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The story of a cat

March 19, 2012

This blog post is completely off my usual subject, but I have a story I need to tell, and this blog has become a vehicle for my voice.

. . .

Since I was a little girl, I have liked cats.

Me and my favorite stuffed animal, Meowie, circa 1977.

But I could not have a “real” cat when I was growing up.

I could only admire other people’s cats and obsess over Garfield comics, which my grandparents cut out for me every single day and saved in a shoebox for my next visit.

Me, my sister and a visiting cat in my grandparent's basement, circa 1979.

My dad did not like cats. He was allergic, he said.

I suspect there was another reason. He’s a model railroad geek who filled the basement of my childhood home with a miniature version of the Wisconsin Central. Can’t say I blame him on the “no cats” thing.

RAOWR! Catzilla! (Image stolen from the Interwebz.)

Fast forward to 1994. I’m soon to begin my junior year of college. I’m living in a crappy rental house with four friends.

The vehicle in front of said crappy house was my first vehicle - a family hand-me-down. 1983 Chevy van. Meemorieeees ...

Early one morning, I am awakened by the cacophony of a cat fight. I head downstairs to break it up.

As soon as I open the front door, a black furball comes streaking inside. One of the combatants decided to take refuge in the house!

I gingerly pick up the little cat. She does not protest. I put her down outside.

The cat follows me and my housemates – house to car, car to house – as we pack for a road trip.

When we return several days later, the little black cat is still hanging around. I start to feed her.

My housemates decide to adopt a dog.

I’m not too keen on having a dog around, but I acquiesce because my housemates agree to let me adopt the little black cat. (The dog turns out to be an awesome addition to the household. He and the cat get along just fine.)

The decision to bring the cat inside proves to be a good one. The crappy rental house has a rodent problem.

Mice.

And Rats.

“Bubonic plague!” my mom wails.

The little black cat comes to the rescue, playing with the rodents until they “break.”

She also plays with other things until they break, like my housemate’s Winnie-the-Pooh watch – the leather band, all chewed up.

We holler, “Get out of there, you little weasel!”

The name sticks.

Weasel’s personality emerges. She likes to climb inside things.

Cat in the sink

Cat in the drawer

Cat in the box

At a party one night, we watch with prankster glee as Weasel squeezes inside an empty beer case and, to the dismay of partiers who reach in thinking the weight in the box is beer, pops out like a wicked jack-in-the-box, all claws and teeth.

Weasel also likes to play fetch. The plastic rings from milk cartons are her favorite, but mouse toys do nicely, too. She is a talker. She meows with excitement when she hears a new milk ring being cracked off the carton.

meowMEOW?

When I graduate and move and start my first job, I take Weasel with me.

I know no one in this new town, far from friends and family. I am lonelier than I have ever been in my life.

Weasel is my friend and confidante. When I am scared or upset, she purrs and makes me feel better. When something is amiss, like when I leave the window open and the rain leaks in, she comes meowing to let me know.

When my college friend visits to show off her new baby, I jokingly hold my “baby” for the picture, too.

My mom laughs and refers to Weasel as her “grandkitty.”

Every Halloween she warns, “Make sure to keep Weasel inside. Somebody might do something to a black cat on Halloween.”

"'Do something' to me? Like put a dippy Halloween bandana around my neck?"

I meet a young man in a coffee shop. We begin dating. We get engaged. We marry.

Weasel takes to him immediately.

One of the reasons I love him is that he is OK with being the kind of person who includes the cat in the holiday family photo.

Weasel is a good study buddy for my husband. Her role lasts nine years while he works to become “Dr. Bugman.”

Weasel also provides comic relief during study breaks.

Tried to find her way out of a plastic bag. Thought the handle was the opening. Earns herself a plastic superhero cape.

Hey, diddle diddle, the cat IS a fiddle??

Engarde!

Whoop whoop whoop whoop!

One day, we notice that Weasel is drinking a lot of water. One day, she has an “accident” on the kitchen floor, right in front of us. We take her to the vet.

At six years old, Weasel is diabetic.

We wonder what to do. Is it worth treating her?

“My friend had a diabetic cat who lived to be 25,” my mom says.

We learn to give insulin injections, twice a day, every day. It’s simple because Weasel gets a treat when she gets an injection. She is a highly food-motivated cat. She meows when it’s time for her shot.

