Growing up, I had dogs. We never had cats because my sister was seriously allergic to them, and so my only interaction with cats was at my aunt’s house or with the occasional stray. All that changed, however, when I went to grad school and needed someone/something to share my living space with me.

Out of this need, I got my first cat, Finn. He’s now 5 years old, healthy, and bullheaded as all get out.

My two cats: Finn the orange tabby and Essie the calico tabby. This post is about Essie.

After moving in with my partner and moving to a new state, I noticed that Finn was neurotic and lonely, so we started talking about getting another cat.

One night, we were getting food for Finn at PetsMart, and we just happened to walk by the cat adoption section. There was this one cat there, seven years old, who had been in the shelter for seven months. She had kidney problems, and required special food, so no one wanted to adopt her. Even though it was near closing time for the store, we decided to adopt her, and the store manager told us “If it was any other cat I’d say no at this time of night”. This cat’s name was (and still is) Essie.

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Essie, looking magnificent.

When we took Essie home, we put her in the bathroom to let her gradually get used to the place. I sat down on the floor with her, and she started purring right away. Unlike Finn, it became immediately apparent that Essie was a snuggler, something that she has continued to be for the remaining two and a half years that she’s spent with us.

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Essie, doing her best Smaug guarding his hoard impression.

Essie can be moody, like most cats, and she can be listless, but even in her worst moods she’s always sweet and happy to be petted, nearby, and loved. She often sits in my partner’s lap at night, preferring his still posture to my restless one. But in the afternoons, Essie sits with me, and we play video games.

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I’m not sure when it started exactly, but Essie began to sit on my lap and watch the screen as I played. I first noticed this when she reacted pretty strongly to Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee. She loved watching that game, even putting up with me whizzing the PokeBall Plus accessory past her face to catch yet another Chancey while grinding experience. I think it was the Pokemon themselves and the sounds they made that captured her interest.

Essie enjoyed playing with Eevee.
Screenshot: Nintendo; Gamefreak; The Pokemon Company

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Essie also really liked Tales of Berseria, sitting with me for almost the entire duration of the adventure. She wasn’t the biggest fan of Final Fantasy IX, but I think that’s because I was playing it fast-forwarded and she couldn’t focus on anything. Final Fantasy X seems to be a hit though, and we’re currently finishing up the last stretch of grinding before taking on the final boss. We’re planning on playing through Persona 5 together next to get ready for Royal in the fall.

Blitzball was a big hit with all the back-and-forth action.
Screenshot: Square-Enix

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But back to reality. For a few weeks now, Essie’s ear has been bothering her. She keeps digging at it, and there’s this gunk in there. The symptoms would come and go though, so we didn’t take her to the vet until this week. The vet decided to go ahead and do Essie’s annual physical as well, and that’s when a simple appointment turned into something else: I found out, after the vet felt something in her abdomen and confirmed what she thought it was with an ultrasound screening, that Essie has cancer on her liver and her kidneys.

This was a complete shock. Essie, remember, is moody and sometimes listless, so neither my partner nor I had noticed anything in her behavior to suggest something of this magnitude. She was just being Essie, loving and sleepy as always. The vet asked me if I had noticed anything, and I answered honestly “no”.

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I’ll never play this game again without thinking of Essie.
Screenshot: Bandai-Namco

With chemo, Essie could last a few months, but she’d suffer from the medication. With steroids we might have her with us for a couple of weeks, and the pain the tumors are causing her will decrease. I decided to go with the latter option, as I don’t want my friend to suffer just because I want more time with her.

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So now, I’m feeling pretty heart broken. I’ve lost pets before, and I loved them, don’t get me wrong, but losing Essie is especially hard for me to fathom. She’s been such a big part of my recent life. I haven’t cried this much in years, and I hate crying. I hate feeling weak like how crying makes me feel. Luckily I’m on summer break right now, so I don’t have to be a wreck in front of my students, plus I get to spend more time with Essie before she goes. But even that is little consolation given the fact that I’m losing my video game buddy.

So this one’s for Essie, my video gaming pal, my adventure buddy, and my confidante. I love her, and I’ll miss her, but I’m thankful for the little time we still have left.

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Have you ever had a pet that “plays” video games with you? Have you ever lost a pet and felt heartbroken? I’m interested to hear how other people have handled situations like this.

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Thank you for reading my sad cat story, and I hope you have a great summer.