Yesterday, I had to put down my cat, Tibbs. He had been doing poorly for a few days and going rapidly downhill. It turned out to be a tumor in his abdomen, and there really wasn’t anything else to be done.
I adopted Tibbs when I was thirteen. I wasn’t supposed to get a cat that day. I had been researching cats–for some reason, I thought buying a purebred was a thing I should do???–and biding my time. I was definitely (especially according to my father) not supposed to go to the pet store for a rescue agency’s adoption day. I ended up with an armful of VERY ANXIOUS four-month-old cat. He was clinging, though, not trying to escape, so of course I said, oh, yes, this neurotic furball, this is the one for me.
Tibbs turned out to have a few health problems the rescue hadn’t noticed. Like the cold that made him sneeze so hard, he gave himself nosebleeds and sprayed a mist of blood on my bedroom walls. Or the raging case of ringworm. He gave that to me, which meant medicated baths for both of us for weeks. Baths were the first in a string of things that should have upset him and mostly just didn’t.
Tibbs was a grumpy old man since kittenhood. He picked fights with my pit bull. He hated my girlfriends, which he expressed by cornering them in hallways and shredding pictures of them. (Not at the same time, which would have been an impressive display of hostility and planning, even for him.) His calm disinterest in my best friend was a roaring success. He was a cat with opinions, almost all of them haughtily negative.
He enjoyed suffocating me in my sleep by draping himself over my head. He liked to wake me by gnawing on my jewelry and battering at the door. He liked dried lavender even more than catnip.
I thought I would lose him a year and a half ago when he got a serious UTI. I thought I would lose him when I hauled him 200 miles north to live in a tiny trailer for six months. I thought I would lose him when the summer temperatures reached 114 on a daily basis. He shrugged all that off. I got a year and half more than I had expected even in my wildest dreams.
He had a good life and a decent death. This, then, is the fabled good end I’ve wished for so many times before when writing here. I’m still just as sad, but it’s a clean sadness, untainted by rage and helplessness. This is as good as it can ever get in a mortal world.
He sounds like a marvelous cat, a wonderful friend. My sister got a cat for her 11th birthday, and named her Cheza, a Swahili word that we believed meant “to dance and play.” Never was a cat given a more unfitting name. She was an old lady from birth. She never played. She barely tolerated our other cats. She used to love to sit in your lap, but only because she wanted warmth, and would snap at you if you tried to pet her. Similarly, she loved to sleep balanced precariously on my hip, and would get angry if I needed to roll over, though never angry enough to leave the bed. She lost her voice at a fairly young age, and instead of meowing, she would cackle and croak. She had a very quiet and rare purr. I loved loved loved that cat tremendously. We all did. Somehow we knew that she loved us even if she was always cranky.
And she was brilliant. We were trying to teach our dog to ring a bell we tied to the back door every time she needed to go out. Cheza watched us for ten minutes as we tried to teach the dog, before sauntering over, stretching up on her hind legs, and daintily patting the bell. She would rattle the noisy doorknobs of our bedrooms when she wanted to be let out or fed. She was a tiny little thing, maybe the runt of the litter, but she never came home looking like she’d come out the loser of a cat fight. I think she terrified every other cat and dog she met.
I have trouble understanding people who don’t like animals (unless they have severe allergies). Cheza was our family as much as any of the humans. She was a like a person, with a real full personality. I hope she knew how much she was loved. I think she did, and I think Tibbs did too. Pets, especially ones that you grow up with, can have such a great impact on our lives.
Cheza sounds like a marvelous old broad. Thank you so much for telling me about her. Tibbs was definitely cut from the same cloth–he acted like he couldn’t be bothered with you, but heaven help you if you tried to make him leave.
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