I can’t imagine life without cats. I’ve lived with cats most of my life and have had at least one feline companion for the past 30 years.

I have always loved animals, but cats are special creatures. I’ve always felt particularly connected to them. I sometimes wonder if I was a cat in a past life.

There’s really not much better than having a purring cat curled up in your lap.

But it’s a cruel reality that cats’ lifespans are so much shorter than ours.

If you read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog, you’ve seen her write about bad cat years. Those are the years you lose multiple cats because of age or ill health or both.

It’s a phenomenon I wasn’t familiar with until recently.

I’m having a bad cat year. A bad pet year, actually.

My 17-year-old Sydney died in July. He had kidney disease, which we knew. But his brother and litter mate, Truman, had been living with kidney disease for three years at that point, so I thought Sydney, who was diagnosed about 8 months prior, would have more time.

I was wrong. He seemed fine, and then suddenly he wasn’t. In a particularly cruel twist of fate (or as Kris says, planning on his part to make it easier for me), his rapid decline happened the first time I traveled across the country since the pandemic hit. I couldn’t get home quickly enough to be there. And I couldn’t let him suffer while waiting. It was a brutal decision.

In October, our 12-year-old miniature poodle blew out her right back knee. Surgery wasn’t an option due to her age and other medical issues. We were able to keep her relatively pain free and mobile until her other back knee went right before Thanksgiving. That was also a difficult decision, because her spirit was willing but her body had failed her. So, there I was collecting ashes for the second pet in four months.

Soon, I will need to make a decision about Truman, too. He’s rebounded so many times the past four years. When he broke his back leg in March 2018, and then was diagnosed with kidney disease shortly thereafter, I had to face his mortality. But his decline has been so slow, it kind of lulled me into the fantasy that he might live, well, not forever, but I couldn’t really put an end date on it.

Yet, I know I’m now measuring his time left in weeks. When the end comes, it will be whole different kind of brutal.

And I still might not be done with the bad cat year. Our youngest cat, Max, is 16 1/2 with severe arthritis and a heart murmur.

But you all know I can’t just focus on the negative. I have to find the silver linings.

For Sydney, that was recognizing that he didn’t want to be frail. Syd was the alpha of our pack, despite being the smallest. He’s the one who took care of everyone else. He wouldn’t have tolerated the interventions necessary to keep his kidney disease at bay. 

For Truman, who is so different in some ways from Syd, that’s been getting pampered. He loves riding in the car (Syd hated it), and he loves seeing his “people” at the vet’s office twice a week for his “spa treatments” (although he’s quite vocal about his annoyance at said “treatments”). His eyes perk up in recognition as soon as we approach the Starbucks drive-through for his weekly cattuccino. And he now gets fed on demand with a variety of options offered so he can choose his favorite from the chef’s finest selections. Only human food will do now. The current favorites are rotisserie chicken and smoked salmon.

As for Max, he has always wanted to be an only cat, so soon, and for the rest of his life however long that may be, he will get his wish.

I think the least we can do to make up for cats’ ridiculously short lifespans is to pamper them.

As for me, it will take some time for my heart to heal. But in the meantime, it helps to remember my boys in their youth. And to be grateful for the time I got to spend with them.

And until I can bear the thought of letting another cat into my heart, I am comforted by the fact that I have no shortage of cat stories to read.

Cat fiction has a way of soothing the soul, doesn’t it?

Our latest collection of cat fiction comes by way of the Cattitude StoryBundle, curated by Dean Wesley Smith (who is, of course, also a companion to several cats).

This StoryBundle features five WMG books—a three-book bundle called The Fates Trilogy by Kristine Grayson, the new Pakhet Jones novella Big Eyes by Dean, and The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Fantastic Whims, edited by Kris and Dean.

Click here to check it out.

Even in the worst of times, life truly is better with cats.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.