There was never a lap that Piet didn’t like. If a human existed in the house, he would find that person and cuddle.
When we first brought Piet home, he had severe separation anxiety. Night after night for the first few weeks, he would spend endless hours meowing and throwing his little kitty body against the door to get to us from his place in the living room.
As time passed, he realized we weren’t going anywhere, that we loved him, and that he was ours. More so perhaps, we were his.
He had a seat at the dinner table that he’d hop onto whenever we were there, putting his little chin on the table and watching us talk or eat or read. When a guest sat in his chair, he sat on their lap. He was present for every meal.
At night, if I was feeling sad, he would come over and head butt my hand for a pet, nestling next to me on the couch. Once, with severe neck pain, he lay in bed with me for hours and watched me look at the ceiling.
Out of our house, Piet was the veteran, the knowledgeable, wise, one-eyed grandpa to the cats in our neighborhood, reigning over the courtyard with fairness and ease.
When a new French cat moved in to disrupt the peace, he quickly showed him who was boss.
But otherwise, he supervised his neighborhood peacefully, patrolling during the day and respectfully sniffing strangers as they passed on our quiet street in the center of town.
No one knew Piet’s age, but he was older than he appeared, and older than the shelter predicted, our vet told us later. Thinking back, I knew that. He had the lazy self-assuredness that was far greater than his younger peers. He had nothing to prove. He simply wanted to give and receive love.
I suppose that’s why it was so devastating when Piet got sick. What started as a surgery to remove some teeth ended as a poor recovery leading to his end.
He stopped eating. We put him on dialysis for his kidneys. He got better. He got worse. We cried. Eventually, we had to put him down.
Our last night together, we let him sleep in our bed with us, something he had always wanted. I was startled at how quiet and cold he was. I wanted to keep him warm. All he wanted was to be close to us. I let him sleep on my pillow, my head on the mattress, looking up at him.
People say cats aren’t as affectionate as dogs, but I disagree. I know Piet cared for us. I know he was grateful to spend the last couple years of his life cuddling on our couch. And we were grateful for him. He brought a reminder everyday of something important: the ability to love unconditionally.