We had set out to find a talker, a cat who would announce himself, make demands, complaints and proclamations of kitty love in the loudest and yet somewhat ambiguous terms. Absolute clarity isn’t exactly a feline trait.
Unless they’re hungry.
Or bored and require entertainment, immediately.
This might sound a tad masochistic, but then, cat people do enjoy mischief after all… I was particularly looking forward to this, it had been over 20 years since my last cat.
We simply share space, or territory, as opposed to ‘owning’ the beasties, and provide for their needs, which is why many cat lovers consider themselves to be owned by their cats rather than the reverse.
We searched through various local shelters online, although I leaned toward a Siamese or Burmese, or a mix thereof, two breeds I had experience with and have a lot of affection for. I wasn’t holding my breath at first: how could these breeds find themselves in shelters? And there was no question between my wife and I that we would adopt from there.
But as it turned out, I was quite surprised to discover a few Siamese cats up for adoption.
This I took as a sign of an economy going bad, that people would give up their prized companions for adoption. I wasn’t expecting this and was saddened by it.
As far as shelters went, however, the San Francisco SPCA’s was terrific.
Cats were housed in small groups or alone in private rooms, with toys, televisions showing nature videos or fish swimming in their tanks.
After ‘greeting’ a couple kittehs by head butting (bonking), scritching and cooing, my wife pulled me towards the call of Boober.
It was something like an anguished wail, plaintive yet demanding. ‘I want out now’, in other words, the dictator’s call for his servants.
We were let into his area and there was this Burmese cat with huge eyes gauging us.
I reached down to place him in my lap and pet him, just as he reached up and hugged me. As my wife put it, ‘that was all she wrote’, and we took him home an hour later.
Settling down in the forever home
Boober’s early life was a mystery, the vet estimated him to be about 5 years old, and whatever his circumstances were, he did not take well to being in a shelter. We were given pills to stimulate his appetite, but they seemed to help little. The first couple weeks were touch and go and I was afraid we might have to take him back if he did not start eating the way he should. He would also spend time hiding in the closets which we left open for him to take refuge in.
As the days went on, he began to overcome his anxiety and would spend time on the bed with us and relax as we petted him. My wife also managed to stimulate his appetite by dousing his food with water from tuna cans. Eventually he would spend most nights on the bed with us and showed normal Burmese behavior by jumping on our shoulders and looking smug while using us as transports.
I thought of this as ‘the tigers’ revenge’, this cat riding us the way tiger hunting parties rode elephants…
On the other hand, he would do this at any time of day or night, regardless of whether I’d had my first cup of coffee. He would launch frontal assaults, jumping from the floor and climbing us like trees. Ouch.
Yet when my wife riled him up playing, he always stopped short of biting or clawing, showing us he had not a mean bone in his body. Life was going from good to better, coming home from work, I looked forward to his goofy antics, chasing balled up pieces of paper around the apartment or the 3 a.m. race all over the furniture, from kitchen to living room. He was such wonderful company. He loved my singing to him and would run to me and curl up on my chest before going to sleep.
He would sleep so soundly, outstretched on his back, feeling completely safe, so much so that I felt stress fall away just by watching him.
We all had a great two years.
Changes to an end
One day, when we realized he seemed to develop a bump on his throat, we looked for some external sign like a puncture but could not find anything. The bump did not recede and we took the Boober to the vet. He was scheduled for surgery and a biopsy would be performed on the mass. Even before then I unconsciously felt clouds gathering above us.
And the mass turned out to be caused by lymphoma, likely to return.
We were asked whether we wished to begin chemotherapy on him, and I asked what his chances were: I was afraid that subjecting him to all the prodding, syringe pricks and other ‘manipulations’ would stress him to the point where he would again stop eating and perhaps speed up the disease.
I felt ignorant and grasping at straws: was it possible he might be in remission, now that the tumor had been removed? We were cautioned to not keep our hopes too high. The likelihood was that the disease would reappear at some point as Boober had both an aggressive and a milder more treatable version.
When you hear that a cat is un-pillable, trust me: this means the cat has to be sedated.
We tried every technique, every trick, trying to alter the parameters, like timing, temperature and others. We tried the pill gun, placing the pill in a dissolvable capsule in tuna and other foods, no dice.
We tried the more direct version: forcing it down.
He hid from us in a closet for two days and stopped eating.
That’s when we faced that we had to discontinue the chemo. We’d enjoy him for as long as we could, and did. The Boober carried on for an incredible two more years, until the disease lodged in his chest, causing episodes of respiratory distress. By then, we had introduced Tito to the household, and the younger cat, while no cure, was terrific for our Burmese.
He fought the disease with the economy of a true fighter.
Then there was this bad September weekend when he could not rest, or eat. He barely took in water.
The following Monday, was the final visit to the vet and they were very kind. They placed and taped a tube in his foreleg, and weak though he was, he tried to pace the table, perhaps to jump. My wife told me to sing to him, and I didn’t think I could. But I did, badly, and he relaxed enough for the vet to perform the injection.
We had our hands on him, him facing my wife. She said she saw relief in his eyes, and that has helped me. Because when I felt him go, the dam broke and I started crying violently all the way to the car.
We love you B, forever. Only you know just how much.