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April 04, 2005

Rex the Cat, 1991 - 2005


This is admittedly not on the same scale of international importance as the death of the pope, but on the other hand, and no offense to John Paul II, it's more important to me: My cat Rex died either late last night or early this morning. I went to the garage to feed the cats and found him there, next to his little residence (a large pet carrier that we had converted with blankets and other warm things). He lived through 14 years, the last couple not in particularly good health (the picture you see above was him in chubbier days), and there were signs in the last few weeks that it was getting near time. This was not an unexpected exit.

I first met Rex when he was a kitten and the pet of my niece Ashley, who for reasons that are too complicated to go into now had lived with me (as did her mother, my sister) when I first left college and got a job as a film critic in Fresno. I think very early on Rex figured out that I was actually the one paying for his kibble, so he pretty much lived in my room in the apartment, and after my sister and her kids moved out he opted to stay with me.

Thus began a long bachelor association, in which, in typical slob fashion, he and I would each much of the same food, sometimes off the same plate (this might explain why at one point he weighed 30 pounds). He was always a prickly cat -- he really didn't like most people, and at one point he actually tried to kill me by smothering me with his flab (I had put him on a vet-dictated diet, and he disagreed with it) -- but he could also be very affectionate, and it was always very clear to other people and other pets that he was my cat.

And indeed, I can say without hesitation that he is the mammal with whom I had lived the longest: 14 years in a row, which not even my mother or my wife can beat, my mother because I spent a year living with an aunt when I was in kindergarten -- another long story -- and then went to boarding school, and Krissy because, well, we haven't known each other that long yet. Naturally, I fully expect Krissy to take this record from Rex, but it'll stand for a few years yet.

As I mentioned, near the end, Rex was getting wobbly. He'd lost a lot of weight and he was only sporadically continent, a condition which resulted in his general relocation to the garage for his final days; he was allowed in the house, mind you, and took advantage of those times to curl up in the rocking chair in my office or to sit in my lap while I typed, but eventually had to go back to the garage. And in fact, that was how his final day went: Lots of time sleeping in my office and sitting in my lap, and then I carried him out into the garage and said goodnight. In retrospect, I'm sad he didn't spend his last night indoors, but I do know that he was loved right until the end.

I found him this morning, as I said; I put him in a small box as gently as possible and then went up to tell Athena so she wouldn't wonder where he had gone. She took it actually very well, and wanted to see Rex again, so I went ahead and showed him to her. On the way to school Athena asked if Rex was up in cat heaven; I said that if there was indeed a heaven for cats that he was in it, because he had been a good cat. And then we speculated what a cat heaven might be like. I said that it might be someplace where cats had a lot of things to hunt and chase, like mice. Athena noted that this probably wouldn't be heaven for the mice, which is true enough. I suggested that the mice were on staff and that when they got caught, they'd say to their captor "Well, Ted, you got me today. But you won't be so lucky tomorrow!" and then off the mouse would go to his next chase appointment. We agreed that indeed this would be how it worked.

Then I dropped off Athena at school, came back and got Rex, and took him on his final journey to the vet, where he will be cremated. I had the option of having Rex cremated and his ashes disposed of, which is pretty cheap, or having his ashes returned, which is not. I opted for the latter. He was my cat, and he was my friend, and we lived together for a long time. I think I'd like to keep him near me.

Anyway. If you can find time in your thoughts today for my cat, I'd appreciate it. He was a good cat, and his passing deserves to be noted, and he himself deserves to be remembered. I'll miss him.

Posted by john at April 4, 2005 08:54 AM

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This is admittedly not on the same scale of international importance as the death of the pope, but on the other hand, and no offense to John Paul II, it's more important to me. Rex dies aged 14, which is... [Read More]

Tracked on April 4, 2005 05:57 PM

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Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday. I'll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (photoshops at my discretion and humans only in supporting roles). Alert: Friday updates will be m... [Read More]

Tracked on April 8, 2005 04:00 AM


Jill Smith | April 4, 2005 10:05 AM

I am very sorry for your loss.

