August 2nd, 2013 was one of the worst days of my life.  I ran over my old cat, Tortellini.  It was awful and I felt as if I owed her some tribute for her years on the planet.  This is what I wrote the very next day after I was able to somewhat collect myself:

Tortellini has lived at our house for 18 years.  For at least 17 of those years she has hung out in our carport at her pleasure.  She ate, napped and lounged as she pleased.  Whenever we arrived home she leisurely moved out of the way of our car — so leisurely in fact that we would have to pull in very, very slowly –  to encourage her to move along.  Sometimes this was a source of amusement to us.  Sometimes, if we were in a hurry, it was an annoyance.  She didn’t seem to know the difference – nor did she care.  She just moved at her own pace………but she always moved.  For some reason, yesterday – even though I was in no particular hurry —  she did not move along.  I saw her lying there and pulled up to the edge of the carport and waited patiently, following our prescribed pattern – our human/cat dance.  Finally, slowly pulling up onto the pad and thinking she was rising, stretching, doing her cat-thing.  When I realized that she had not risen, I came completely undone.

I am left now to wonder what happened.  Why didn’t she get up as she’s done 1,000 times before?  Had she been hurt and unable to get up?  Had she been hit by a car?  Had she been in the process of dying from old age?  Are these only questions that I ask myself in order to rationalize the awfulness of what I’ve done?  I will never know.  All I know is that she is gone from this world, gone from our lives, and that she will be missed.

Tortellini came to live at our house on Judd Street in the Fall of 1995 about a week after I stood in our yard, hands on hips and proclaimed to the Universe:  “We need a cat!” — because we were being overrun with squirrels.  I really meant it.  I was irritated by the bodacious attitude of the haughty creatures who practically knocked on our door to demand that we fill up the bird feeders for them.  Those words left my lips and evidently went directly to God’s ear.  No more than a week passed when a mangy, thin, tortoise-shell colored cat showed up on the edge of our yard.  She was cautious but hungry and clearly looking for food.  We set out a bowl of milk for her as she peered from behind a bush and waited for us to leave.  She lapped it eagerly after we were out of sight.  We left a bowl for her every day for a week.  She would wait until we were out of sight and then slink over to the bowl and eat like a poor beggar.  We peeked at her through our kitchen window and wondered where she’d come from.  She figured we were a food source and we figured she had run out of luck.  By the end of that first week, we bought cat food.  Six weeks later her fur was looking better and she stopped running to hide when we walked outside.  A week after that, she brought 5 kittens to show us. 

The kittens were more than we had bargained for but we didn’t have the heart to do anything more than to admire her babies.  She was clearly proud of them and who doesn’t enjoy watching kittens play?  Besides, her brood was unique among cat litters.  All 5 of them were very different – not a single one alike.  One kitten was a boy with short, solid black fur.  Another male had long black fur with a small speck of white at his throat.  The third boy was a perfectly marked seal point Siamese that could have been sold as a pure bred.  The remaining two kittens were girls – one a beautifully marked calico and the other a tortoise-shell, like her mother, but with long, fluffy hair.   They were a fascinating sight!  No wonder she was so proud.  Even so, we were realistic and knew that 6 cats could easily turn into 60.  So we trapped them one by one and had them spayed and neutered.  Tortellini was the first to visit the clinic.  The vet said, “If that poor cat could talk she would thank you.  Her poor old body is worn out with giving birth.  There is no telling how many litters of kittens she’s had.”  We figured she was old and that she would live out the few years she had left with us.  Who knew that would stretch out for 18 years?  The vet didn’t offer us an estimate of her age that day.  Now I wish she had so that I could register a good guess about how old she actually was.  Was she 20 years old? (which would have meant she was 2 years old when she arrived on Judd Street)  Or was she older than that?

During the 18 years that she lived on Judd Street, Tortellini claimed our yard – all of it – as her domain.  She lounged on the carport, the front porch, in my herb garden, on our patio, on the patio furniture, on the stone bench by our pond or under the grapevine.  She dared any dog we owned to chase her or even to disturb her chosen space in any way.  Our old cairn terrier, a cat hater extraordinaire, would snarl and growl at her but he kept a respectful distance.  She flaunted our rules in his face – as we forbade him to bark or snap at her, she would wind herself around him – looking demurely at us and glancing back at him with (what I’m sure was) a smirk on her face.  He would try to look taller as he indignantly ignored her.  It was hilarious.  Our sweet Sheltie, she clearly adored and would allow herself to be gently herded about the back yard.  Torti opened her eyes after a nap on the stone bench by our pond and stared down our hound mutt.  Then stretched out her paw and leisurely extended her claws – just a lazy threat before closing her eyes and going back to her nap.  The hound decided she wasn’t going to be any fun to chase and that was the end of that. 

