My cat Meester Nice Guy died last Sunday. I was helping a friend down the street fix some closet shelving. I was gone for 3 hours to come to find he was gone. He hadn’t been acting weird or anything up to the night before, so I’m not sure what caused his death. I had a socially distanced dinner with my parents who I hadn’t seen in months, so I had to figure out how to dispose of his body.
I’m really sad and didn’t know I’d ever be here, grieving a cat. I’ve been missing him all week. There was no preparation for any of it.
I got him from a friend who was moving in with his then-girlfriend-now-wife who already had a teetering détente between all her current animals. Adding Meester into the mix would throw off that balance. The thought was to simply move into where my friend was living. He spoke highly of his landlord and lived in a walkable area. I was going to put money down and “sign on the dotted line” when the other place in the Montrose area finally got back to me.
An old pier & beam house, located in the middle of “The Gayborhood” of Houston, the 2nd floor unit had a spacious backyard, a park spot, a lot of windows, 2 different entrances with their own stoops for sitting and hanging out.
Living by myself here for the first time ever would be mitigated by having a new “roommate” to accompany me. I’d never had my own pet as an adult, so I figured a cat wouldn’t be too much trouble. Maybe I wouldn’t be in my own head all the time.
Meester was an inside-outside cat, so I always had to deal with his tomfoolery. This happened because I’d leave 1 of the 2 apartment entrances open. It was the entrance that had a closed-in porch area with a deadbolt gate as an extra layer of protection. Too small for a human to enter. Just right for a Meester.
But the shenanigans were the price to pay for Meester leaving me to my devices as I left him to his. I’d come home to find bird feathers strewn about in my bedroom or a rat kidney that’d rolled behind an opened interior door.
After he moved in, I was told to make sure he stayed inside for a week, so he could get settled and understand this was his new home. After 6 days, I let him out on a Thursday and hung out on the stoop with him while he slowly sniffed around, wandering the property for the first time. He darted across the street and caught a bird. In the darkness I initially couldn’t tell what it was until he was running through the door up the stairs. I posted a few photos to Instagram and a good friend responded with, “Well, I guess no more Meester nice guy.” So, that was an easy way to “rename” him.
Normally, he’d exit his “Meester entrance” into the porch area and through the dead-bolted gate. After going down the steps, he’d sneak himself past the lattice to go underneath the house itself or he’d prowl the perimeter. He’d often times wait by the steps near his entrance and welcome me when I got home.
I’d had a few issues with the neighborhood cats coming into the house and eating all of Meester’s food. My friends had asked me why I hadn’t simply closed the door to the outside. I told them that he was an inside-outside cat before I got him and that it seemed cruel to limit his lifestyle choices. Other people were worried about Meester getting runned over as he “walked the streets.” I dismissively waved away their concerns. I wasn’t going to keep him from living his best life. He was annoying enough as it was.
He’d always wake me up at 4 or 5 in the morning to be fed. Knowing I should outsmart this inconveniently-timed want, I’d place food in there beforehand for him. It didn’t matter. He’d have food in his bowl and he’d still meow to wake me up. Like running sprints on the basketball court for P.E. class, I’d blearily walk to the food bowl and then touch the bowl then go back to bed. Since his food bowl’s right near the door to the kitchen, I’d never have to journey too far into the kitchen.
Meester would sit down satisfied and eat on his food, noisily munching and scattering the dry food pellets all across the brown linoleum kitchen floor.
I sometimes fall asleep the night before with all the lights on (bedside table, bedroom fan, hallway lights, kitchen lights), so I take the opportunity to turn them all off for the few hours I still had for sleeping.
But we had a good time together. I’ve developed a habit of sitting on my stoop with a drink and doing work while Meester sits with me or cavorts around the neighborhood. He’d disappear for a few hours and he’d lurk back from the darkness, with some more scrapes on his nose or leaves stuck on his back.
A few months ago, I was half-sleeping (as I normally do) and Meester was at my feet. He was delighting in the fact that I had turned on the AC for a hot May evening. The few gay bars still open around me were beginning to let out around 1:30am.
I’d probably been oscillating between awake and not-awake for 3–4 hours by the time I heard food bowl munching from the kitchen. In my half-awakened state, I appreciated that Meester was eating at 2am and, thus, would probably not be bothering me at 5am.
A sense of relief washed over me as I still slept with all the lights on. I decided to snug myself up to be a little more comfortable in my bed. In the shuffling of my legs to a more amendable position, they knocked against Meester, who was still at my feet.
Except the munching was continuing.
Something was inside the house.
My eyes jolted open, panicked. I sprang up and bolted toward the kitchen. I rustled the bedsheets and pillows as I made my way out of the bedroom. A sleeping Meester didn’t know what was happening as his sleeping spot was suddenly disturbed. After figuring out what was going on, he chased after me. Rushing towards the kitchen, all the lights on.
I see the food bowl past the threshold. And the raccoon eating Meester’s food.
The raccoon jumps upward as soon as he spots me. Food pellets go everywhere. He scurries away in the opposite direction, hiding behind the oven. I step to pivot back to close the door to the kitchen. All the camouflaged round, dry pellets on the floor make me slip as I reach for the door handle. Meester’s almost to the door before I shut it with a slam. I twist my body around and turn the knobs on the oven. The flames underneath breathe to life. I hear Meester growl-meow from the other side of the door.