DARREN | April 4, 2005 10:16 AM

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

SaraS | April 4, 2005 10:26 AM

Sorry to hear about the loss of your cat. One of my good friends just lost her dog after many years (around 13 or 14, I think), and I know it can be very sad.

Kevin Q | April 4, 2005 10:36 AM

Sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a pet is never easy.


Zeynep | April 4, 2005 10:39 AM

Sorry about your loss. I hope Rex is licking the sap from the cream-sap trees in cat heaven right now.

Q | April 4, 2005 11:31 AM

Very sorry for your loss.

I still remember the loss of my first cat... and absolutely dread the thought of losing either of our current 2... they sure get deep in your heart in a hurry.

Bruce Lewis | April 4, 2005 11:53 AM

C.S. Lewis was of the opinion that domesticated animals like cats and dogs might very well have a place in the World to Come due to the transformative power of love. His logic was basically thus: just as human beings are made "more than human" by the love of God and as such gain eternal life, so too might animals be made "more than animal" -- and gain some form of immortality -- by the love of humans, which of course is at its root the love of God as well.

Love transcends Nature, and in the process transcends death as well. After all, it is not in the nature of humans to love in a perfect way; however, by the power of God's love towards us, we can come to love God and our fellowmen in our limited human way, thus transcending our flawed human nature. So too with our animals: it is not in the nature of Cat to love anyone or anything, yet as we all know certain well-loved cats can and do come to love "their" humans in return, in their limited, catlike way. By loving our cats we give them the ability to love us back, and in so doing we give them the ability to transcend the nature of Cat.

To sum up: the love of God makes humans immortal; might not the love of humans lend immortality to the cat? C.S. Lewis thought it possible -- and so do I.

My condolences on the loss of your pet.

tonydismukes | April 4, 2005 11:55 AM

My condolences. I've always been a cat person, so I know how hard the loss can be. Some of our cats are getting up there in age, but fortunately they all seem to still be in good health so far. I don't look forward to the day when one of them gooes.

Lisa | April 4, 2005 12:19 PM

I'm sorry for your loss.

My guide dog Mara died last year. (You may remember her from the million and a half pics of her on my old website.) I, too, opted to have her ashes returned to me. Even though apparently they charge you BY THE POUND, so a 75 lb. labrador was quite expensive compared to a cat. But you gotta do it. We spread her ashes on the beach in the Pacific; one of her favorite places and pretty close to doggy heaven.

Take it easy today, pet losses cause real and serious grief, even though sometimes joked about.

Bill Schafer | April 4, 2005 12:22 PM

Aw, hell, John, I'm so sorry. I lost my best cat, Ozzie, just a year ago, and the pain still swells up whenever I think of him. Ain't it amazing how they stake out territory in our hearts?

E | April 4, 2005 12:31 PM

Poor poor Rex. Sorry for you that he is gone. If he can't keep the mice he catches in cat heaven, I vote that he gets to eat as much people food as he likes and never gets fat. Tacos and Ice cream and cheese!

elizabeth bear | April 4, 2005 12:32 PM

I'm sorry, John. Condolences, and I'm glad he went gently.

Tripp | April 4, 2005 12:35 PM

Very sad. The loss of beloved pets can be very poignant. Because they mean so much to us their passing can be intensely sad. So, yes, I will think of your cat today, as well as some of the dear pets I have lost.

Kate Nepveu | April 4, 2005 12:46 PM

My condolences. As much as I love my dog, there's nothing like a cat dozing on your lap.

JamesG | April 4, 2005 12:58 PM

Sorry to hear about your loss.

jason | April 4, 2005 01:14 PM

Hey John, very sorry to hear about Rex.

