The Dead Cat on the Mantle

Peanut being Peanut and very much alive...
Peanut being Peanut and very much alive…

Chekhov (no, not the guy from Star Trek!) once said that if there is a loaded gun on the mantle in the first act of the play, then it should be fired in a later act.  But I’m not sure the same is true about cat’s ashes.

I know – I’ve started this out (trying to be) funny, but this isn’t really that funny a topic, unless you define funny as awkward and sad instead of humorous.

I’m not new to the world of pets.  As long as I can remember, we’ve had pets.  Goldfish.  Koi.  Hermit crabs.  A short-lived gerbil.  Cats.  Dogs.  And as long as I’ve had pets, I’ve had pets that died.  Often, we’d go to extraordinary measures to save them and keep them alive as long as possible, like our goldfish Melody, named after the character from Josie and the Pussycats, which, looking back on it, it does seem a bit ironic to name a fish after a pussycat, but I was only six or seven.  Anyway.  Melody the goldfish had surgery performed on her by my father.  We netted her and removed something from her side – and she lived!  At least, as long as goldfish ever live.  Then there have been unexpected deaths, like my dog Scrungy who went to the vet for routine surgery for kidney stones, a surgery she’d had at least half a dozen times, and she died during recovery while we were on the way to pick her up.  (Want to feel bad for someone?  Feel bad for the vet who had two little girls in hysterics in his waiting room when they found out their dog was dead.)

I don’t know what happened to my pets when they died when I was a child.  Sure, we flushed the fish.  And, yeah, we buried the gerbil in the backyard.  But the cats and dogs just disappeared after they died.

Since I’ve been an adult and on my own, though, we’ve only had two other animals die – our dogs Teddy and Cecily.  With Teddy, we got his ashes in a plain plastic box and scattered them at a little place we’d know he’d have liked to run, and it just seemed right and appropriate.  (And it taught us to not be downwind when we opened a box of ashes…)  With Cecily, it was far more of a shock because she began having seizures and couldn’t stop.  In that case, we let the body go for mass cremation because I don’t think we were able to think of anything else.

But this time, it was our cat Peanut.  We knew he had problems because a few years ago he’d suffered a stroke and came back from it.  But since then, he’d had at least one other one that we knew about, but possibly more.  It was still an unpleasant surprise when he had another one right before Christmas and didn’t recover.  He kept getting worse until he couldn’t stand or move properly, and by the time we got him to the emergency clinic, his temperature had fallen and he had no control of or feeling in his hind legs.  Whatever it was that had been causing the strokes and other problems had obviously been progressing, and no one had been able to figure it out or stop it.

Peanut in a box on the mantle...
Peanut in a box on the mantle…

A few weeks later, we picked up his ashes.  Unlike Teddy’s ashes, though, Peanut’s were in a very nice wooden box, engraved and, well, pretty.  And I realized – what were we going to do with his ashes?

Peanut never really left the house.  His favorite place was on top of the couch, and I can’t think that’s a good place to scatter his ashes.  And the box is nice and seems almost strangely appropriate for keeping his ashes in.  It’s orange-ish.  And it just kind of hangs out.  Very cat-like things to do and be.

So what do we do?  Is it wrong to keep his ashes in the box?  Do we keep the cat on the mantle?  Because we have a few other cats, and I’m afraid it might get both crowded and creepy if we keep this up.