Sunday, 8 April 2012

A tribute to the soon to be departed Isaac Cat

So one of our boy-cats, Isaac, is 19 this year.
Over the last few months he has really started to look old.  He climbs up to his sun-filled corner and settles into a sunlight absorbing sleep.  The difference I have noticed is that he takes nearly half an hour to slowly go from standing to curled up.  He will stay there for the whole day, ignoring feeding times, choosing to eat when he feels the need, putting all his activities, such as drinking massive amounts of water (kidney problems) and going to the toilet in any random place, into this one waking session.

The sun came out, with a warm breeze last week, so I migrated all the cats and myself to the patio for a day of indulgent reading and sunning.  Isaac found the sunniest spot, as is his heat-sink like tendency.  He then attempted to clean himself.  Going slowly around and around, in an attempt to bend far enough to clean his side, it took about ten minutes before he got one good lick and then he gave up and went to sleep.  The sun moved after an hour.  Isaac DID NOT get up and move to the new sunny place.

This is when I started to worry about him.  Is he in pain?  Is it arthritis and is he miserable, or is it just hard to bend, but he's happy?  He has become very bony since he stopped regular meal times a few weeks ago.  Considering he is Top Cat and the other two wait for him to finish before they touch the food, this is quite a change.

Thus, it is time for a vet visit.  It make be fine.  He may simply need treatment.  I am not feeling this, however, so we have prepped the girl-child who likes to curl up with the purring Burmese and squish him under her blanket, the way he likes best.  She wishes to come with me on Thursday.  I will allow this.

Easter Child this morning with the 19 year old Isaac-cat draped as far over the couch as he can without falling off, so he can be that little bit closer to the heater.

We tried feeding him fancy tuna and other things, but he prefers his (already fancy) cat food, so that is as it is.
Isaac's favourite things in life is heat and when he was younger and we used to use the fireplace a lot, he would sleep as close to the fire as he could.  Embers would fall on his fur and he would let them singe him rather than move away.  He would become too hot to touch comfortably.  One year, after a particularly brutal fight with the neighbour's cat, we lit the fire every night for the wounded boy to indulge in as he healed. 
However, last night, he stayed on the couch.  The fire we built for him, smoked out the lounge room for him, had Trickey climb on the roof to dislodge the ancient bird's nest from the chimney so we could have this fire burning, did not bring him out of the slump he is in.  Eventually, I put him on the ottoman and moved it closer.  The purrs began.

I want his last week to be happy.  I want the girl to get her time to say goodbye, making her video's about Isaac.

I want to make Trickey realise how guilty he should feel that he chose this horridly annoying, irritating, indecisive, un-affectionate cat to be his, then promptly ignored him for the next 19 years because he is not a pleasant cat to be around.  Left me to clean up his messes, since nothing I did could teach him to go INSIDE the kitty litter, he preferred to sit on the edge, go over the side and then kick as much kitty litter around the laundry as possible.  After many years, I trained him to go on the floor next to the litter and considered only having to clean up that each morning an improvement.

Sleep in's were never something I lost when I first became a Mama, as this kitten had taken them away from me a good 9 years earlier.  He liked to get up at 5am.  If I didn't like this, he would crawl under my neck and start ripping my hair out from the soft skin at the base of the hairline with his very sharp kitten teeth.  Were I so rude as to lock him out of the bedroom, he would howl, shred the carpet, rip the plaster off the walls and walk along every shelf, knocking everything off.  Thus the name "Isaac Newton".  He tested gravity on a regular basis.

Izsie would howl to go out, and when you opened the door, run away, frightened of the door.  Or maybe the open, empty space out past the door.  Then howl again once you had gone away.  Then, when he did go out, if you waited long enough, he would do NOTHING outside and immediately howl to come in again.  When you opened the door, he would right away in fright.  After he had finally decided 7 door openings were enough to convince him there was nothing scary inside, he would re-enter.  And within seconds, howl about wanting to go out.  So I would chase him around the house, trying to put him out, with him slinking into every crevice, under every chair and couch, for hours.  As Julia Roberts said it best in "Pretty woman", Isaac was a "slippery little sucker".

