Miles, 2005 – 2023

This is the post I’ve dreaded writing for years, and over the past week, I started several different versions of it. The truth is, nothing I can say would do justice to the cat that was Miles, but his death warrants more than just a passing mention in a comment on a Friday Links post.

Three-month-old Miles on the night I brought him home.

Ever since he was a kitten, I had a premonition that he would die at 17. I never shared this premonition with a soul – not even Drew – because, in the early years, I didn’t want to jinx it. Miles battled so many health issues over his life and there were lots of times that his living to 17 felt like a farfetched idea. But then he survived his biggest health issue in August 2021, at the age of 16, and I started thinking, “Well, maybe.” And then, after he turned 17 last year, each day felt like borrowed time.

That August in 2021 we were out of town and came home to a dramatically different Miles. It’s still unclear whether he suffered a stroke – or a series of strokes – or whether he had a benign brain tumor. Whatever it was left him completely blind and cognitively impaired. He couldn’t walk in a straight line, he spun in circles nonstop, he was restless. But I didn’t feel he was ready to go yet, and the vet assured me that lab work showed an otherwise healthy cat and that she supported my decision to keep Miles alive and treat whatever time we had left as though he were in hospice care. We focused on making him comfortable and safe. We installed a baby gate at the top of our stairs so that he would stay confined to our top floor where he had easy access to his litter box, food, lots of sunlight, and even his favorite spot when weather allowed: the deck.

Oh, the hours he and I spent together on the deck. The hours we spent together, period. Almost since the time he came to live with me, I’ve worked from home, and so Miles and I were together pretty constantly. In addition to the lounging on the deck, here are some of Miles’ other favorite activities: eating as much as possible as often as possible (and this meant often trying to sneak food from our plates); cuddling; when he could still see, he loved watching birds and squirrels out the window; napping. And that’s about it. He was a simple guy, but he was special. Everyone always said so – all the different vets he saw over the years, every catsitter, most guests who came by who had any understanding or appreciation of cats – they all commented about how sweet and special he was.

One occasion that this was very clear was the weekend before Simone died. I didn’t want to believe it at the time, but she was actively dying, and she and Miles both understood this. Over her last day and a half, she climbed to the top of the stairs that lead to our roof and she slept. Miles immediately made his way to one of the bottom steps and stood guard for hours. He stood guard until he could no longer stay awake and then he lay down right where he was and slept. This was striking because he and Simone never got along great. In their younger days, they had physical fights which morphed into mostly vocal fights in their older age. But I think they respected each other. They at least respected each others’ space (most of the time). In each apartment we shared together, there was a clear “Simone’s territory,” and a “Miles’ territory,” and one rarely trespassed on the other.

After Simone died, Miles relished being the only cat of the family. And this coincided perfectly with Jackson and Joanie no longer being babies. Jackson was seven and Joanie was three at the time, so Miles, who always loved being the baby of the family before they came along, got to go back to that treasured role. In his final years, I used to always say, “My other babies got big, but you just kept on being my baby, didn’t you?” And he’d snuggle further into my arms like the big ol’ baby he was.

It was in my arms that Miles peacefully passed away last week. In the days prior, he’d had a seeming burst of energy. I even wrote about it here, after he joined us at our Passover Seder table. We commented on how he seemed like his old self again. In his final 19 months, he just wasn’t all there, mentally. It was him but it wasn’t. Like how I imagine someone with dementia might seem to their loved ones. When someone is experiencing rapid or sudden cognitive decline, it’s like losing pieces of them before they’re really gone. They’re here, but they’re not here. The grieving process begins before they actually die. So to get a little taste of the old Miles right before we lost him forever was a gift.

It was also a gift to get to care for him through this last stage of his life. These past 19 months taught me more about the aging process, the grieving process, and what the universal ingredients are for achieving a decent quality of life than any other experience I’ve had so far. I really had hoped he’d live forever, but despite his earlier burst of energy over Passover, a couple days later he became listless and lost interest in eating. By Sunday night, he began hiding – under the couch, behind the toilet. I knew these telltale signs of imminent death but also knew it was possible he was just sick and would recover like he had countless times before.

I filled his auto feeder with one of the frozen food cubes I made for his overnight feeding. At this point, Miles was eating five small meals a day (of his prescription canned wet food), and I would freeze some of the cans in ice cube trays to make food cubes that defrosted overnight or throughout the day if we happened to be away from him for several hours. I hoped in the morning the food would be eaten and Miles would have dramatically improved. But I remembered my premonition about Miles dying at 17; there were just a few weeks left for that to happen. Maybe this was really it this time.