I've had a lot of pets over the years -- cats, dogs, birds of various types, horses, even a cow once -- and I know how hard it can be to lose them. They become just like one of the family, at least in my family, and it sounds the same in yours. I send you all my psychic best as you and yours grieve for the loss of your friend. Because that's what pets are: friends. Smaller than us (well, not horses, but you get my idea), furrier than most of us (I'm pretty hairy myself), but friends, nevertheless.

As a sidenote, I really admire how you handled the situation with Athena. I don't know how I'd go about discussing death with a child, and it sounds like you did it just right. She must be a helluva kid.

Joe Rybicki | April 4, 2005 02:36 PM

So sorry to hear of your loss, John. We had to put down our youngest cat just after Christmas last year, and it was incredibly hard. Just think, though--now there's room in your household for you to give another homeless kitty a warm place to live, food to eat, and the benefits of a loving family.

John Scalzi | April 4, 2005 02:59 PM

Yes, and don't think Athena doesn't know it. She's agitating for a bunny. Given that we still have two cats, one of which hunts wild rabbits, I don't know that it would be such a great idea.

Mark Ensley | April 4, 2005 03:01 PM

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss, John.

A toast to Rex! (taps mug of catnip tea against monitor *tink*)

I think House Cat Heaven would be a house with an angelic staff who would provide:

- laps
- perfect scritching
- instant door opening service in or out to a yard of exciting exploring and hunting possibilities, where other cats keep away, unless feeling that "Springtime friskiness"
- no other cats unless they're angelic staff cats who let your cat be Top Cat, or are old friends over for a visit
- tuna, wet food, or people food on plates on the table he can jump up on anytime he wants
- water from the toilet or your glass
- birds and mice and bugs and moths
- fresh catnip garden
- regenerating shreddable furniture and curtains
- edible house plants
- lots of stuff on tables to knock off
- no hairballs, fleas, or similar annoyances
- people bed with people to sleep with or on
- lots of high places to climb up to
- sunbeams well-placed on comfy napping spots
- windows with interesting views

On preview:

Don't think a bunny would be a good idea, either.

Firebyrd | April 4, 2005 03:03 PM

I'm so sorry, John. I've lost plenty of pets before and I know it's rough. They really do become friends and loved ones and it's hard to see them go, even if they haven't been doing well.

Erbo [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 4, 2005 03:45 PM

O Bubastis, Goddess of the Nile, pray keep watch for the arrival of a little gray-and-white cat named Rex, who never scratched or bit without just cause, who was loved by his people, John, Krissy, and Athena, and who returned that love in full measure. Bear him forthwith to the Eternal Catnip Fields, where he may enjoy his well-deserved rest.

(This is the second time I've had to post the "prayer for a departed cat" to a blog's comments in as many weeks...as one of the people owned by two cats, Star and Maui, I am sympathetic to the loss of beloved feline friends.)

Patrick | April 4, 2005 04:39 PM


I'm so sorry to hear about Rex. I love your version of cat heaven with the polite mouse staff. I'm sure he loved you in his own way, even if he did try to smother you once. Who hasn't, after 14 years, wanted to smother his living partner?

My thoughts are with you and your family right now.

Rex Schrader | April 4, 2005 04:59 PM

My condolences.

I have to admit, though, it more than a little freaky to read a whole page of comiserations about someone who shares your first name.


Bill Peschel | April 4, 2005 05:14 PM

My condolences. I grew up with a cat, but it wasn't until I got married and Teresa brought along not only two cats, but we adopted two kittens, that I learned just how affectionate they can be. When the kittens learned what human hands can do with their fur, they became constant companions, even when they're not wanting to be fed.

Of the older cats, Vanessa was Teresa's cat, and while she was standoffish to me, Teresa could fold her into a ball. She also would come around when her mother was especially stressed.

The memory of them never leaves you, does it?

And thanks, Bruce, for posting that bit from C.S. Lewis.

Mitch Wagner | April 4, 2005 06:16 PM

My condolences to you and your family for your loss.

