Raven’s Ghost

When I took our cat Raven to the vet a month ago for loss of appetite and puking, I thought they’d give her some antibiotics, and maybe an appetite stimulant and some fluids, and that would be that. Just like the previous month.

Then the vet came in, felt around, then said, ‘When I feel her abdomen, I feel a mass.’

‘Really?’ I said.


The X-ray of her intestines came back with fluids blocking the view. We didn’t have anything definitive, but the vet said that if she’d swallowed something and there was a blockage, there wouldn’t be fluid. There would only be gas. The only reasonable source of the fluids, he said, was a tumor. And tumors there are almost never benign.

Four days later, we confirmed with an ultrasound she had intestinal cancer. We asked questions, and decided there was little sense in treating it aggressively. We decided to treat symptoms only.

With a steroid shot, her appetite rebounded and her behavior got back to normal. But three weeks later, she stopped eating again. I took her back to the vet, expecting a little more treatment, maybe another steroid shot.

But this time, the vet noticed a light yellow tinge in her eyes and ears that we had not. She was jaundiced. A blood test showed sky-high liver readings. Plus, she’d lost 12 percent of her body weight in three weeks. 

I was the one who scooped away her pee and poop daily, and took her to the vet, but Raven was Jen’s cat. She’d wanted a kitten and we brought her home in 2008. We always loved her total blackness; her long, lean frame; her long, elegant tail; even her aloofness.

She never approached anyone, it seemed, but Jen. Every night, Raven appeared seemingly out of nowhere and walked up to her just after she’d crawled into bed, offering her neck and head for petting.

I got Jen on speaker and the vet told her the news about the liver. If the cat were hers, the vet said, she’d probably let her go.

We got treatment to get Raven through to the next day with as little discomfort as possible. After I’d gone to bed, Jen sat with her in a living room chair, deep into the night.

The next morning, we brought her back to the vet. We voiced some last-minute hesitation. She still seems pretty alert, I said. Doesn’t the jaundice seem a little better today? But there was no doubt about it, the vet assured us. She was not well, she was not going to get better and we had a chance to spare her severe pain.

The first injection would cause her to drift off to sleep, we were told, and we sat with her for her last 10 minutes of life while it kicked in. Then the second injection, and she was gone.

On the ride home, we assured ourselves we’d done everything right, but couldn’t help questioning ourselves.

That night, after the kids were asleep and I returned from walking the dog, Jen called me into the bedroom.

‘I have to tell you something,’ she said.

Earlier in the day, she had moved some stuff — clutter, basically — from our nightstand to our bed, so that our other cat, Sadie, could have easier access to the nightstand, and from there, to a window. When she returned the pile to the nightstand, an old piece of our son Quinn’s artwork was left behind on the bed, right in the spot where Jen sleeps.

Jen had thought we’d got ridden of, or stored, all of Quinn’s artwork during a recent cleaning. But there it was, a creation from a past Halloween: a black cat made out of construction paper, with googly eyes, and a huge smile.

A message from Raven saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine’? Jen says yes, I say it’s a coincidence.

Freaky? We both say yes.

raven 1

raven 2




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