A Goodbye to Gizmo, My Hacker Cat

On Friday, my family and I said goodbye to our cat Gizmo. She was about 21 years old, and she was in my life for 18 of them.


Her brother Diego died in 2018, and I thought she would follow close behind him. For years I have been preparing myself for this day, trying not to take her presence for granted.

It still hits hard.

Despite eventually learning that Diego was the greeter, I knew Gizmo was always the brave one. When I first met the cats, she was the one who came out of the carrier first. And each time I’ve moved, she was the first one out to explore the new home.

And I recall my first time meeting Gizmo. My friends let out their own cats to meet them, and Gizmo promptly lay down and, without directly looking at their big cat, growled an amazing growl.

She was the chillest, most calm cat. She never bit anyone, and yet when she did have a rare growl, it was a good growl.

Gizmo doing her "I'm Batman" impression

The only time she ever came close to biting was after I had been away for a long trip. Upon my return, she meowed and licked my fingers, periodically nibbling at them. I took it to mean that she missed me and was upset that I was gone for so long.

Gizmo seemed to enjoy car rides. She always liked to see what was going on outside the windows. On her first drive, I remember her sitting in the console, looking out the front window before eventually finding her way to the side windows, with her paws up while she watched the world go by.

She was mostly quiet and kept to herself, especially around strangers, but when she wanted to cuddle, it would not matter what you were doing. She would let you know, and she would get in your lap, or on your chest, or in your arms.

Or at least with me. My wife says that it took three years before Gizmo would sit on her lap.

And even then, if I showed up on the couch, often Gizmo would make her way to cuddle with me.

Often when I was at my desk, she would jump up and get into my lap, and sometimes she would sit facing the computer as if she was the one at the keyboard. So I called her my hacker cat.

Gizmo the hacker cat

Gizmo the hacker cat

Gizmo the hacker cat

Gizmo and Diego were adorable together, especially when they slept. And often they would sleep draped across me.

Gizmo & Diego

Gizmo & Diego

Gizmo & Diego

Gizmo & Diego

Right before her brother passed away, we learned Gizmo had high blood glucose levels, and after changing her diet, she bounced back.

And that was the theme for her health woes for the next handful of years: she would be relatively fine, then one day she would seem to get terribly sick or otherwise seem to be in a poor quality of life, then we’d think, “This must be the end,” and then she’d bounce back, albeit sometimes at a lower baseline than before.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I started working from home regularly for the day job, Gizmo became a minor celebrity on my team calls. People would sometimes greet her before they greeted me, in fact. B-)

Gizmo getting involved in my team meetings

Our routine was that I would get her breakfast, clean her litter boxes, then get to work in my office, and she would join me on the chair next to me, sleeping there or cuddling on my lap.

Gizmo my on-site remote coworker

If I took too long of a break, she would let me know to get back to the office.

But sometimes she would be an enabler and take breaks with me.

Gizmo taking a break with me

Over the last few years, I’ve seen her health decline very slowly. She had a lump on the back of her neck, and it grew to be pretty big, and it turned out it was a slow-growing cancer. The vet removed the lump but they said they couldn’t get everything, and so we had no idea how long we had with her.

Each time her behavior changed in a way that made me worried, I was at the vet with her. They always said she was incredibly healthy for her age.

But Gizmo started slowing down. I used to worry about her jumping up and eating my plant by the window, but eventually her attempts to jump up failed, and after awhile she stopped trying.

She used to jump up into my lap, or the chair next to me and the desk, but there were days when she wouldn’t make the jump successfully. For some time now, I would pick her up when she came into the office and looked up at me expectantly, and when I was on the couch, which was lower, the same story played out. One day, it just became too hard for her to jump up, so I would need to pick her up.

Our neighbors have little children, and when we would leave town, they would sometimes cat sit for us. Their children called our house “Gizmo’s House” and, despite her being such an old cat who mostly ate and slept, they loved her, and she was very tolerant of them showering her with attention.

Sometime back she became quite deaf, and while I could tell she could still sense the vibration of a loud noise, she wouldn’t necessarily be able to detect where it was coming from. Like with Diego, I used to whistle and she would sometimes come to me, but then came the day when I realized she was getting startled because she didn’t know I was right behind her.

Sometime in the last month or so, I think Gizmo lost some of her eye sight. She seemed to lose track of the laser pointer dot in a way that I didn’t expect, and I noticed that when she walked up stairs that she seemed to get startled with each step when her face would brush against it.

Her blood work recently showed issues with her kidneys, and she was already standing awkwardly. Her tail tucked to the side. We could tell she was in pain, probably due to the combination of her kidneys, the slow-growing cancer which has had years to grow, and general arthritis, and she had been for some time.

She was still eating and using the litterbox, and I was told by friends that I’d know if things were at the end if she had more bad days than good. We had seen her bounce back from what seemed like death’s door multiple times. She didn’t seem like she was so bad that euthanasia made sense yet, and I definitely didn’t want to end her life prematurely.

But one day last month she seemed weak and struggled to stand, and despite bouncing back for a few weeks after that, we knew her quality of life was getting bad and would only get worse. Last week she tripped getting out of her bed, and she didn’t land very well when she jumped out of my office chair. Both were things that were seeming to happen more often. Her quality of life was clearly deteriorating.

So we made the hard decision to say goodbye before she suffered for much longer, a decision I wish I had made with Diego at the end of his life.

I called the vet in the morning to make an appointment for that evening. It was a weird feeling to know with so much certainty that it was the last day I would spend with her. I took off the afternoon from the day job so I could spend as much of her remaining time with her.

Gizmo, I love you. I’ll miss the sound of your purrs when I held you close to me. I’ll miss singing Stray Cat Strut to you. I claim it was your favorite song, and while I don’t know if it actually was, it was my favorite one to sing to you. I’ll miss the way you would press your head into my hand when I was petting you. I’ll miss needing to worry about accidentally rolling over you in my office chair since you sometimes hung out behind it and waited for me to notice you on the floor next to me. I’ll miss how sometimes you didn’t wait for me to notice and would paw up at my chair to let me know you wanted me to pick you up. I’ll miss seeing you shortly after you finished eating with a little bit of food on your nose. I’ll miss the way you would lie across my chest or my arm when I was doing my morning exercises on the floor, and I miss sleeping next to you on the couch, or on the floor.

Me and Gizmo

I hope you felt loved right until the very end, and you didn’t feel pain anymore.

After 18 years of having a pet in my life, there is a hole in my daily routine, and in my home. I no longer have Gizmo to greet first thing in the morning. The place where her food and water used to be is now a blank space. Eventually her Boppy pillow that she used as a bed will also disappear, and so will her basket of toys.

My wife said that she thinks I might not realize it because I didn’t grow up with pets, but my relationship with my cats was special. She has never seen cats with such a devotion to their human, and she said it was this amazing co-dependent relationship “in a good way.” She said my cats were spoiled and had such a good life.

And I hope they did.

2 replies on “A Goodbye to Gizmo, My Hacker Cat”

This is such a beautiful tribute to a special girl. Thank you for sharing the story of your life together. Sending you love and peace!

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