By January 22, 2010Blog

I spent a summer in the Midwest a handful of years ago.  I would go over to my friend Neil’s house, to watch television or hang out.  There were cats everywhere.  Mad white cats that would get you stitches if you so much as looked at them wrong.  Accident-prone black cats that skulked in the yard.  Cats in the attic.  Cats in the library.  I tried to count how many cats were in the house several times, and failed.
   One day while visiting, a tiny ball of fur came creeping out of the shadows towards me.  I was sitting on the floor somewhere in the house, doing nothing in particular, and the fur pile crept cautiously closer and closer.  She was a new cat I hadn’t seen before, and I was fairly sure I’d seen all the cats in the house. She crawled into my lap, situated herself into a comfy mound, and proceeded to make a noise like a lawnmower.  
 After that day, any time I was in the house, she would hear me, come out of hiding, and try to affix herself to my lap.  If I wandered around the house she would follow me.  Neil told me her name was Zoe, and she hated strangers.  Whenever a car sounded in the yard– usually a UPS truck– Zoe would vanish back into whatever shadow she had come out of.
I was told she had arthritis in her back legs, and wasn’t as agile as the other cats.  The arthritis had gotten so bad at one point, she’d had a titanium joint put in one of them.  “The doctor said the options were to amputate, or give her a titanium joint,” Neil told me.  “Any other cat and she’d only have three legs.”
And I got it.  Because she was the sweetest, most human cat I’d ever met: she was brimming with unconditional affection and none of the haughty indifference that was trademark to other cats.


At the end of the summer I moved to Los Angeles, and a few months later I got a phone call.  Zoe had come down with an infection and had to eat special food– only the other cats weren’t letting her anywhere near her bowl.  Neil had taken to keeping her in own room, but at this rate, they were going to have to give her away.  “Do you want Zoe to come live with you?” Neil asked.
And I did.  
Any other cat and I would have said no.
My friend Kitty brought her to me by plane.  Zoe was so delirious I swore she didn’t have long to live, and joked that I was operating as a hospice home for cats.  I lived in a tiny studio the size of a broom closet, and when I walked from one corner of the apartment to the other, Zoe would follow me, glued to my leg, lost and nervous.
Gradually, she grew healthier and more confident.  She became Zoe the amazing barnacle kitty.  When people visited, she insistently crawled into their laps to cuddle.  She would not move from her chosen perch, even when the object of her affection had stood up to go– she would purr in denial, clinging ever tighter as the lap became a ninety-degree incline.
She only hid when she heard a UPS truck in the street.
She spent most nights sleeping on my face.   I should probably mention, I’m terribly allergic to cats.
I fell desperately in love with her.  It was the first time I’d lived alone, but I wasn’t alone really, because I had this cat-shaped flood of love and affection with me.
I found out yesterday she’s dying. Tomorrow I go to see her to say goodbye.  And it’s harder than I ever would have expected.

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  • ansi

    My hearts goes out to you, Zoe, and all the rest of Zoe’s chosen family. Bless your souls.

  • http://sandman-chronicles.blogspot.com Stratos

    Be brave for her – read about Zoe and you in Neil’s blog. Thinking about all of you so much today. Hugs from Greece.

  • Jo

    I don’t know you at all but when I first read about Zoe last year I thought she sounded like the best cat in the world – and she’s so cute in the pictures!
    My own cat got ill and had to be put down a few years ago, he was 14. I still miss him and like you, I wasn’t living with him – he was living with my big brother in another country. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m glad you get to. I’m so sorry.

  • http://blog.rachelcotterill.com Rachel Cotterill

    I’m so sorry to hear this. It was lovely of you to adopt her (or accept that she adopted you!).

  • Cris

    Hi Olga,
    you did make me cry as it’s too sad a story… I know what it means as I had a cat like that too, a little piece of you goes away with them and I am not being tragic!
    Good courage and a big kiss to Zoe the brave cat!