PiscusFiche | April 4, 2005 06:35 PM

I'm sorry to hear that Rex has departed for a place with scheduled mousings. Hugs from afar.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little | April 4, 2005 07:11 PM

Erbo, that was gorgeous. Thank you for posting it. B Bookmarking it against future need...

My best to the grieving family. Rex had a nice long ride; may he enjoy the next as much or even moreso.

Peg Duthie | April 4, 2005 08:21 PM

Sympathies, John. May the heartache ease on your end and there be many scritches for Rex's shade.

Adam | April 4, 2005 09:03 PM

I'm sad to hear about Rex. My wife and I have recently lost two very dear cats and it can be very painful.

Love always comes with the risk of grief, and with pets this grief is a near certainty because you tend to outlive them. Yet as Saint Augustine said, "It is better to have loved and lost..."

I also find that the passing of a pet tends to prompt the recollection of the parts of my life that I shared with them. Aside from the bittersweet nostalgia it serves as a reminder of our own mortality. Seems like a good thing to me...

Our vet, who was wonderful to Hershey over the years, and who cried with us when it finally came time to say goodbye, afterwards sent us a card with the following quote which seems to be widely used but still (for me) moving:

Grieve not,

nor think of me with tears

But laugh

and talk to me as if I were beside you.

I loved you so . . .

'Twas Heaven here with you

-- Isla Paschal Richardson

On a separate topic, them rabits are good eatin. Did you know a buck and two doe rabbits can produce 200 lbs of meat in a year? (kidding!)

Adam | April 4, 2005 09:06 PM

I am mortified to discover that the Preview function does not accurately show spacing. Thus the excessive whitespace in my previous post.

My apologies for the formatting faux pas.

Connie | April 4, 2005 09:11 PM

I, too, had a 16 year relationship with a cat - my beloved Bender, who was named after Judd Nelson's "Breakfast Club" character since he came to be mine during my Judd Nelson fan period, 1986. (Another cat adopted the following day was Newberry, of "St. Elmo's Fire"...) Anyway, my husband and I celebrate 10 years together in a couple weeks and I often kid him that he still hasn't achieved "Bender status". He was a Bender fan, too, though, as illustrated when it came time to decide where to bury him. "Under the bluebird house", my husband suggested, "Because wouldn't that be the definition of cat heaven - when the birds come to you?" Whatever heaven Rex went to I know he's thankful that his time here on earth was spent with a loving companion. Condolences to you from one who understands.

Guy Matthews | April 4, 2005 09:41 PM

Condolences mate, I've lost a few cats myself over the years, glad to know Athena's taking it well. No pretty words from me though, I couldn't do the ole boy justice.

Barbara W. Klaser | April 4, 2005 10:43 PM

I'm so very sorry. He's a big deal to you. The Pope didn't sit up with you when you were sick. Every cat I've ever befriended has done that for me.

Sending you sunny thoughts and blessings to Rex.

Johanna Edwards | April 4, 2005 10:49 PM

Oh my God, I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm a huge animal lover and I get terribly upset when I think about things like this.

I just read your long post about Rex. He sounds like a lovely, wonderful cat. I'm glad you got to spend so many years together and that you both treasured each other so much.

Soni | April 4, 2005 10:56 PM

Dude. What can I say but I'm sorry and it sucks. Except for Rex who is, no doubt, right this very minute hairing up your eternal abode and hiding a few "what the...?" surprises in your celestial houseshoes. :-)

CB | April 4, 2005 11:48 PM

Sorry about your families loss John. I enjoyed your rendition of 'cat heaven' and I have a thought on that. All the mice in cat heaven are the bad mice and while its their version of hell.

Jim | April 5, 2005 12:47 AM

My condolences to you and your family at the loss of Rex.

Tiger, the cat who graciously allows me and my family to serve him, will turn eleven this month. Since I will be hitting sixty-two in the same time frame, making the adjustment for "cat years" means that he and I are about the same age -- but I know how fast these wonderful eleven years he has shared with us have passed and I dread the day he will leave us.

