I suppose she did us a kindness by creeping off to die. Strange, though, to have a cat for 19 years and then no longer have that cat. Not that Chloe, a small gray tabby with big eyes and tiny paws, socialized with us much – she once spent an entire summer living in the wood shed – but she was nonetheless a constant presence, whether demanding food or deciding yours was, in fact, the lap that needed to be sat upon. Despite our love and habitual providing of food, Chloe seemed more annoyed than grateful most of the time. The cat had serious resting bitch face.

Some moms I know love to bring animals into their lives. A broader maternal instinct, maybe, or a quest for unconditional love. Me, I had enough on my hands with three kids, plus I know that pets die and why would I invite that kind of sadness into our lives? But pets have a way of showing up even when you’re not looking. In Chloe’s case, especially when you’re not looking.

The kids and I were at the Kinetic Sculpture Festival in Manila waiting for Bobby to arrive. We’d lived in Humboldt all of five months when our neighbors had introduced Bobby to one of their friends who was part of Duane Flatmo’s pit crew; Bobby was quickly conscripted into the Kinetic madness and we were there to cheer the team on for the third year in a row. I had my hands full with four-year-old Nick and six-year-old Kaylee at the time, so I wasn’t keeping as steady an eye on 10-year-old Chelsea as I might normally. That’s how the guy with the kittens was able to hand her one and scoot away into the cover of the crowd.

“Mom!” Chelsea said. “A man asked me to hold his kitten and now he’s gone!”

“What?” I scanned the crowd for a rogue kitten-carrying sneak. No luck – in fact, the voices of other parents bubbled up around me expressing surprise that their child had been handed a kitten to take home. Well-played, sneaky kitten dude.

I almost succeeded in giving the kitten away within the hour. We saw a friend who squealed and said, “I’ve been wanting a kitten!”

“Take it!” I said.

Chelsea burst into tears.

And that’s how Chloe became part of the family.

For the past several years, she’d been a fixture in the mud room, occasionally moving to the top of the car or truck to lie in the sun. She never seemed ill, just old. And then one day Chelsea texted me wherever I was in California to say she thought Chloe had taken herself off to pass on, as old cats often do. I wasn’t surprised – the cat was ancient – but still, strange to have a cat for 19 years and then no longer have that cat.

Because she disappeared instead of dying in plain sight, I’ve taken months to say goodbye – the vagueness led to waiting and, like all tasks with no firm deadline, a moment of honoring failed to happen.

Chloe added humor and haughtiness to our lives and kept the mice out of the house. I loved how she looked curled up in a sun patch. I didn’t mind her antisocial behavior, although when she did demand something, her incessant meowing made me a little crazy. The cat hair – maddening! But she was a fine, easy cat overall and we gave her a pleasant life. Good on you, little Chloe. We miss you.