  • http://wumplekins.etsy.com wumples

    My family lost our cat AND our dog this past year, suddenly and shockingly. I know how hard this is, and all my love and good thoughts go to you and your sweet furry girl.

  • http://www.margomusing.blogspot.com Marjorie

    I’m so sorry for you, and all of Zoe’s humans. I read about her on Q’s blog, and she sounds such a lovely cat.
    I hope in time it will be a comfort to know that she had a life in which she was loved and cared for, and that she has been able to be at home with people she loves, now that it is ending.

  • http://shakingthetree.wordpress.com amanda

    This is beautiful.
    She is beautiful.
    Vaya con dios… to you both.

  • http://themusesmusic.com Tanya Brody

    I am an old friend of Lorraine’s. I am sorry to hear about your kitty. She looks and sounds beautiful. I am glad she found humans who understand her in this life and didn’t just decide she was some sort of “cat freak” but allowed her to be her.
    When the time comes, I offer this poem, which I found on the “cat” side of my vet’s office. Written by one of the patrons there.
    And God asked the feline spirit
    Are you ready to come home?
    Oh yes, quite so, replied the precious soul.
    And as a cat, you know I am able to decide most anything for myself.
    Are you coming then? asked God
    Soon replied the whiskered angel
    But I must come slowly
    For my human friends are troubled
    For you see, they need me quite certainly.
    But don’t they understand? asked God
    That you’ll never leave them?
    That your souls are intertwined? For all eternity?
    That nothing is created or destroyed?
    It just is…forever and ever?
    Eventually they will understand
    Replied the glorious cat
    For I will whisper into their hearts
    That I am always with them
    I just am… Forever and ever and ever

  • http://grrkki.blogspot.com grakki

    I have been following this visa Neil and Lorrain on Twitter, and I just found myself tearing up. I know the pain of losing pets, two dogs in two years, and also had an adoptive cat called puddle for a while 18 months ago – she was wonderful, unkept and unloved. When ever she came to have a cuddle and sit, she peeed. On me. But she too just wanted and gave love and affection. My thoughts are with you all this weekend – Miss Zoe is a very lucky girl to have humans that care and love her so. She is blessed as she has blessed you.

  • Clara

    Stopping by to offer hugs from me, headbutts and purrs from my Minions of Chaos and Destruction.

  • phoebesmum

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve had to say goodbye to too many cats over the year, but the one I miss the most was the Phoebe-cat who loved me as much as I loved her. All cats are special, but some are more special than others, and Zoe, clearly, was another such one.

  • Tati Mil

    I’m so sorry… I have two cats of my own and can’t bear the thought that one day they won’t be with me anymore, but it’s the sad truth. Pets aren’t supposed to go away like that. Zoe is very lucky to have so many people who love her.

  • http://lady-deirdre.livejournal.com LadyD

    From what you and Mr. Gaiman tell, Zoe obviously received as much love and affection as she gave, from all who came to know her. I am sorry she will not be with you much longer.
    I wish you strength, and many pettings to Zoe, for as long as you still can.

  • http://landismom.wordpress.com landismom

    A beautiful story, sorry it is ending this way. I hope that you can take some comfort from being able to say goodbye in person.

  • http://netmouse.livejournal.com/600337.html Anne KG Murphy

    So hard to let go of such sweetness. I’ll be thinking of you both.

  • http://dogwoodtales.blogspot.com neil h

    I am so sorry for your loss. These pesky creatures have a way of getting under our skin and into our hearts. My old cat Biddy was very like Zoe – she was never happier than when she had made her way onto my lap, sometime without me even noticing she was there. At the end, she was blind and very poorly, but she went peacefully when it suited her. It’s been three years, and I still miss her.
    You were lucky to have Zoe, and she was lucky to have you.

  • Jill

    I’m sorry, Olga. I’ve been crying since yesterday about Zoe, and I don’t even know her. I know it’s much worse for you and Neil and Lorraine and Zoe’s other family.
    A few years ago, the vet told me my beloved cat Tommy had a huge tumor in his stomach, and I just felt the world fall away from beneath me. I let him go a couple hours later and was grateful to be there at the end. I know you will be as well.
    Blessings to you and to Zoe.

