Moonlight came home with us on December 6, 2017. He’d been kicking around the cat shelter where I volunteer for a few months.

A picture of Moonlight at my mom's house

The cat shelter: started as a volunteering experience R needed in middle school. I was obsessed from the beginning, and have continued to go every month, long after everyone else in the family lost interest.

Coming home with a cat: we definitely knew that “volunteering at a cat shelter” meant “eventually bringing a cat home” but we held off for a few years. We already had Lola, the world’s grumpiest chihuahua, plus a very small apartment, realistically where would the cat box even go, etc. And in the meantime cats came and went through the shelter, and many were great but except for one kitten we’d never strongly considered adopting any of them.

Moonlight wasn’t that kitten. Moonlight was older, at least 5 as far as anyone could guess, plus FIV+, which despite not actually being a huge deal, meant he was less likely to get adopted. He was very chill. A background cat; not someone who was desperate for attention and entertainment, not interested in causing drama. A cat that wouldn’t necessarily jump up onto your lap, but if you lifted him up and put him on your lap, would stay there. He was very soft, with gray fur that changed color in different light, and a distinctive tear in one of his ears that hinted at some difficult past life on the streets.

Once we’d started talking about possibly adopting that kitten it was like something opened up, it was suddenly inevitable that we were bringing home a cat. That kitten got adopted quickly and then Ro came to the shelter to meet the other cats and singled Moonlight out immediately. What about this guy. This guy’s our man. He was.

Picture of a sleeping cat

He was bigger than Lola, and quickly established dominance. Other than that, he fit in seamlessly, easily, with the rhythm of our family. Like all cats, he would scratch any time he came upon a closed door, but other than that he wasn’t especially annoying, which let’s be honest is saying a lot for a cat. He liked to relax, which is definitely the vibe in our family. Whenever I opened the fridge he would run over and poke his head in like What are we thinking, snacks? He was a fine traveler and loved visiting my mom’s house, with her carpeted floors and sunlight from multiple directions, and a bed that she bought so he could snuggle up right next to her on her favorite chair. He was fearless in protecting us from the mice and rats (yes: rats) that wandered in out of the cold.

A screenshot of my camera roll showing all photos of Moonlight laying on me

During the day he would curl up on K’s bed. In the afternoons he would sleep in what had formerly been Lola’s bed. Every night after dinner I would lie on the couch under a blanket to watch TV and he would jump up and fall asleep on my legs. My camera roll is just this, endlessly. At night he would curl up on a chair in R’s room. He was always somewhere. You’d enter a room and just know he’d be there. That’s what’s hardest now; expecting him to be there, when you enter a room, and continually finding him not there.

He got very sick in the past year. Thyroid problems, and then lymphoma. He was on a bunch of meds, which he absolutely hated taking, and which may have helped a little, but ultimately not much. He stopped eating, lost more and more weight, started withdrawing, hiding out all day in the downstairs bathroom, the darkest corner of the apartment. It was clearly time, even though we were nowhere near ready. We found a vet who would come to the house, which was some of the best money we have ever spent.

I’ve said goodbye to cats before, and it’s always difficult. Something about this felt different though.

I don’t know what else to say. I often referred to him as my best friend, and that’s how I felt. I miss him so much. He was the best.

I’ve been looking at my phone for 20 minutes, trying to pick which photos to include with this post. Honestly they’re all gold.

Moonlight relaxing with his leg on mine for some reason