I want to relate to you the relationship I have with my cat but I need to first tell you about my late dog, Danny. Because first there was dog and then there was cat. Daniel the Spaniel was a black and white Springer spaniel puppy. He was advertised in our local newspaper as the Pet-of-the-Week. I had been thinking of adopting a dog not long after my previous pet, a cat (Misty), contracted the feline version of diabetes. Sadly, I had to have her put down.
I wanted a dog now and especially a spaniel. I thought a cocker spaniel would be ideal and I guess I started feeling that way when I first saw Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp movie. I thought the romantic spaghetti and meatball scene was really cute (they have such big brown eyes!). So my then 16 year old daughter Jenny and I were at the Humane Society before they opened, first in line at the door. We adopted Danny.
Jenny and I were starting out in a new neighborhood in a new home with a new pet! At that time (1993) our new place required much home improvement. Still, it had a tall cedar fence in the back yard and I felt comfortable that Danny wouldn’t be able to get out of the yard, even though he was quite a jumper. He was a very affectionate dog but soon developed a bad habit of digging holes everywhere. I remember filling up one of the holes with water and dunking his head in it (just until he got wet) to try to teach him not to do that anymore. But truthfully, I don’t think it helped much and I felt bad when I did it.
I knew one thing I could do would have a more lasting affect and that was to sign him up for obedience classes. We both had a lot to learn and he wasn’t easy to teach. I could see all the other owners with their different breeds doing pretty well, but Danny was the youngest and it seemed he would never catch on. In frustration, I asked our instructor what might be the problem. He assured me that it was normal for spaniels to take a bit longer because of their hyper activeness and that, combined with Danny’s immaturity, was probably the reason. He was right. Once Danny caught on to what we were trying to teach him, and I in turn got better using the techniques I learned, he soon was able to sit, stay, roll over, come and heel. He passed the course and received his diploma!
Not long after I acquired Danny, Jenny was asked if she wanted to get a kitten that was part of a litter of Tabby kittens a friend of hers had. She told me about it and I decided it would be okay. There were three kittens left and Jenny picked the smallest one because it was the prettiest. It was a female and Jenny wanted to call her Duchess. I said, “That’s a more fitting name for an older cat. Why don’t we call her Kitty Cat? She’s small, and she’ll most likely always look like a little kitten.” So that’s what we called her. When we brought her home we didn’t know how she and Danny would react to each other, but after Danny sniffed at her a few times and Kitty Cat hissed, arched her back and stuck her claws in his face, they soon had an understanding. It wasn’t long before they were sleeping together and best of pals.
Now comes the bad part. One day, while I was at work, I came home and Danny was gone. I found out why when I noticed that one section of my fence was laying on the ground! Apparently on this windy day, because the cedar fence was old, the weakness of the posts caused the fence to collapse and Danny decided to go visit the elementary school kids just a block away. I never saw him again. There was a note on my front door attached to his collar explaining that he had been hit and killed by a car after he ran out into the street. His body had already been taken away by the city people who do such things. To this day, I still don’t know if that was the truth or if someone stole him and made up the story.
Where should I begin? This is no ordinary cat. Ordinary cats are aloof, go off somewhere and disappear for hours and don’t learn obedience or tricks like dogs do. When she was a kitten, she was much like all kittens- crazy funny! Anything and everything would catch her attention and loved to play with you and her toys. One moment she would be sound asleep and the next, bouncing off the walls because something scared her. Jenny and I had a ball with her. We laughed at her antics and learned everything that peeked Kitty Cat’s curiosity. In other words, we learned that pretty much everything could do that!
As she got older, my daughter left home and found an apartment of her own rooming with her best friend and so I kept Kitty Cat because the apartment manager said pets weren’t allowed there. An old buddy came into town that I hadn’t seen for years and offered to share the expenses of my home in exchange for a room. It was a deal. Between the two of us, we taught Kitty Cat to stay out of the living room when we were eating a meal; to stay in the yard as long as we kept the back door latched partly open so she could retreat to the house if she heard a dog bark; and to play fetch like a dog.
Speaking of dogs barking, when hissing, arching her back and throwing here sharp claws at you didn’t do the trick, she would bark at you! Seriously! The first time we heard it we couldn’t believe it! We knew she must have learned it from Danny and used this as a last resort, because the sound of a dog barking to cats is the most fearful of all things, so it was logical that it would surely scare off an enemy of any kind. The other thing we learned about her was that cats will go to any length to be in high places. I guess it’s because they feel safe and not threatened up there, thinking that they are the only ones capable of getting up there in the first place. At my home, that high place is a loft room that is accessible only by a 9 foot ladder. After trial and error, Kitty Cat learned how to climb the ladder. This is still her favorite napping place. The way she gets down is by jumping straight down from the top rung of the ladder! When she was younger, her body was more elastic and nimble but one time I noticed she was limping and realized it was from hitting the floor so hard after jumping and she probably landed awkwardly one time. We put a large, overstuffed pillow at the base of the ladder and that took care of that.
To close, I just want to describe the current Kitty Cat to the reader so that you can understand what happens to a cat that lives to be 19 years old. They say to calculate the human equivalent of cat years is to multiply the actual age in years by six. But for the sake of this story’s accuracy, I looked it up. I found a cat age calculator to get the equivalent in human years. It says she is the equivalent of 93 years old. I’ve been telling everyone she was 114. I had no idea she was so young! Yes, to live that long is remarkable.
But Kitty Cat, I’m sorry to say, has become senile. She is no longer aloof but quite needy and can’t get enough affection. At first, I thought what a pleasant change but now instead of waiting outside the room until you’re through eating, she thinks nothing of jumping into your lap when you have a plate of food! It’s been a long time since I took her to the vet (she has shown no sign of illness) and I really don’t know the status of her eyesight, hearing, or mental state. I do know that I spend a lot of time yelling at her because she doesn’t respond when I tell her something. I don’t know if that is because she’s hard of hearing or just stubborn. I know that physically, even though she has a little trouble jumping up into her favorite chair, she somehow doesn’t have trouble climbing that loft ladder or jumping the back yard fence (the driveway fence is only four feet high). Maybe it’s a case of proper motivation. It’s her mental state that worries me and to be honest, irritates me the most. She has developed a habit of howling at any time of day or night. The loud, guttural sounds are unpleasant even under the best of conditions but certainly not very nice to hear at your bedroom door at 2:30 am in the morning or right there in the living room in the daytime in front of you!
I know that like my cat, I too have gotten older, and my patience has gotten thinner. (some people even complain about my howling, but I ignore them) Guess I have to work on that. But seriously, I’ve realized that sometime Kitty Cat will be gone and then I’ll wish that I had been more understanding.
As a “senior citizen” I feel in general we should be shown more respect when we also act or behave differently as we age. After all, we have more aches and pains, we get old and wrinkly, lose more of our hair, get more cantankerous, stubborn, and set in our ways. So I can forgive Kitty Cat for the annoying things she does now because I will always remember the unusually smart, loving, forgiving, funny, cute and loyal companion she has been to me all these years. Yes, I have loved her and I’ll miss her dearly when she’s gone.