The Divine Miss Maude (2002 – 2022)
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
In a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
In a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day. ~ Steve and Diane Bodofsky, Medium.com
As a lover of pets and wildlife, and as someone who has over the past several decades lived with cats more than any other non-human species, this is my third post honoring a family feline that has passed away.
The first was for our little black cat, Bogie (also known as Woof), and the second was for Maxx, our daughter and son-in-law’s orange tabby. These sad and often traumatic moments are inevitable when one adopts a pet, but they are never easy. However, the short or long time that we humans are blessed to spend with our pets more than makes up for the upsetting endings and grief we must endure. Missing our departed animal companions never quite goes away, but usually is overtaken by the fond — and often funny — memories we hold dear. And, of course, we are surrounded forever by our cats’ photos as well as the toys, bowls, litterboxes, scratching posts and the cat hair we never seem to be able to banish entirely!
Saying goodbye to a cat (or dog, or horse, or bird…) that we have bonded with is heart-wrenching. And for many, like moi, bonding can occur within seconds and last a lifetime.
That certainly is what happened with our Maude, who died suddenly at home with us last month (apparently from a stroke), just one week past her (assigned) 20th Birthday. For the last few years, after a healthy life, Maude developed some problems, including arthritis, high blood pressure, a mild heart murmur and vision loss. But under the care of our wonderful veterinarian and her staff Maude was able to get all around the house on her own steam and continue to be mostly in charge of herself. Through all her health issues, she remained the spunky kitty we knew ever since her story began with us.
We rescued Maude — or more likely she rescued us — when we adopted her 19 years ago on cat adoption day at our local pet supply store. The shelter volunteer told us she was about one year old. With the passing of our latest pet companions, Cindy (our dog) and Belle (our cat), we were looking to adopt two cats, as we believe in pets having at least one other non-human house companion with which to play and bond. Our then teenage daughter had already scooped up the little male black six-month-old kitten that would become our Bogie when a shelter volunteer thrust a round black and white fluffy bundle into my arms, declaring that she was the black kitten’s “best friend.” “You must adopt them together,” she insisted, “they cannot be separated.” At first, I thought that was simply a clever ploy to guarantee that the shy little cat with the big green eyes and two white paws (with pink pads) and two black paws was adopted as well. It mattered not, however, because as the cat who would become Maude looked up into my face, our fates were sealed. We took both kitties home and they became a part of our family. And it turned out that the shelter volunteer was right about the best friend thing; Maude and Bogie had indeed bonded, and remained inseparable until Bogie’s passing nine years later.
The first hint of their relationship was when Bogie was diagnosed with ringworm. Until he was cured, we had to keep him separate from both human and feline family members. Thus, for the first few weeks in our home Bogie was isolated in my home office while he was being treated and tested by our vet. During this time, we often found Maude — who otherwise was adjusting to her new home by hiding under the daybed in our family room — outside my office playing footsie with Bogie under the door. Once he was released, it became clear that she was the older “sister” and protector of her little “brother.” For example, Bogie was not a fan of the vacuum cleaner and would often stand on his hind legs and box it. Once, while I was vacuuming, he took a few swipes at the machine and then high-tailed it out of the room. In a heartbeat, Maude strode into the room and settled her fierce gaze first on the vacuum cleaner and then on me. Beyond, I could see Bogie-Woof looking in from the hallway. Then she turned and strode out, with her little charge trotting ahead of her. Do cats communicate with each other? These two certainly did! Apparently, Bogie tattled and Maude responded!
It bears repeating that in rescuing our Divine Miss Maude, it’s unclear just who rescued whom!
Maude’s little rescue pal, Bogie the Woof
A Molly That Behaved Like A Queen
A female cat is called a Molly until she breeds; then, she is called a Queen. Apparently, Queens can be more authoritative, perhaps because they become mothers (we all know how authoritative we moms can be)! To our knowledge, Maude never bred; after all, she was only about a year old when we adopted her. Yet, she carried herself like a Queen! Even when playing, Maude did so with a dignity that was both endearing and amusing. She also had a delightful quirkiness. For example, she became obsessed with a set of coasters that our daughter, Lyn, knitted for us. Maude would carry them around and leave them in strategic places; sometimes she would configure them in ways that looked like a deliberate design; we called one such configuration that we came across her crop circles! We wondered if she was being contacted by cats from another galaxy.
Maude’s Crop Circles
Often cats will select a particular human to whom they become closest. In our case, Maude chose my husband, Ted, and they doted on each other. However, on a night that Maude had a perceived emergency (which turned out okay), it was I who bundled her into her carrier and drove in the dark (which I hate to do) on a route with which I was unfamiliar to a pet ER to which we had never been. I was in a state of high anxiety, but kept saying soothing things to Maude all the way and worried because she was so quiet (she was usually quite vocal when being taken to the vet’s office). Upon arrival, I waited nervously until we were called, and then I was shocked when someone unceremoniously grabbed Maude’s carrier and whisked her away, ordering me to remain in the reception area. My protests fell on deaf ears, and I finally resolutely walked through the door to the examining theatre and located Maude. I told the medical staff that I cannot be separated from my cat in a strange environment! To my relief, Maude and I were escorted to a private room and a veterinarian joined us and took care of Maude in my presence. Maude and I agreed afterward that there are times we need to speak up and take action! Fortunately, for most of Maude’s 20 healthy and happy years that trip to the ER was a rarity.
After she lost her pal, Bogie, Maude seemed to adjust to being an only cat. But after a while, we felt that she needed another cat companion (truth be told, so did we). We adopted a young male Russian Blue – tabby mix from another local pet rescue organization that we named Mendeley, Mendy for short. (Ted still thinks we named him after Mendy Rudolph, and that’s fine.) Of course, not all cats bond in the same way, and it took a while for Maude to accept Mendy, who did everything but jump through the proverbial hoops to make Maude like him.