  • http://beingadilettante.wordpress.com/ Amy!

    I’m so sorry. She’s a beautiful kitty, and it sounds like as much as she enriched your life, you all gave her a good one in return.

  • Carole

    *hugs* so sad about Zoe. Been there many times with my own wee beasties. Never gets any easier but you just can’t not love them with all your heart when they love you back so much.

  • HeidiAphrodite

    I’m remembering and loving all that cats I’ve had the privilege to know over the years. Isn’t it wonderful to find love and affection with an eccentric little furry bundle of claws and purrs? I have such good memories of all of them. You, Mr. Gaiman, everyone who loves Zoe, and the sweet kitty herself are all in my thoughts.

  • http://rejectedreality.com Andi

    I am so sorry to hear about Zoe. My heart goes out to you, and Neil, and Kyle Cassidy, and everyone else who has known and loves this beautiful cat.

  • http://www.conservatorscenter.org mstinner

    We have a wildlife facility with over 100 residents. They come from everywhere, needing everything, and we do our best to provide it. When I get stressed, I go visit them to remember why I am here. They are my children and best friends. Even among them, a few are special. I treasure every moment with them, and never get used to losing them. I consider it a great curse to be constantly outliving my dearest companions, and yet I would never trade the love I have for them in exchange for not feeling such pain when I lose them. It is a gift to have the time to say goodbye, and Neil is right to come join you. It is rare to have a connection to another living being that is on that level… Remember and celebrate how tremendous it was to share Zoe’s life. She helped make you who you are. Keep all the best parts of her with you always.

  • http://Nobarcodepress.com Fran

    I am happy that you have had the honour of the love of this, by all accounts, amazing and wonderful cat. I am equally sad for you now, in the inevitability of saying goodbye. But, the love stays with you …

  • Katherine

    You are all in my thoughts. Zoe looks so much like my Sophie (lost 5 years ago) it makes my heart ache. I’m so glad you get to see her once more.

  • J’wyl

    My Beesh (ever shortened from Ishtar), left me last year about this time. She was a little more aggressive than Zoe, but she was the perpetual lap cat of love. If there was a lap, she found it and sat in it. She was so small and quiet that many times you would suddenly discover she was in your lap, without knowing when/how she got there. I miss her a lot, but she was 21.5 and it was just time. I have cried for you and Neil and Zoe this day. Sending comforting hugs to you all.

  • Sarah

    I am also horribly allergic to cats, yet sleep with one on my head every night. Keegan is 13, with failing kidneys. I already wonder how I will fall asleep without his purrs rattling through my brain.
    My heart breaks for you and Zoe. I hope the day comes quickly when you can remember her with more laughter than tears.

  • http://chaoskitten82.wordpress.com dani

    I know how hard this can be. I had a cat from the time i was 2 til 19 (17 years!). His name was Hobbes. He was my buddy. He accompanied me through boyfriends, breakups, high school and figuring out who I was as a young woman. I still cry when I remember him. Animals can steal a very special place in our hearts that is impossible to ever get back. Remember the cuddles and the good times.

  • http://www.shantybellum.blogspot.com Elodie Pritchartt

    I’m so very sorry to hear about Zoe. Keeping you and Neil both in my thoughts and heart today.

  • Patricia Ferreira

    I can feel your sorrow, believe me, and wish you peace and strength to go through one of the most difficult times of your life.

  • S.E. Ford

    Zoe will be so glad you came to see her. I bet she missed you. She deserves a warm lap and a long head scratch. So sad to think you two can’t hang together longer though. Sorry for you and Neil.
    We just lost our boy and I miss him – his favorite things to do was drink out of water glasses, eat at the table and get stretched (Place cat over both arms, move arms away from sides, cat is stretched into super cat position:-) Those are the memories that keeps me smiling. Big Hug.

