I was going through the cats’ toy box this evening, looking for something fresh for them to play with when I started weeding through it to throw out toys. There are a number of toys in there that they don’t play with; they are 17 years old after all. A few toys I just can’t seem to bring myself to throw away. Many of these toys are memories of cats who have crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge. No one plays with these toys, they are simply physical reminders of cats I have loved and lost.

There is a toy “eraser” mouse that belonged to my parent’s cat Twinkie. Twinkie was the cat I grew up with but she was never my cat. She tolerated me, after all, she was there first and I was a young interloper taking attention away from her. She was a sassy calico cat who was very set in her ways. I am sure she loved me in her own way, but it wasn’t the snuggling affection I would have liked. I remember playing with Twinkie’s toys as well as mine while growing up; so not only am I holding on to a memory of her, I am holding on to a bit of my childhood with them. Her “eraser” mouse is a hunk of gray felt in the shape of an eraser, there is white cord type material for the eyes and tail. A very basic toy by today’s standards; yet Twinkie loved to play with them.

I have a small green sparkle ball that belonged to a much loved cat that I hospiced for less than 24 hours before he passed. Poplo and I were in love, but due to medical issues that left him constantly urinating outside the box (something that may also have been encouraged as he learned that this got him attention), and the fact that I had three cats of my own, I was unable to bring Poplo home until the very end of his life. When I brought him home, I knew he was failing, but I didn’t realize he would be going that fast. While it broke my heart to lose him so soon, I am comforted by the knowledge that I gave him a home at the very end of his life. This cat followed me around the shelter, drinking out of my water bottle (by a straw!). When he wasn’t following me, he was getting attention from one of the dozens of others who loved him or playing with sparkle balls. He loved his sparkle balls. I have one that I brought home with him, as well as a small kitty afghan, when I hospiced him. It sits on my shelf next to a picture of him.

The rest of the toys I have were favorites of my Sam. I have a catnip pillow that was his last Christmas gift (it was extra special, like an aromatherapy pillow, pop it in the microwave and it becomes more fragrant; we never got to use it like that). I also have a long catnip “kicker” body pillow that he loved to rest his head on when he was sleeping as well as a certain mouse wand toy that he simply loved at the very end. There are also the spider rings, you know those cheap plastic spider rings kids get at Halloween? Sam loved to bat them around the house. For months after his death we were finding them under the furniture and stuffed in weird places. I keep forgetting about the spider rings, but everytime I see them I go “oh, Sammy!” The other cats use the mouse toy and one of the catnip pillows sometimes, but not the way Sam did. I don’t think I can ever get rid of these toys. Everytime I look at them I am reminded of him. They help to remind me of the good times; they remind me of what a character Sam was.

Actually, all the toys remind me of good times with the cats. As I was writing I unearthed vague memories of Twinkie and her toys that I didn’t remember I had. I remembered all sorts of stories about Sam and Poplo that put a little smile on my face. I know I can’t save everything, and physical reminders aren’t really needed when I have all those great memories, as well as pictures and stories I have written down. I know all this, and yet I am going to continue to hold on to these few physical reminders of cats who have left me. A few toys here and there are simply reminders of great times and great loves. I know I have a few toys of Crash and Muffin’s that I will be holding on to after they move on. Not the whole toy box, but a few extra special toys that they love. The rest will get tossed or cleaned and given to rescue cats to play with.

Do you hold on to physical reminders of pets who have passed on? I would love to hear your stories.


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