With incredible sadness, my mom and I had to say goodbye to one of our cats this week. Tiger was one of the smartest, most loving cats I have ever known. He had a way of looking at you and different meows for different things so you always knew just what he wanted. He was very vocal and greeted us with a meow every morning and always responded when addressed.
We don't know how old he was as he was a stray that my mom adopted. She had him for at least 15 years though and he was fully grown when he joined our family so he had a good, long life. He suffered from FIV and had a skin condition as a result but he never let it slow him down too much. Even suffering the indignity of wearing a rabbit harness to keep him from scratching.
He'd been losing weight all summer and fall. We almost lost him a little over a week ago but he seemed to rally and we thought he might recover but, finally, this week, he grew too weak to eat despite us doing all the coaxing and babying we could. We feel his absence greatly. His favorite spot was on top of the picnic table in our yard in full sunlight. He would lay there for hours and listen to the birds. I'm thankful for the mild winter we've had so far. It allowed him to have some lovely days outside in the sun in his last two weeks.
I wrote the following story for him just after he passed. Give your kitties an extra scratch under the chin today and love them.
The cat surveyed his kingdom from his promontory in the sun. His eyes squinted into the distance. He flicked the end of his tail lazily, up and down, up and down. He felt joy in the comfort of the repetitive, rhythmic motion. He appeared sleepy-eyed and indolent but his keen senses told him the exact location of every creature in his vicinity. A bone-deep satisfaction born of knowing he was a great hunter, his skills unrivaled throughout his demesne, was his. The bird sounds and intense warmth of the afternoon sun lulled him into a near trance. But he could, of course, spring up in the twinkling of an eye to stalk and pounce upon his prey. He pictured the hunt in his mind's eye and flexed his mighty paws, extending his deadly claws reflexively. Just then a loud bang echoed and his ears perked, the only sign that he was on alert. The shot of a hunter? He settled again. What cared he for a puny human?
His ears perked again at the sound of a voice. “Tiger?” he scoffed to himself. “Stupid human. I am a lion, king of all I survey.”
“Tiger!” The call was louder this time, insistent and irritated.
He remained still and watched through half-closed eyes as the human approached his perch. He maintained his negligent sprawl but prepared to spring into action.
“You can ignore me but I know you hear me.”
This human was courageous indeed speaking to him as though she were master here, not he. The way she approached him as though he were some domesticated house cat rather than the fearsome beast that he was was extraordinarily foolhardy. It was his kingly whim to see what she would do, to toy with her before asserting his dominance. He watched warily as she reached a hand toward him. How dare she!
Her hand reached under his chin.
He would bite it off and devour her wh....puuurrrr, rrrrrrrrrrr.
Damn. He'd fallen for the old chin scratch once again.
He gave in to the ecstasy of being scratched in his favorite spot even rolling over and showing his belly in a shameless display. He purred louder and louder as his royal dream faded and he stood to head-butt his human mama's chin to encourage kisses and more petting. He was soon scooped from the picnic table into loving arms.
“Time to come in for the night buddy. I know you love it out here but it'll be getting dark soon.”
He was put down then. He walked over to the garden for one last scratch at the wooden rails that marked its boundaries. He sat daintily at the corner and watched his human filling the birdbath. As much as he enjoyed his dreams of grandeur, this was actually his favorite part of each day.
“Come on Tiger,” his human coaxed halfheartedly, knowing from experience that it was unlikely he would come.
He looked up innocently, not moving, and meowed sweetly. He loved this game they played.
His owner sighed in amused exasperation. “I don't know why I even bother calling you. You always have to be carried don't you, ya big baby?”
Tiger, King of the Jungle, would have growled at being such a demeaning name. This Tiger was content to be picked up and placed over her shoulder like the baby she called him. Paws holding on, he nestled in and watched his picnic table and the yard with all of its birds and rabbits and squirrels fade from view. He knew he'd be back tomorrow. He nestled into her neck and closed his eyes in utter contentment. Besides, she might make popcorn tonight. He loved popcorn.