April, 1990. After some seven years of asking for a cat, my mother took me to a no-kill shelter outside Chicago. I was 14 years old and knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a snow white kitten, and I had already picked out a name: Tigra, pronounced TEE-gra. (The Louise part came later.) There was a white cat at the shelter that day. It was lying in the litter pan, looking listless. In the same cage, sitting right up at the front, was a calico kitten with big green eyes. She was eight weeks old. We took her home in a cardboard carrier that she fought getting into by putting all four paws on the edges of the box, cartoon-style.
When she was six months old, the night before my first day of high school, she ran out the front door. I called her name. I shook the box of food. I searched everywhere I could think of. She came home three days later with a gash in her neck. She recovered.
She moved to Florida with my parents and sisters while I went away to college, but she was always my cat. After I graduated, she and I moved into a small Chicago apartment for a year, then she came back downstate with me for grad school. In 2002, she spent most of 6 days in her pink plastic carrier as my mom and I drove a Penske truck to California.
She never really liked having her picture taken. In most of the pictures I have, she’s looking away from the camera.
She got older. She started losing weight, and her kidneys started to fail. We set her up in her own room, away from the dog and the other cat, who didn’t understand why she didn’t want to play. And she got sicker. She got so very thin, about half the weight she was in that picture at the top of the entry. I took her outside for supervised time in the backyard, and I felt my heart break a little each time she stumbled in the grass. On Monday, we took her to the vet for the last time, and we did the only thing we could do to keep her from suffering any more. In the end, she was in my arms.
She was sixteen years and eight months old, and I miss her more than I can say.