A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime.
- Mark Twain
This morning, Halloween day 2011, our cat, Timmy, was put to sleep. Just saying that Timmy was our cat doesn’t begin to convey what Timmy truly was or what a big presence he had in our lives.
Timmy was one of those cats with personality. Not ‘purr-sonality’; cutesy terms didn’t fit Timmy at all. He was a 'people' cat, not a 'cat' cat. If there was a party or even a lone visitor to our home, Timmy was involved. He was a greeter and a facilitator at these events. He helped unwrap gifts. He settled into laps. He shared a place on the couch amongst everyone gathered.
Part of Timmy’s appeal was that he was a bounder at 20 lbs in his prime. He was a mere adolescent when he came to us. Rosie and I had seen him one day while on a walk about 6 blocks from our house. He started to follow us, and I thought, “Oh, please, no. The last thing we need is another cat.” He got distracted and stopped trailing us.
But then, a week or so later, I saw him across the street from our house, being stalked by a much larger, disreputable looking stray tomcat. They went into some hedges, and I knew the younger cat wouldn’t stand a chance against the old scrapper. So I did what any cat lover would do–I intervened. I gave my ‘kitty kitty kitty’ call, and Timmy came out to see me. The other cat fled. I carried Timmy across the street and into our lives.
He immediately set about creating havoc. He stuck his nose on the gas logs while they were still hot and burned it. He jumped on the pancake griddle while it was hot and scorched his paws. He ate things he shouldn’t and got sick. He terrorized my old lady cat, Chloe, by biting her in the butt whenever he had a chance. Even if the catnip container was hidden on the highest shelf is the most obscure area, he'd find it and chew it open. He carried off my earrings and they were never seen again. Had he not been such a likeable and self-assured cat, he’d have worn out his welcome.
As he settled and began to leave some of his kittenish ways behind, he got more involved in our household routines. When it was time for lunch, Timmy was there on the seat beside us at the bar in our kitchen. If it was time for TV watching, Timmy was on the couch beside us. Upon arising in the morning, Timmy stood ready to escort us to the bathroom.
He liked petting, but stroking Timmy was an invitation to be bitten. We called them ‘love bites’ but they weren’t gentle nibbles by any means. You knew he’d been petted enough when the ears flattened back and the eyes narrowed, but there wasn’t always a warning and sometimes Timmy just felt a good bite to the hand was in order.
He liked rough-and-tumble play. Our two female cats wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing. But Timmy made a friend, a neighbor’s cat who roamed, and they’d rip through our house and body-slam each other. Then, they’d fall asleep on the floor, head to head, with paws outstretched so they could touch. Sadly, his friend was hit by a car and killed. Timmy sat by the window many days, waiting for his buddy to arrive for a play session.
When my old girl-cat Chloe passed on, Timmy seemed a bit lost. They’d moved beyond the butt-biting stage and Timmy was gentle with her as she declined, laying beside her and grooming her when it became too much of an effort for Chloe to do herself. We brought home a kitten, a black and white male, so Timmy could have an energetic playmate once again.
Timmy wasn’t amused at first, but Jerrie the kitten didn’t get the not-so-furtive nuances. He came back for head thump after head thump from Timmy, until the elder realized the younger was here to stay. Timmy began to realize the possibilities and tutored Jerrie in mutual grooming, tussling and games of pounce and chase.
Then we noticed Timmy’s normally immaculate fur looked as if it hadn’t been groomed as often. His morning bathroom escort service turned into a plea for us to turn on the water in the tub for a drink. He was irritated when Jerrie wanted to play, and when Rosie weighed him, he’d lost 3 lbs in as many months. At 8 years old, the vet diagnosed kidney disease. Two weeks after that diagnosis, with a shockingly rapid decline that was so hard to witness, we laid him to rest beside old Chloe, under the cypress trees just outside the back door.
Requiescat in pace, sweet Timmy-cat.