Neighbor’s cat passed away. Just buried it in my backyard. He’s wearing a sweater. Carry on.
This was my tweet the other night as I sat at my dining room table, just a bit before dusk, when I looked up and saw my mom and two friends walk out to my garden with a shovel and a large lump wrapped in a blanket. I knew what that meant.
It was time for a pet burial.
This isn’t him, but it looks a lot like him—only, you know, alive—and I needed a visual. Play along.
A Little Background
My mom has a pet cemetery that is currently home to everything from our cats and birds to friends’ pets that needed a final and proper resting place. All are buried with their favorite “thing,” be it a toy, a blanket or a treat.
This includes my late neighbor’s dog who we buried a couple weeks ago on a dark rainy night, clomping through the muddy back yard with a shovel and a bundled up blanket. We concluded the event by serenading her with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” as it was in my head for some reason and “raising the roof” fit the mood.
Surprisingly, my mom’s neighbors haven’t called the cops. Yet.
We haven’t run into many issues, save for having to keep my bird in the freezer for three days or having to cut holes in a shoebox for my pet rabbit when I was in elementary school. Evidently rigor mortis couldn’t wait to set in until after I got home from wherever it is six-year-olds go, so the little rabbit’s legs were sticking straight out by the time we tried to put him in the box.
We cut some holes. We worked around it.
Some people might think we’re crazy—I wouldn’t argue with that claim—but I would argue it’s not because we care about our pets. They become members of the family and deserve a proper goodbye, just as we deserve to mourn them. We plant flowers, we place markers, we know that they were loved.
Sam I Am
That brings us to me sitting at my dining room table, watching this cat burial.* *It was cold. I stayed inside. Respects could be paid later, as he wasn’t going anywhere.
The normal view of my birdfeeder—often surrounded by squirrels drunk on fermented fruit and power—was instead filled with my mom and my late neighbor’s two best friends. They were there to bury Sam, a 16-year-old 25-pound cat who had lived with all of them at some point.
Seeing as he lived next door to me for a while and liked me better than crazy neighbor lady anyway, it was thought a proper burial spot would be in my garden.
Things appeared to be progressing normally until I saw my mom hand Sam off to Jeff and pull something bright red out of a bag. There was a little bit of discussion before Jeff unwrapped the blanket and held Sam up by his armpits.
At this point I was intrigued.
The next five minutes involved my mom carefully trying to finagle what appeared to be a bright red dog sweater over the head of a dead cat as Jeff tried to keep Sam up in the air and maneuver his legs through the holes.
When at last it appeared Sam was “warm and styling up in heaven,” as my mom would later tell me, he was raised up in the air for final approval before being wrapped back up, placed gently in his new dirt bed and sprinkled with catnip.
A stone angel marker now designates this space, both to commemorate his furry little soul and to warn me not to dig there when I plant my spring seeds. There was a minor incident a couple years ago that involved planting flowers and hitting a shoebox, so it’s better safe than sorry.
But don’t worry.
Nothing larger than a 30-pound cat has been buried at my mom’s.
When the day comes, Gram is safe.
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I loved this post! Nicely done; and glad Grandma’s safe!
Haha very nice! But I don’t understand the sweater. Is Heaven north of Minnesota or something? I mean, is it cold there?
There was no reason he had to wear a sweater, other than it was left over from the dog incident the week before. That’s what makes it kind of amazing.
That’s more afterlife love than most cats will get. Lucky fellow. It’s pretty cool you guys have your own animal burial ground but to anyone else who might ever live there it’s going to be super creepy when they find out. When one of my goats died we put him in a wheel-barrel with a sheet over him at the end of our driveway so the proper authorities could pick him up and dispose of the body. No idea who that was, I was like 10. I wanted to wait with him on the driveway but my parents would not have it. You should name your pet cemetery “Gangsta’s Paradise”.
Well, I only have Sam, but my mom does have quite a few at her place. However, she’s lived there more than 25 years so everything’s pretty much been composted at this point I think…?
I did know about this cause I have the pleasure of being your twitter follower and friend (yes? friend? are we?).
Whats with all these pets dying lately? I know like five pets that have passed away. At least I hope they have sweater parties in cat heaven. Or maybe its just really cold there. Oh and I’m guessing the 9 lives thing is BS?
These last two were both super old, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. And if they have sweater parties in cat heaven, Sam will totally be a pimp daddy up there.
“They become members of the family and deserve a proper goodbye, just as we deserve to mourn them. We plant flowers, we place markers, we know that they were loved. ”
But, I’m confused, much like Pis Posh. Why did the cat need to be buried in a bright-red-dog-sweater?
Yes to the first part, as they are special friends. And there was no special reason for the sweater, other than mom just wanted him to be comfortable. Plus there was catnip, so perhaps high and comfortable.
Oh! Ah ha! I
Awww that’s sad. Poor kitty.
