My husband and I had to say goodbye to our kitty Leo last week.
We are heartbroken, but it was Leo’s time to go. He had lived a long life–we think about 15 years–and his health had been declining recently.
Last week we realized that keeping him here with us any longer wasn’t doing him any good and was just sparing us the pain of being without him. So we said goodbye.
I have been reflecting on Leo’s life and his time with us, and I realized how much he taught me. So I thought I would tell you a little about him and the lessons I learned from him.
We met Leo a few years after we moved into our house. At that time, we thought he belonged to our neighbors who called him Baby Kitty, as he often hung out at their house, and we frequently saw him in their driveway or their window.
One day, our neighbors moved away, and we discovered they had not taken Leo (or Baby Kitty) with them. We realized he was a stray kitty that our neighbors had sometimes fed and sheltered in their house.
We were concerned for him, and so we started leaving food for him on our doorstep. He promptly took up residence outside our house and became our adopted outdoor kitty.
He was skittish around us at first, but slowly we made friends with him, and he eventually let us pick him up.
It was winter and was cold and rainy out, and we really wanted Leo to come indoors with us, but he was not interested. So we kept feeding him and snuggling outside with him when we could.
Spring and Summer came, and Leo became a permanent fixture around our house. One day, my husband was landscaping, and Leo hung out with him most of the day as his landscaping buddy. John and Leo became especially close after that.
One day soon after this, tragedy struck.
A neighbor dog got loose and attacked Leo in front of our house.(Note: There is one picture coming up that shows some of Leo’s wounds. It is not too graphic, but you can definitely tell he was hurt.)
My husband heard the dog attack Leo and rushed outside, just in time to stop the attack and save Leo.
I vividly remember John bringing Leo inside in his arms. I got a towel and cradled Leo while John called our veterinarian.
Leo looked up at me, his eyes wide with terror and his breathing labored. I was certain we were going to lose him that day and began crying.
Miraculously, Leo survived. We took him to the veterinarian who stitched him up, treated his wounds, and gave him antibiotics and fluids.
We borrowed a big, spacious crate from a friend and set it up in my office with a comfy place for Leo to sleep, a shallow litter box, and food.
We brought Leo home, and he took up residence in my office. He officially became our indoor kitty, and we renamed him Leo.
We also have another kitty named Jax (short for Jackson Lebowski). Jax had been an only kitty his whole life, so he was not very excited about having a new addition to the house. But he slowly, and a bit begrudgingly, got used to it.
John and I regularly took turns visiting Leo in my office, as it took him a long time to convalesce in there. We would often bring our laptops in and lay on the floor. Leo would curl up by our necks, and we would watch movies or youtube videos together. (That picture I warned you about is coming up.)
He slowly got better, and John, Jax, Leo, and I became a permanent family.
Leo began to move around more and regain the full use of his leg muscles (front and back), which had been damaged in the dog attack. We were so excited one day when he was able to jump up on my office chair.
We were able to bring him out of my office finally. He loved sleeping on our couch.
Jax remained pretty territorial, so we had to watch Jax and Leo when they were together, but they developed a truce of sorts.
When Leo was much better, Jax would sometimes pounce on Leo, much to our dismay, and bite and kick him. Leo would meow and swat at him, but he never once hurt Jax, even though he was much bigger and probably could have.
It was also around this time that Leo’s sense of humor began to show.
We had to put a gate up in our hallway so that we could safely separate Jax and Leo when we needed to. It was a child safety gate with bars and spaces in between the bars.
When Leo got better, he and Jax started a game we called “Bop the Kitty”, which they usually played at night. They would stand face to face on either side of the gate and reach through and try to bop each other. It got pretty intense sometimes.
The funny thing is that while Leo refused retaliate when Jax sometimes jumped on him, Leo loved playing “Bop the Kitty” behind the safety of the gate. And Leo still never hurt Jax in the game, even though he could have, and even though Jax was certainly a stinker sometimes.
Leo became completely well, and we got to enjoy the full expression of his personality.
He loved to play games.
I remember the first time he ran around the living room chasing a ping pong ball. We were surprised and delighted with how quickly he could run and how much he loved games, despite the dog attack and despite his advancing years.
He was determined, I think, not to let those things get in the way of enjoying life.
He loved taking naps.
He made the cutest little noises while he slept.
He loved his people, and he loved snuggling:
He was also a really loud and expressive little guy.
If he didn’t like his food, or if we were late with it, he would meow loud enough that the neighbors could hear it sometimes. He wasn’t afraid to tell us what he needed.
But he was also just as quick to purr loudly and expressively to let us know he loved and appreciated us.
Leo was one of the bravest, gentlest, funniest, and most loving cats I have ever known, and he taught me a lot. Here are six lessons I learned form him:
One: The world is a dangerous and mean place sometimes, but it is also full of people who want to love you and show kindness to you.
Two: Trust the people who love nature and take care of animals. They’re good folk.
Three: Be gentle, but protect yourself and don’t be afraid to be joyfully boisterous sometimes.
Four: Don’t be afraid to express your needs and don’t be afraid to tell the most important people in your life that you love and appreciate them.
Five: Napping is important. Do it often.
Six: You are never too old to play.
We miss you, Leo, and we will always love you.
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You might also like this post I wrote about Jax and Leo about a year ago.