My cat is lying in a strange position on a towel near her water dish. She acts like I feel when I’ve had a really tiring day, numb to everything, but I think hers is a more permanent kind of fatigue.
When Sam was about 4 years old it seemed to be time to get him a pet. I had always been a dog person but was concerned a puppy would raise too much havoc in our situation. Sam’s dad Dave had had a stroke while on the operating table to debulk a brain tumor so had a double neurological insult. His walking was very unsteady and I assumed a puppy would get underfoot and cause Dave to fall.
So Sam and I headed over to the Nashville Humane Society where we played with a number of kittens. I had wanted to take home an adult cat, figuring we could at least know the animal’s personality better, but the boy wanted a kitten. First one, then another, and then 3 or 4 or 5 more. I lost count. Finally, there was Tiny Bug. She actually responded to us, enjoying being petted, purring. I was hopeful she would be a good fit.
We took her home and she promptly got in Dave’s way while he struggled to walk down the hallway. Luckily he did not fall but it became apparent right from the start that we now were blessed with an animal who went where she wanted to go, laid down in front of people walking, and overall was not at all like a dog. She wanted to be the Alpha.
She always was good using her litter box, even as we moved and moved and moved again. Once shown, she would be consistent.
She always ate the same food. Once we transitioned from kitten food to cat food and she ate it well, I always bought the same thing. Dry food. No fancy cans of wet stuff. Easy on my budget. Once we ran out of cat food a day before payday, but no worries. I had chicken and rice and cooked her up a feast. She did not eat. She gorged when we brought home the dry stuff and barfed. Of course.
We always kept her inside and she always wanted to go out. One day we carelessly let her escape and she was gone overnight. It was summer so not a bad weather time but she straggled back the next afternoon, looking very dirty. She did not enjoy her bath.
Years later, after Dave had passed on, Sam and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado. Graham owned a sun conure parrot, Sollie, and we had to teach Tiny Bug to leave her alone. With the help of a water pistol, the cat learned quickly, but the bird had a mean streak. She often would sit on my shoulder while I had the cat on my lap to clip her claws.
Tiny Bug got even a year later. We were having a screened porch built on the back of the house and as I stood in the open doorway from the kitchen the cat raced outside. The bird followed, winging quickly. As soon as the cat reached the deck she sat down and licked her paws as the bird circled overhead and then flew off. I had no doubt in my mind that the cat had instigated the whole thing. (We got the bird back a few days later, but that’s another story.)
While we lived in West Virginia my allergies and asthma got worse. By the time a friend talked some sense into me about reducing those allergens that I could we had 2 young dogs, the cat and the bird. We found new homes for the puppies but no one wanted the cat. A friend was happy to adopt the Sollie.
Tiny Bug was not very social with people, ignored dogs, but attacked other cats. There was not much appealing to anyone to take her, even people who sympathized with my health issue. I always joked that she would live to 25 just to spite me.
When we had driven back from Colorado to West Virginia in 2007 the cat had slipped out of the car before I had even shut the door. We got a call 2 hours later that she was wandering around the apartment complex. While Graham drove on with the U-Haul, I returned, got the cat and then caught up with him in western Kansas.
So it was maybe not a real joke when I said that if she slipped out of the car on our drive west during our move to Oregon, I would just leave her there. We stopped for the night in western Kansas and came to the Colorado welcome station pretty early. Leaving the car windows open a little, we went inside to pick up some info we wanted and then back to the car. No cat. We pulled things out of the car in case she was hiding in a little nook. Nope. We wandered around calling for her (as if that would work) and of course, we didn’t find her. After an hour, we left our name and phone number with the people at the center and I drove on. I pulled over and even though Graham is legally blind and not supposed to drive, I couldn’t, so he took the wheel. He had gone about five miles when we heard a plaintive cry from under the driver’s seat. I didn’t know if I was happy or wanted to strangle her.
She turned 15 last year and started throwing up a lot. The vet said it would cost a lot of money to run tests and maybe do surgery to figure out what was wrong. It just did not seem right to fight hard at that age, so we asked if there was any other way. They suggested we change her diet to one of their veterinary formulas, give her a pro-biotic for a while to help her gut bacteria improve, prednisone to reduce swelling, and vitamin B shots once a month. She started improving and after a few months we started dropping parts of the regimen and soon we just were using the diet. She was fine and Sam, returning home for the holidays from Vermont, was happy to see his cat. He offered to take her back with him but I was concerned that he would lose whatever security deposit he had on his apartment because of other issues with her.
As good as she had been all those years, she stopped using her litter box and would frequently mess on the living room rug (now trashed) and on the dining room table (scrubbed and scrubbed often scrubbed often). We banished her to outside during the day and the garage at night when we were having a house guest who we thought was allergic. (The fact that I suffer and deal with it does not mean anyone else has to when they come here.) We brought her back inside a few days ago.
This afternoon, Tiny Bug stopped moving. Her back legs will not support her. I clipped her claws and she did not complain. I touched her tail and there was no protest. She is there but not there and I believe she is on her way out.
I have horribly mixed feelings. I know my allergic issues will ease with one less allergen but she has been family for almost 16 years. While she never was a “dog” she got used to me calling her “Puppy” and would come to that. She tried to fit in and we tried to make her feel very much a part of this home. Graham is holding her letting her know she is loved.