The closed kitchen door is blocking the raccoon’s exit, but there’s another door past the oven. I stand myself up and put on some shoes. I walk past the raccoon who’s now wedged between the range and the wall. I walk down the stairs and I open the door that I hope will become his exit. I come back up the stairs, grabbing a broom along the way. Meester’s started pawing at the kitchen door with a hiss or two.
I gently open the door to let him in. Tail fluffed out in attack mode, all he can do is smell the intruder. Meester slowly approaches his food bowl. I turn off the range and casually peer behind it, broom in hand. I slowly maneuver the broom bristles over the raccoon’s raised grey fur. Meester’s still sniffing around the kitchen door, curious what‘s happening. I can see the raccoon shivering slightly as he’s trying to wait me out. Hovering the broom over him, I encourage myself, “Well, I’m not talking him out of there.”
I jam the broom bristles into the raccoon’s back. That gooses him into a start. He bolts back out from behind the range and races toward the kitchen door where he came in. He encounters Meester who is startled to find what he was searching for has actually found him.
The raccoon has too much forward momentum on the linoleum floor, so his claws and paws can’t slow him down. He barrels into Meester. Meester barely has enough time to arch his back or exhale a hiss before getting bowled into. In a ball of black, grey, and white, Meester and the raccoon aren’t so much fighting as they are trying to regain their bearings.
I stick the broom between them and they separate like two middle schoolers trying to defend their rep during recess. Meester takes the opportunity to grandstand with his sharp hisses and flooffed tail.
The raccoon is panicked that his path of egress has been blocked off and it’s now 2-vs-1. With a broom in his face, he claws at it. He crawls up the broom. Being between the raccoon and the exit, I panic and start twisting the broom left and right.
Undeterred, the raccoon holds onto the broomstick for dear life, pulling himself upward. I turn my body to flip our orientations to the exit. His body jostles with every jolt. Meester hisses and snaps at the raccoon from a safe distance.
The raccoon gets higher up on the broomstick. I surrender my lower hand on the stick as he gets a few inches higher. Meester rears up as he bats at the broomstick. He mistakenly catches my calf with his claws.
Using only my right hand to get the raccoon off of it, and with Meester oafishly attacking me, the effectiveness of thrashing the broom is greatly diminished. I debate what I’ll need to do if the raccoon physically gets on me, which seems inevitable given the raccoon’s moxie.
An idea comes to me.
I flip the broom upside-down and grab it by its bristles. The raccoon dangles from the broomstick end now. Disoriented by this unexpected change, the raccoon doesn’t realize he’s a few inches from the ground. His paws above his head, he refuses to let go. He’s level with Meester, and they make eye contact for a moment. I use my free hand to flick the broomstick end over toward the exit. The raccoon drops to the ground and runs toward the oven. He passes it and makes his way for the stairs.
He stumbles a little with the steps down but rounds the curve toward the now-visible outside. I chase after him with the broom. Meester chases after me. The raccoon takes a left as he exits the door and runs along the lattice that skirts along the house’s perimeter.
With the gay bars still letting out, the inebriated patrons see me and Meester chasing the raccoon with me shouting, “Get out of here, you crazy raccoon!” We gain ground on him as he approaches the other set of stairs where the Meester entrance is. I panic for a second, thinking he’s going to re-enter the house and we’re going to yakety yak this process all over again. He squeals as he ducks underneath the steps. He takes another left after he bypasses Meester’s entrance. From the inside porch area, a 2nd raccoon comes out and runs after his buddy.
Meester and I stop our pursuit and stand there stupefied. Meester and I look at each other. I ask him, “Did you know raccoons always have a lookout?” He meows at me.
And that was the kind of stuff I got into with Meester. It was annoying. It wasn’t expected or desired. As much as I always thought about Meester, I also forgot about him a lot. He was constant little shadow that always like being near me. I liked his company but I think I might’ve taken it for granted.
I miss his annoying meowing.
I just wish I could’ve been there when he passed. I don’t know what he ate or what happened to him when he passed. All I know is he was by himself. Which breaks my heart.
The next morning I called the original owner to let him know what happened. He texted that I should inform BARC about Meester having died.
“FYI, Meester’s original name with BARC’s was ‘Oreo,’” he let me know.
I never knew that. How unoriginal.
I wonder what other little secrets he had stashed away and never told me about. Burying him underneath the house was my little secret. Our last one together.
Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything even if I were there when he passed. I know that. I’m not deluded to think that any intervention by me would’ve prevented what was probably inevitable. I was gone for such a little bit of time and he hadn’t been acting weird before I left. It happened all of a sudden.
I just know that if I had been here, I would’ve walked up to him, confused about what kinda hairball he was about to hock up. And suddenly in a rushing realization I would’ve known that I was losing my little Meester Nice Guy. I would’ve just laid on the ground and given him a lil’ skritch. A soft shoosh to calm him. A run of my hands along his black and white fur to let him know that I was here and that he was loved.
That’d he be missed.
Even if I didn’t know that at the time.
I just never thought I’d be here. Crying over my keyboard. Over an annoying cat. There are so many worse things happening in the world right that my pain and suffering seem so small and meaningless in contrast. But I think that realization means it hurts all the greater. His importance in this world is almost unknowable by anybody else, which just feels wrong. That the world won’t know what it’s lost.
But he wasn’t just an annoying cat. He was Meester Nice Guy. And he was my annoying cat. He was a great fucking cat. So, I miss him.