Meeko wasn't my cat. Not really, anyway. She belonged to my husband, Jared, when we first met 12 years ago. She was a big, fluffy, 3-year old kitty, with a tail striped like a raccoon and beautiful markings all over her face. I adored her. She was less certain about me.

Eventually, of course, I won her over by feeding her treats and tossing crinkly objects her way for playtime. When my husband began traveling for work, our bond strengthened — I was still second choice, of course, but a close second.

Near the end of 2010, Meeko changed. She lost weight despite continuing to eat well, and became extra playful, which was strange, given that she was considered senior at that point. We soon learned the cause — hyperthyroidism. In addition to that, testing her BUN and creatinine levels showed that our poor girl was in renal failure. Basically, we knew at that point that we were on borrowed time.

For a year we tricked her into taking pills twice a day (thank goodness for soft treats to hide small pills in!), gave her subcutaneous fluids several times a week, and fed her the food our vet prescribed. For a year we tried to prepare ourselves, and sometimes — when she'd have a particularly feisty day filled with rolling in sunbeams and knocking various items off my desk while I worked — we'd even trick ourselves into believing she was doing really well. But by the start of 2012, it became clear. She'd lost so much weight and had very little energy. The time had come to end the battle.

You'd think that having so much time to prepare would make it easier to handle the inevitable. In some ways, you'd be right. We knew we'd truly done all we could for her. We'd had time to come to terms with the decision itself. But you'd be wrong if you think that made it much easier to lose her.

Meeko's Last Morning

My husband and I got up early to spend all the time with her we could. We alternated between cherishing those few hours and finding every moment agonizing, knowing that in three hours, two hours, 30 minutes, she would no longer be with us. We fed her all the foods she hadn't been allowed to have and watched her chow down on tuna and other juicy, canned delicacies. We gave her catnip. We placed her in sunbeams. And then we wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet, where my husband cradled her as they shaved her front leg, put in a catheter, gave her a strong sedative and, finally, an injection that stopped her heart. He held Meeko, and I held him, and we stroked her head and cried until the vet returned to make sure there was no heartbeat. We took a few more minutes with her, which somehow both felt like hours on end and no time at all, then headed home.

It felt strange, and of course awful, to be home without her, but we found some peace in knowing we'd done the right thing.

Day 3: Not the Happiest Birthday

Three days later it was my birthday, and even though we were still reeling from our loss, we celebrated with friends at a nearby restaurant, where we took over the back patio. However, we soon found out we were not alone — a small, stray cat had joined the gathering. Jared and I locked eyes at one point, and although my eyes welled up, I held back the tears. At least I did until we got home.

I was prepared for the "sightings" at home — every time a shadow would pass just out of sight, I would think it was Meeko, just for a split second. The reminder out of my house, though, was unexpected, and I realized my armor wasn't quite as thick as I thought it was.

Day 10: When Does This Get Easier?

I was fortunate in that I had a lot of distractions after Meeko's passing, but when the sadness hit me, it hit me hard. The grief felt fresh, and it was like I was just processing it over and over and over.

Meeko was our only cat, and while we knew we'd probably get another cat at some point (although we weren't talking about it yet, not out loud), we put all of her things away. The cat condo was wrapped up and stored in the garage. Same with the litter box and the food. Of course, cats are small and, therefore, so are their things, so we kept finding little items — jingly toys, packets of catnip — stashed here and there. And each time I found something new, it was a fresh flood of emotion, which felt ridiculous at that point, but there was nothing I could do.

Day 21: I Can't Believe Kitty Litter Made Me Sad

I'd gotten used to finding little kitty trinkets. I still felt sad, but I rarely cried. And so, when in the course of cleaning, I come upon a scattering of kitty litter on the carpet where Meeko's litter box had been, I was shocked at the tears that immediately started rolling down my face. It's kitty litter! This was the one part of cat ownership I positively detested — in fact, we got an automatic litter box because I had such issues with it, and then to be crying over it? For Pete's sake, really?

Day 23: One Step Forward, One Step Back

My husband and I both had to leave town, so, as usual, I left instructions for the house/dog-sitter. But, for the first time, I didn't have to include a whole, long section on Meeko's schedule and meds and care. I felt a wave of … well, relief isn't the word, but I felt like I might be moving on.

However, while out of town, I stayed with friends who had small lapdogs, and I realized how much I've missed Meeko curling up on my lap every evening. Great. Back to square one.

Day 35: Almost Out of the Woods

One of the tricky parts of working as an editor on a pet site, as I do at Vetstreet, is that even when you're dealing with the loss of a pet, you're surrounded by reminders. For example, attending Global Pet Expo. I couldn't help but look at the different cat-related products and think, "Man, Meeko would have loved this!" or, "Oh, she would never have used that." I even came across an adoptable cat at one of the booths, and my eyes misted up. But I realized that when I looked at the toys, I envisioned a young, healthy Meeko playing with them, and that's the Meeko I wanted to hold in my heart.

Today, Five Months Later

I'm not done grieving. Shoot, I still tear up over pets who died decades ago, so I'm not sure I'm ever really done. I'll always, always miss Meeko, regardless of the number of days she's been gone or the cats that have crossed my lap. But I'm definitely healing — I can feel it more every day — the good memories are beginning to overtake the images of her last few days. I know that one day, Jared and I will be ready to take in another kitty (or two!) in need of a home. In fact, we've started having conversations about whether we want to look at kittens, as Jared does because he has such fond memories of Meeko as a kitten, or adult cats, which I'm leaning toward. One day I'll have a cat knocking things off my desk again. Not today, not just yet, but soon.