Farewell, Midnight

Way, way back when we first moved to Minnesota, almost 20 years ago, one of the promises I made to my daughter Skatje to help reconcile her to the move was that we’d let her get a cat. We did! In the spring of that year she adopted Midnight.

She loved that cat. Midnight has been her constant companion through high school, through college, through grad school, through her marriage, and now through the first year of her child’s life. Iliana and Midnight have gotten along pretty well.

While Midnight has been lively and alert every time we’ve seen him, he’s been steadily accumulating geriatric cat health problems, with years of urinary tract infections and kidney problems, and was recently diagnosed with a large tumor in his digestive tract that was just going to get worse. After twenty years of mutual loyalty, it would have been unkind to let him suffer more.

So yesterday, Midnight was put to sleep.

It’s a funny thing, but he was a bit of a pain in the neck — we still have a big urine burn on the floor in my office, where he’d sneak into a corner to pee — but you don’t get to love someone because they’re convenient. He’s going to be missed, and remembered, in our family.


  1. Matt G says

    Sorry to hear this, PZ. The only time I’ve ever seen my father cry was when we put our 21-year-old cat Max to sleep.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    All my sympathies, PZ. We are not quite two weeks on from having taken the same painful decision with Dog of 15 years, and everything feels so weird and hollowed-out. Every bit of sympathy I’ve got, to you and all the family, especially Skatje.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    Matt G: Funny in the unfunny way. The only time I saw my dad cry was when our dog Max was put down. It was probably the only time he saw me cry since childhood.

    Good innings, Midnight.

  4. hillaryrettig says

    Condolences. It’s never easy, but I’m sure Midnight had a wonderful life and knew he was loved.

  5. JoeBuddha says

    I am so sorry for your loss. My wife and I adopt geriatric and special needs cats. Needless to say, they don’t live as long, and I’ve had to say so many goodbyes. It’s never easy.

  6. Sean Boyd says

    I am so sorry. They may not get a say in family vacations or on what’s for dinner, but they’re still family and friends, and it hurts losing them. My condolences to you and yours.

    I lost both my cat and dog this year. Molly (my Lhasa Apso) was euthanized in June…she’d developed cancer, and there was nothing I could do. My boy Schrödinger (Dinger for short, a reformed alley cat) just dropped dead in his litter box one morning in February, with no warning signs that I noticed. I joke now that it’s exactly how I expect our President* to go…on the can, except he’ll be rage-tweeting as well.

  7. asclepias says

    I’m impressed. Twenty years is a good, long life for a cat! It never gets easier, though. I had to say goodbye to my cocker spaniel in April, but he was in so much pain I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Whether they’ve been with us 3 years (Jake was very senior when I adopted him–11 years old) or 20, it’s still so hard. But if it ever gets easier, there is something wrong with us.

  8. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Losing a pet sucks. Having never had one would suck way more. All you can do is try to give them a good life and a not too sucky death.

    And it’s funny, you wind up missing the ones who were a pain the ass just as much as you miss the ones that were too good for their own good..

  9. drivenb4u says

    Aw, this triggers memories as we also had a fine black cat named Midnight (I named him) when I was a kid, some 30 years ago. He grew to be a sizeable cat with an incongrously high-pitched meow, and my brother thought it amusing to call him Tyrone. He was a good cat. Your daughter’s lucky her Midnight was there for so long! They don’t all get long lives like that.

  10. blf says

    When the dog which was part of my growing-up was euthanized, I was at University. When I’d last saw him, it was clear he would soon be gone, which helped when I learned the news. He’d been part of my childhood since I was very young (pre-school, as far as I can now recall), so had a long life of 15 years and probably more (my recollections of precise dates / years are now too faint, Sorry!).

    I know I’ve told this story before (so apologies for the repeat), but one of my favourite memories dates back to US high school (so perhaps five-ish years before he was euthanized, i.e., already quite old): I rode my bicycle most days to-and-from school, and was being bullied by two others who did the same. They would try to trap me, push me off my bike, and so on. One day, they decide to ambush me in the back alleyway that led to my house. This was double-stupid.

    First, they neglected that at that point, I would be traveling at high speed, due to a long downhill. Second, they clearly hadn’t done their research, and didn’t know / realise my house was perhaps 10 metres beyond the ambush. What happened: I turned into the alleyway at speed, they sprung the ambush, foolishly overlapping their front wheels. I deliberately aimed at the overlap and rode straight through them (at speed), causing both to crash to the ground.† Whilst they were screaming and swearing and getting up. I pulled up at the back gate and opened it. The dog and the bullies arrived at the same time. It was no contest. The dog did his part, barking furiously (I held his collar), and the bullies, after several threats by me (reinforced by the fearless-looking / sounding dog) they ran rode away. (As far as I can now recall, they didn’t bother me again, albeit I distinctly remember taking the precaution of using alternative routes for some time afterwards.)

