Ziggy was my cat from the moment my wife’s father (who he had belonged to previously and who purchased him as a kitten) passed away.
He glued himself to me, followed me, talked to me, sat on my desk – all the things a cat person associates with a cat having chosen you. So, his very attachment TO me was born out of death. After my wife’s brush with death early last year (multiple TIAs and one stroke – more of both she has had since then), Zig started treating her as his mommy. At which point she realized as I had that he was not actually as dumb as he pretended to be most of the time. With us, he was himself – which was a very smart cat.
At twelve, Zig abruptly started showing his age and went downhill fast. He became even more glued to me during this period. He passed away at home on December 15th, 2013 – the day before my wife’s birthday. She’d asked him to please NOT die on her birthday – and he fulfilled that last request admirably.
I drove Zig to the crematorium myself, taking upon myself the literal physical duty of escort. I also picked up his ashes in the urn I chose for him a couple of days later. He’s been on my desk ever since he came home and he shows no sign of wanting me to put his box elsewhere.
But Zig wasn’t the first cat I’ve made that trip with since I moved to CA to live with my wife. I moved here in September of 2005, and Flake the cat died in October, that same year – only a few weeks after his tenth birthday. He had a tumor on his spine that caused him to lose the use of his back end starting about a week after I moved in.
Flake was a very flakey cat. There’s no other way to put it. He acted like he was afraid of people, unless he wanted to be petted. If he wanted to be petted, he would lead you on a chase around the house, constantly doubling back and checking if you were following him. Then he would slow down and start rubbing on things and let you catch up to him to pet him and whoops, you caught him.
However, I was still very new TO the house. Flake didn’t know me – and so he hadn’t let me touch him. For all I knew, he associated me with his body suddenly not working right. Rather than put the scaredy-cat through the trauma of a vet visit to be put to sleep, it was decided to call in an in-home euthanasia service. There was nothing that could be done for the tumor on his spine, and he had already lost the ability to go to the bathroom as well as the use of his legs. It was time.
Lona’s father held him, and made sure he didn’t have to look at the new person, while they injected his numb back leg and he slipped away. He was put into a box, and we all rode to the pet crematorium, Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery. I helped pick out the pretty blonde urn box for him, and then I rode with her father a couple of days later to pick up Flake.
The next cat we lost was actually Nyx’s brother’s cat, Sora. There was, unfortunately, nothing natural about Sora’s death.
He was hit by a car after getting out when the back screen door was left open. Once again, I rode with to take him to the cemetery – I helped Kata pay for his cremation and a nice, big photo urn so he could put some of the kitty’s stuff in there with his ashes. And I went with again when it was time to pick Sora up. We held a little funeral for him on the back porch the day his ashes came home.
The same year we lost Sora, we lost my wife’s father to liver cancer. It’s an important distinction to make because, unlike the animals – I was not directly present when he passed, or more than an attendee at the cremation. I did ride with her mom when his ashes were picked up, though – however I didn’t feel the obligation was to him, but to HER. Whereas when I make these journeys for the pets, I feel like the obligation is to the pets – not to their owners.
In 2011, we lost another kitty, AJ, who was definitely Kit’s brother, to a mass of urinary stones in his bladder. We know he and Kit Cat had the same mother due to the mother cat that had accompanied Kit when he decided to live in the house having brought AJ as a kitten TO the house and waited for him to be taken in. We have reason to believe that AJ’s father was actually a bobcat.
As you can see, he was a HUGE cat. And all of that weight was muscle – he was VERY solidly built, and uncomfortable in his skin. He moved like a bulldog, was not graceful in any way, and his favorite form of petting was to be whacked lightly like you’d do with a dog to play with him. His purr also sounded more like the “huff huff huff” purr of a big cat, than the steady purr of a housecat.
Anyway, his body just was never quite…right. He was very prone to urinary stones, among other things, and a build up of those we didn’t even realize he HAD ended up being what was his doom. They could be cleared medically, but would reform within a month – there was nothing we could do short of spending over a thousand dollars a month on care for a cat that wasn’t really interested in remaining in that body any longer than he had to.
The decision was made to put him down, and as he was pretty out of it from emergency vet visits the last two days, we took him to the vet for it rather than calling in hospice care. The last thing he was aware of was my wife’s mother petting him and then he was gone.
AJ is the only cat we’ve lost that I didn’t accompany to Sea Breeze, though I was there at the vet when he passed. The vet we use has an understanding with Sea Breeze and he was transported via that service, so none of us accompanied him on that journey. I did go with and pick out the urn when we went to pick him up, though – and again, I felt like it was an obligation to him. Something I was bound to do for the cat.
Now, we come to Kit and Taru. Both black cats, though Kit has two white patches – one on his chest and one on his stomach. Both with green eyes. Both incredibly intelligent. And Nyx adopted Taru from the Orange County Animal Shelter – which is much nearer to where my wife and her family found Kit wandering around than to where she lived at the time – and Taru was likely picked up from around the same area that Kit was wandering. So, for all we know, they could actually be related or even from the same litter. Which would also make him brothers with AJ, who I mentioned earlier.
