It’s been almost a full week since we had to say good-bye to our beloved Stella. This whole experience has been the hardest thing Kurt and I have ever gone through together. And even though it was the best decision we could make for her, it doesn’t make it any easier on us. Stella was our first pet we had together. She was our first ‘baby’ if you will. She was literally the best cat in the whole world (I don’t care if you try to argue this with me I will fight you on it). I have never in my life (and I’ve been around A LOT of cats) met a cat with her personality. She was sweet, loving, funny, crazy, cuddly, and the list could go on and on and on. Anyone who met her always commented on just how sweet she was. She could make a non-cat lover loves cats; that’s how wonderful she truly was.
I have always been an animal lover and if I’m being 100% honest, I’ve always gravitated towards cats over dogs. Maybe it’s because as a kid I remember befriending every stray cat or outdoor family cat in the neighbourhood. I had the ability as a child to make even the meanest cat, my friend. I would just sit with my hand out and wait until they approached me, regardless of how long it took. When I got a bit older, I started begging my mom to let me bring in the stray cats in our townhouse complex during the winter months so they wouldn’t freeze outside. I think we ended up with three separate strays living in our house at one point; Lucky, Tiger Tail, and Stripe. The thought of cats being outside alone and cold just broke my heart and I felt compelled to save them all.
When Kurt bought his first home on his own he was 24 and I was in my last year of nursing school. Even though I stayed over with him quite a bit during the week, there were also a lot of days that I needed to be at my mom’s or my dad’s for my schoolwork or to be closer to my classes so this left Kurt in his house by himself. Having never lived on his own before, he was kind of lonely which is why I suggested he get a pet but neither of us had the time, money, or patience for a puppy so I began telling him we should get a cat. It took some time to convince him (maybe like a month lol) because he like most guys wasn’t really a ‘cat person’ but he did really like a specific breed called Maine Coons. Back when I was a teenager, I worked at an animal clinic that also did short term boarding for clients when they were away. One woman in particular used to board her beautiful male Maine Coon cat with us. Because the clinic was closed on Sundays it was my job to go in three times a day for an hour or two to feed the animals. If I was hanging out with Kurt, he would often drive me there and in the winter months come inside until I was finished working. I remember the first time he saw this specific cat because he was convinced that I was joking with him about it really being a cat. In case you are unfamiliar with the breed, Maine Coons are one of the largest breeds of domesticated cats in the world. They’re also known for their beautiful appearance and hunting skills. So when Kurt finally accepted that I was telling the truth about this specific cat, he said if he were ever to get a cat, it would HAVE to be a Maine Coon and ONLY a Maine Coon.
Flash forward a few years and nights alone in his new house and Kurt decided that yes, he did in fact want to get a cat but that it had to be a Maine Coon. So of course, being as excited as I was that I was going to get a kitten, I immediately began looking up breeders for pricing and then quickly realized that we probably could not afford a brand new kitten due to their hefty price tags. This led me to start looking into retired breeding cats. I figured if we couldn’t afford a kitten, perhaps we could find an older Maine Coon that needed a good home to live out the rest of its days. We were thrilled when we found a breeder in Brampton who had two cats, one female and one male, that she wanted to retire from breeding. Immediately, I told Kurt we should get the male cat because I’ve always found female cats to be a bit b***** to be honest. He didn’t care as long as it was a pure breed so I messaged the breeder only to be told that she had decided to keep the male because he was an unfixed all-white male cat and apparently this gene can cause deafness and she was worried that someone would adopt him and breed him against her adoption contract which could lead to mute kittens. She basically told me we could have the female if we wanted but she needed to ‘interview’ us first. The next weekend, we drove out to Brampton to meet this woman and the female cat. We got there just as the woman was going downstairs to check on all her kittens so she asked that we wait upstairs for a few minutes. She literally had cats everywhere! It was hard to figure out which cat was the one we were potentially bringing home with us. I remember seeing two beautiful Maine Coons, one definitely was older (almost senior looking) and the other looked no more than a year old so we were pretty sure it wasn’t either of them. Then this stunning gray and white cat came out of no where and started rubbing up on both of us.