    The dog got a log of hugs and a big snack. (My parents said the dog was a wolf / collie mogul, and he could indeed look quite fierce.)

      † In retrospect, I perhaps was lucky I didn’t also crash, albeit I had momentum, a dead-on 90-degree hit, and (even as a then-teenager) considerable experience with bicycle riding / handling.

  11. PaulBC says

    Sorry to hear. I have never had a pet as an adult, and I’m not sure how I would face something like that. It is a good span for a cat, though. I think our oldest may have made it a little past 15.

    Ming the Bengal Tiger has also died. He was nearly 20 years old too. I only bring this up because after reading about him, I can’t stop being both appalled and impressed at somebody taking care of a 250 pound tiger in a city apartment. How is that remotely possible? Ming was moved to a more spacious home at age 3, and apparently led a good life thereafter.

  12. stroppy says

    Lax laws, lax enforcement. PBS had a thing on Harrods last night with a segment on a lion named Christian sold to private owners with some explanation of how they raised him (a really big kitty litter pan for one thing). You can Google.

    Bottom line, Illegal pet/animal parts trade, people… being sickening on so many levels.

    Well, since you brought it up and I was already depressed, this:

  13. says

    Tell Skatje that we’re all feeling empathy and sympathy for her loss.

    Separately, this bit

    we still have a big urine burn on the floor in my office, where he’d sneak into a corner to pee — but you don’t get to love someone because they’re convenient.

    made me wonder if your beloved Jenny was also peeing in your corners. I learned something new!

    spiders have structures designed to get rid of nitrogenous waste. These are called malpighian tubules and function in a manner similar to our own kidneys. Spiders don’t produce urine like we do, but produce uric acid, which doesn’t dissolve in water and is a near-solid. Spiders have this alternate form of waste because they can’t afford to lose as much water as we do. These malpighian tubules drain into an pouch attached to the digestive tract (called a stercoral pocket) so the uric acid waste from the “kidneys” is combined and eliminated together with solid waste from the digestive tract. In this sense, spiders don’t deposit separate feces and urine, but rather a combined waste product that exits from the same opening (anus).

    I imagine most if not all land-dwelling chelicerata handle their waste in the same way, leading to fewer floor-stains than liquid urea spills might produce, but I wonder how widespread this might be throughout arthropoda, given the mix of land and water dwelling genera, as well as the vast evolutionary distance between present arthropods and their last common ancestors.

    Anyway, I wouldn’t trade our cats for spiders, but I also named the spider hanging about the top-back corner of our refrigerator so I don’t see why one can’t have both.

  14. rietpluim says

    you don’t get to love someone because they’re convenient

    Should be on every wall in every home, school, office and factory in the world.

  15. says

    Condolences on kitty loss. Twenty is a good innings though. Our Oscar (my avatar pic) is nearly 19, deaf as a post and wobbly on his arthritic knees but still enjoys life well enough. He’ll be sorely missed when he goes too.

  16. says

    Sorry to hear it. My black cat lasted till his mid 20s. My wife brought him home as a kitten. He was found by the foreman in the dumpster at her work and promptly bit him. On that basis she decided he was worth having. He repaid our kindness by being a lethally efficient killer of the rats and mice that kept invading our chicken coop. Even with arthritic hips slowing him down they didn’t stand much chance. His only vet visit was to get a piece of tooth removed from his skull after a fight with another cat. He passed quietly one night in his sleep. His replacement is a Russina Blue kitten which hitched a ride for at least 70km if not more on the chassis rail of my sons semi-trailer.

  17. smellyoldgit says

    Many years ago, I inherited a lively stray puss that I thought was old. I named him Boddington, ‘Bod’ for short.
    Four years later the real owner tracked us down and confirmed the cat’s ‘real’ name was Midnight – but insisted I keep the beast as it seemed so happy and well looked after. The feline monster would kick seven bells of shit out of the local mutts that really only wanted to say hello and sniff his butt. The grand old moggie lived another six years before we had to help him shuffle off that damn mortal coil. :(

  18. mykroft says

    We had a Midnight as well, who “followed” our daughter home when she stopped and petted him every few feet. A good cat, mostly, although he had a bad habit of spraying walls, furniture, and occasionally, people.

  19. cartomancer says

    Twenty is a grand old age for a cat. It’s always sad to say goodbye to one – I’ve had to do it twice in my life, and it affected me more than losing some relatives. But they are mortal, unfortunately, and get less time allotted to them than we do. Still, it helps to know you gave them the best life you could, that they were happy and loved.

  20. Akira MacKenzie says

    A couple of months back, we had to put our 16+ year-old Tuxedo Cat, Victor, to sleep due to age-related kidney failure. He was such a sweet, kitty. Rather than bite or claw, he’d lick your face or hand when he met you. He was always more dog-like than cat-like. He got along with every human he met, sitting in the laps of a newcomer after a few minutes. I’m going to miss the fluffy fellow.