I’m very sad to report that Uni Watch girl mascot Caitlin died yesterday. As I recently mentioned here on the site, she’d been in failing health for a while, and yesterday it reached the point where I knew what had to be done. She was 18.
Caitlin’s demise came about six years after the death of her brother, Uni Watch boy mascot Tucker. I always thought of them as a matched set, so I like thinking that they’ll now be reunited.
As I’ve probably written before, I didn’t choose Caitlin — she chose me. When I went to the animal shelter in the spring of 2005 to get a new pair of kittens, they had a litter of five available — one boy and four girls. I knew I wanted one of each, so I took the one boy (that was Tucker) and then picked up each of the four girls. Most of them were kind of limp and inert — unsurprising, given that they were only six weeks old — but one of them put her paws on my face, climbed all over my shoulders, made lots of little “Meep!” noises, and basically behaved like a little monkey. That was Caitlin. We bonded right from the start.
In the years that followed, Caitlin never strayed from the playful spirit of that first encounter. She was always very chatterbox-y, very inquisitive, and a total character. One of her favorite things was being upside-down:
She also loved to straddle the top of a chair or a sofa, a behavior that I always found puzzling but very entertaining:
What an endearing weirdo!
And like any good cat, she loved being in the sun:
Caitlin’s fur was soft — like, really, really soft — and it got that way literally overnight. When she was still a kitten, I woke up one morning, reached over to pet her (she had spent the night sleeping next to me), and couldn’t believe how ultra-plush her fur suddenly felt. I was like, “Whoa, what happened to you?” It was like her skin had begun secreting some new oil or something. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed: A few weeks later, when I dropped her off at the vet to get spayed and then came back to pick her up, the desk clerk told me, “Everyone’s talking about how soft Caitlin is!” (She kinda whispered it to me, all secret-like, so the other pet owners in the waiting room wouldn’t feel slighted.) Caitlin retained this super-soft coat right up to the end.
For most of her life, Caitlin seemed eternally kittenish. Visitors to Uni Watch HQ always assumed she was three or four years old and were amazed when they learned her true age. “Wait, she’s how old?” At some point maybe four years ago it occurred to me that it was going to be particularly heartbreaking when this youthful-seeming creature finally began to show her age. And it was — over the past eight months or so, she lost some of her energy, then half of her weight, then most of her joy, all of which was very hard to witness. Yesterday I finally decided that it was enough. I know it was the right thing to do, but it hurt (and still hurts) so much. Love is really, really hard.
Uni Watch HQ already feels so much emptier without Caitlin. I keep instinctively looking in her favorite spots, expecting to see her, and then I remember — oh, right. It’s the latest reminder that the pet/human bond is a miracle that we often take for granted. Like, if you didn’t already know about people having pets, and if someone then told you that we’d have these other species in our homes, and that we’d love them, and that they’d love us back, you’d probably think, “Nuh-uh, that’s never gonna work.” But it does.
It was always fun to share Caitlin and Tucker with the Uni Watch comm-uni-ty. Over the years, I got in the annual habit of chronicling their birthdays (you have to scroll down in some of those posts to find the kitty content), and at one point I even had someone put Caitlin’s face on a San Francisco 49ers body. When I mentioned last month that Caitlin wasn’t doing well, so many of you expressed kind thoughts, either here on the blog or privately via email. Thank you so much for that — it means a lot, really. For those of you who have animals in your life, please give them an extra skritch for me today, because I no longer have my own little monkey to skritch. Thanks.
I’m sure there will be more Uni Watch mascots at some point down the road. For now, though, I just want to think about Caitlin and all the joy she brought into my life. Goodbye, cutie — I’ll always love you. R.I.P.