This was our Stella. We just didn’t know it yet. The woman did eventually come back upstairs and one of the first things she said was “Oh Stella found you! Usually she’s hiding.” We spent the next little while talking with the breeder and her husband about their cats, their dogs, their kids, basically their entire life story then she took us to meet her male breeding cats as well as the new kittens she had. We were told that Stella only ever had one litter and that the young, beautiful cat we had seen upstairs was from her litter. The woman gushed about how all of Stella’s kittens were stunning. She said Stella was three years old and as much as she wanted to keep her, she knew she had too many retired breeding cats already and Stella deserved to go to a good home. I didn’t expect her to say we could take Stella with us that day but I guess she liked us enough that she felt comfortable sending one of her beloved breeding cats home with us. We literally had nothing for a cat. No carrier, no food, no toys because we weren’t expecting it to go as fast as it did. There was no payment, or fees, she just wanted Stella to go to a loving forever home. She gave us one of her old carriers and said her good-byes to Stella and off we went. Home as a new family of three. Of course, we had to make a stop to get everything one would need for a cat but soon we were back at Kurt’s house letting her adjust to her new surroundings.
I’ll never forget that first evening home. Stella literally hid somewhere that we couldn’t find her. Kurt was so worried that she would get herself hurt or something but I just kept saying that this was what cats did. They hid and she would most likely come out when we were sleeping. The breeder had told us that she never allowed any of her cats in their bedroom let alone on their bed so when we left the bedroom door open that first night I did not expect Stella would jump up and sleep with us. I put a pillow in a corner of the room just in case she decided to come in but I figured she would spend most of her night exploring her new surroundings. Boy, was I wrong.
In the middle of the night I woke up to snoring. Loud snoring. I was sure it was Kurt because he would always snore if he was sleeping on his back. I began nudging him saying “You’re snoring again.” He immediately responded “It’s not me…I thought it was you.” We both sat up and shockingly discovered Stella, at the end of our bed, sound asleep and snoring louder than anything I’ve ever heard before. I was so happy I almost cried. From that night on, she claimed our bed as her own. Not one night went by where she didn’t at some point end up snoring away at our feet. She developed a deep seeded love for Kurt as well. The two of them bonded over evenings spent alone together, watching TV and cuddling. Seriously, I’ve never seen a cat take to someone like Stella took to Kurt. I kind of figured that she would be my bff and would just have to ‘tolerate’ her nights spent alone with Kurt but it ended up being the other way around.
About a year later we were financially able to afford a kitten and wanted Stella to have a companion when we were both at work. Of course, we had to get another Maine Coon which is how Ari came into ours and Stella’s lives. He was this little black and white ball of insane craziness. As much as Stella used to get the ‘night time crazies’ and whip herself around Kurt’s house, Ari was ten times worse. I swear the cat used up 7 of his 9 lives in his first three years of life. But as crazy as Ari was, Stella always tolerated him. She babied him as if he was her own up until he got bigger than her. She would spent hours (literally hours) grooming him and holding him in place until she deemed him clean enough to let him go. It was enduring to watch the two of them together and to see how good of a momma she must have been to her own kittens.
A few years and a new house later, we brought home our first NON Maine Coon cat, a kitten we adopted through the animal clinic I was working at, Milo. Once again Stella, now getting older and less tolerable of Ari’s shenanigans, took to this new kitten wonderfully. She mothered him like she had with Ari and she even protected him when Ari was being a D-bag to him. She still spent every night sleeping on our bed and the moment Kurt would get home from work, you could guarantee that Stella would immediately wake up to come and greet him at the door. That was her very favourite part of the day. Those first few moments where could would come home, kick off his work boots, and chill on the couch for a bit. Stella would always jump up beside him and climb all over him while he pet her.
Flash forward about a year later and we were bringing our very first human baby home. I remember Kurt and I worrying so much while we were in the hospital about how all three cats would react. I figured Ari would be the most jealous, Milo would hide, but Stella was a mystery. We had seen how good she was when the boys were kittens but a human baby was something different to her. She hadn’t really ever been around infants before so we were really unsure of how she would react. For the first few days we were home, she just kept her distance. She was pretty put off by the fact that she wasn’t allowed to sleep in our room any more but slowly she began warming up to Nate. She would jump up on the couch while I was feeding him and just sit beside me. She would watch him from a far while he was doing his tummy time and it seems that once Ari accepted him into the family, Stella did too. And as the years went on, Stella became more and more affectionate towards Nate as did the boys too. I’ll always remember how Nate used to just call her Kitty instead of her name. He knew how to say Ari and could almost pronounce Milo fully but for some reason he would only call Stella Kitty. Eventually, he began calling her Tella and would constantly ask where she was. She slowly became his favourite but don’t tell Ari and especially Milo that!