After about a year, Isaac was only coming home 2 nights a week.  Using my incredible sleuthing skills (sitting on the garage roof and watching like a freaking cat stalker) I deduced he had made a friend of the older lady two doors down and behind us.  She fed him.  He let her pat him.

BETRAYAL!  Isaac would never let me hold him for more than the 5 seconds, 5 seconds of tolerating my cuddle in a forced way. Trickey and I began to call this Isaac's way of paying "rent".  He walked away from pats, never allowed me to have him on my lap and then demanded to sleep in between us every night, fighting Tayo-cat, Fruitcake-the-insane-cat and Bilbo-the brother-in-law's cat until they gave up and went and slept elsewhere.  We had a water bed at this point.  Trickey was a bed hog (it was a long time before I developed the confidence to assert my rights over half the bed) and often rolled over on the little black Burmese that is Isaac-cat.  I could tell when this happened as our little heat-loving furball would purr loudly enough to be heard through the bulk of my Husband's body and the mattress.  He loved being squished.

This first year, when he was still tiny, Trickey did adore him and would insist upon not disturbing the kitten's sleep.  Not good for one's romantic adventures.  This did not endear me to the cat that was already giving me pain, sleep-deprivation and frustration.

Isaac at 16 doing his famously adorable "face snuggled into tail" pose.  Don't you just want to pat him and pick him up and love him?  Yeah, well, bad luck, cos he'll just struggle and howl and want to be left alone, thank you very much.

Isaac was highly unco-ordinated.  And cross eyed.  He liked to pick fights, but usually ended up at the vet's afterwards, due to his inability to see where he should be attacking.  After a few years, our lovely vet, Geoff, taught me how to treat his wounds with rock salt and water, drain an abscess and generally be a war-zone cat vet.  It amused SOME members of the family to watch Isaac attempt to climb a fence and fail, falling and not landing on his feet like the cliche cat would, but it just hurt my soul. 

Isaac was about two when we bought our lovely home.  We debated whether or not to move him with us, or to ask the lady he spent most of his time with, if she wanted him.  It seemed cruel to split them up.  We had gone to her house once to ask, but she wasn't home.  So, we thought we would move the first load, the heavy furniture and try her when we returned.  Reaching our lovely, new dream home, we opened the truck and saw two glowing yellow eyes, right at the back, still on the couch he had crawled onto for a nap, earlier that day.  Terrified and very unimpressed eyes.  For once, he stayed still to let us catch him.  We decided either Isaac or fate had spoken and the Black Burmese would stay with us.  We took him into the house, closed the doors and put him down, expecting to pat and sooth him.  He was flying the minute we let go, zooming to every window, smashing into them in a panic driven frenzy to be out.  It broke our hearts to see him like this.  Nothing we could do would calm him down.   He huddled in a cupboard for several weeks, with us joining him and feeding him and cleaning up after him (ewwwww).

Isaac didn't like any of the other cats.  Tayo-cat was Top Cat, and he deferred to him, but was not friendly.  When the Diva Dana-Cat came along, he looked at her once and proceeded to ignore her until Tayo's death removed his Top Cat protection from Tayo's adored Dana-girl-cat.  The Isaac-cat thought it would be fun to pick a fight with her after this.  Dana-cat is not just a Diva, who requires all of my devotion (and my pillow), she is also an excellent killing machine.  Isaac returned to ignoring her after his very sound thrashing, but more carefully, never approaching her again, and still tiptoes away from her.  The interesting change in his behaviour after this all out brawl, was that he would now join in the community fighting when our cats were defending their territory from neighbouring cats.  However, she allowed him to eat first.. as she had always done with Tayo-Boy-cat, but not with the affectionate smooches she gave to Tayo.

He simply ignored the other new boycat, Charlie, even when Charlie-the-very-silly-still-a kitten-at 6-years-old cat would wait until Isaac was asleep and leap on him, hoping to convince the much older cat it was playtime.  This amused me.  Not so Isaac.

