One of our three cats was lying on the carpet in our den this morning and stretched, squeaked and purred as I petted her. Puffer couldn’t meow because she was born with damaged vocal cords, along with her sister, Coco, who were feral kittens that Amy cared for in 2007 until we decided to add them to our menagerie.

Although they were sisters, Coco and Puffer were, we concluded, a product of different fathers. They were too different. Coco is black with thick, matted hair, demands constant attention and weighs a lot, thanks to an appetite that never ends, while Puffer is a short-haired, trim, gray, rambunctious animal that made sure that when she wanted attention, it was on her terms, not ours.

When I went back to the den shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, Puffer seemed to be asleep, stretched out, like she often does when napping. But she didn’t move. She was dead.

She must have died in her sleep sometime between 2 and 4 p.m. because she was still purring and attentive when I petted her around 2. Rigor had not set in.

Bootsie, our alpha male who often fought with Puffer, but then would sleep next to her, sat in the doorway. The look on his face told us he knew she was gone.

We have always had animals in our homes. At one point since moving to Floyd, we had six cats and three dogs. Now, with Puffer gone, we have just two cats.

I wrapped Puffer in a blanket and placed her in a box for burial. The box is now sealed and wrapped in plastic and, as soon as the weather clears enough, she will join the cats and dogs buried on the hillside above our house. We had lost the much-older alpha-males — AC (short for Anti-Christ) in 2017 and Jekyll two years later — but Puffer was 72 in cat years, much younger than the two males. AC was 126 in cat years and Jekyll 118. Diva, an aptly-named black long hair, died in 2019. AC, who came with us from our time in Washington along with Trouble, found wet and shivering on the streets of Washington, DC in the late 1990s, both surpassed 100 cat years before their deaths.

Amy said Puffer has tossed up a hairball Wednesday night, but she was still her rowdy and active self. After taking Coco and Puffer in, Amy decided to stop raising feral kittens. We had lost Loki, a feral male, who suddenly started falling and acting out of control. When we took him to the Virginia Tech Veterinary School clinic, an MRI found a massive, inoperable tumor in his brain in 2006.

When we had to put him to sleep a short time later because he was in too much pain, I excused myself, went into the bathroom and cried like a baby.

Pets have that effect. Amy and I are still wiping away our tears over the loss of Puffer today.