In the morning, as I feared, Miles’ food was untouched and he was hiding again. I found him in a corner, only the bottom half of his body exposed looking skinnier than I’ve ever seen him (later, I learned he was only 7 pounds – down three pounds since January, which was half the weight he was three years ago and just a third of what he was at his heaviest). I managed to get him to eat a little bit, but I could tell this was it, this was the end. Just as I was wondering whether I should take him to our regular vet or get him to an ER, Miles had a seizure right in my arms that lasted nearly a full minute. I took him to the ER.

It happened quickly, but it was peaceful and, as much as these things can go, it was beautiful too. We were all there with him – me and Drew and Jackson and Joanie. We took photos. I thanked him for all the joy he’d brought us over these years and told him his work was done and he could rest now. He looked so cute, even in his final moments, wrapped in a cozy blanket, his little paw sticking out like it always did.

Of course, the vet commented about how special he is. It was the one part of him that hadn’t changed at all. “He’s so sweet, isn’t he?” she said.

Yes, he was. He was the absolute sweetest (and funniest and cutest), and I’m going to miss him terribly.


  1. This was a nice tribute to Miles. I’m sorry for your family’s loss!

  2. Anonymousse says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Wendy.

  3. I’m so sorry, Wendy, I know it hurts so, so, much. Such a special guy, and integral part of the family, and he was with you for so long. I do believe they just go on being themselves, but you just want them with you.

    A lot of his last year sounds like my dog M, he completely lost his vision, wanted to eat constantly (which isn’t possible with a diabetic dog), lost so much weight, had vestibular issues, etc. He could hear though, and he knew what was going on, I could tell. But it’s so hard to see them dealing with that stuff. And then the end for M was also a seizure and a peaceful goodbye. I really wish there was a way to spare us the pain of going through this loss, and that pets could live as long as we do.

    1. M’s final year sounds strikingly similar to Miles’ final year and a half (including the diabetes, though miles went into remission four months ago so we got to ditch the insulin at the end, which was nice). Thanks for the kind words, and I’m sorry for your loss too. I know the pain lessens but it never fully goes away.

      1. It does get better and you can remember them in a happy way, I can tell you that.

  4. LisforLeslie says:

    This was a very touching obituary; MIles’ death seems to have left you with a very warm sadness.

  5. LadyInPurpleNotRed says:

    I’m so sorry Wendy—losing a beloved pet is so hard.

  6. Rangerchic says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute that shows how much he was loved, adored and a part of the family.

    It’s so incredibly hard to lose a beloved pet. We had to put our dog, Bugzy (12), down in October. And I still think of him everyday. We still have one dog – Itsy Bitsy. She’s 11 and diabetic now but a smaller dog at 14 pounds so I’m hoping to have her a few more years…as many as I can get.

    1. I’m sorry for your loss too. It’s never enough time with our fur babies.

  7. This was beautiful, Wendy. And I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I also want to thank you for sharing that loss. When it was my first dog’s time to go, I had never had the experience of saying good-bye to a pet. I remembered your post about Simone’s passing and it made me feel comforted to read your account and know that as shitty as it is to say good-bye, the love I felt is real and valid and that people “get it.”

    I’m sorry you had to say goodbye to Miles, but I’m glad y’all had each other.

  8. That was such a lovely tribute. I read this on the plane earlier today and tears starting flowing. So very sweet.

    I’m admittedly not a cat (or any domesticated animal) person, but it’d absolutely read a book about Miles written by you, Wendy.

    1. I echo Miss MJ and am so happy you found one another.

  9. Thank you for this beautiful post, Wendy. I am so sorry for your loss, Miles sounds like a wonderful cat.

    Apologies to hijack slightly but I have just this morning found out my aunt has died and I do not know what to do with myself. So, reading your post about Miles is a beautiful salve for my soul and has helped me sit with my own grief. Sat here reading it with tears pouring down my cheeks, your writing is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing xxx

  10. Part-time Lurker says:

    My condolences on your loss Wendy. It sounds like he was a wonderful companion.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m glad that Miles and your family got to share a long caring and loving life together.

  12. Wendy,
    This heartfelt and beautiful tribute really touched me. I could feel yours and Milo’s love through the words and really experience his special-ness. As someone with a special cat that is just my best companion, I can only imagine how hard it was saying goodbye. Sending you love and good thoughts. Thank you so much sharing.