  • Shellygirl

    They come, these little fur people, and leave paw prints on our hearts that will never fade.
    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Peter Colley

    Cry for her. Above all remember the good times in the months to come. Sorry for you and Neil.

  • Rhonda

    I am so sorry for you and Neil. I have cried every time I read a new update. Pathetic, I know, but she reminds me of my Tigger. She died of cancer 3 years ago and it still tears me up. My heart goes out to you…

  • Webbthistle

    So very sorry, Olga. Your love for Zoe is so very evident in your post. I will be thinking of Zoe, you, Neil and all others who consider her a special friend.
    And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

  • Beth

    I’m so sorry. I’m glad the two of you found each other for awhile though.

  • Scott

    So very sorry for your loss – they wrap their paws around our hearts so tightly

  • Kim L

    Dear Olga, my deepest sympathies on Zoe’s illness. I’m glad you’re able to go home & say good bye to her. She sounds like such a treasure. All best wishes to you, in your grief & love.

  • MLR

    I’m so terribly sorry. They could live for 50 years and it still wouldn’t be enough.

  • http://www.narrellemharris.com Narrelle

    Hi Olga. I’ve been reading about you and Zoe on Neil’s blog. So obviously we don’t know each other. But my cat Petra is, like your Zoe, a cat-shaped flood of love and I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. I know Zoe will leave being flooded with love in return, which is little comfort I guess, but I hope it’s something.
    I’m going to go hug my cat now, and flood some love back at her for a while.
    My thoughts are with you, Neil and Zoe.

  • david mchale

    Nearly 10 years ago, my sister found a stray cat in a desolate neighborhood. It occured to us that Zoe, as we named her, was going to have kittens. The only cat that ever took a liking to me was her daughter, Lilly. Since then, I have buried Zoe with dignity and love, while Lilly lives on.
    Many issues of Neil’s Sandman were read with Lilly in my lap, with Zoe’s blinking approval.
    It’s that sort of thing, those clear memories, that keeps our hearts full. I offer you sympathy from that place.
    I’m glad to have learned about your Zoe.

  • eudae

    i’m sitting at my desk, tears trickling down my face thinking how lucky you are to have had Zoe in your life and, likewise, how lucky she is to have found so many wonderful people who love her so much in return. these fuzzy loves do break our hearts, don’t they? thankfully they are well worth the heartache.
    i have stood where you are standing now, and I send you all my sympathy and support.

  • Susan

    Oh Olga, I am crying all over again, reading this after Neil telling us yesterday. What an amazing bundle of love she is. I am glad you will be able to get there to see her, and be there for her, and very, very sad for when you will have to let her go. I know you don’t know me, but my thoughts will be with Zoe, and you, and Neil, and all the people that love her so much.
    You may get this twice as I am having trouble telling if your site will accept it.

  • Katrina

    All I can offer are virtual hugs and sympathy, from a stranger and fellow cat-loved person. Here from your friend Neil’s journal. I’m so sorry.

  • http://ladyblue56.livejournal.com/ Dee


  • Deb

    I lost my cat Chloe 4 days ago after 17 years of her being my baby. She was also very ill in her last couple days and I had the vet come to the house and put her to sleep…one week earlier than you and Neil are doing for Zoe.
    It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and my heart goes out to you, because I know exactly what you’re going through. She was truly a part of my family and my best friend. I am grieving so much for my little friend right now, although I know she’s not suffering anymore. I will always miss her.
    Prayers to you and the Gaimans and Zoe.

  • Jill

    I’m glad you’re getting a chance to say goodbye. My cat died from the same ailment. These little creatures get under our skin in ways that no human being could ever hope to duplicate. My thoughts are with you and Neil and all those who love Zoe.

  • Becca Lee

    Just another stranger, here from the blog of a certain Mr. Gaiman, offering my love and support.
    The second of two beloved 20-year-old cats left us just before Christmas; like Zoe, our Panther was a bundle of unconditional love for her humans, as was her brother, Dylan. We’ll be holding all of you in our thoughts.

