A few people in my community regarded he ferocity with which I loved my little cat, Leia, as a little strange. She was my family, my world, the best part about coming home from school. While in Namibia, I have learned that it isn’t very common for a pet to be regarded as a pet in the sense that they are a part of the family. Dogs are often kept for security, and cats are kept to catch rats. There are many outliers of course. For example, my principal’s dog is loved pretty fiercely. But, my colleagues still found it funny how concerned I always was about Leia and how much attention I gave to her, but I didn’t care. She was my little Princess Leia.
I’ve grown up with cats my whole life. There was Buster (who was given away shortly after I was born because he was a low key monster), Waffles (the first kitten I picked out), Carmen (who ran away), Winston (my larger than life love bug), and Chloe (who is still living with my parents and conning them for extra food every day – Mom and Dad, stop being such suckers). But, Leia was the first cat who was truly mine.
Back in January during my first term of teaching, I was struggling. I was having health issues and was having a hard time settling in overall. Enter, Leia. One morning during a Grade 7 vocabulary lesson, my friend drove up to the school with a giant cardboard box in her arms. She set it down in front of me and said, “I just had to bring you a cat.” Inside of the box was a tiny kitten with ears too big for her head and paws too big for her spindly legs. She was frightened at all of the commotion.
Bewildered more than anything else, I stammered out a thank you and brought the little kitten home. After much inner debate, I decided to name her Leia after my favorite princess, and because I could just tell she was going to be a little princess. She was wary at first but took very little time to settle in and explore her home. We bonded pretty quickly and she developed quite the big personality. She even had a favorite TV show – Scrubs. She also really enjoyed watching Community. I loved that cat more than anything else.
However, last month Leia went on an adventure that took her away from home that lasted 11 days and when she returned, she wasn’t herself. She wasn’t eating, meowing, or anything like the playful and bitey cat I had grown to love.
A few days later, she was showing no signs of getting better and was much, much worse off. I did everything I could, even though I knew deep down there wasn’t much that could have been done. I managed to get a last minute ride to a nearby town to get her to the vet, but 15 minutes out, my little one died in my arms.
I was able to bury her in my host family’s back yard, where she can always hear the singing birds.
Leia was around 10 months old when she died, and I got her when she was 2 months. So, she and I only had a short time together – significantly shorter than I wanted or expected. I did everything I could, and I gave her as much love as I could have possibly given.
It is so hard to say goodbye, especially when you know it’s not the right time. But, I will always hold my little love bug close to my heart.
Maybe I will get another cat before my time in Namibia comes to a close. But, there will only ever be one Leia.