the color of her fur. The neighbor girls called her Snowball. Yaya named her Possum, a humorous nod to an uproarious controversy that erupted when Yaya wanted to bring a wild possum she’d trapped in her yard up here for the kids to play with; I won, and the varmint stayed in Houston, but she called the cat Possum after that.

The last time I saw the cat was on Good Friday, almost three years to the day after she first came into our lives. I’d often agonize about how we’d take care of her on our tight budget; it never occurred to me that she might just disappear. I would have expected that I’d feel more relief about not needing to deal with the cat anymore, but I’m finding that I actually miss her. It was part of my morning routine to hear the soft padding sounds of her paws on the back window when I first walked into the kitchen each day. It’s weird to be greeted with silence.

So goodbye to Emma White House Possum Snowball, wherever you are. We’ll miss you.


  1. Nadja Magdalena

    I had a beloved cat, 15 years old, who, several years ago, was mysteriously paralyzed in his hind quarters. He was in no pain, but couldn't get about and couldn't control his bladder or bowels. This began on Shrove Tuesday. He drank, but would not eat. This went on through Lent, until he died very peacefully on the morning of Holy Saturday. He had fasted for the 40 days of Lent.

    Your kitty was a real beauty…

  2. Christina

    I wouldn't worry too much. My mom has outdoor cats and they sometimes wander off for weeks/months at a time, especially in the spring. One of them, White Cat, gets adopted by other locals until they realize he'll not use a litter box.

    I had a cat named Loki who did so well getting himself adopted that one of the students took "the poor starving stray" at the end of the school year.

  3. caite

    gosh, I am not much of a cat person (they are not real pets, like dogs…lol) but I can see how you will miss her.

    Good Friday to Good Friday..three years. Ok, maybe it is very weird, but it had me wondering for a second if angels can take the form of cats. But then I had to wonder too if an angel would rip the head off a poor squirrel.
    Ok, maybe not. lol

  4. Nona

    It's possible that your cat was really elderly (which you didn't know). Cats tend to look for sheltered, hidden places at the end of their lives where they quietly pass on.

    It's surprising how much these little creatures become a part of our lives and how much we miss them when they're gone. There are certain cats that I still remember — and still miss.

  5. Catherine

    Have you checked your local animal shelter? Ours picks up hundreds of cats per year. They keep them as long as they can, and then euthanize them, in the hundreds, if no one claims them. You should probably check there about once a week for your cat, and don't give up. She could turn up there three months from now. A lot of people just give up too soon. Every time I'm in an animal shelter, I see it packed to the rafters with fat, well fed cats whose owners must either not care or have given up on finding them.

  6. emily

    Oh no… what did the girls say?!

  7. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jen, oh, I'm sorry. We had a very large yellow Lab that seemed to be more and more in the way as we began "acquiring" children. When he died, I couldn't believe how much I ached to have him back sitting under the high chair ready to snap up the scraps that fell (or more often were flung). Think "Marley and Me" regarding how I sometimes felt about him in the kid years, but what a huge hole he left behind. I'm with you…and am hoping she'll return. But, you kind of have to prepare for the worst. I'm still not entirely convinced our pets don't go to heaven, especially if we loved them and they loved in return.

  8. Anonymous

    Well, when wide load delivers the first of several litters we expect this Spring you can pick a new one! FREE!

  9. WhiteStone

    Several years ago we bought a house "with cat". And several years later, when we sold, we sold "with cat".

    Hope your white kitty is okay.

  10. Robyn

    Oh, no, I'm so sorry to hear about your missing cat! One of ours disappeared last summer. It's worse than if the cat had died because we don't know what happened to her.

    Call the shelter at least every other day and say a prayer to St. Francis… but you may never know what happened to her. *hugs*

  11. Mama Bean

    I adopted the kitten of an outdoor cat who had given birth and taken up residence in a college teacher's garage. She was very affectionate, but unsuited to apartment living – she ran away three times. I don't know what happened to her the last time, and then I moved after graduation. I'm glad you had some time with your cat – it is possible she'll return. Maybe she's off having kittens 🙂

  12. Nichole@40daysof

    So sorry about the cat. I think this happens more often than people realize with outdoor cats. There are predators out there that are bigger than they are. I hope she's okay and returns soon.

  13. Jessica

    Jen, I'm so sorry to hear this! I hope that the Lord provides a little miracle, through the intercession of our dear St. Francis.

    (Admittedly, I wondered the same thing that Emily did. Poor Riley!)

  14. Susan L

    I'm so sorry to hear about this. We just adopted a little kitty who was born to a feral cat. Kind of unexpected, too, but…we like Smokey. Even the older cat (Whiskers) is getting used to him.

    I hope White House/Possum comes back home soon.

  15. Anonymous

    I am so sorry for your loss.


  16. Sara

    I will pray that your kitty returns home. For you, and the neighbor girls!

  17. Jeff Miller

    My sympathies, we also had a cat that just disappeared one day.

  18. Katie

    Don't give up hope, our cat disappeared after we moved to our new home and then showed up unexpectedly 3 months later.

  19. runningatlarge

    Sorry to hear about that! We recently had to give up our dog to owners better able to care for him. I was surprised to find myself awake at 4 AM crying about it. I hope your kitty is found safe.

  20. Dennis Alcover

    On a hopeful note, I had one wander off on me once. After the 2nd month I lost any hope of seeing him again, and boxed up his food dish and litter box to put in the attic until I was ready to get another cat. Within the week he came strolling in, walked up to the spot his dish normally occupied, and shot me a look that said "where the heck is my food, Mister!?!"

    You never know…

  21. Dorian Speed

    Perhaps a blogger down the street is at this very moment composing a post on how her lost cat returned after a three-year absence, fresh with the aura of sanctity.

    Hope she shows up. (cat, not blogger)

  22. Alana

    Eastern Orthodox Christians have a tradition that an animal that has been named and cared for by humans will go to heaven. Dominion over animals and all that. It's not a "big T" tradition, but it's a nice idea anyways.

    Hope your cat is well, whether in the hands of God or just out prowling the neighborhood.

  23. Lenetta @ Nettacow

    I've been a "cat person" my whole life and have preferred to take the joy of having them and the pain of losing them over not having them at all… I actually have preferred to have them disappear and hope for them to return, but either way it stinks.

    Stories like yours cause me to reflect on a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon I once saw. The two of them were discussing whether or not there were tigers in heaven. Tigers wouldn't be happy if they couldn't eat people, and people wouldn't be happy if they had to worry about getting eaten. I don't remember exactly how they resolved it, but it left me with a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling about seeing my fuzzies in heaven.

    St. Francis, pray for us and our animal friends!

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