I’ve never been a cat person. To me, cats are furry little retch machines, that claw your furniture, curtains, and legs when you get too close. Not to mention being turd droppers whenever they get pissed. So when my wife suggested we get a cat, I had to wonder — why in God’s name would I ever want to do that? Well, the idea was to give our oldest daughter an animal companion — a noble idea in principle, but fatally flawed in application, since my daughter has severe mental and physical challenges. Anyway, Lynn found a gray and white, part tabby cat who lived with all her siblings in a college professor’s apartment. The cat’s name was “Curiosity” which being such a cliche, meant we never called her that. Instead we named her “Puddy.” That name, however influenced by the old Warner’s brother’s Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, became a misnomer for a calm, fat and low-key feline.
But, since God has a wonderfully developed sense of humor, our daughter wanted nothing to do with Puddy, and the feeling was mutual. That left our daughter’s cat to become “our” pet. Now, for years I had labored under the delusion that cats were fairly self-maintaining, but that is nothing but an ugly lie — you have to daily feed, water, brush, and clean their boxes, vacuum scads of cat hair otherwise these “low maintenance” animals will whine, bite, pee and crap on everything, shed and retch scads of hair and “whatever the frag it ate” messes all over your house. In short, they are about self maintaining as your average 3 year-old.
To make matters more interesting, Puddy had this obsession with crickets, which loved to get inside our house. She’d stalk these little chirping intruders, plant her big gray and white paws on them, and rip their legs off. Then, once finished with her malicious mutilation, she would ceremoniously drop the legless corpses in my wife’s shoes. While I found this amusing, my wife did not.
Puddy had other strange habits initially, like trying to crawl under our blankets to go to sleep. I shut the bedroom door after that; the prospect of furry things creeping around under the sheets was bad enough, but what settled the issue was attacking my feet in the middle of the night. (Apparently my toes look like mice.) She also knocked down the Christmas tree more than once, so I had to put a hook in the ceiling and wire the tree to it. That aside, she spent her days chasing sunspots, and finding the absolutely most comfortable surface to lay on for hours and hours. She liked taking baths, but only if the water was really warm.
Along about her 15th year, we brought our youngest daughter home from the hospital. Now mixing babies with old cats is like using WD40 around an open flame, somebody is going to lose some hair and a fair amount of skin. Oddly, though, they got along. Puddy slept outside her room, and followed her around the house. I’d like to say Puddy acted like that because of how our daughter treated her, but I cannot in good conscience do so. In fact, Puddy acted this way in spite of how Rachel treated her; Rachel picked up that cat (who weighed nearly as much as she did), and carried her around the house like a sack of flour, dressed her up in doll clothes, and raced about with Puddy in her stroller. Quite horrifying to watch, and made me both cringe and feel sympathy for Puddy. Yet that cat would come back for more.
When she turned 17, Puddy started losing weight, yet she ate normally. Being overweight most of her life, I looked at this initially as a good thing, but then the weight loss continued, and she started getting weak, and unable to do things she normally could do — like sit in the bay window. I took her to the doctor, and they said she was suffering kidney failure. At that point the question became when she was going to die, not if — and what to tell my youngest about her cat. The kid seemed pretty oblivious to Puddy’s weakness, but we took to warming Puddy up in blankets and setting her in the places she used to like when she could get there unassisted. Puddy’s attachment to Rachel stayed constant, and she hobbled along behind her, and one morning attempted to jump in bed with her, but was so weak she fell, and couldn’t get up. I lifted her frail, furry gray frame up to Rachel’s bed, and let them love each other one last time. It was clear Puddy would not be able to function independently and was in much pain. So as much as I hated to, I made the decision to take her to the vet . The trip to the vet passed slowly as my dread built. She purred much of the time I held her, and I struggled mightily when the vet asked what we wanted to do. I looked to my wife for some direction, but she was in no better shape than I. So, as I stroked Puddy’s fur, she passed on.
I like to think of myself as pretty contained, but we blubbered the whole way home. And, if that weren’t bad enough, we had to tell Rachel what happened. As one can expect, it did not go well, yet we hugged her and told her that Puddy was now in kitty heaven. Being four years-old, Rachel didn’t have the capacity to deal with death, and has struggled with her emotions over the issue. Some days, particularly when sad, she gets very quiet and grieves for her Puddy. We resisted picking up a “replacement” animal as we already had two other cats to deal with. But like Rachel, we will always remember Puddy as a sweet bundle of fur and much more than a “cat.”