It’s hard to Rest In Peace about your seventeen-year-old cat going missing one night. It’s hard not to bury a body. It’s hard not to know for sure they are dead.

Of course, the other side of it is hard: Watching them decline and agonizing over when or if is time to help them.

Either way, you feel like a crappy guardian of your beloved creatures. If I decide to help them die, I feel like I gave up. If I lose them, I feel irresponsible.

Here are the facts. Kiki came to us at one day old. We bottle-fed him. From the very beginning, he loved to be outdoors. (My cats have always had a designated window to go in and out.) And from the very beginning, he loved hunting. He brought me more birds, lizards, squirrels, mice and rats than any other other cat I’ve known. It was his jam.

In the winter, he would spend all his time indoors curled up in a warm place. Come spring, the birds screeched and the squirrels chattered when he reappeared. In the summer, he loved staying out all night.  I’d find him in the morning, on the screened porch sleeping off his stalking and ready for breakfast. Canned salmon, please.

Yes, he was slowing down. Yes, he seemed to have a little dementia. But he was still healthy. And he still loved to spend the night outside.

When I came home from the prison last Thursday night, he’d been indoors all day. I opened the porch door and he slipped out. That was the last I saw him. He didn’t come home for breakfast or dinner or breakfast or dinner…

I think a larger critter got him. I’ve seen a fox running across my yard. People have said they have seen coyotes. There was a report of a bobcat on the neighborhood listserv, but I seriously doubt it. Kiki did not hunt beyond the perimeter of our yard. He was wary of cars. No, I think a bigger animal came into our yard made him his prey. I like to think he wasn’t afraid. I like to think he knew what was happening when the claws and the teeth were upon him. I like to think he went willingly into the cycle of life, the way so many animals had succumbed to him.

I miss him. The way he’d lick the algae on the outdoor fountain for water. The way he would wake me up when it was time for breakfast. The way he would purr. The way he would claim a seat for weeks on end and then suddenly change it. The way he was a presence in our lives for seventeen years.

My darling Kiki…Rest in Peace.