On Wednesday, September 13th, we had to say goodbye to our beloved cat, Boo. A big personality in a tiny frame, my housemate and I had the privilege of being her family for nearly all of her 16 years. She was special, and the hole she leaves in our lives is testament to how much she meant to us. No amount of photos or words can capture everything that she was, but I'd like to share a tiny piece of her here.
August 8, 2007 - September 13, 2023 (Photo taken Feb. 2021)
The Best Halloween
She first arrived at my home on October 30th, but I met her on Halloween, 2007. Someone's cat had an unexpected litter of kittens, and as soon as she was old enough "Queenie" needed a new home. We welcomed her in and named this tiny void Boo.
She was nervous and wanted to hide at first, but we had some friends over for Halloween and eventually she got brave enough to hang out and play. Before long I think we were the ones living in her house, or we were happy to let her believe that at any rate.
Her other human wanted her to stay kitten-size forever, and pretty much got her wish. Our tiny Halloween cat topped out at a sleek 7.5 pounds, small and strong. She was beautiful—bright yellow-green eyes, the softest short black fur, and a sweet face. She was clever too, with a sassy side and a loud voice she would use to converse with us often.
Friend & Companion
I called Boo my little shadow, and that's not just because of her shiny black coat. She liked to hang out with us and get plenty of attention, often meowing loudly in greeting when we'd return home—ready for someone to make a lap for her to cuddle up on. She'd rotate through an ever-changing roster of favorite places around the house, but we consider ourselves fortunate that she wanted to spend most of her time near (or on) us.
In the last several years I've been able to work from home multiple days a week and I loved the chance to spend more time with her. A significant portion of my current desk, right in front of the window, was her spot to nap, bathe, and watch the outside during my work day.
She was curious and vigilant, keeping tabs on everything inside and surrounding the house. She would often come "help" with projects, from rebuilding a pc or assembling flat-pack furniture to putting sheets on a bed. We appreciated her company and support (even if it meant that projects tended to take longer to complete).
Being around Boo would always improve my day, whether she was being silly and making me laugh or purring in my lap as a warm comfort. I think she took it upon herself to take care of the "big kitties" as much as we cared for her.
This is one of my favorite pictures of her, taken in 2010. To this day I don't know how she hopped into that lightweight box without knocking it over or off the table, I just remember turning around and spotting that little face looking out the perfect little window. Needless to say we ended up keeping that box for several years for her to play in.
Despite her short, one-syllable name, Boo still acquired several nicknames.
Never underestimate the ability of a solid black cat to disappear in plain sight, earning her the name Boodini. Occasionally she'd vanish and I'd spend hours looking for whatever strange new spot she decided to settle in—inside a box on a shelf, under a blanket, hovering over an obscured heat vent in the floor, nestled among clean clothes in a laundry basket, curled up on a chair tucked under the kitchen table, high up on a shelf nearly touching the ceiling... more often than not I'd realize she'd been close by the whole time just watching me with her bright green eyes, probably amused while I played her little game of hide-and-seek.
However, most of her nicknames stemmed from her favorite sleeping position, the Boo-ball. This became "Booberry," because alliteration, and she resembled a round blueberry. From there it was shortened to Berry or Bear.
Still, with a name like Boo it was easy to find "personalized" items for her around Halloween. There was always a little Halloween in the house year-round with Boo.
Boo's Favorite Things
Our house is full of "Boo blankets," not just the one with her name all over it. Mostly soft plush throws, but she enjoyed snuggling in all kinds of blankets—the more the better. She could tuck herself in under the covers on a bed or layers of a blanket, but also didn't mind if we helped her get snuggled in, especially when the blanket was on a lap.
She loved chasing a feather or other dangling toy on a stick, but some of her favorite toys weren't specifically cat toys, including little battery-operated HEXBUG robot bugs and mini koosh balls. She liked to play fetch with the koosh balls, chase them down the hallway, or play goalie and not let them pass when we rolled them toward her.
Boo had zero interest in going outside but loved to look out the windows, sniffing the breeze when the weather allowed for them to be opened. Like most cats she luxuriated in stretching out to soak in the sun's warming rays—her dark fur would turn a rich, chocolate brown in the sunlight.
