Friday, June 7, 2013

Tom Kitten's Last Walk to Forever

Sometime the afternoon of May 28th we thought our top cat, Tom, the one eyed Bandito, on or about his nineteenth birthday, took his last walk to forever.  Over the last year or so, his health had diminished and he had become rather frail, weighing in at six pounds, about half his prime, top cat fighting weight. 

He lived a storied life, full of wonder, activity and love.  The bond between that cat and my lovely wife was something to behold.  Even when he was the top stud cat of the neighborhood, a keen, agile adversary to any cat that wanted to prowl around his territory, Tom would curl up with her at night and purr like a kitten, well into his adult life.

In the last couple of years, he would always be found next to her head at night, softly purring as they both drifted off to sleep.

He was the smartest cat I have even known.  This last winter we passed in the foyer, and, since I was on my way to the sofa for a little lap top time, I asked him if he wanted to meet me there.

"You want to sit on the sofa with me for a while Tom?" I asked, the cat.

He promptly meandered over to the sofa, hopped up and waited for me there.  How smart is that?  For a cat?

We knew his days were numbered.  Since he put up his gloves after his last skirmish well over a year ago, his pace has slowed dramatically.  He sustained a couple injuries at that time as well, so he and I had a conversation.

I told him it was time to put up the gloves, he was, after all, seventeen years old.  That would be somewhere in his late eighties if he was human.  This was calculated by the following formula, more or less:

  • 1-month-old kitten = 6-month-old human baby
  • 3-month-old kitten = 4-year-old child
  • 6-month-old kitten = 10 human years old
  • 8-month-old kitten = 15-year-old human
  • A 1-year-old cat has reached adulthood, the equivalent of 18 human years
  • 2 human years = 24 cat years
  • 4 human years = 35 cat years
  • 6 human years = 42 cat years
  • 8 human years = 50 cat years
  • 10 human years = 60 cat years
  • 12 human years = 70 cat years
  • 14 human years = 80 cat years
  • 16 human years = 84 cat years
Or you can peg the first two human years of a cat's life at 25 and then each additional human year would be 4 cat years, more or less.

I also told him that if he did get in trouble I would back his play.  Fortunately, Tom put on his gentleman's top hat and mellowed substantially.  He had a favorite chair to sit on the front porch, as well as a favorite in the back.  Most days he could be found in either one, when he was not taking leisurely strolls around the property.

If he hadn't mellowed out, I could have seen myself in all sorts of deep doo doo.  Tom's not backed down from a wild fox nor anything else I suspect.  I could have easily seen myself going round and round with a grizzley bear if Tom hadn't slowed himself down.  That, and, of course, if grizzleys inhabited these woods.

My lovely wife took him to the vet only a month or so ago.  For a nineteen year old cat he was doing great the vet said.  But he was getting old and frail.  And moving ever so much slower every day.

I saw him the morning of the 28th down by the road, and then when I got back from the store he was up at the house.  But the last time I saw him was before noon, and he stopped going on lengthy roustabouts long ago.  His rat pack carousing and hunting days were far behind.

We discovered him missing that night.  He wasn't at either porch, and did not come when called or whistled for.  Yes, Tom responded to a little whistle my wife made up for him.  Nothing.  My wife even got in her car and cruised back and forth on the road for a while at dusk, calling for him and whistling.  Nothing.

Wednesday morning I did a perimeter walk of our property, calling for him, and looking under bushes and trees.  Nothing.  All this while my wife and I were figuring he might have taken his last walk, as cats are want to do.  We've had cats all our lives, and those that have lived to a ripe old age eventually wander out into the sunset, never to be seen again.

My lovely wife and I were grief stricken most of the day on Wednesday, the 29th.  Besides the fact I was
missing the beast, I was also distraught because I had not had a chance to say a final goodbye.  We'd been talking, of course, and expecting it, but you never think it's going to happen this day.

Our son came over for dinner the evening of the 29th.  We had a nice visit, and he left as dusk was approaching.  My wife and I were in the front yard, admiring some newly planted roses, and then I heard our son coming back up the drive.

As he pulled up he rolled his window down and asked if we were missing a cat.  He had Tom!  He saw Tom in his rear view mirror staggering across the road just as he was leaving.

My wife was ecstatic, as was I.  Tom was war torn, weary and somewhat delirious, but he was back in our arms.  We immediately got him some water, and over the next couple days he drank and peed.