Another few years and new house later, we welcomed our second human baby into the world. When Eli was born this past July, I was so worried that Stella would never meet him. She had been diagnosed with an oral cancer in March and the vet had said that we would probably only have a month or so left with her which was devastating to both myself and to Kurt. She was our baby and this wasn’t supposed to happen to her. She was only 11 and we were being told that we would probably have to say good-bye to her very, very soon. It was heart breaking. I’ve never been an overly emotional person but I bawled that day at work when I got the phone call that it was much worse than just an infection from the tooth removal she had had. I remember just walking down the hallway trying to make it to washroom before bursting into tears. I didn’t… That whole drive home all I kept thinking was how was I going to tell Kurt. How could I let him know that his best friend was no longer going to be with us. Once again I sobbed uncontrollably. Ill never forget the look on Kurt’s face when he came home after I had told him and he saw Stella for the first time since getting the news. It broke my heart a little bit. We kept debating what we should do. The vet had said it would probably be about a month and a half before we would need to make the decision to humanly let her go which would have been exactly when we were to go to New York. We both begged Stella just to hang on a little longer for us. We didn’t want her to drastically get worse while we were away and because she was the best cat ever, she listened. One month turned into two, which turned into three, which turned into four, and then before we knew it, seven months had passed. Eli had been born and Stella had been around for almost exactly three months of his life.
We realized around the end of September that we were going to need to say good-bye to her soon though. The tumour was growing, one of her nostrils was always clogged with snot because of the tumour, and she had lost so much weight despite still eating and drinking. I couldn’t bring myself to broach the topic with Kurt though. She was his best friend and I needed him to come to terms with the inevitable before I could discuss it with him. We finally decided that after we came back from our Boston trip, we would make an appointment for her. It was what was best for her. Neither of us could bear the thought of waking up another day and finding blood spatter throughout our house. Because of the location of her tumour, if she ate dry food, sometimes it would cause the tumour to bleed which would cause Stella to shake her head flinging blood all over the floors and walls. And the thought of waking up or coming home one day to discover she had passed away was more than we could handle. Euthanasia was the best option for us and her.
We would have loved to have kept Stella around for a little while longer but that would have been selfish of us. It wasn’t benefiting her and the thought of her spending her last few weeks in pain isn’t something we felt right doing so we made the hardest decision we’ve ever made as a couple and booked her an appointment at the clinic where I used to work. We wanted her to be in a place where she had been before and where the staff knew us. On Tuesday October 17th at 5:30pm we said good-bye to the very best cat we have or ever will own. Stella was a bright light on a dark day. She was a beautiful soul who will forever be missed. Even if we had her another eight or nine years, it wouldn’t have been enough. She was the best cat and our best friend and our home just isn’t the same without seeing her little face every day. I know eventually we’ll come to a new normal. A normal where Stella is a wonderful memory, a funny story, a beautiful dream but those days seem far, far away. Our grief and pain are still very fresh and until we have her ashes back, I don’t think our house will truly feel like home.
I’ve often said that I don’t really know what afterlife I believe in, but if there is something out there, I hope Stella is enjoying it. I hope that it’s always sunny because Stella absolutely LOVED to sun bathe. I hope there’s a gentle breeze that she can smell because she used to make the funniest faces when the wind blew across her face. I hope someone is shining laser dots on the floor and walls because even at 11 years old, if she saw a beam of light dancing on the ceiling, she would act like a kitten trying to catch it. And most of all, I hope she’s getting as many treats as she can get her fill of because they were always her favourite food.
I don’t want to say good-bye Stella, Stilo, Miss Stella if You’re Nasty, Stella Ella Ella Eh Eh Eh Eh, Stella Bella, Stelly, Stella Cat, Pretty Girl so we’ll just say “See you later” and “we will always love and miss you”.