I often said she had a rather optimistic relationship with gravity, she seemed to really enjoy challenging the limits.
We never gave her human food and she would mostly ignore it anyway, but for some reason she was obsessed with marshmallows. When she was still a tiny kitten she dragged a whole bag of large marshmallows intended for s'mores, that was as big as she was, from the kitchen table all the way to the other end of the house and under my bed. We found the bag there, pierced with tiny kitten fang holes (but otherwise still sealed). I wish I could have witnessed how she managed that! Any time she got even a whiff of marshmallow she was on full alert.
That said, any open drinking vessel might end up with a cat nose in it if left unattended and within reach. She had regular water bowls that were cleaned frequently, even special cups that said "Boo" right on the side, but nothing was as enticing as water in a cup we were using.
Official Pen Inspector
Naturally, as the resident guard cat and official supervisor of all the things, she kept tabs on me as I started getting into fountain pens and ink. She was vigilant in checking out any new pens. After some sniffs and maybe a chin rub, they would pass inspection and she'd leave them alone.
She also kept a close eye on my art practice (especially if it involved cats), and made sure to thoroughly inspect the IKEA Alex storage drawers housing pens, inks, paper, and accessories. Of course she loved any boxes and packing material that might accompany any deliveries related to my new hobby.
She was often on my desk, my lap, or nearby whenever I would swatch inks or write with pens. As I continue to do these things, I miss her company. Even when she'd steal my chair.
Our Final Day
I don't want to dwell too much on this part of the story, but please skip to the next section to avoid the heavier parts if needed. Here is Boo on her 16th birthday on August 8, 2023.
We had been watching Boo age as her whiskers and fur turned white. She had lost weight and was under treatment for medical conditions including kidney disease, but seemed to be responding well to a change in diet early this year. I had been trying not to take any time with her for granted, but was still optimistic that we might have years more together. I was left speechless when the vet ran her bloodwork and I got the terminal diagnosis—suddenly we were out of time.
I brought her home and am thankful for the last 24 hours we had together. It was very difficult as her condition began to decline rapidly and she refused to eat, but we kept her snuggled in her favorite blankets with a warm heating pad and had time to say goodbye while I arranged for her to be able to go peacefully at home, surrounded by her family. We had one final, quiet morning by the sunny window while I tried to make sure she knew she was loved and I would be staying by her side through the end. Both the vet who came and the woman who brought home her ashes the following day were incredibly kind and compassionate people. I will remember the gentle kindness from many that week, it was much appreciated as my heart broke into pieces.
Rest in peace, sweet bear. I miss you.
I am a Cat
One of the best things I think I've ever done with fountain pen ink is this rendering of Boo on a book journal page for Coraline by Neil Gaiman, using the Wearingeul I am a Cat ink. I used a reference photo to trace the general shape of her face first, a silly one from 2020 where bright orange pieces from a favorite feather toy were stuck on her face like comical eyebrows, her once black whiskers already nearly all changed to white.
On that final day I spent several quiet hours with her—precious, difficult, time. I thought of that drawing, of that ink that reminds me of her, ink I could use to write or draw to help process the grief of losing her—I just needed to pick a pen to ink up.
I gently pet her head while listening to things, sometimes idly scrolling my phone to help pass the time. One thing that passed by was a tiny, unique pen that had caught my eye from Mad Science Pen Company. That one-of-a-kind pen would be put up for sale within the hour—ordinarily I'd have been in a meeting at work but instead here I was at home, waiting.
I had been talking to Boo in a gentle voice. I wondered aloud if I should try for that little green pen with big personality, a bit like her with her green eyes and big personality in such a tiny package. If I could secure that pen on that day, our last day together, could that be my special "Boo" pen? A pen I could keep inked with I am a Cat or other inks that remind me of her, a celebration of nearly 16 years of happy memories?
Well I may have been exhausted, heartbroken, and not thinking very clearly—but here is my "Boo" pen and I love it. An even more beautiful green than the pictures showed, soft matte finish like her fur, filled with I am a Cat. Berry, I hope you approve.