Weasel lounges on her blood glucose testing equipment. She is very cooperative, allowing her paw pads to be pricked for a drop of blood ... because she gets a treat.

The difficulty of finding a pet sitter who can give injections means Weasel becomes a well-traveled kitty. She tags along just about everywhere we go. After a few unhappy meows, she settles down in her carrier in the back of the car and falls asleep. When we arrive at our destination, she explores, then settles down into her cat bed.

It’s good that she’s used to travel. She moves with us six times in 12 years.

Weasel’s locale is changeable, but her feeding schedule is not, which leads to a new role: alarm clock.

Bugman is the kind of person who needs a brass band marching through the room to awaken him. Or a persistent cat.

Rather than continually having to poke at Bugman to wake him up every morning, I simply get up and don’t feed the cat. She learns that Bugman is the morning source of food, and she will do whatever it takes to get him up and moving. She earns the moniker “Pillowdancer.”

But naptime? Naptime is different. Naps are for sharing.

Weasel serves another purpose: deflection of awkward silence.

People often assume that a married woman of my age has children. To start a conversation, they ask, “Do you have children?”

I say, “No.”

Awkward silence.

I learn to preempt the silence: “No, but we have a very spoiled cat.”

Silly grin. Awkward silence averted.

Cat though she may be, Weasel trends doglike in her personality. She comes running to greet us when we come home from work. She is a people-oriented cat.

She even wins my dad over.

“Hi, Meow,” he says to her.

“Meeeeew!” she replies.

Weasel is happy to hang out and play with anyone. (Except other cats. She hates other cats. Hiss, spit, growl!)

Weasel plays with Bugman's sister.

Weasel plays with Bugman's nephew.

Further enhancing her touch-o’-canid personality, Weasel learns to walk on a leash.

Checking out the flowerbeds.

Pretty kitty amidst the greenery.

As she ages, Weasel’s whiskers turn from all-black to all-white. She slows down and doesn’t need to be on a leash anymore when she goes outside.

Stalking through the backyard.

Weasel and Bugman, watching the world go by.

Weasel has a sudden drooling-like-a-waterfall episode. The vet does an X-ray to check if anything is clogging her digestive tract. All clear, and the drooling quits as suddenly as it started.

But there’s a “mass” showing on the image. Maybe liver. Maybe pancreas. Nothing much that can (or should) be done for a geriatric cat.

Not that anything needs to be done. She is still her sassy, inquisitive self.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Purrrrrr, purrrrrr.

"Chihuahua The Movie?" That's a dog, you say? I dunno. Kinda looks like a cat to me!

Time passes, and things change.

Weasel stops inhaling her food in 60 seconds flat. She takes longer and longer to empty her food dish until eventually, food from the morning feeding is still there in the evening. Around Christmastime, her decline can no longer be overlooked.

Weasel wouldn't play with the streamers at New Year's.

I take Weasel to the vet in January. The “mass” has grown and is pressing on the digestive tract. Not much to do but try some highly palatable foods. Kitty hospice. She’ll last through spring.

Accustomed to “nasty dry crap,” Weasel thinks the new highly palatable foods are … ahem … the cat’s meow.

She purrs, continues her daily job of waking Bugman up, and mostly cleans her plate.

The weather warms, and she lolls in the sunshine, rolls in the grass.

“MeowMEOW?” she says.

Bugman and I laugh.

Weasel’s bottle of insulin runs out. I get another one at the pharmacy. $160 with tax.

“Wow, that must be a special cat,” the pharmacy clerk says.

Ashamed to be spending so much on a cat when plenty of people can’t afford such pricey medicine, I say, “The bottle lasts a year.”

Except this time, it doesn’t.

Weasel stops getting excited about her highly palatable food. She even turns up her nose at tuna, which has always been a go-to treat.

A time before she turned up her nose at tuna, when she got tuna on her nose.

Weasel’s food is untouched, and Bugman and I spend a tearful Friday night pondering an awful question. “The vet is open on Saturday morning. Should we …?”

We don’t, and Weasel eats her food.

She has a great Saturday, pawing at my leg to distract me from the computer so I will pick her up onto my lap. She purrs and purrs. She spends time in the warm March sunshine, chasing a butterfly out in the yard while Bugman works on digging our garden.

 

That day was her gift to us.