Tortellini remained the Eternal Feline Matriarch.  She ate out of her own bowl at feeding time – occasionally allowing one of her children to share her bowl.  At other times she would smack their intruding whiskers, reminding them that she was still THE Cat Queen.  Her children, even as adults, sought her attention.  She continued to bathe, caress and reprimand them as she chose. 

Tortellini wore an old face all the years I knew her.  Her eyes always seemed tired but wise to the ways of the world.  I sensed she had seen things and been places that were not nice, not pleasant, not good.  I liked to think she was happy living on our corner.  Sometimes I felt that she could look right into my soul.  It was as comforting as it was unnerving.  I believe she came to 119 West Judd Street because I invited her, because I needed a cat.  And she kept her end of the bargain.  The squirrels stopped knocking on our windows and demanding we fill the bird feeders.  In fact, they kept their distance – staying respectfully in their trees and out of our windows.  Her hunting skills diminished the voles that damaged our lawn and kept the number of mice to Zero.  She left us occasional presents – a squirrel’s tail, blue jay feathers, a vole.  We were careful to never let her see us throw these gifts in the trash.  We knew that they were trophies and signs of respect.  We also knew that they were especially precious coming from an old hunter who had known hunger and want. 

I will miss seeing her around in her old haunts – especially those where she languidly soaked up sunlight to warm her orange-brown fur and peer at me from her regal yellow eyes.  I hope she has reincarnated to another of her nine lives — a life in which she doesn’t owe a human being a single thing.  She deserves a good life, a fine life — because she has paid her debt and then some.  

August 2nd, 2013


  1. catterel says:

    Very moving tribute. RIP Torti.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. quiall says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Perhaps she was the one who chose her time. On her terms.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I so hope you are right. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to respond with this very kind thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Celia Hales says:

    Paul and I are cat lovers, too. Good read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to reply. 🙂


  4. heimdalco says:

    I am such a lover of cats & this really resonated with me. We lost our 19 year old cat a few years ago & I KNOW how they become a part of our soul. Your Tortellini was such a special cat … sharing her life & her kittens with you, keeping the squirrels, voles & mice at bay, doing her part to enrich your lives in return for the way you enriched hers. Cats are some of God’s most special creatures, put here I am convinced to show us the joys & blessings of communicating with a member of another species.

    While I know from years of experience (& some really amazing cats) that you can step all over them before they move out of the way, I suspect that your special cat had already passed from this life BEFORE her encounter with your car. She chose to spend her final few minutes in the place where she had known comfort, kindness & love. I also suspect that she chose that place where she expected you to see her to assure you that she KNEW she was home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This response was very kind and it made me weep from the hope that your suspicions are correct. I must confess that I still look for her – even though I know she is gone. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to send such a beautiful response.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You really and truly loved her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. heimdalco says:

      I still look for our Max, too & sometimes I’m sure I see him out of the corner of my eye. He was a 16 pound Himalayan & I miss him so much. We adopted an older shelter cat several months after losing Max. We wanted to give an elderly cat a chance to spend its remaining years knowing love & care & we know Max would have approved because he, too, was a shelter cat. Phoebe is very different from Max but we love her because she is Phoebe. There is no describing how they enrich our lives. I love that poster that says, “Adopting one cat won’t change the world but it will change the world for one cat.” I’d take them all if I could

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Animals enrich our lives more than we can really comprehend, I believe.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Indeed, I did. And I miss her still.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Eileen Clark says:

    Hi Linda, I enjoyed reading your story. It is sad and yet maybe not. You took good care of this cat for a long time and she knew it. I have two cats that are around ten years old and I’m preparing myself now to be ready for when the day comes that one of them dies. I am medicating one of them now for arthritis in her hind legs. You were good for Tortellini. =^..^=

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comforting words. You are very kind

      Liked by 1 person

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