Monday, September 09, 2013

Family Cats

I want to start by saying that all the lovely cats in this story are no longer with us, because I find nothing more heartbreaking than a long post about a beloved pet that ends with their death. 
My parents decided to be cat people fairly close to the time they decided to work on becoming parents.  They had seen the movie "Aristocats" and my mother had decided she wanted to have an orange tabby like the cartoon cat who wished to grow up to be an alley cat.  So, she called a woman who had posted an ad for kittens and asked if any were orange.  Hearing that one was, she went for a visit and was hissed at by a black tabby cat, so she ended up taking two - the orange and the black - home.  My sister and I, in the way of children, decided that Toulouse and Poki (short for Popoki) were our brothers and that Toulouse was really my cat and Poki was really hers. Toulouse met something in the alley that left him needing antibiotics and eventually a surgery that he did not survive.  Poki shortly after went to live with some friends of ours where he turned from a bird feeder stalking cat to a basement hiding cat. My mother had developed severe allergies and a no fur rule was instituted in our house.
My sister and I did get an actual brother, who was fairly entertaining. And at some point (although I should mention well after my attempts at exemption, not that I hold a grudge) the no fur rule developed an exemption first for two gerbils (one for each of my siblings) and then for a guinea pig.  I may have tried to argue that fur was fur (I had lost interest in gerbils and never much had any in guinea pigs) but no go.
Fast forward quite some time and I get a call from my brother.  He had gotten home from school to discover a plastic tray and a bag of cat food in his room, had I left it there?  No.  Neither had my mother.  I made it home before my dad, who asked my brother and I if we had any guesses what his surprise was. (Our dad loved surprises, but he loved them so much he often gave them away in his excitement.) My brother asked if it might be a cat.  And my dad, a little surprised we had caught on, produced a box of annoyed orange fuzzball that came to be known as Cosmo. 
The is not the first time that my dad brought home a surprise, so my mom took it well.  And fortunately her allergies seems to have lessened.  Especially since my dad mentioned the family who had found a mom cat with a litter of kittens in an abandoned pipe factory had another kitten that needed a home.  I might have mentioned that I had always wanted a cat.  And well, a few days later my mom opened the door to a flash of orange being chased by a flash of black. She always said Sabrina, as she came to be known, was lucky to have that off center orange stripe because it was that adorable stripe that kept her from becoming a Barbie coat.  (Never mind that there were no Barbies in the house.) 
I later moved out and Sabrina had other cat companions, and then in this last place it was just us. Especially since being on an upper floor precluded her getting outside regularly (or really, at all).  She occasionally patrolled the hallways, just to make sure everything was okay. 
She started losing weight at the beginning of the year.  The vet visits went from looking great to looking good for a cat her age to we need to consider how aggressive treatment should be.  She was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, arthritis,  and a heart murmur.  Another vet visit led eventually to adding anemia and cancer to the list. 
Having been raised on Judith Viorst books, I of course, think ten good things about Sabrina should be offered up, even if my tenth will be a little different. 
1. She was smart.  She cracked the fancy cat carrier open and never let the more newfangled ones stop her from trying. 
2. She ate all the treats.  My sister used to sit on the other side of the bedroom door and poke treats under the door and try and steal them back. 
3. She appreciated humans in small groups who might pet her.  (In large groups she found humans best avoided.) This turned into something of an arrival bonus for cat friendly early early guests.
4. She found dogs interesting up until they tried to chase her. 
5. She had stopped being a lap cat, but would happily curl up on my arm. 
6. She often operated as a back up alarm, convinced that I was missing out on prime cat petting time.  (Fortunately for us all, she did this pretty close to actual alarm time.)
7. She would indicate a preference for the air (or rarely heat) to be turned on by jumping on top of the unit where she would let it blow her fur. 
8. She had no particular interest in my knitting unless the yarn ball  fell to the floor.  Even then, she mostly wanted to make sure they weren't going to fall on her.
9. She would catch pom poms in the air.  I had a roommate who thought the idea of a cat playing anything like catch was ridiculous until I demonstrated.  She also snuck up on unsuspecting pom poms and wrestled them to the ground.
10. And her leftover cat meds have been donated to the vet so they can help another sick cat whose owner might not otherwise be able to afford them.