We had to have the Vet euthanize our cat, Felis, recently. He was with us for almost 17 years. It’s been several weeks now and I still look for him when I come home and then that sharp pain somewhere between my chest and throat reminds me, he’s gone. He wasn’t sick very long, but I suppose the cancerous tumor had been growing on his kidney for a long time. We just didn’t know it. It was only in the last few weeks of his life that we realized something was wrong.
My son, Ben, and I picked him out of the litter along with his long gone sister, Flower. It was at Christmastime in 1994. Flower was cute, white and black hair with a shy demeanor. Katie picked her out as the one, right away. We planned on taking just one kitten from the litter, but Felis had so much spunk and personality that Ben and I agreed we had to take him too.
We lived at the time in a two story Victorian home and the two kittens had the run of the place. Flower was a natural athlete and that seemed to bother Felis. He was too aggressive for her and their fights always ended with Flower squealing for mercy as Felis pinned her to the floor, biting her neck. There was a big wooden ball on the bannister at the bottom of our hall stairs. In self defense, Flower learned to jump from the bottom stair onto this varnished ball. Felis couldn’t get to her. He tried many times to jump onto that ball, but always slid off, crash landing on the floor in a undignified manner.
Later we moved to a condo across town. The kittens got out one evening and I found Flower dead by the side of the road. She’d been hit by a car and the driver must have placed her up on the grass. I think I know what happened. Felis probably dashed across the street in front of the car with Flower following him. She always followed him. We buried Flower across the street in a field and Felis became our only pet. I was irrationally mad at him for a while for not taking care of his little sister.
He started doing string art shortly after that. Katie is a knitter and would make a small ball of yarn for him to bat around. He discovered that if he knocked it under the kitchen table, the yarn made interesting patterns, or perhaps he just enjoyed watching me untangle the mess when he was through. He sat patiently as I wound the yarn back up into a ball and then threw it for him so he could start the process all over again. Sometimes when he was finished, he put the string ball in one of my shoes, so I’d find it later and throw it out to him.
When we moved from Washington to New York, he got used to being on a harness and leash. On the trip across country we feared he might jump out of the truck when we opened the door. He became accustomed to my taking him over to the grassy areas at rest stops to sniff around. He became an old hand at traveling, because we moved from New York to Arizona, back to Washington and then back to Arizona. I can’t say that he enjoyed traveling, but as long as we were all together, he was content.
The best place we lived, from Felis’s perspective, was our friend Sally’s add-on apartment in Sequim, Wa. We stayed there for 4 or 5 months after we sold our house and just before moving back to Arizona. Her house is in the country and has an acre of lawn rimmed by thick trees. Sally had 3 cats at the time and we had adopted a stray named Farley. The cats ruled this acre of land. Felis loved to wander and explore the acreage. Sometimes the cats would sit around close to each other just watching and listening to the world around them.
Felis’s training on the harness came in handy when we moved to Green Valley. I didn’t dare let him out because of the many wild animals that roam the area. Maybe I was over protective, but we’ve seen bobcats, coyotes, huge owls, rattle snakes and herds of javelina on the grounds. So I started walking him on the leash. He loved it. “Walking him” is not the right term though, rolling on the sidewalk, sniffing bushes and chewing grass with a little bit of walking in between would be more accurate. We usually went out in the evening, when the light was starting to fade. The birds are very active at this time, but their chirping was engulfed by an expansive stillness as twilight approached. Felis and I spent many a sunset together on the sidewalks around the Villas. In the evenings now I feel sad that he’s not with me to enjoy it. Or maybe he is, who knows?