He had a really good run and went peacefully, so it’s not super sad. 😉
Seriously, Abby, has no one offered you a sitcom???
I love that they put him in a sweater. The visual on that had me laughing so hard. I’m glad he had a proper burial. Mr. Kitty went out in style.
Sounds like when it’s time to go your mother is a fashionista. Good for her.
And what is it with all the death (animal and human) lately? My sister-in-law lost a friend, her grandmother, and the family cat in one week. Not how the year should start.
I just watched your most recent interview on Take 5 and I’ve decided that you would be one of my five people to have at a dinner party if you could invite anyone in history, past or present. You rock Abby! Thanks for bringing so much humor into my world with all of your writing. I heart you 🙂
Seriously? That comment made my whole darn weekend, mostly because you’re an awesome cook and super cute, so I would pay for a ticket to that dinner party. 😉
Dearly beloved, we’re gather here today to….wait….sorry I’ve been on a roll with that.
Bobina works at an animal hospital and sees not only a lot of 30 pound cats but also well dressed ones and others that are quite attached. This is a sweet story. If one of our furry children passed, it would be a similar situation.
So glad you’re a pet person. show your heart.
I could never have a pet cemetery in my backyard. Mainly, because the Stephen King movie scarred me for life.
i think every pet needs to be styling in heaven. Yes, sweater and all. But in all seriousness, i love the passion you and your mom have for these sweet pets. May they rest in peace…. i mean style.
I felt bad laughing at a funeral. I know it’s a cat, but I love animals so I still felt bad. The image of a dead cat being lifted up by it’s armpits to be styled for heaven was just too much though! Hahaha!
Um, crazy neighbor lady isn’t in the backyard, is she? I mean, I don’t mind… as long as she’s wearing a sweater.
He’s gonna be the most fabulous cat in Cat Heaven. Red will really make him stand out. It all makes sense to me.
This. Is. Just. Awesome.
It comforts me to know that your family seem to be as barking mad as mine.
Barking mad, get it?
This just made my morning. Sounds like me and my mom.
Frankly, I’m surprised that they were able to get a sweater on a live cat for that photo. Sam may be stylin’, but he is going to be very unhappy to discover his new threads.
I agree that every pet deserves a proper burial. But then again knowing me I will probably get Lincoln cremated (when he dies of course) and wear a piece of him around my neck. You know, to solidify the whole crazy dog lady thing.
We actually had our old dog cremated when he passed away and he came home in this tiny little box, seeing as he only weighed 13 pounds. However, I do not wear him in a necklace. He’s in a little box we got with his picture on it 😉
I plan on burying my animals in my backyard as well. I’m having a lap pool put in, so I just have to remember not to bury any pets, where the pool will eventually go. I don’t need a Poltergeist moment.
Actually know someone who buried their quarter horse. (How solemn can it be if a front end loader is roaring in the background?) Don’t think it was saddled though.
What a sweet burial. I remember my best friend from young having a burial for her rabbit, which was eaten by a cat. I’d never seen her cry that much before, even more than when she was being whipped by her mother.
You bring such pure humor into even a burial. Only you, Abby.
I think it was Ally who commented about the Stephen King fear. I’m with her! When I was young we had all manner of things buried in our backyard. One day, several years later, somebody accidently unearthed one of our dead cats…..
I forgot to tell you that I just bought your book and hope to read it soon…
Really? Thank you so much, as I needed to hear that this morning. Hope you enjoy it!
you are effing hilarious. why do i feel like im going to hell for saying that on a post about a pet funeral. your fault.
The image of someone lifting a dead cat by its dead armpits and someone else pulling a red dog sweater over the dead cat’s dead head is not one that is sure to leave me soon. And for that, I thank you.
This is so sad…and yet I was smirking and borderline spitting out my coffee as I read it. You are a really gifted writer. I’m sorry to hear about Sam–the loss of a pet is never easy (and putting a sweater on its corpse isn’t either.)
If a dirty, red-sweater-wearing cat shows up at your back door, don’t let him in.
I, too, was channeling Pet Semetary while reading this.
When Booly-Booly, my niece’s hamster died, we all had to gather together in the forest for a proper burial. My mom and her other grandmother were expected to drive out for the occasion. I just happened to be there at that time. During the wake or funeral, we all had to say what we liked best about Booly-Booly. She took this very seriously. We couldn’t swallow our laughter, it was the deepest weirdest moment in my little niece’s life. The shoe box was all decorated, and I helped her build it. It took us hours before she accepted its look and found it acceptable for Booly-Booly’s final resting place. Once it was all done I asked her if she wanted me to take her to the store to choose another hamster “No way! I was so sick of cleaning his cage and the mess he made! I’m done with hamsters!” 🙂
Umm…that’s a great story. When I was little I had a rabbit that my day accidentally killed. Anyway, by the time I got home from my friend’s house he was already stiff. We had to cut holes in the shoebox to stick his legs through before we could bury him. Poor Bun.