Anyway, Taru was VERY much Nyx‘s cat. He lived with her when we met her, and when we met him, it took him awhile to warm up to me and my wife. Nyx moved in with us about six months or so later. Taru of course came with her. Some attempts were made to integrate Taru into the household of cats, but he had a bit too much angry alley cat in him and reacted to my wife’s mother freaking out that he would hurt the other cats by doing exactly what she expected – chasing and attacking them. So Taru ended up living in the room that Nyx, my wife (then not even my fiancee, we were just kind of on/off dating at the time), and I shared.
Taru was fairly happy being confined to one room – that room was his domain, and he loved it.
The above picture is him sitting on my desk at one point, in the gap between my monitor and my (very small at the time) collection of taxidermy scraps. Thanks to my meticulous file naming system, I know that this picture was taken around my 25th birthday, which would make Taru around eight or nine in this image.
Taru has had several health scares over the last five years or so – from bladder infections to urinary stones to a sinus infection that involved quite a lot of sneezing blood. But he always rallied and came back stronger than ever.
There was even what the vet believed to be a tumor on one of his hind legs just a few months ago. But with nightly epsom salt foot baths (which, for some reason, was an open wound rather than a normal lump type tumor), the…core, of whatever it was in his leg actually fell out, and then the wound healed without much further ado, leaving no remaining lump. I told Nyx that her cat was so awesome that he ejected his own cancer. I still feel that’s what happened.
Needless to say at this point, Taru was a pretty epic cat. Still, he began losing weight fairly rapidly a few months ago. Nyx changed his food, putting him on a weight gain diet including kitten food and calorie paste (which he thought was delicious but any of the other cats in the house would either reject or throw up), and soon he regained much of his old size. Though age was obviously catching up to him.
He developed chronic arthritis in his hips and knees – something I can sympathize with all around. He had trouble jumping up onto Nyx’s bed to snuggle with her at night but would still climb when he had the urge to do so. He spent a lot more of his time sleeping, on crumpled up paper bags, on boxes, ect.
Nyx brought him everything he could possibly want, and took him on regular vet visits. But a little over a week ago, he started showing the signs of kidney failure. He didn’t appear to be in pain, though, and she decided to let him pass naturally at home rather than taking him to the vet one last time. He spent about two days in transition, finally passing around 8:30 or so in the morning, Monday, May 12, 2014.
Nyx and I had talked about what would happen when he passed for years. There was a specific urn she wanted for his ashes, and she’d thought that she wanted to end her journey with him like she’d begun it – alone with him. But as we got closer, she agreed to take me up on my offer to drive them to Sea Breeze.
The day he died, we took him to the crematorium. I was with Nyx and Taru every step of the way, until the attendant took him in his box into the back. I stayed strong for my friend, I let her cry, I gave her water – I even bought her chocolate milk when we stopped at a gas station on the way back (it helped). It having been almost exactly six months since I lost Zig, she knew I knew exactly what she was going through, and I think that helped immeasurably.
Exactly six months from the day Ziggy died, I drove Nyx to Sea Breeze again to pick up Taru. We politely gave them their packaging back, as Nyx just wanted to hold the urn. It’s a beautiful, cat-shaped urn, completely black, like a lovely little statue of Taru. The only thing it’s missing is the green eyes. He sat in her lap on the way back.
As of when I write this, Kit the cat is still with us. However, as I pointed out, he was likely Taru’s littermate – making him fifteen years old as well, this year.
Kit’s arthritis isn’t that bad. It obviously bothers him some days, but he can still easily jump from the floor to the dining table, or from the floor to my desk. Though he prefers to ‘call the elevator’ when it comes to my desk.
He’ll come up behind me at my desk, sit, and say “mah?” repeatedly, getting a little louder every time, until I notice him, reach down and pick him up, and put him on my desk. He’ll then either nuzzle Zig’s box before settling down…or try to drink my water. It’s a 50/50 chance either way.
His biggest problems are that he is hyperthyroid, which makes him lose weight quickly if he doesn’t eat QUITE a lot (and therefore he tends to eat the other cats’ food if they walk away without finishing it), and also makes him so eager to get anything that you try to hand him that he either digs his claws into your fingers to grab it, or bites your finger trying to get ahold of what you’re offering.
He also has a large tumor on his back leg – the kind that cats sometimes develop. At his age, the surgery to remove it would likely kill him, and as it doesn’t appear to bother him on a day to day basis, we’re leaving it alone for now. He will either go on as he is until he decides it’s time to be finished with his body, or until something happens that makes him miserable and forces our hands so we have to put him down.
I have no doubt that when that time comes, I will either drive him to Sea Breeze alone, or that it will be me and my wife. Kit is her cat – he was her cat first, and all attachment to me and anyone else aside, he is still her cat. Still, I know that when the time comes, I will once again be playing kitty hearse driver both to drop him off and pick him up.
But my duties as an escort go beyond the immediate duties surrounding the death. That’s something I’ll go into in the next (and likely last) post in this impromptu series.