On the 8th day, I’m grateful for my cats.
I debated whether to do this one, but it’s too true not to: I love these damn cats.
First there is Felix, a standard grey tabby, who looks like literally every grey tabby in the world. Except Felix weighed almost 20 pounds at one point, and thinks he is a dog. I mean, seriously – the cat played fetch for crying out loud. If you come to our house, he is so happy to see you – just like a dog would be. He will lay on the floor in front of you and show you his belly. Felix has never met a stranger. He was born in a trailer park in NC to a promiscuous mother who popped out a litter or two every year.
Renee got him the year before we got married – he was our first “joint property”. He almost died as a kitten, and I held him and nursed him with a bottle for weeks and he and I bonded – he is very much my cat. He’s 13 now, and he has lost some weight, and he doesn’t move as fast as he once did. But he will still lay on the floor in the sun and show off his belly, and if we sit down to watch TV, he will crawl in my lap and you would swear he is watching TV too.
Then there was Tony – he was another trailer park kitty, but from another mother, but with a similar story that we got in 2010, the year after we got married. He was a beautiful orange tabby who, it turned out, had the exact same heart disease Renee did. It is apparently very common in cats, and very rare in humans. Tony was very much Renee’s cat, and in the months after her heart transplant, Tony would lay in bed with her, and snuggle next to her.
One night Tony woke us up, screaming. He was flopping on the floor, literally screaming. I’ve never heard anything like it. We took him to the emergency vet, who told us he had a blood clot keeping blood from flowing to his legs, a very common result of his disease. There was nothing we could do but put him down. The drive home at 4 in the morning with the cat you love in a box on your lap, when you had gone to bed with him snuggled beside your feet just a few hours earlier… That was not a good day.
The year before Tony died, we got Puss, a grey Tabby with white socked feet. She was the runt of the litter of kittens that had been born behind a homeless shelter in Raleigh. The mother had been hit by a car, and the kittens were about 4 weeks old. Renee bottle fed Puss, who grew, but disproportionately… she has tiny legs and a regular size body and a tiny head, but with a regular tail. I joke that she is a cat made of spare parts. She has, in recent years, gotten chunky, which makes her all the more comical.
Puss is our introvert kitty, quite happy to engage in parallel play with us. She wants to be in whatever room we are in – as I write this she is on the wingback chair in my office, not 10 feet from me. But she never wants to be petted, or picked up, or really noticed. About once a year she will get affectionate and try to climb in our lap. We usually suspect it means she is up to something.
And then there was Pepe. He was a senior orange kitty who had been severely mistreated before being abandoned at a no-kill shelter. He was scarred, physically and metaphorically when we got him, and it took months before he would even come out of hiding if we were in the room. Eventually, he began to explore, but was never really comfortable while we lived in Raleigh.
When we moved to Jackson, Pepe had a good year or so that he thrived. He was companionable, he began to get along with the other cats, and he gained weight and had shiny fur. That first year he lived here with us was the best year. Then he began to lose weight, and his teeth were bad and his throat got infected and for a year we limped along, taking him to the vet monthly for shots and buying special food until it became obvious to everyone that he was not having any sort of quality of life, and we were watching him slowly starve to death. He wasn’t going to get better. The day we took him to the vet to do what had to be done, he weighed less than 5 pounds, from the 10 he had weighed at his best.
If there are worse things than putting your cat down in the middle of the night as they scream, it is knowing for weeks that it is the right thing to do, and him sitting in your arms, purring as they put the needle in.
But as I told our foster son at the time, loving a thing means taking responsibility for its care. And if you only love it when it’s easy, then what you had wasn’t love after all. It is how we love when it’s hard that counts.
These four cats have defined our lives together, the last 13 years or so. They determined which apartments we would get, our travel schedule, the layout of our house. I love them, and I am grateful they are part of our lives.