Kevin Stampfl | April 5, 2005 01:03 AM

My condolences John. I'm glad I had the opportunity to know Rex and watch him chase those little rings around the caps of milk jugs.

Brandon | April 5, 2005 08:43 AM

Rest in peace Rex. May you have kibble and junk food for all of eternity. My condolences John.

John Edwards | April 5, 2005 11:30 AM

So sorry to hear of your loss, John. Best wishes.

Matthias | April 5, 2005 11:53 AM


I'm so sorry for you...

Dancing With Tears In My Eyes


Jon Hansen | April 5, 2005 12:22 PM

I'm sorry to hear about Rex. I remember when you told about that attempted smothering story of his and thought, "ah, that's a cat who knows how to talk to his owner." Sounds like he had a good life.

Bruce Arthurs | April 5, 2005 11:11 PM

Back when my son Chris was a bit older than Athena, I was driving him and his mother to church one Sunday morning when, about a block from home, we passed our big grey fluffy cat Aslan.

Unfortunately, Aslan was laying in the middle of the road, with his head badly crushed by a car.

Chris didn't see the dead cat, so I continued on to church, dropped off Chris and Hilde, and drove back to the cat. I had a tarp in the trunk, so put the body in it, drove back home and buried Aslan in the back yard, sniffling and tearing up all the while. Wrote his name on a rock to mark the grave.

After fetching Chris and Hilde back home, I had to break the news to Chris. Probably not as well as you did with Athena, but he coped with the news pretty well.

That put a pretty heavy damper on the rest of the day, but we had some guests coming over for dinner, so put on our brave faces.

After dinner, we took our guests out on the back porch for some fresh air. After chatting for a few moments, one of them looked down and said, "Oh, hello."

I looked down too, and saw... a big grey fluffy cat.

A very FAMILIAR big grey fluffy cat. A very familiar big grey fluffy cat who, seeing my attention, said (in Cattish) "Where's my dinner?" I could translate the Cattish into English because I had heard the same phrase, in the same intonation, many times before.

Yes, it was Aslan, whole and uninjured. And I realized...

...that I had buried the wrong cat.

Mixed feelings: Relief that Aslan hadn't been hurt or killed, after all. And chagrin at realizing some other family in the area was worrying about their own big grey fluffy, and that all they would ever know was that it had gone out one morning and never came back.

(Never did manage to find out where the look-alike cat had come from.)

The real Aslan lived about another fifteen years, finally dying just shy of twenty.

Bruce Arthurs | April 5, 2005 11:13 PM

Hmmph. How come paragraph breaks don't show up in "Preview", but do in "Post" (as well as the extra breaks I inserted after "Preview" showed me one big run-on paragraph)?

Natasha | April 6, 2005 02:08 AM

Just read about Rex today, John. Craig told me the news before I had a chance to read it. I am sorry to hear that Rex died. I kinda thought he was persnickety enough to live many more years. I will miss him. His personality was very similar to our cat, Boris. When Boris died he left an empty spot in our hearts. I know Rex will do the same. Course - that is just a testament to how much he was loved. I'm sending you hugs my friend!

BTW I love some of the posts above!

jillian | April 6, 2005 12:52 PM

I'm so sorry for the loss of Rex. Through your posting, he has touched us all today. He will continue to live through your sharing his story and in your memories.


Lucy Huntzinger | April 6, 2005 11:09 PM

Condolences on the loss of Rex. Even when it's time for our pets to go it sure is hard when they're gone. A very nice memorial to him.

amanda | April 6, 2005 11:13 PM

Echoing many others, I'm extremely sorry to hear of your loss. My cat is my severest critic but also my best pal, who sticks around no matter what & even offers the occasional cuddle. Can't ask for better than that.

Irwin Schroedinger | April 7, 2005 03:40 PM

Dear John,

Are you sure?


