I've Lived In Chico, CA 9 Years Now. Incredible.
A Tale of Three Kitties
I was never too much of a pet person, but I married a pet that came with Marc. Grayson was a gray elder cat, and very attuned to his Man. He (cat) generally regarded me as an interloper, but he was just funny enough, just in need enough of brushing enough, so that I bonded with him too (mostly). And I think Grayson kind of got used to me also. Sometimes when I laid laundry on the bed, Grayson would plop himself squarely on one of my neatly folded nightgowns or t-shirts. At that time he claimed ownership of me, or so I’m told.
I became very ill with respiratory problems frequently in those early years with my new housemates. I finally went to an allergist, and discovered that I was not highly allergic to Marc, but…I was strongly advised to stay away from cats. I started shots.
Within months of my diagnosis, Grayson died at the age of fifteen. He’d had a heart murmur his whole life, though it never slowed him down. In the full-blown heat of summer of 2014 he did begin to tire and eat less, and one morning Marc found him stretched out in the yard.
We were both upset and it was I who pushed for another furry friend.
I know, that’s dumb, I’m allergic. But I heard that chances were good that Siberian Forest cats tend to, for the most part, be less allergenic that other cats. There’s a scientific reason I won’t get into, plus the no dander thing; varies cat to cat. Bottom line is I wanted to get another cat, and mitigate the severity of my reaction if I could.
So we got Ivan, a Siberian who was a couple years old. Marc put up a cat fence that is supposed to keep cats from getting out of their yards. I never wanted him out to begin with, but Marc could not fathom a world where cats could not explore. And Grayson had lived so well and so long. Ivan happily followed Grayson’s paw prints around the yard, even curling himself around the stone kitty that was Grayson’s memorial, tucked deep within our old cat’s favorite clearing in the midst of backyard bushes.
Ivan loved getting in and out through the cat door, rewarding us with pieces of lizard and, sorry to say, birds, including one Marc was able to save, who flew out of our house like a bat out of hell.
Forest cats are determined, agile climbers. After 9 months of mutually adapted living, Ivan hopped over the cat-proofed fence and never came back.
Our boy was chipped. We began intense search and rescue efforts that lasted months to no avail. I like to think someone happened upon Ivan’s soft sweet fluffiness and figured out how to catch our energetic and skittish boy. I imagine our Ivan as he always was when he wasn’t outdoors, splayed and purring beneath my gentle brush. I like to think someone else gets to love him now. Marc, however, thinks coyotes got him.
I always felt Marc’s cats helped him through his sad times, but the truth is, they also help me through my sad times getting adjusted to little Chico.
So, Buddy came to us next. He was a little older, but still under a year. He had been a little girl’s therapy cat, but she could not understand the presence of claws, and rejected him when he accidentally scratched during playtime. He needed a new buddy so he literally became ours.
Buddy was PERFECT for us. He was gentle, he played, he brought us his toys. He watched me cook, he watched me bathe, he explored the boundaries of Marc-in-the-shower. He was a happy “inside” cat with many favorite windows and a giant climbing tree. His prior people had let him come and go as he wanted to, but we had learned a harsh and painful lesson, so he was indoors only. I felt so at ease with the situation, so happy to have him always around with his dog-like ways.
One evening, I had just turned out the light to go to sleep. Marc was still in the garage lounge, smoking a cigar. I heard a little cat-commotion at the foot of the bed – it sounded like Buddy had tumbled or did a somersault, crying out just a little. I turned on the light, my heart pounding, and asked Buddy if he was okay. He always answered to his name – but not this time.
I didn’t have my glasses on but could see the outline of his still body. He was laying on his side as flat as cats do only when something is terribly wrong. I struggled for my glasses, leapt out of bed, and went to him. I thought I felt a purr. His eyes were open, he didn’t look stressed, but he was so still. I ran out to get Marc, who came in, picked him up, and immediately drove him to the 24-hour vet hospital just 6 or 7 minutes away.
Just to be sure, the staff there set him up on a monitor, but Buddy had died. “He probably threw a clot,” the doctor said. I remember the breeder who had rehomed him with us had mentioned a heart murmur when he was a kitten, one our own vet could not locate himself. But Grayson had lived 15 years with one, and I had never been concerned.
Later I did research to discover that sudden death in cats, in just this manner, is not all that terribly unusual. At least this time, unlike with Ivan, we did not have to question anything we did or did not do.
Marc returned from the vet with only his collar and tag. After a few hours just trying to absorb what happened, we went to bed. Only then did I notice that Buddy had already neatly laid his morning toys at the end of the bed, where our feet always found them – and him – at the start of every day.
Now, to be inspired to get up, playing, that’s the way to rise and shine. In his three months with us, Buddy had shown us how.
We are getting a new friend soon, but those particular toys – a feathery bundle and his pink ball - are tucked safely away.
It’s funny how Marc and I once disagreed about filling the space that Grayson, then Ivan, left. Now, we feel like whatever we have to go through will be worth it for the sake of the love of another friend.
Better to live with the prospect of pain than not to have known them at all. With every loss, you get a little tougher, a little less afraid.
That's life I guess.
Ivan the Magnificent
Buddy Next to His Man