Becky got Ruby shortly before we met. When she got him from the Humane Society, they estimated his age at 2 years old and said he was a girl. So she named the cat Ruby and bought a sparkly red collar and started calling the cat Ruby the Girl Pimp Kitty. When it came time for Ruby to get fixed they looked at the undercarriage and let us know the cat was actually a male, but by then the name Ruby had already stuck and it never seemed anything but right. Becky and I had a rocky few months early on in our relationship as I struggled with the transition from layabout immature 20-something yahoo to a stable 30-year-old with a job, a car, and (eventually a house and kids all within a year or so of meeting) and when I would run off and stick my head in the sand, Ruby comforted Becky and when I returned, he forgave me.
Ruby, while soft and loving, was quite possibly the dumbest animal I’ve ever encountered. We had to have him declawed in the front because he couldn’t figure out how to retract his claws. I have a scar on my wrist and my chest from holding him when the door bell would ring and he’d get his claws stuck in my shirt or a blanket and he’d just start flailing around. His favorite past time was staring at the wall. We’ve long suspected that he was abused before he made his way to us, but boy was he a weird cat. He loved spaghetti and chicken wings the most and we ended up feeding him the same food as the dog because he hated cat food. He made weird noises all the time and growled if you tried to steal his food. When Stewie came along, he picked up a lot of his traits as well and ended up being more like a dog than a cat. Stewie and Ruby always had a loving and brotherly relationship. They’d fight and bite at each other during the day, then cuddle and groom each other and share a bed at night.
When the kids came along, Spenser took to Stewie and couldn’t have cared less about the cat. Same with Natalie. But Holly adored that cat. She had a bit of a weird relationship with him in that she sometimes loved him too much and would try and hold him too long or keep him in her room when he didn’t want to be there and such. But we all knew her heart was in the right place and the cat seemed to return her love more than with the rest of us, whom he merely tolerated.
Along the way he peed all over our carpets, turned our basement into a waste disposal facility, and became part of the family. A few years ago, bored with life inside, he decided he wanted to be an outdoor cat and started going outside in the mornings during the summer and would return in the evening, knocking on the sliding door for us to let him in. A lot of the time he just hung out in our yard, either under the deck or behind the shed, but other times he’d disappear completely and we would laugh to ourselves and wonder what kind of adventures he’d been up to. Once, I even saw him sleeping on the neighbor’s pool deck.
He was a pretty cat, who was always soft and never had any medical problems. The only money we ever had to spend on him aside from food, treats, and new beds once in a while, was the one summer he got fleas and we had to buy the expensive flea medicine. But it worked and even at the end, he spared us from having to make any sorts of hard decisions and just passed away peacefully at the vet’s office right before they did anything that would have cost us money.
I think we’re all still in shock how quickly it happened. Even though he was old, at least 14 and the vet thought maybe even 15 or 16, he never acted old. Sure he didn’t jump up on counters or doors like he used to, but that’s about it. Then a few days ago Becky noticed he’d lost some weight and seemed to be breathing funny. But he was eating and drinking and didn’t seem to be in any pain so we went camping for the weekend. When we got back, we noticed both the weight loss and the breathing were more pronounced and called the vet. Everything I looked up online indicted we were in for a rough diagnosis. It was likely fluid on the lungs due to heart disease, but we hoped the vet could give us some medicine to clear his lungs and buy us more time to prepare for his eventual death due to the heart issue. The whole day though he seemed determined to get outside and go somewhere to pass away. My big fear was that he’d end up somewhere we couldn’t find him and never be able to say our final goodbyes. But Natalie and Holly were able to have a picnic with him in the backyard and then he chilled on the couch with Becky until it was time to go to the vet.
He meowed a few times at the vet while we waited, seemingly trying to tell us something, and then when we took him out of his carrier for the tech to examine him, he flopped over and he was gone. That quickly he was gone and I felt awful because I had told the kids we’d be bringing him home to start preparing for him to eventually pass away. Becky’s parents brought the kids up to the vet’s office and the staff there were amazing. They gave us a private room to say our goodbyes and spend some time comforting each other. Holly, of course, had the hardest time. Natalie kept wondering when Ruby would get better and once she realized he wasn’t going to get better she cried because she didn’t have a cat anymore, not so much because of this specific cat dying. Spenser was an emotional wreck as well, but this was virtually the same reaction he had when we told him George Washington wasn’t alive anymore when he was little. He’s just an emotional raw wire.
Tonight we’re celebrating Ruby’s life and burying him in our backyard where he liked to hang out. We’ll eat all of his favorite foods and tell stories and share pictures and bawl ourselves silly.
Rest in peace, Ruby. We’ll miss you.
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has reached out and had nice things to say about this rough time in our lives. I did not expect it to hit me this hard. Last night we had Ruby’s funeral/celebration and it was a lot of fun. We had spaghetti and I grilled chicken wings and we all joked about how much easier it was to eat without the cat getting on the counter and messing things up. And then we buried him and that was okay. Becky read this post and we all cried and it seemed to be fine. Then later that evening I saw a plate of chicken bones on the counter and almost lost it. I went outside to look at the spot in the yard where we buried him and suddenly the finality of it all hit me. He’s gone. He will always be gone. This is the first pet I’ve ever had this long and had die on me. We had two dogs when I was younger, but my parents took them back after a couple of years each and I was mostly too young to remember it. But even though this was Becky’s cat, I was with him for twelve years and the loss hurts. This whole thing just sucks.