How The Pet Pillow Helps Me Grieve My Beloved Pandemic Kitty
I spent all of lockdown with a brand-new rescue cat. Earlier this year, she died, and one special gift has helped me heal.
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Earlier this year, my beloved cat, Cricket, died very suddenly. It was the beginning of yet another year that I had hoped wouldn’t be a continuation of the last several awful ones, but had at that point managed to double down in its awfulness. I got Crick in 2020 — after just moving into my own apartment for the first time in years. I knew I had wanted to get a cat for a long time. I had grown up having them and had a cat when I was in graduate school. As we all know now, we were locked inside for much of that year, not exactly conducive to finally living alone for the first time in ages. Or trying to find a new cat, for that matter.
I was terrified that because I wasn’t able to meet cats other than on Zoom or FaceTime, I’d end up with the wrong fit. After meeting two adorable tortie kittens on FaceTime, I got too anxious that maybe they’d hate me (obviously more about me than them). So I ended up deciding to foster through Greenpoint Cats, where I had met the tortie siblings. A few weeks later, they reached out after finding a young cat wandering around Manhattan Avenue in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, spotted sniffing a seltzer bottle. They asked me if I could foster the cat they were calling Cricket, and I agreed.
Cricket was the heroine of a lockdown love story.
And that was it. The moment Cricket came into the apartment, I was hers, and she was mine. Her name fit her perfectly, from the silly noises she would make to her very vocal meows and the c-shaped white skunk stripe on her gray back. She made the apartment I was scared to be alone in into a home where we watched TV, danced around to Harry Styles, played with her favorite toys, and cuddled on lazy Saturday mornings. Once it was safer to be around people, she easily charmed everyone, even my friends who were allergic or not pet people. She loved looking at the morning birds with her plant friends, being chased around the apartment, looking through the glass door when we had backyard gatherings during the summer — meowing like she wanted to come out and gossip with us, wine glass in paw. We had three wonderful years together. Then she got sick out of nowhere and rapidly deteriorated within a week.
I had no idea how deeply my grief could run after losing Cricket. It still comes in brutal waves, when I’ll find a whisker under a couch cushion or think I’ve spotted her under the bed from the corner of my eye. I was lucky that the impression she made on people went deeper than I ever could have expected and the love that she radiated shone on me, too. People reached out and celebrated her life. But at the same time, as I was receiving so much love and a truly enormous amount of food, there was just an empty space where she had been as I wandered around my apartment.
Cricket lives on through my Pet Pillow.
One day, weeks after her passing, I got a package in the mail from two dear friends. When I opened it, it was a perfect recreation of Cricket in pillow form, from the company The Pet Pillow. She’s slightly curled, with her white paws daintily crossed, eyes closed. She’s on the precipice of an afternoon nap in one of her favorite spots. I immediately started crying.
The Pet Pillow specializes in creating custom-made pet products to the likeness of your pet; they have now expanded from their original pillow to jewelry, home goods, apparel, and much more. They originated in 2016 after founder Lean Chan wanted to print a pillow from a pet photo. Then she met Demi Chung, who was great at making things, and a fruitful partnership bloomed.
Each piece through The Pet Pillow is custom-made, so it’s not something that’s instant gratification. The custom pet-shaped pillows range from $9.95 to $159.95, depending on what style and size you choose (you can view the various options here). The note that came with my Cricket pillow talks about a five-to-seven day custom-made production time.
At first, I was a bit nervous having the Cricket pillow because I wasn’t sure if it would make me feel better or worse. But it has filled a bit of that empty space in my apartment. I can feel like maybe she’s lying on the bed or say “hello” to her without feeling totally insane. And yes, something about a 37-year-old woman sleeping with a pillow recreation of her beloved deceased cat might veer into Southern Gothic territory, but with Cricket gone so suddenly, it’s been an incredible comfort that I’d recommend to anyone grieving a pet.
I know that my grief for Cricket will morph and change, and one day I’ll be ready to get another cat. But until that day comes, I’m grateful for my friends who got me this beautiful tribute. It’s something that I’ll keep forever, and I hope when the next cat comes into my life, they’ll see the Cricket pillow and want to cuddle with it, too.
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Kerensa Cadenas is a writer based in New York. She’s previously worked at The Cut, Thrillist, Cosmopolitan, and Complex. Her work has been featured in Vulture, GQ, Vanity Fair, and others.