My Little Friend

Matt, or Mattie as I called him, was a male, red tabby cat, a cheddar cat, a red ringtail cat. He thought he was a furry little person. He almost was.

Everyone who met Mattie admired his soft and shiny marmalade colored fur. But also, Mattie never met a stranger. As soon as someone was seated, Mattie was beside them waiting for them to get comfortable enough so he could jump onto their lap. It did not matter if you were a cat lover or not, he loved everyone.

I picked up Mattie one cold March day from the Humane Society. I had only gone to visit but there he was. He was a stray that had been picked up wandering the streets. He had been neutered, so someone was responsible and cared enough for him at one time.

The other cats were all awake and busy but Mattie was curled up against the cage asleep, as if he had been there so long he had given up anyone ever wanting him because he was an older cat. His time was running out, he had only a week left and the allotted time to keep a stray would be up. He would have to be euthanized.

I had previously had another yellow cat, and I liked the personality of red tabbies, so I asked to see him. He reached up and put his paw on my cheek and his head on my shoulder and began to purr. The love affair between pet owner and pet had begun.

I have had other cats, but from the start, Mattie was not a typical cat. Mattie never growled or hissed or scratched at anything or anyone. He was just a kind, gentle and loving cat.

He could talk in different meows and sounds that each meant something different. If his bowl was empty of water, he made a different sound than if he was hungry. He learned to open doors by pulling down on the handle with one paw and using the other paw to pull the door open wide. He could sense your mood and if you were sad, nervous, scared or just felt bad, and never left your side. He would sleep on the pillow with his paw stretched out to touch your face, softly snoring his little cat snores.

If he wanted to get my attention, he would go to a certain object and knock it over, causing a small clatter on the floor. I would get up immediately, and he would be there, wanting me to follow him to see what he wanted at the time. Yes, he had ME trained.

I took in another cat for his company, when I was working full time, and she, Little Girl Cat, adored him too. They were immediately inseparable.

Unfortunately, 2011 was to be our last year together. He developed feline leukemia and another serious disorder. A double whammy. But with making a trip every eight weeks to vet, we managed to keep him alive for a year longer than expected. These special shots counteracted the symptoms making him feel better and happy for another eight weeks after every visit.

Finally, the time had come; the effectiveness of the shots lasted only two weeks. Yes, the time had come. The unconditional love of a favorite pet comes with one complication; we are the ones who must say goodbye.

People who don’t have animals deem it silly to spend so much money and time on an animal to keep them healthy and safe. These people never know the unconditional love an animal gives. If an animal has the capacity to give and receive love, which I believe they do, then a special bond is formed.

Knowing we had done everything we could to keep him from suffering, and he would never be better, as a final act of love, we decided to put him down. I was not sure I could do it, but with the moral support of my friend Ann, I made the trip one last time. I also could not have completed this without the moral support and understanding of a wonderful vet who cares compassionately for animals and their owner’s in their time of sorrow.

Mattie was buried with his favorite blanket and toy in a coffin especially built for him. He lies beside a mint bed in a lovely half-shaded area. When the weather is warmer, my husband will make a concrete marker with Mattie’s name spelled in green marble, the color of Mattie’s eyes.

Mattie gave us almost ten years of wonderful company and heartwarming memories. I am not sure I could go through the loss of another pet, and Mattie would be a hard act to follow. Another cat could never replace my Mattie. But the house is empty without my little friend. I find myself still looking for him, asleep in his favorite chair. Perhaps when enough time has passed, I can love another cat almost as much as I loved my Mattie.

Juda Woods-Hamlin: I have been writing since 2001, having written many articles for a small town newspaper, The Sumner Press since that time. I have had articles in the national magazines Reminisce, Country, Country extra and Good Old Days. I have also had articles in "The Voice," a quarterly newsletter put out by IETA (Illinois Employment and Training Association) while working in that State.

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16 comments on “My Little Friend

  1. IJuda, I’m sorry you lost Mattie. He sounds like an adorable cat. Your story truly highlights the unconditional love in a family pet. “My Little Friend” is a creative story. I like it!

  2. It’s hard to comment on this very heartfelt story because I have a cat very similar to Mattie. I know how I would feel if she had to be put down.

  3. You and Mattie had a very special friendship.What more in life could be better than that A very heart touching story. I hope you find another Mattie.

  4. No matter how long we have them, it’s never long enough. I’ve had three orange tabbies and agree that there is something very special about them. Mattie will always live in your heart, but the heart has an infinite ability to expand and you will love another. A very lovely tribute to your “little friend.”

  5. Nicely written and quite touching. Your piece really underscores the importance of caring professionals who understand that care of pets….or loved ones, is so much more than just a job.

  6. This is a very touching story. My heart goes out to you and I’m sorry for the loss of your loving Mattie. I’m sure Mattie knew how much he was loved. It takes a special kind of person to provide not only a home but special care for a sick or injured animal. I hope some day you find another pet, not to replace Mattie, but to fill the huge whole that he left in your heart.

  7. We sought out orange tabbies 12 years ago and are attached to the 2 brothers just as you were to Mattie. They have different personalities, different vocalizations, but the orangest one is the one who will raise himself from a nap at the back of the house to greet whoever comes to the door and, yes, get into their lap whether they love cats or not. He was also the one who kept my mother-in-law company day and night on her bed when she spent her last months with us. You’ve done a nice job of describing the love that goes both ways.

  8. Great job, Juda!!! Pets sure can be like family sometimes more than some family members. Enjoyed your story very much.

  9. I enjoyed the story about Mattie very much. I am an animal lover also and have lost pets and know the feelings involved. Good Story

  10. Having a strong bond with a pet can truly enrich your life, and losing that pet is such a tremendous heartbreak. I really identified with your story and the emotion you expressed for your cat, Mattie. You described his personality so beautifully!

  11. Love your description “a little furry person” and “my little friend.” Purfect. My family had cats when I was growing up. As an adult, I have yet to get a pet, but my husband and I will when we retire. Your story shows maybe we should get a cat sooner. I would love to have a cat like Mattie. Beautiful story.

  12. Ah, what a lovely, heartwarming story,so glad you had the experience of rescuing a this little furry animal and giving it a safe and good home for 10yrs.

  13. Juda, here is a huge HUG for you. Your story touched my heart with its frankness. From the beginning to the end you took us on your journey with your little buddy. I am sure that you were appreciated for your love and I am sure Mattie would want you to continue sharing your home with yet another unloved pet.