Once a year our dearly departed cats can come between the worlds to celebrate with us!
I thought about building a Day of the Dead altar for my cat Yogi Otto in late fall, but his crossing of the rainbow bridge was still incredibly painful for me. The mere mention of his name brought tears to my eyes. Yogi left us suddenly last June 6th, 9 days short of his 14th birthday. He had advanced heart disease but I didn’t know that. A blood clot traveled to his legs and within an hour he was gone.
His passing changed my entire life in an instant. I was lost and in so much pain and heartbreak. In addition to losing our smart, naughty beloved family member, it changed everything with our brand Furball Fables. I didn’t know how to go on and even at this writing I still don’t.
Yogi was bigger than life at our house. He was boss cat, always wanting to rule all of us. But in 2020 we discovered he had a voice. He became the sarcastic cat commentator in our videos that covered the Cole and Marmalade legal case. A star was born! He wanted his own show. His already big ego was growing with every comment about his star power. I commissioned a theme song and an interview with Chris Poole and Jessica Josephs was going to be the first episode.
But time is often a cruel teacher and Yogi’s brief moments of stardom ended before he really had a chance to have the millions of worshipers that he wanted.
It was so complicated because I not only lost my bad boy Yogi but it was all so public when it was so private to me. I disappeared from social media. I crawled into my art and sewing. It took a long time to recover. It was so hard because Yogi was everywhere. Tons of pictures and videos on my phone and computer. Everywhere I looked he was there. But I did my very best to tuck him away in my heart so I could get on with life.
Then early one Sunday morning on October 10th, we learned that Cole of Cole and Marmalade was going to cross the rainbow bridge. And bam! The floodgates opened and my river of tears began to flow again. I, along with thousands of others in the Cam Fam were crying for Chris and Jess Poole. Furball Fables posted about Cole that day on our facebook and instagram. Our facebook post alone had 6.5 thousand comments. We were all devastated to learn of Cole’s crossing.
I think because of so many of us were crying and sending prayers for Cole and the Poole family, something magical happened. Yogi was given special permission by the Goddess Bast to explain what happened at the Rainbow Bridge when Cole arrived. In our post I told the Pooles I would pray to Yogi so he could go and greet Cole and show him around. (and hopefully not get Cole into trouble!) So his message gave me hope, warmed my heart and made me laugh too!
But what’s this have to do with building his Day of the Dead altar? After crying again for days and then hearing Yogi’s voice again, I started to heal. I think it was four days after Cole crossed that I knew I could make the Altar and I set out figuring out how to do that.
I started by looking at lots of art. There are so many beautiful and creative Day Of the Dead altars. I read up on the holiday and the traditions. There was hardly anything about creating an altar for a pet. I had actually made another altar in 2014 for my cats Tinkerbell and Elvis, so I watched that video. Fixnation has made altars at The Hollywood graveyard for many years, so I looked at their info. But surprisingly there wasn’t much for cats. But that really didn’t matter.
Next I had to figure out where in the house I would build the altar. Once I found the spot I began by drawing the altar. Then I decided it would be nice to decorate a shadow box as the centerpiece. This could stay up after the holiday was over. I already had an unfinished one.
Create a Day of the Dead Ofrenda for a Cat
The roots of the Day of the Dead, celebrated in contemporary Mexico and around the world, go back some 3,000 years. Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday where family and friends remember those who have died or crossed the rainbow bridge. The celebration begins at midnight on Halloween and continues until November 2nd.
On the Day of the Dead, it’s believed that the veil between the spirit world and our world opens. During the two day period, the souls of the dearly departed return as honored guests to the living world to celebrate, feast, drink, dance and play music with their loved ones. Ofrendas or Altar are built in homes or at graveside. The deceased’s favorite foods, beverages, and personal items are left on the altar. Ofrendas are covered with oilcloth or brightly covered tablecloths and decorated with colorful marigolds, sugar skulls, brightly dressed skeletons, photos, personal items and family heirlooms, candles, incense (to purify their way here,) Papel picado are vibrant delicate paper banners decorated with elaborate cut-out patterns, that are said to allow souls to pass through. Also offerings to the dead are inspired by the four elements.
For Yogi’s Ofendas I started by looking at pictures. I chose three pictures and had them printed. Next I got his food bowl, his favorite treats and of course some cat wine! ( a Prop from a Furball Fables video.) I already had some Day of the Dead Cats, one a doll that I just adored, so into the pile they went! I included a meditating skeleton, Yogi’s pal Yoda, a beautiful Catrina dressed skeleton (the goddess who watches over the bones of the dead.) I decided not to include his ashes but I did include his paw print and a small sign with his name that came with his ashes.
I thought it was fitting to use some of the cards we got, including one from Princess Priyaa, Yogi’s favorite girl friend who passed away just a month after Yogi. Cole had to be on the altar as well. Yogi loved him and he seemed connected to the celebration as well.
I had a sweet praying cat garden statue that seemed purrfect to represent Yogi. So I painted it a beautiful sparkly silver. I also had another golden, glittered altar but I decided not to use it.
Our giant golden Bast statue already on the spot where the altar would go so of course she had to be part of the altar. I stressed for like a week on how to cover the whole thing. Then I found an amazing cat skeleton cloth and two inexpensive Day of the Dead tablecloths.
My good friend. Kathi Gibboney came and looked at what I had gathered and made several suggestions including taking down the painting of me at the Hollywood graveyard. (When I was 21!!) and adding the rainbow.
Halloween weekend my friend Kathi returned with tequila in hand. We made margaritas, mexican food and then started to put everything together. We listened to music, toasted Yogi and really had so much fun putting all the elements together. I loved how it turned out and it was indeed very healing for me.
There are different ways to celebrate your cat during Day of the Dead.
- Visit the gravesite where they are buried. Clean it up and put flowers there.
- Take a picnic to the graveside
- Set up an altar in your home.
- Make or eat your own sugar skulls.
- Host a Day of the Dead party.
- Attend a Day of the Dead event