Seraphina Walker-Weir, a sweet little cat who was adored by everyone who met her, died on August 25 of breast cancer. She was about 8 years old.
Born in 2008, Sera’s childhood was quite difficult. Her owner was a hoarder, a woman who collected felines yet failed to provide family planning, medical care or cleaning services. Around the time of her first birthday, authorities raided the house and rescued Sera, along with her 60 sisters, brothers and cousins. The cats were transported to the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey, N.H., and treated for various illnesses. The entire lot was spayed and neutered, brought up to date on their immunizations and put up for adoption.
Due to the sudden arrival of so many cats, the humane society contacted the media for assistance. When Marcus and I read the newspaper article about the cats’ ordeal, we immediately drove to the shelter and offered our help. A few hours later, we adopted two of the hoarder’s cats: a fluffy black-haired beauty who was originally named Elizabeth Taylor but we renamed Mystery, and a tiny tuxedo cat named Jane Fonda who we christened Seraphina.
Mystery died in 2011.
Sera had a soft, brownish-black coat with white hair on her chest, tummy and feet. Whenever she wanted attention, she would stand on her hind legs, place her front paws/claws on your thigh and give you a look that begged for a lift to the lap. No one could resist this request. She adored being pet on the head, stroked under the chin, caressed across the back and rubbed on her belly. Unlike the rest of our cats, she even allowed us to tickle the pink jellybean toes on her paws. Although everyone marveled at her beauty, it was Sera’s affectionate nature that prompted friends and family to threaten to catnap her when we weren’t looking.
Sera’s disposition was generally very gentle and easy going; however, her tough upbringing and diminutive size gave her the spirit of a Mafia don (“Listen Cujo, I got some pretty wicked claws under these mitts, do not, I beg of you do not make me bring out these bad boys! It gets ugly!”). She would allow other cats to gain access to our laps, even if she was already settled there, but if they crossed the line in any way, Sera wouldn’t hesitate to bitchslap them back into place. She also had an affinity for all things shiny and dangly so wearing long earrings or necklaces was not usually advisable.
This smart and sassy cat became my familiar and was rarely far from my side. If I sat on the couch to watch TV or read, she would inevitably settle into my lap. When I occupied the reclining chair and worked on my laptop, she’d wedge herself next to it so she’d be available for snuggles. And if I was sitting at my desk, she’d stop by several times a night to lie on my chest or recline in my lap while I did my best to love her and type at the same time. Every encounter was accompanied by the song of her purr, which was loud and true. During the moments when she wasn’t cuddling with us, Sera was usually sleeping on her brother Duncan’s giant bed, atop my desk chair, in the cat suitcase or inside a cat condo.
Her health, unfortunately, was not great. Living in filth as a kitten seemed to stunt her growth so she never weighed more than 6 pounds. She suffered from digestive issues that required special foods, mats and cleaning supplies (particularly air freshener) to manage. Yet that didn’t stop Sera from always begging for bits of the scrambled egg or poached fish that appeared on our plates. She was so attuned to my cooking habits that she could tell the difference between the opening of a can of tomatoes and the opening of a tuna can. She’d only show up for the latter.
Cats who are not fixed before their first heat have a much higher risk of developing a vicious strain of breast cancer. When the vet diagnosed her with this deadly condition last November, she gave Sera less than a year to live. Since surgery would have been ineffective and needlessly painful, we vowed to care for her as best we could and make that final year a good one.
Over time, the tumors grew out of Sera’s chest and bled. Throughout the winter and spring, her appetite rarely wavered, in fact it increased as the cancer stole all of the nutrients her meals offered. When the tumors made lying on her stomach uncomfortable, she would lie on her side or back and purr. Once the cancer invaded her lungs and affected her breathing, we knew the time had come to say farewell.
The vet who had cared for Sera since the cancer diagnosis kindly helped to put her out of her misery. After the first shot was administered, I picked up Sera’s small, frail body and held her in my arms. M petted her head comfortingly until the light faded from her eyes.
She was our youngest, and she will be so missed.