On Pet Loss: a tribute to wraithy wraith


My first cat died. My mom and I took her to the vet and had her euthanized because she developed breast cancer and her arthritis in her hips was getting worse. We made the decision to euthanize her early in the deterioration process because we didn’t want her to suffer. Wraith was sickly but not too bad off, meaning she still maybe had 3-4 months of life left BUT we didn’t want her to have 3-4 months of increasing pain and we didn’t want to put her through numerous medical procedures like biopsies and surgeries. So we decided to end her life early while she still had some pep left in her and her suffering was still kind of manageable.

She was one of those cats who hated everything, even cuddles. She was very much like Big Cat Rescue’s Nikita Lioness.

Once, she had a spider bite on her paw and hid in the closet for a week. I had to climb into the closet with a bowl of food and hold her on my lap to feed her, not because she was crippled by the spider but because she was so pissed off she didn’t want to come out, even to eat. She did sulk quickly out and back in to use the litter box, though. And every time I fed her she would say: “munch munch munch GROWL munch munch munch GROWL.” Not because she was in unbearable pain, but because she had to suffer the indignity of life when she was in such a foul mood. The swelling went down after a few days of hydrogen peroxide treatment but her mood remained as spiky as her fur for weeks after.


Wraith did not meow. Wraith screamed. Her default noise was REAAAAAAAW. Even when she was “happy.” She loved treat time and she did purr on occasion but that was mostly when she was napping in the sunshine. She loved catnip and open windows. She loved chicken.


When Wraith (aka Wraithy wraith, aka Wraithums) was much younger she was an indoor/outdoor cat. Once, she disappeared for two whole weeks. I was devastated and assumed the worst. On the fourteenth day I decided, when I got off work, to go out and not go home until I found her. I wasn’t scouring the neighborhood long when I saw a crumpled, black shape lying on the side of the road (a busy road). I threw myself down on a stranger’s lawn and sobbed my heart out over the dead, black cat that was surely my lost Wraithy wraith. I called my mom to come help me get her home because I was in no state to drive. While I was waiting for my mom I asked the owner of the house my cat had died in front of for a trash bag. The unfortunate elderly woman was very perturbed by the grief-stricken girl on her doorstep and even though she gave me a trash bag she was very worried because she had already called the city to have waste management remove the corpse of my beloved feline companion and didn’t know what would happen when they came by and there was no dead cat to collect. Of course, I didn’t care.

My mom safely parked on a side street and walked up to me, her hysterical daughter, with a very solemn look on her face. I had scooped up the bleeding, broken, extremely dead smelling creature of my affection and stashed her in my trunk to get away from the old lady. When my mom opened the trash bag to say her goodbyes, she said something that shocked me down to my bones:

“That’s not Wraith.”

First I was furious at her, how could she say such a thing?

Then I was confused.

Then I was furious at my cat for running away for so long.

Then I felt so gross because I had spent the last half hour cuddling with a dead cat that wasn’t even mine. My car and I smelled really bad.

And then, finally, I felt really sorry for the dead cat who didn’t have anyone who would mourn for her.

So I insisted we take the dead cat to our local vet to 1) dispose of and 2) determine once and for all if the cat really was Wraithy wraith or just an unfortunate look alike.


The veterinary assistant was not at all surprised when I walked into a full lobby and whispered so none of the living pet owners would hear: I have a dead cat and I think it’s mine could I talk to someone about how to identify a body? I left the dead cat outside until a room was ready for us. In the parking lot, in the trash bag.

The vet was very sympathetic but my account of recent events was confused by tears and frustration so it took her a few minutes to analyze what was going on. First she asked me if I wanted to identify the cause of death, which, honestly, I wasn’t that concerned with. Then she asked me about my cat. I told her my cat was a spayed female. She then informed me that the dead cat in my arms was an un-neutered male, most likely a stray.

The dead cat was not my cat.

I was happy and furious at the same time. My cat was alive. My cat was also still missing. And I felt extremely sorry for the dead stray I thought was mine. I turned his body over to the vet, as he had no human to take care of him in life, I adopted him for his death. I gave him a name and wrote a poem about him.

Then, still stinking of dead cat, I got back in my car and drove to my mom’s house, more determined than ever to find my missing cat. As I pulled up to the house I saw a familiar black shadow foraging for treats on the front porch.

Typically, while I was dealing with another cat, she had come home. I dramatically ran over to her and scooped her up before she had the chance to run away again. She greeted me with her traditional “Raaawww” and was not happy with being dragged inside the house again.

Fast forward about 10 years and Wraithy wraith is no more. But her spirit lives on. And we were together until the end.


Our vet was very kind, professional and understanding when we brought Wraithy in for the last time. A few days later, they sent my mom a card:

Here’s the poem about the other dead cat:

Ulysses the Cat

Stretched in the sunlight

crowning Calypso’s shore,

the black cat dozed,

small blue crabs drown

in a capsized silver urn; cream filled

and slopping beside him.

Why long for plump

tuna steak and cheesecake

crumbs when Apollo

scratches behind my ears

and no storm cloud

threatens olive saplings

with shaking?  That

rural stone hearth

plucked from the heart

of the hill my paws pounded

daily is miles away.

Waves lick gingerly

against the pebbly shore

the lambent royal blue of

Penelope’s summer dress.

He is still listless as

he is lifted up by

roughened driftwood hands

and tossed back into the sea.


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Jessica Halsey was born in Arkansas and has lived most of her life in the United States and Panama. She earned a BA in Sociology from Randolph-Macon Woman's College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Would you like to know more?

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