 

On Sunday, she barely moved from her cat bed, would only take a few half-hearted laps of tuna water. Sunday night, she could not get comfortable. She kept changing positions and smacking her lips.

Monday morning, food still untouched, she was continuing to do her job.

“MeowMEOW?” Purrrrr. Time to get up!

She lapped up a little tuna water and climbed up into her normal place on the people bed. When the sun strengthened, she moved to her favorite spot on the plant stand in a sunny window.

A few hours later, the veterinarian came. Thank goodness the good doctor does house calls for things like this. I would hate to have taken Weasel away from her sunny windows.

Death brings a blessed end to suffering, but it’s so hard to have to choose it for a friend, even in the name of mercy.

Goodbye, my kitty friend. Thank you for 18 years of companionship and laughter. The house is going to be awfully quiet without you.

Weasel "Cat" Bradshaw
1994 - 2012

Copyright 2012 by Katie Bradshaw

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    March 19, 2012 2:49 pm

    what a loving tribute – not a dry eye here

    (((hugs)))

  2. Rick Myers permalink
    March 19, 2012 3:04 pm

    TEARS!!!!! Went through some of the same several years ago but also added our dog at the same time. Unfortunately, we did not provide a tribute as great as yours. I never did meet your feline but now feel like I have.

  3. Bugs permalink
    March 19, 2012 4:50 pm

    Rest well to a dear and loving friend.

  4. Kristina Montelongo permalink
    March 19, 2012 5:17 pm

    Katie, I am so sorry to hear about Weasel. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful friend. She will be missed.

  5. Dina Buccieri permalink
    March 19, 2012 6:30 pm

    I have an elderly dog with Cushings and extremely bad arthritis. You made me cry. I am so sorry for your loss. But your story is sweet, and I can relate. I am dreading this day of mercy that is approaching…

  6. Rayda permalink
    March 19, 2012 7:14 pm

    We are just now in the process of looking for a cat, or rather, waiting for a cat to find us. Your story is beautiful!

  7. Lisa permalink
    March 19, 2012 7:27 pm

    I have no words…only tears.

  8. vnewman permalink
    March 19, 2012 7:34 pm

    Oh dear I can’t stop crying. I am so sad for you. What a hard decision, I dread the day I have to make that for Ladybug.

  9. March 19, 2012 7:51 pm

    I knew I would cry when I opened this blog. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and I’ve had to do it a number of times. Each time it breaks my heart, but the time I’ve had with each was worth the heartache when it was time to say goodbye. Being there for them and being strong enough to recognize when enough is enough for them is so hard. You have been a good friend to Weasel. Grief and joy go hand in hand sometimes.

  10. Judy permalink
    March 19, 2012 8:47 pm

    What a loving tribute to your Weasel and to the joy she brought you for so many years. That was a very moving and sweet read.

  11. Laura permalink
    March 20, 2012 7:01 am

    Great Tribute! We just put our dog down last week and we were fortunate to have it done at home as well. I think it is a great gift to our pets to put them to rest in the place they are most comfortable. May the hole in your heart be filled with great memories.

  12. Nancy H-S permalink
    March 20, 2012 12:24 pm

    What an amazing story. I now know we have another “link” in our life-bond. I had a long-lived black kitty, quite diminutive, but mischevious, so I named him Demian…like Hermann Hesse’s character. The behaviors you attribute to Weasel sound so similar to those of my best friend and confidante of 16 years.

    I know your heart is broken now, but you will find the day comes when you can once again celebrate the unique spirit Weasel was and how your life was forever enchanted through his presence.

    My condolences to you, with love,as always.

  13. March 21, 2012 12:45 am

    May these and many more sweet memories bring you comfort in her absence. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful tribute.

  14. June 1, 2012 4:07 am

    Beautiful, heartfelt tribute to such a sweet companion! I have a gray Maine Coon boy who’se the apple of my (and my husband’s) eye….we love him so much. He just turned 4 this year, and he’s added nothing but joy to our lives..:) I’m going through the same thing you mentioned (we’re a young couple), when people ask you if you have any kids…my response is the same..lol.
    I’m dreading the day you’ve had to go through…Weasel was a part of your family, and always will be remembered with love, I’m sure. And I’m sure he had a loving home and a wonderful life with you guys. All best.

  15. Brie permalink
    August 19, 2015 2:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story of your life with Weasel.

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