Some Thoughts on Cats

Thank you for the apologies; although it was clear at the time that most of you were simply playing off the original jape.

I think, though, it's also appropriate that I offer an explanation of why I reacted so badly to was truly intended to be a joke.  The following comes against a background of my never having been able to see the humor in animal cruelty jokes.

That earlier post mentioned our dog, Cinder.  We'd grown up together, and in my 18th year, while I was at college, she died in her 18th year of old age.  The last half-dozen years of her life, we'd also had a Siamese cat.  Intended to be my mother's cat, he wound up gravitating to me, I suppose because a kitten preferred the company of an adolescent to that of an adult.  In the event, we became pretty inseparable.  Until the last couple of years of Cinder's life.  In those last two years, Cinder grew more infirm and was becoming incontinent; although she still seemed happier with her life than without it.  But my cat saw the failing, too, and he moved to Cinder's side.  I generally was the last one out of the house at the day's start and the first one home in the evening.  Thoth would be asleep beside Cinder on her rug as I left, and he'd be there when I got home.  He made sure Cinder knew she had company immediately to hand for all of those last months of her life.

Fast forward a decade to a time when my wife and I were able to have pets of our own.  We got MFWIC out of the local pound as a young adult.  Whether due to his surroundings or to his having been abandoned once already, his timidity in his cage was palpable; still he approached us as we walked down the row of cages.  We had to take him in.  A year later, a kitten showed up on the doorstep of some acquaintances, and they asked whether we could give her a home.  Bast grew in to a small, feisty cat, fearless of no one and no thing, but she and MFWIC became inseparable.  She came to an untimely end when her aggressiveness toward a roadrunner bigger than she by half did her in.  MFWIC never got over his timidity, but he and Bast, while she was with us, had high times chasing each other through the house and the yard.

After we arrived in Plano (and MFWIC had died), we got Cisco out of the pound as a middle-aged cat.  He'd plainly been abused before he escaped/was released to the pound; he still had a BB under the skin behind his right ear and was even more timid, initially, than MFWIC had been.  He was, though, overjoyed to be out of the pound and with us.  History rhymes closely, sometimes.  Phoenix showed up on our doorstep as a kitten, and she was the spitting image of Bast.  Those two cats gave each other great good fun with the same cat-chase antics (although Phoenix also gave us fits going into heat before she had any reason to at her age—still a kitten—and before she was old enough to be spayed safely). 

Enter Dennis.  He, too, had been abandoned, this time in the wilds of the Arizona desert.  He, though, was big enough, and mean enough, to survive into his adolescence.  He was about three-quarters grown and half-feral when he showed up at our daughter's door.  Our daughter already had a young cat, Satin, who was sociopathic in her own way, expressed by avoiding strangers at all costs, and hissing and spitting at them if she couldn't hide from them.  Our daughter, though, could not look past Dennis' strait, and she took him in.  Initially, Satin, as the older, dominated Dennis—and she did so in spades, lording her seniority over him.  As Dennis grew into adulthood, though, he figured out that he was bigger and more ornery than Satin could be, and he dominated her.  They had a troubled, although not dangerously antagonistic for the most part, relationship from then on.

Our daughter then married a man who was allergic to cat dander, so we inherited Dennis and Satin.  Cisco, by then, was confident enough in his place in our household that he had no trouble holding his own against both Dennis and Satin.  He, in fact contributed a great deal to our efforts to calm both of them down, and the three of them would have fun chasing each other, with Dennis and Cisco occasionally wrestling.  Both Dennis and Satin, by then, had become loving cats, along with Cisco and Phoenix, except toward each other, with Dennis head-butting to get pets and Satin just getting in the way until we petted her.  You could think of Garfield with a mean streak and think of Dennis.  By then, the only time Dennis got dangerous, though, was when a strange cat would show up outside our front door (all four cats were now wholly indoor cats; there are both coyotes and bobcats running a green-zone creek about a block away from our house).  Cisco and Phoenix didn't care, but both Satin and Dennis reacted very strongly to the strange cat, and Dennis, unable to attack that one, would attack Satin instead—his feralness dominated totally, and I always had to physically intervene.

Phoenix, though, couldn't handle the stress, and both Dennis and Satin, sensing that, took advantage.  Phoenix wound up dying in my arms at the Vet's office from that stress.  Shortly after that, Cisco died, too, of kidney failure.  He spent his last weeks insisting on being in my lap, between my laptop and me.  On the Vet's recommendation, he, too, died in my arms as the Vet put him down.

Then Dennis became afflicted with his cancer.  The last time I took him to the Vet for treatment or to be put down, he didn't even resist going into his cat carrier for the trip.  The second time prior, on taking him in for his annual IRAN, he'd scratched me up and bitten me quite a bit as he resisted the carrier—the only time he'd ever actually attacked me (although he often swore at me when I wouldn't let him do this or that).  And the last time, just a few months prior to this final trip, I'd had to sedate him to get him into the carrier.  For all that, the Vet had always had to gas him in order to examine him.  This time, when we had him put down, he already was unconscious from anaesthetization for the cancer exam, but he died with my wife and I stroking him, anyway.  Maybe something got through.

Now we have only Satin, who's getting on in years, but who now, as the only cat—or at least without Dennis to harass her constantly—is calming down even further, and talking to us ever more.

Sorry for the long post.


Cass said...


The love pets bring into our lives is hard to fathom. I never truly understood it until we lost our beagle, Molly (the one who stood on Sausage's ears when he was just a pup).

Losing Sausage was another thing, entirely. I loved Molly dearly, but we'd gotten her for the boys.

I think I gave my heart completely to Sausage. I still remember how it felt holding his little head next to my heart the day we brought him home so he wouldn't be scared. Feeling his little body relax against me... it was close to what I felt holding my tiny sons.

I still wonder whether Sausage knew how much I loved him and how much joy he brought into my life during some difficult years.

I know no one meant to cause you pain. Thank you for giving us a sense of what your companions were like. I hope that memories of them will be some comfort to yo8u.

Grim said...

I've had cats and/or dogs my whole life too. Some of them have ended well, and others badly, according to what Fate sends. By coincidence, the only cat we've had in years died last week as well.

It's a running joke around here that I hate cats, although in fact of course I don't hate them at all. I just use anti-cat humor to tug my wife's pigtails, and those of one of my friends who is very much a cat woman. Nobody takes me seriously because they all know that I really like cats very much. I was just trying to have a similar joke on Tex, and regretfully did not read your comment closely.

A long time ago Cass asked me what my favorite proverb was, and I told her it was 12:10. I may say mean things about cats sometimes, but you have only to meet the animals to know the truth.