Buttons, 2003 – 2019

This is the latest in the continuing series of me saying goodbye to things I love.

This morning, I had to say goodbye to the cat who changed my life.

Nearly seventeen years with Buttons makes writing this eulogy tough, both in terms of quantity of stories and deepness of the pain. Specific, funny anecdotes about him are scattered across my archives, in way too much detail (as was my old writing style). I’ve written plenty about his quirks and the silly moments he gave us. What I haven’t ever described well is what a genuine, loving creature he turned out to be.

I grew up in a household that only ever owned dogs. My parents were crazy about setters, and through my childhood, my only interaction with a cat would be at a friend’s house. Given that I had never taken care of one, they were foreign and curious.

Buttons came into our lives in May of 2003 when he jumped into Katie’s arms at the Ithaca SPCA. We knew instantly, as did he, that we were going to get along well. One look from those big moon eyes turned us into cat people.

He was attentive, not aloof. He’d walk me to the door as I was leaving most mornings. I would find him always waiting at or near the door when I got home. He’d be downright chatty, to the point that I could carry on a faux conversation by treating every “wow?!” as his half of our complex dialog.

He was a snuggler. He got very used to covering me diagonally, from my right shoulder across my chest, as I tried to sleep or read. Eventually, I would learn to get in position for this – and he would know that me climbing into bed was time to snuggle with his dad. He had an intensely loud purr, which is the closest I’ve ever been to feeling ASMR. He would always manage to find some way to perfect nestle in with Katie while she slept, no matter what arrangement of pillows / blankets / angles. He would happily climb into the lap of any house guest we had over, charming them instantly.

He loved to explore. He may have flooded an apartment during his adventures under a sink. He famously found his way into a dead space between kitchen cabinets the day we moved to Jersey City. He would come up with elaborate paths to climb and climb and climb, ending on top of stove hoods and book cases. He learned how to open closet doors.

Between adventures, he loved to watch the world. In Astoria, he loved to hang in our window sills, taking in the energy of northwestern Queens. In Jersey City, he frequently had a view of the New York Bay, and seemed to love watching the boats go around. He would find any pocket of sunlight and soak it up for as long as he could. We’d make sure he had comfy windowsills to lounge in.

Despite his unclear origins — we never got a conclusive answer about whether his nubbin tail was caused by genetics or an early-life accident – he routinely had a great bill of health. He wasn’t picky about food or cat litter. He was a worry-free and low maintenance pet 99% of the time.

He had a sense for when we were sad, or mad, or sick, or in pain. He would do his best to intervene and make things better. He always did.

He constantly was loved, and made us feel loved in equal strength. My heart hurts so much today because he had made it so big, so full.

Through him, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple joys found in daily routines. A chatty companion at the door. A snuggle at bedtime. A quiet day in the sun. It’s these quiet moments that I will miss the most with him. He was my anchor, a source of stability in an unstable world.

He left the world painlessly, covered in kisses and tears from his cat parents. He will be missed forever.