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Eulogy for a Nameless Kitten: An Abandoned America Blog

Posted: 18th August 2012
In: Blog

One of the realities of what I do is that I come across a fair amount of dead animals in the places I photograph. Most of the time they're birds, mainly pigeons - often little more than skeletons littered among piles of their own feces on attic floors. Sometimes they're bigger: squirrels, raccoons, sometimes things I can't even identify. Their teeth are bared by their decomposing skin in snarls, screams, smiles. I don't know. I'm not particularly afraid of them although they startle me, since I often don't notice them until I'm right next to them. Some are still alive: the wounded owl I tried unsuccessfully to save, the poor miserable mouse glued to the pool of ancient motor oil that I wound up killing because it was in such agony - but for the most part their struggles are done. I may take a picture but I rarely edit and post them, as often as not because I just don't feel like looking at them again.

In this photograph you'll notice at the right side of the concrete base there is a dead kitten. It must not have been dead long because it wasn't decayed. I didn't get any closer to it than this shot because I didn't really want to see the gory details of what had happened to it. I don't know if it was a boy or a girl. I don't know how it died, whether it was killed by the dog or the raccoon that live in this china plant or whether it died of starvation. Maybe it was poisoned by the toxic water pools when it tried to take a drink. All I really know of it is what you see here, that it was lying stretched on the floor like a kitten does when they are sleeping, but it was definitely not alive or intact. I have had pets all my life, and there is a sort of awful sorrow to something like this, a bottomless well. It was a beautiful little stripy gray and white cat with white paws. It could have had a good home, played with catnip toys and slept on a sunny windowsill. Maybe someone could have given it the sort of silly name you give a little stripy kitten with white paws: Socks, or Mittens, or Tiger. Who knows. It has no name at this point. It died of whatever it died of, presumably alone in the rotting husk of a china plant, and then just lay there exposed for the insects and rodents and birds to eat.

There is something so horrible and unfair about death at times that it defies words or explanation. You can look at a dead animal in a dead factory in a photograph, which is itself a dead moment, from the safety of a computer or a gallery and shake your head and say, "How tragic," or whatever it is we console ourselves with when we look at things that are hopelessly, irretrievably lost. There is a weird sort of buzz to it, a thrill of emotion and a connection with reality, and we feed on that like vampires. Maybe we feel smarter for having outlived the factory, the era, the creatures we behold. Maybe it's just that we're numb from having so much artificial crap shoved into our minds every waking minute that the simple actuality of death is somewhat of a relief. Maybe we tell ourselves there's a lesson to be learned, a moral to the story so we can go back to our business, eat our lunches and go on with our day.

I don't know that there is. I never got to know this little cat but I doubt there was anything that it did that justified this sort of ignominious end. I don't think there is a lesson to be learned or a moral to its story. I just think it's awful and sad, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it because at this point the kitten is gone. I wish things could have worked out better for it, because I sincerely doubt this was what it deserved. Wherever it is now, if it even continues to be on any level of existence, I hope it's better than this world. I hope it's a place where things like this don't happen and where kittens can run and play and grow in happiness and peace, free from the shadow of an impending disaster, the same impending disaster that awaits us all.

'eulogy for a nameless kitten' photograph and text by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America; image from Conquistador China. If you're interested in more Abandoned America blogs, follow this link. If you enjoy my writing, check out my books: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Amazon / Barnes & Noble) or Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Signed copies).


Photo comment By Sarah: God bless you baby kitty. There is a better place after this world. One day, it will be my job to love this kitty, and many others that didn't get the chance to know such a great love in this life. This tragedy, and it is a tragedy, and it is hard to move away from, it can inspire you to help another baby kitty that is facing a cruel, lonely ending itself. Millions of kitties are killed in shelters every year simply because no one has adopted them. Please be inspired to adopt a kitty who needs you to save it's life.
Photo comment By Jules: Love your work, and now I love your heart.
Photo comment By Carrie: I concur with Jules. Thank you for paying homage to this little life.
Photo comment By Mike: After having to put our beloved cat of 17 years to sleep this week, I can tell you that this has touched me deeply. Our cat was spoiled as ones pet should be and to see this little kitten laying dead with no one to grieve over it (other than you that is) is terrible. In some ways it reflects horribly on our society as a whole to let one of God's creatures die in a run down building all by itself. This goes for the thousands of homeless dogs and humans that fall each day as well. It is my belief that since we are all God's creatures that somewhere in the great beyond there is a kitten that is running happily somewhere with all those that have gone before us to love it. No more pain, no loneliness and all the treats it can fill itself with. Thank you for sharing this and hopefully it will inspire others to visit their local humane society and take home a wonderful animal that will only be grateful to be spared this death and enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams.
Photo comment By Arbret: Incredibly touching eulogy for a nameless kitten. I am glad to know there are feeling people who take the time to share their thoughts with us. I am a hobbyist photographer and being Native American I say a little blessing for these unfortunates I come across when tromping through abandoned buildings. Bless you, kitten anonymous, run free and play in the sunlight now.
Photo comment By Arbret: Incredibly touching eulogy for a nameless kitten. I am glad to know there are feeling people who take the time to share their thoughts with us. I am a hobbyist photographer and being Native American I say a little blessing for these unfortunates I come across when tromping through abandoned buildings. Bless you, kitten anonymous, run free and play in the sunlight now.
Photo comment By Nancy: Matthew, I hope you have some kind of spiritual source that supports you, whether it's spending time with your friends, or meditation, or a physical discipline like yoga, or a religious tradition. You need something to lean on and rest in, otherwise the sadness of the things you see and write about so eloquently will be too much for you to bear. You don't do this alone, do you? There is a lot of sadness in the world, but your work particularly brings you into contact with it, without it seems much to counteract it. Please take a break when you need to. Could you also start to photograph something that is growing and full of life? For what it's worth, I absolutely believe that life goes on after the death of our physical bodies. It doesn't make the sadness of this kitten's death any less, but it means that that short life is not the whole story.
Photo comment By valerie: if "All Dogs go to Heaven" then so do all kitties. I was raised to believe that
Photo comment By Grumpy: Look on the bright side, it could have grown up to be cynical and miserable like grumpy cat...

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