Moved by this story when I first read it [detailed in Part 1 of this post -Ed.], I sent it to my daughter Kathryn who, like her father before her and possibly because of him, has always loved cats and lived with them for most of her life. Kathryn was not surprised to read his story in part because she had one to match it.
This is what she wrote to me after reading about Oscar the Cat. In it, she will describe what she witnessed after she brought her mother, Elizabeth, who was ill with cancer, to live with her and her husband, Bill.
When we first brought Elizabeth back to the house, she was extraordinarily sick — barely functioning, barely talking. We set her up in the little bedroom and she stayed in bed. Little Princess was a cat that lived down the street. She didn’t have a good home life and for a while before Elizabeth came, she would come up to our house and we would pet her on the back patio, but she would never come in and we would never feed her. Then she would go home and come back when she wanted — sometimes that next day, sometimes a few days later. The day that we brought Elizabeth home, Princess came up came on the back patio, walked in the back door and went right straight to Elizabeth’s room. The cat had never been in the house. She jumped up on the bed and she walked around Elizabeth and then settled right down next to her.
Elizabeth had had surgery and her stomach area was very tender. But this cat knew not to walk on her stomach. Princess would walk across her shoulders, would curl up by her head, by her side, and by her feet, even lying on her legs but never on her stomach. Princess stayed with Elizabeth so long that the neighbor who owned the cat started calling around the neighborhood trying to find the cat. The cat finally decided that she should go home. But the next day she was back and she continued to come back every day and stay with Elizabeth all day.
Elizabeth loved cats. Even in her befuddled state she was absolutely thrilled that the cat was with her and she would smile when the cat walked in the room and was just happy to have her there. This went on for a couple of weeks. But Elizabeth was so bad that I had to put her in a nursing home and while Elizabeth was gone the cat would come in and go to her room and look for her.
Sometime during this period when Elizabeth was in the nursing home, the woman who owned the cat was going to move and she was looking for somebody to take all of her animals — she had three cats and one dog. Bill and this neighbor did not get along at all, but when we heard that she was going to give the cats away, we contacted her through a different neighbor and they told her that we were interested in taking the one cat. She finally called Bill and said that we had to take two cats because they were sisters but we said that we only wanted the one cat. She told us “Well, you can’t have either one then.” A couple of weeks later she called us and said we could have the one cat and she would leave the paperwork in the mailbox and we could have the cat when she moved. So she left the paperwork in the mailbox and was supposed to bring the cat by but instead she called us and said “Well, sorry — the cat jumped into the moving van with us so we just took her.” We had already told Elizabeth that we were getting the cat for when she came home and she was, of course, devastated.
Two weeks later our neighbor (who had facilitated the deal) called us at the apartment and said “Aren’t you taking care of your cat?” “We said, what cat?” He said the cat you got from the neighbor. We said we didn’t get the cat — she took her with her. He said “Well, the cat is right here in my yard and she looks terrible — she’s all messy and matted.” We said we would be will be right there!
We went the home and there’s the cat. We took her to the vet, got her cleaned up, shaved and she became our little Princess. Elizabeth was thrilled — couldn’t wait to get home to see the cat. The cat immediately recognized her, stayed with her constantly and they were a happy couple for the entire time that Elizabeth was there. Elizabeth was definitely this cat’s charge.
Elizabeth had gotten well enough during part of the time that she was home to use her computer. She had a printer, and after she died, I noticed there was a printout on the printer that was entitled “When cats grieve.” The article from the Internet was all about how to take care of a cat after their master died. So goes the story of Princess and Elizabeth. But it didn’t stop there.
Nita [Bill’s mother who also lived in the house], who did not like cats and put up with the fact that we had adopted little Princess really did like little Princess a little bit. When Nita got sick and started to go downhill, Princess would jump up on her lap and sit with her during the day and comfort her just like she had done with Elizabeth. And when Nita was much closer to death, little Princess would climb up on her bed and stay with her just like she’d done with Elizabeth.
So believe me, we know that cats really do understand when people are sick and they do try to take care of them in a lot of cases. Elizabeth was happier and I believed lived longer because Princess cared for her.
After Elizabeth died [she had to be moved to a hospice before her death], Princess constantly went into her room looking for her. It was probably the better part of a month before she stopped. She did the same thing when Nita died, but not for as long.
Princess knew she was supposed to find and take care of Elizabeth and she did. It’s not like we brought her into the house. She marched right in the open back door and ran through the house like a kitty with a purpose to find Elizabeth. Elizabeth suffered a lot while she fought her terminal battle and little Princess softened her struggles. She could bring a smile to Elizabeth’s face when no one else could. She was one of Elizabeth’s last thoughts as she left us that article so we could take care of Princess’s own grief. As we found out, cats grieve too.
Our pets grieve for us when we die, and God knows that when one of our beloved pets die, we are broken-hearted and mourn for them. I have seen so many women weep with anguish on such occasions, and we men, too, are not immune from deep grief on suffering the loss of pet. Indeed, the death of a pet with whom we have shared such an intimate life for many years can be more devastating than the death of a person, and often is.
We form such deep bonds with our pets, and they with us, that to experience a final, wrenching separation is often hard to endure. Never to see our pets again? That is a sorrowful thought indeed.
For many people, whether they have heard of near-death experiences or not, the thought that we may after death be reunited with our own loved ones is a powerful source of hope and often a deep-seated belief. And the many accounts of NDEs we now have where such encounters have been reported only bolster those beliefs. I know that, for my part, I cherish the hope that when I die, assuming I can ever get around to it, I will see members of my family again, particularly my father whom I lost, seemingly for good, when I was a child.
But then we love our pets, too. Is it too much to hope that we will never see them again as well? Or is it possible ….
Dr. Ring is Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut where he researched near-death experiences. He designed scientifically structured studies of 102 near-death survivors that further developed Dr. Raymond Moody’s early NDE findings. He is well-known for his ground-breaking research of investigating NDEs among blind persons in his book Mindsight. Ken Ring is the co-founder and past president of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) and is the founding editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies. He has published several near-death experience related books, including Life at Death (1980), Heading Toward Omega (1984), The Omega Project: Near-Death Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large (1992), and his most well-known and celebrated NDE book, Lessons from the Light (2000).