Maude hanging out with Mendy
The Feline Mystique
Cat lovers can be found everywhere, no matter one’s occupation, career or profession. Many of us are also dog lovers, bird lovers, horse lovers, and lovers of more exotic pets (someday I will write about our other pets, past and present). And, apparently, while more households have pet dogs, there are more total pet cats living in households, according to the American Pet Products Association. Some other stats you might be interested in involve the longevity of cats; take a look at this iizcat.com rundown (this is apparently a site run by cats – :). If we think 20 years is a long time for a cat to live, maybe that’s just an average! Maude is certainly the longest-lived cat we’ve ever lived with. But our veterinarian’s practice was graced with the presence of Gert, who also lived to at least 20 years old. The oldest recorded cat, according to Guinness World Records, was Creme Puff, who lived to be an astonishing 38 years old (obviously she was misnamed)! Currently, the oldest cat is Flossie, who was heading toward a remarkable 27 years old this past November! Of course, genes, disease, accidents and a cat’s personal history play a role. As for the longevity of humans, some studies have shown that living with a cat can lower the risk of stress and heart attack, the latter reportedly being the number one cause of death worldwide. Happily, post-COVID, more workplaces have become pet-friendly making it possible to spend more time with these remarkable companions!
It’s often difficult to separate historical fact from legend regarding human relationships to other animal species. That said, the domesticated cats we know and love today are believed to have evolved from their wild ancestor, the North African / Southwest Asian wildcat, or Felis silvestris lybica. The bond between humans and cats is believed to have begun thousands of years ago in Africa — especially Egypt — Asia and Europe, much the way the bond between humans and dogs began: mutual need. While dogs — which are pack animals that evolved from the gray wolf, or canis lupus — are thought to have helped ancient humans with hunting, cats apparently protected human food supplies from being ravaged by rats.
And, therein lies an interesting story — whether fact or legend I am not quite sure. But here it is: While most civilizations at the time revered and cared for cats, Europeans during the Middle Ages (the period between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE and the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century), were superstitious about witchcraft and associated cats, especially black cats, with magic and misfortune. As a result, cats were killed to ward off evil. That lunacy backfired, of course, and caused quite a bit of non-magical misfortune for humans. For in killing off the very feline populations that controlled the large rat populations, the Bubonic Plague, or Black Death, that swept Europe during this period was believed to have been spread by infected rats, causing the deaths of millions of Europeans. The conclusion was that if the cats had been left alone to control the rat population, fewer humans would have died from the Plague.
Today, the cat mystique continues to charm humans around the world, with some exceptions. Feral cats are a problem in New Zealand, for instance. And in Thailand and many other Asian countries, cats and dogs are still on the dinner menu. Ted and I support a Thailand-based charity called Soi Dog that rescues dogs and cats from becoming meals for humans, then rehabilitates the rescued animals and finds homes for them.
But the causes of feral and stray cat populations can be traced in most cases to human mishandling, such as transporting animals to fragile wildlife environments, failing to spay and neuter pets, letting pets run free unsupervised, abandoning pets, feeding strays and other misguided and negligent behaviors. Some might disagree, but I’m in the camp that believes pet cats should be kept indoors, that cats that are kept as mousers or ratters must be supervised so they remain safe and do not kill valuable wildlife along with the pests, and that all cats (and dogs) should be spayed or neutered.
As for declawing, which is a very controversial and heated topic, there are pros and cons. The pros include preventing the scratching of children and adults and destruction of furniture, clothing and other valuables, thereby allowing a cat to keep its home rather than being removed, which could result in an unhappy fate for the cat if there were no other adoption opportunities. Cons include surgically removing part of the claw, which many believe is cruel and results in long-term suffering. I have lived with and known cats that have not been declawed as well as those that have been declawed, and have observed and had feedback that there have been no observable differences in the cats’ behavior, abilities or health. However, declawing is now illegal in some states, so this is something to consider when adopting a cat. In the case of Maude, Bogie and Mendy, who each retained their sharp little claws, we used scratching posts and edible rewards to discourage the destruction of our belongings; I would say we were moderately successful, to which the creatively draped afghans and quilts over some of our furniture will attest!
Finally, Maude would agree that if you desire the companionship of a cat (or any other pet), adopting a rescued animal rather than purchasing one from a pet shop or breeder is preferable. Rescue organizations often have purebreds as well as mixed breeds.
Bottom line: Exposure to the feline mystique can result in your becoming a more loving and responsible human, as well as healthier, both physically and mentally. Those benefits in my view far outweigh any inconvenience and expense. And for those who have allergies, here are some tips, including a Purina product that the company claims reduces allergens in cat hair and dander. I am not endorsing any of these techniques or products, but you might wish to check them out.
Godspeed, Dear Maude
If there is a Rainbow Bridge over which cats — and other animals — can pass, then I hope our Maude has passed over it and is now happily reunited with Bogie, and having a wonderful next phase of her existence. Of course, I am not equating the passing of an animal to the passing of a human, but merely acknowledging the attachments we humans form with the animals we adopt, and how their departures affect us. It might come as no surprise that our pets also become attached to us and can suffer separation anxiety, something else to remember when taking on the responsibility of adopting a pet.
Our family members were attached to and deeply loved our Divine Miss Maude, and we will miss her dearly. She enriched our lives for 19 years, and will continue to do so for years to come through our memories of her.
Until next time,
2 thoughts on “OVER THE RAINBOW BRIDGE”
I am very sorry for your loss of Miss Maude. She was so beautiful!
Kindest regards, Candace
Thank you so much, Candace!