  • http://saraplayshouse.com Sara Plays House

    Your Zoe looks like my cat Sushi. Astonishingly so. We lost Sushi last week after a fight with diabetes.
    Other random thing? My daughter’s name is Zoe.
    I’m so sorry for your impending loss, but I’m so happy for you that you can say goodbye.

  • Jess

    My condolences to you. There’s nothing to say that helps, but I’m sure Zoe knew how she was loved.
    I lost my Best Beloved one-and-a-half years ago. I’m still shocked to remember there’s been a world without him so long – he filled it up so very much.
    On Saturday, my grandfather lost Edelweiss, his first and only cat. He couldn’t speak for days, and we avoid waking him up because he sees her in his dreams. The loss is still so new that he cries when he wakes up and finds her gone.
    The only comfort in each case was that both cats knew they were completely loved. They knew it was time to go and went.
    It’s easy to assure someone else that their pet was happy, but in time, even for the best of cats, that becomes something you can remember for them – they passed through their lives happily thanks to you and the others who loved them so.
    Please send this to anyone else who loved and loves Zoe. It won’t help now, but maybe later it will.

  • http://nobubblegum.blogspot.com The Raisin Girl

    I’m a reader of Mr. Gaiman’s blog visiting to read about Zoe. She sounds like such an amazingly sweet cat. My heart goes out to you and Zoe, and Neil and all the other people who’ll miss Zoe. She’s lucky to have so many people to take care of her and love her.

  • arkviste

    Have been reading about Zoe on Neil’s blog. The latest pics there break my heart and remind me of my cat who died after an illness two years ago. I hope that you have some good comfort time with her. Cats know when they are loved and she clearly is.

  • http://fishberryjam.blogspot.com/ fishberryjam

    I heard about you, and she, through neil’s twitter.
    I am so sorry … this post made me cry 🙁 I’ve had kitty loves like this and know how awful the pain can be

  • Barbara

    This made me cry. I’m sorry to hear this news.

  • Jennifer

    Greetings Olga,
    I came (like many others) to your blog via Neil Gaiman. I’m so sorry for your upcoming journey to the underworld. It sounds like you and Zoe were blessed by each other, and you had me laughing from the mental image of a cat that insists, purring, on being on a vertical lap.
    I’ve loved and lost a dear cat, and nothing makes it easier. My thoughts are with you and Zoe.
    Much love.

  • Nic

    I came here from Neil’s journal and just wanted to say that your words brought me to tears. I’m so sorry to read about Zoe. I have cats of my own and would hate to lose any of them.
    My thoughts are with you, Neil and anyone else who will miss Zoe.

  • Kiki

    I read Zoe’s love story over at Neil. This is how I found you.
    I have fluff monsters myself and lost three of them.
    It’s hard. It hurts. It made me cry, like so many other here.
    I’m so sorry:-(

  • Kay

    I’m so sorry for your loss but celebrate the good life you had with Zoe. She’s an unforgettable girl. I’m certain she will continue with you and Neil in spirit. (Mine do with me although I admit I’d so much rather have them right here.)

  • jenne

    I am so happy that you get to stay with zoe before she has to go. after reading so much about her the past few days, it warms my heart to know she’ll be able to have all her loved ones with her before she goes on to her next life.
    however, i am so sorry that everyone has to say goodbye to her.

  • http://wallflowerwriter.vox.com Starshadow Rivaulx

    Dear Ms. Olga,
    I found you via Mr. Neil’s blog, and ever since I discovered about Zoe, tears have never been far from the surface every time I hear about her.
    As the “mother” to many cats over the years, I am familiar with losing them; be it through old age, misadventure or illness. I can relate with how hard it will be to let go of Zoe.
    But one so loved as her will surely find a way to keep watching over you all. My sympathies and heartfelt prayers go with you.