Since he found one of his favorite places to sleep, under a dresser in our bedroom, we set up camp for him upstairs.  Always fastidious, Tom always used the Booda Dome cat box we have in our utility room.  That was fine, but it was also down stairs.  It was a heck of a haul for a ninety something year old dehydrated cat.  So we set up a little cat box in the master bath and also had cold water dripping out of the bath tub faucet for him.

Not content with drinking water out of a regular water bowl, Tom was always prone to drinking toilet water.  Eau de toilette!  But in his weakened condition, he cold not navigate jumping up on the bowl and leaning in for a sip.  We were also afraid he might slip in and drown himself.  He was good with the bath tub drip, and would actually lay in the splatter as he lapped the water.

Over the next two days Tom semi slept under the dresser.  His one eye many times would remain open, and many times he was far, far away.  The first day he had no purr, and then it returned on Friday. 

On Saturday, June 1st, we took him to our vet.  Harboring no illusions that this might be Tom's time, we still wanted our Vet's valuable input.  Since Tom had been drinking and peeing a lot, it was quite probable he was going into renal, or kidney failure.  I mean, if you're in your nineties, sooner or later something in your body has to start failing.  But, it could also be a symptom of dehydration.

We decided to have Tom hydrated, which was done by having an IV inserted underneath his skin and then having some vitamin water drip in between his fur, skin and tissue.  He also got a shot of some B vitamins.  If he was only dehydrated and not going into renal failure and dying, this would give him a boost and maybe then he'd have another few months of living to do.  Tom also swallowed a few bites of food at the Vet's office as well.

Unfortunately, there was more to Tom's situation than just simple dehydration.  His condition did not improve at all through Sunday.  Monday morning, still very dilapidated, he wanted to go outside.  That was something we had resisted because he was so weak, but by that time he was only able to go a few feet before having to stop and rest.

I took him out to his beloved outdoors, and laid him down on the cool, sweet lawn.  About this time a Neil Young tune was echoing through my chorus.  Tom rubbed his nose on the grass, and lay there, breathing softly as the morning birds offered a beautiful serenade.   Tom spent most of the day out on the lawn, soaking in the sounds and smells of nature as his spirit drifted on.  A little Joe Walsh was playing on his Cat Pod. 

He was still breathing when my lovely wife came home late in the afternoon, we were both amazed he was still alive.  He was, without a doubt, the cat of steel.  His one eye was pretty vacant, but he was still alive.  He'd been in that same condition since mid-morning.  Since Tom was really my wife's cat, she made the call.  The vet could see us at 6:45 that evening, the evening of June third.

We drove in silence to the vets, tears falling from both our eyes.  The Vet, Richard Heisey, 530-271-0101, was kind and gentle.  Especially with us.  We love our vet!

My lovely wife held the almost comatose Tom, wrapped in a big blue towel, as the vet ever so softly injected him with sweet relief.  He was gone in seconds, no doubt listening to some Marshall Tucker on his Cat Pod as he left this dimension.

When we got home we ambled up the hill to Tom's final resting place.  I had dug the grave earlier in the morning, when it was still cool outside.   We scattered home grown rose petals and other flowers at the bottom, and then I laid Tom Kitten down.  A red rose was laid upon his body, and after I had covered him with dirt my lovely wife laid a red rose upon his grave.

What a miracle!  Tom Cat must have heard us calling, and somehow made his way back towards the house.  We may have interrupted his last walk, but maybe the love he carried for us was stronger than his last walk cat instinct.  He had to come back to say good-bye.

There were definitely some lucid moments on his part, and some definite purring as we talked.  He also, in his very weakened physical condition, managed to get up and sleep by my lovely wife's head for a couple last times.

We've had quite a few cats between us, my lovely wife and I.  There has never been one as smart or as brave as our Tom Cat.  Most cats would flee a running Hoover vacuum, Tom would play tag with it.  He was a part of our lives for eighteen years.  He saw both our children graduate high school and college.

What an opportunity, a chance to say good-bye and tell him how much we loved him, how much we cared, and how special he was.  He was intrepid, he was affectionate.  He brought a tremendous amount of love and joy into our house.  We will miss him dearly.

Now it is finally time for his younger brother, Joe, to be the King.  Poor Joe has lived all his seventeen year life under Tom's shadow.  Even though Joe was bigger, Tom's alpha dominance was established long ago.

It is now the time of King Joe's reign.

May Tom Kitten's spirit soar free, his memory will shine forever.