Jeff | April 7, 2005 03:50 PM

I lost my beloved Sandy last summer. After almost 18 years of great health, his last months were filled with a cancer that I didn't recognize until it was too late.

There isn't a day that I don't think of him.

Romeocat | April 8, 2005 12:00 PM

Oh, John, I'm so sorry! Rex reminds mea lot of my very dear friend, Romeo (hence my penname), who was 19 years old when I had to put him to sleep 2 years ago. My daughter had similar reactions to his death, we discussed it carefully.

Even though we now have two sister kittipurrs who are fun and adorable, I still miss His Royalness, the Furrocious PurrFurr, King Romeo the Loving. Perhaps he and Rex have met up and a romping together in Kitty Heaven.

Best, and my condolances,

Kat | April 8, 2005 03:56 PM

On behalf of myself and the three kitties - Coby, Pica and Pixel - our sympathies.

I, too, have the ashes of my first cat, Simon, in a beautiful cedar box. I simply couldn't part with him when the time came.

You and Rex are in my thoughts today.

Pat | April 8, 2005 04:20 PM

I stumbled onto your blog entry here today and it was touching to read about your life with Rex. Isn't it amazing how big of role they end up playing in our lives? Fourteen years is a long time and his time here was well spent.

My condolences on your loss and take care.

Sunidesus | April 9, 2005 01:15 AM

Just wandering through from the Ark and had to express my condolences. So very sorry for your loss.

Loafingcactus | April 9, 2005 08:44 AM

So sad to hear about Rex. In the photo, he has the same look on his face as my "best" cat (yes, I have a favorite amongs my kids...). When my other cat Sneakers died about 18 months ago I put together an obituary page which has a lot of links about pet mourning... it is fairly religious; I was in a religious frame of mind at the time as I was trying to find my way in caring for his illness. As everyone else has noted, you've already got that part perfected, but others might be interested...

loafingcactus | April 9, 2005 08:46 AM

Hmm... link didn't work, here it is in text:

sulizano | April 9, 2005 09:09 AM

Rex was a lucky cat.

Hugs to you and the girls.

Jeri Smith-Ready | April 9, 2005 09:18 PM

Oh, John, I'm so sorry about Rex. There's nothing that can be said to make it better, but know that my thoughts are with you and your family. It sounds so much like my situation with Tiggy (Antigone)--right down to the same year. Got her fresh out of college and though she's friendly to all, she's clearly nobody's girl but mine. Still going strong but starting to lose weight (like Rex, after a lifetime of porkiness). Thinking of how I'd feel to lose her makes my heart go out to you.

As for bunnies, the reward-to-effort ratio is much lower than for cats and dogs.

Cheduff | May 6, 2005 06:29 PM

John you lost a good freind youre story with him even made me tear up.Youll get trough it brother.

Jeannie | June 15, 2006 01:12 PM

My heart goes out of you and all my kitties have bowed heads in a moment of prayer.

Rex is having a meowvelous time right now, and when the Lord takes you, you will spend eternity together.

This is but a short time apart and the memories of your time together will keep your heart warm and your mind at peace.

Rex finished his list of things he needed to do here on earth and right now, he is having meals and walks with Christ, and Rex is sharing with Him what a great friend and owner you were and putting in special requests on your behalf.

Much love!

Jeannie | June 15, 2006 05:05 PM


man was the one that sinned, animals walk in perfection of heart, mind, and soul......they were created first before man. There is indeed no hell for animals.

Jeannie | June 15, 2006 05:06 PM


man was the one that sinned, animals walk in perfection of heart, mind, and soul......they were created first before man. There is indeed no hell for animals.


Lilly Antoneavic | October 11, 2006 06:29 AM

My name is Lillly and I lost my seet Siamese Yesterday to cancer...

My Beautiful gentle cat died yesterday, October 10th 2006, he was just 13 yaers old...

I was given this website by a friend and she told me I could post here...

I thank you for your time reading this email...

faitfully yours,

Grieving Lilly Antoneavic.

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