Poyer: Let’s talk cherishing your pets

Columnist Sarah Poyer discusses the impact her cats have had on her and navigating the future without them.Poyer and her cat Sparky share some love. 

Sarah Poyer

Editor’s Note: This piece is a part of the series “Let’s talk.”

This past weekend I got to spend some time with family I do not see very often. My stepmom, Jen, has been a part of my life since I was three years old, and despite some familial changes, I make an effort to see her and talk to her as much as possible. 

This last weekend I got to spend time with Jen and her husband. Jen and I share a love of cats and have had cats in our house since I was very young. When I was about four, we adopted five cats from someone who could no longer take care of them. These five were babies, just about ten weeks old. I helped name all of them. We had Chloe, Cleopatra, Sparky, Q-Tip and Zoey. These cats have been through major life changes with us — the 2008 flood, moving from a house to a condo, moving from a condo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Dubuque, Iowa, and the introduction, as well as the loss of a dog. No matter what has happened, these cats have been a consistency in our lives. 

Only three of the five cats are still with us today; Zoey, Sparky and Q-Tip are now 16 years old. You can see them failing a little bit. The days of running around the house playing with catnip toys have decreased, and the time catching some sleep in a nice sunny spot has increased. Yet, these cats keep trucking along. 

Sparky is my boy. He and I have been best friends since we got him. I could pick him up and throw him over my shoulder, and off we would go. Sparky would purr nonstop for me. He loved to lay his head on my shoulder, and we would explore the house together. Two years ago, Sparky was diagnosed with diabetes, and at the time, we had no idea what that meant for our time with him. Despite the challenges Sparky has endured, he is still the most loving boy ever. 

Sparky has endured a shot twice a day for the past two years. I know a lot of people who are diabetic and have the utmost respect for them. Sparky went from getting his shots once a year to being poked twice a day by people who were not medically trained. We learned with him, and he was very patient with us- letting us learn along the way, showing us compassion and love no matter what is Sparky’s forte. 

I walked into the house on Monday and saw him lying in the hallway catching up on his mid-morning snooze. I picked him up to just hold him, not knowing how much longer I would be able to do that. He started purring so loud and leaning into me as if to say he was giving me a hug and enjoying our time together. I made sure to give him lots of pets and kisses while I got to hold him. Despite being allergic to cats (a really unfortunate turn of events for me), I will never forget to give my boy kisses whenever I see him. 

On the drive back home from Dubuque, I got to thinking about our cats. I was four when we got them, and I am now 20, almost 21. That means my kitties are 16 going on 17. The oldest cat I have ever had was 17; he was my mom’s boy, Baxter. I remember his loss being so hard because, for my mom, he was her baby. She had him longer than she had me (at the point of his passing). So, I began thinking about my kitties and how long we have had them. 

I do not really remember life before we got these cats. Sparky, Q-Tip, Zoey and Cleopatra (who just passed this summer) have been a constant in my life for so many years. They have seen me grow up and witnessed me through many hardships, yet they continued to love me despite this. And when they moved to Dubuque, and I got older, our visits became less frequent, yet every time they see me, we get to have some good snuggle time. They did not care that time had passed between our visits; they were just excited to see me. 

As I was thinking about this, I began to ugly cry. I could not fathom living in a world where I would be without these kitties. Cleopatra’s passing this summer really made this sink in for me: I would eventually have to navigate my life without these happy fluffballs to greet me. My ugly cry lasted for a good long while because I do not want to live without these cats. They are amazing and have endured so much change yet have forgiven us every single time for putting them through it. 

During my ugly cry, I began running through all of my memories with the cats. I knew that someday these would be the only tangible things I would have of these guys. My little friends who are always excited to see me will sooner rather than later no longer be earth-side with me. That breaks my heart despite knowing that when it is their time, we cannot hold onto them any longer. We need to let them go onto their next great unknown. 

I wholeheartedly believe whenever I go onto my next great unknown; I will be reunited with these guys and all of the pets I have had. I will get a joyous reunion with meowing, barking pets, and lots of tears. When we have to say goodbye to them earth-side, that reunion will make me quite excited. 

Now, as I finish this up, I am currently ugly crying again. Because no matter how much time we have with someone, it is never enough. We have gotten at least 16 years with these guys, but I selfishly want them to live forever. 16 years will be too little time; I want 30 years of pets with them. 

You never know when the last time you will give your furry friend a kiss will be. For me, Monday could have very well been the last time I got to give Sparky a kiss. So, make those pets and kisses count. Let them know you love them, hold onto memories and let them distract you from your homework for a little longer. They may not be here forever, but to them, you are forever there.