  • http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/ Bookfool, aka Nancy

    I’ve just been leaping around the internet, reading about Zoe in various places. I’m so sorry. I just lost my cat a week ago. She was a sweet, cuddly, chatty, loving, gentle creature. I hope Zoe goes easily, when the time comes. Prayers and thoughts to you as you say goodbye.

  • Chris Reynolds

    I’ve been reading this sad news in Neil’s blog, and I’ve cried for all of you. I lost my four-footed “brother” to something like this last summer, so I understand what you’re going through. My love and prayers and sympathies.
    And I’m so glad you’re going to say goodbye to her. You’ll always be glad that you did.

  • Danna

    Have been reading about Zoe on Neil Gaiman’s blog. My spouse and I lost our cat Nocchi last July. He was 19 and had been in failing health for several years. We loved him and he loved us. We made sure that as the vet put him down we let him know what he meant to us and snuggled him as best we could.
    You and Neil and Zoe’s other companions are making her last days on earth caring, loving and gentle. That is the best thing you can do and Zoe will always know how much you cared and how much love was sent to her. Bright blessings as Zoe makes her journey across the Rainbow Bridge and as you and the rest of her companions begin to learn to live life without her daily presence.

  • Samantha

    I follow Neil on Twitter and it broke my heart to hear about Zoe. I have 5 cats and adore every one of them, much like you with Zoe. I lost my first cat, Lolly, in much the same way. It was so very hard to say goodbye, but I have pictures, videos, and terrific memories of her. I also lost another cat 2 years ago. He was only a year old and that was even harder because it was sudden and there was nothing we could do. I recently read Neil’s blog and was in total tears. I wish I could give Zoe a cuddle. Her personality sounds so much like my “kids” and that breaks my heart even more. Having read your blog…I just want to send my thoughts to you all. It’s a hard thing to do, but you’ll always have the memories. Remember to be thankful that she was in your life. I’m thankful for mine everyday. They’ve gotten me through a lot and I learned loads about myself just by having them here.
    It’s going to mean a lot to her to have you there.
    Hugs and support to you all.

  • carol cooper

    My heart goes out to you. I have lost cats prematurely too, either to misadventures with imprudent neighbors, or to thyroid disease. It always hurts. But you are especially brave to sit with her to the end. Bless you both.

  • http://giroscopiotornasol.blogspot.com Marcela Vargas Reynoso

    I have been reading about Zoe on Neil’s blog, and a link over there brought me to your post. I lost my 13 and a half year old dog last Thursday; she had gone through a lot and we just couldn’t bare that she was suffering so much. She had cancer, but to her last minute she remained a fierce, strong dog. She even tore away the muzzle the vet had put on her so she wouldn’t rip his hands away.
    The point is… I know too well how you are feeling right now. I’m happy you’ll get a chance to say goodbye to Zoe. My love and best wishes for you in these sad times.

  • http://www.flickr.com/liadomingues Lia Domingues

    Oh, Olga… So sorry…
    I think internet is crying with you, dear…
    I believe that these beloved sweeties will become better beings in the next reincarnation.
    ‘Cause love leave special marks, and I’m pretty sure one day you’ll recognize Zoe’s thru it.

  • the one

    sniff… you were lucky to have found each other. it’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s good you have nice memories of the love you had for each other.

  • Les

    You, Neil and Zoe have my sympathy and love during this heartbreaking time I remember so well. My Pixel was one of those “Forever Pets” who attached herself to my allergy impaired life from her infancy (hence the name, Pixel; that was her size when we got her) until she died four years ago. There were and are animals in our lives constantly and all are loved to one degree or another but some animals, like some people, have personalities that transcend the usual limitations of their species. My Pixel was one; it seems she had a twin in Zoe.
    I hope Zoe’s farewell will be painless enough for her to give you that comfort and that you will eventually have joy in the memories of her life with you. And I’ll message the Potential Palace of Cat-Afterlife and ask Pixel to look after Zoe.