  13. RIP Miles, such a sweet cat indeed! And all my sympathy to you, Wendy, it is so sad to lose a dear pet who share so much a your family life.

  14. Amy Joslin says:

    I am so sorry, Wendy- been following yoy a long long time and have loved watching your family change and grow. Losing our beloved pets is unimaginably difficult. Sending you all love and healing

  15. Wendy, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had to say goodbye to your sweet guy Miles. I hope you and your family can find comfort in your memories of him. He loved and was loved, so he had a great life with you. I was just remembering the funny posts “written” in Miles’ voice about “Wendy and the Man”; I used to get such a kick out of those! Sending hugs <3

  16. I am so sorry very for your loss, Wendy. Miles sounds like he was a wonderful cat.

    I lost my own cat, Kane, almost 10 years ago now, and it STILL sucks. I got him as a teen and had him all through my young adult life, as I moved around during and after school. He was there when I lived alone for the first time. Nobody would describe him as sweet; even as a young cat, his vibe was always cantankerous old man shouting at neighbourhood kids to get off his lawn. He hate to be picked up or cuddled, but he followed me from room to room and would sit just close enough that he could stretch out a paw and be touching me. I miss sleeping next to him.

    I loved your vet’s comment. I’m a manager in a vet clinic, and often step in to assist in end-of-life appointments when I know the family well or newer staff are still too uncertain or emotional to handle it. I try to say something meaningful that isn’t the kind of platitude you so often hear when you’re grieving – share a memory of their pet that they weren’t present for because it happened in a back treatment room, or talk about their personality – something that shows that I saw their pet for who they were, that it’s more to me than just another day at work. I’m so glad that your vet’s comment brought you comfort.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can imagine how meaningful it must be feel to bring some comfort to grieving families in their pets’ final moments. Thanks for being there for them.

      1. It means a lot. The vet who did this procedure for us was someone who didn’t know me and my dog because this happened in a different state, and he was awesome and so supportive. The clinic sent me a card after, sent by the vet and the vet tech/nurse, and they wrote that he was a sweet guy and obviously a beloved family member. My dog was blind and they were caring for him after a seizure when he was definitely not “there.” But I remember the vet asking me, “does he hear?”, because you wouldn’t be able to tell at that point, but yes, he could hear just fine, and it made me feel good to know they were taking that into account and talking to him.

      2. I’m sorry for your loss, Kate. It’s so much harder away from home, having to deal with strangers. I’m glad the vet was able to impart comfort and compassion despite not knowing you folks.

        I have yet to work with a vet who wasn’t deeply affected by every end-of-life appointment. I’ve known several who would be in tears after every one, especially if they knew the dog since puppyhood. Others have needed to leave work early or take a mental health day if they’ve had to do multiple in one day, weren’t able to save a younger pet, or if it was a case of neglect or avoidable trauma.

  17. I’m so, so sorry to hear about Miles’ passing, Wendy. You gave him a beautiful, wonderful, sweet life full of love and I really believe you will see him again.

    The hardest and most painful day of my life was July 31, 2019 when I lost my soulmate, my first dog, Lottie Beth, at 11 years old (FAR too young for a 6lb dog). She became sick and passed away within hours; turns out it was a ruptured heartstring, a genetic condition you don’t know your dog has until they pretty much instantly pass. I miss her every single moment of every single day and I can’t wait to be with her again. <3

    1. It’s so hard – I’m sorry. I hope you feel Lottie Beth’s presence.

  18. So sorry to hear about your loss of Miles. Losing a being so close to your heart is devastating and as they were a constant presence their constant absence is such ongoing pain. Im glad you were with him at the end and knew he had comfort as he left life. I’m sure he appreciated that final kindness as he appreciated all your love and kindness before.

    1. Thank you, I appreciate your kind words. It’s been three weeks today and I still feel so sad.

  19. im so sorry for ur loss wendy. U r a beautiful, kind woman and Miles will always be the luckiest cat for having u as his friend. i understand this is a hard time but i bet Miles is up there watching over ur family like a great cat-lord or even quarelling w Simone!
    I, too, have a cat and i want her with me forever. i know not everything lasts long but my luv for Bella will last longer than time. And so will ur luv for Miles.

    I hope u will healthily move through this grieving phase and forever cherish ur memories w ur best friend, Miles.

    Lots of luv <3

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