And the Princess (who loves him) tells a story: Isaac was banned from sleeping in her room after one too many peeing in the corner incidences.  The one too many involved peeing on all her stuffed toys and caused a massive wash and re-arrange of her room. (she still loves him)  Isaac was not very impressed, he quite liked sleeping in the room with the child who would squish him under her pillow and always ensure he was covered with many warmth storing blankets.  Not to mention the warmth she gave off herself.  The Black Burmese boy learnt that Mama would open the door at bedtime to read a goodnight story to her adored Princess (who loves the horrid Burmese Boy-Cat).  He would zoom in and jump to the chair, onto the bed, curl up instantly and start purring decadently, in the hopes that we would be to impressed with his decisiveness and adorableness to move him.  It worked occasionally.  Cos the Princess still loves him.

Isaac had a redeeming feature.  It didn't show up until he was 15 years old or so, but it was a big redeeming feature.  It is to do with why the Princess loves him so very much.

My darling child has been living on the verge of exhaustion for many years.  She didn't really get the hang of this "sleep" thing.  She'd worked on "interrupted naps during the night sleep", the "waking up screaming sleep", the "occasionally falling out the bed sleep", the "nightmare sleep", the "too scared to be alone and curl up with Mama sleep" and the "can't breathe properly so can't sleep" versions.

For many years, I had been going to sleep with all four cats carefully separated on our bed, since that would hold the doona down and Trickey the Doona-thief was thwarted in his nefarious night time thefts.  It also reduced the nocturnal all in brawls.  Dana, of course, was on my pillow. Or face.  Or draped over my neck.  Cos I don't need to breathe as much as she needs to be allowed to do exactly as she wants.  Tayo at Trickey's feet, Charlie on my legs and Isaac in-between us. 

Then we bought a heater for Princess's room.  Isaac promptly defected.  He started curled up at her feet, next to the heater.  During her waking moments, she would bring him up to her pillow and snuggle with him for comfort.   He wriggled until he was under her neck, his head in her hair and something magical happened.  Princess slept.  Not quite through the night, but better sleeps.  Longer sleeps.  She adored him.  Princess started claiming him in the afternoons, carrying him to her bed, setting him up on the pillow and then using him as headrest while she read.  Isaac thought this was bliss.  Before she went to school, she would ensure he was covered with layers of warm blanketing and caused many a family discussion by leaving the heater on for the Heat Sink Cat.


Contented Isaac-Pillow-cat comforts the sick couch bound Princess.  

He made the Princess happy.  He lets her pat him and hold him and love him, in the ways I had hoped for from him and never been granted.  This made him part of the family and not just a cat I fed and cleaned and cared for because it was my responsibility.  Isaac appreciated the Princess with affection and devotion and not just as the food and heat source he had previously considered us.

It made it alright.  She has banned him from her bedroom at nights now, but she still sleeps better.  And they still have the couch for squishy cuddles.

Trickey is forever forbidden from ever choosing another cat for our family.  Because he chose Isaac due to the pet shop intending to put him down, as absolutely no one wanted him.  I approved of this, as all my cats are rescue or shelter cats.  It didn't occur to me that such a reason for choosing a pet could backfire so intensely.
We went to pick him up and took a box in with us, to carry the new"family member" home in. For some reason, I was carrying him.  Upon leaving the pet store, walking past the newsagency that was next door, Isaac promptly escaped this box, zoomed into the newsagency and hid under the most awkward shelf.  The shop owner had to remove the shelf for us to re-claim this little, black bundle of joy(?).  An appropriate beginnging to a life of causing irritation and frustration.
I choose cats because I fall in love with them.  And they like me.  These cats become family members who bring us joy and love and are fun to watch do their thing.  Princess and I will choose a pair of kittens when the time comes, a pair who adore each other and play with each other.  And us. 

C'est la vie, little cat.  You have been... interesting.  Like the Chinese curse.  But you smoothed out in your old age.  The scars you gave me are fading.  The walls have been repainted.  I did the best I could to make your life a good one.  But I don't think I am going to miss you much.

Princess will though.  And that is a good, final tribute.  You will be missed.

But maybe, she won't have to start missing you this week.  Who knows what the Vet will say...

Edit:  I forgot the most important story of all.
During the phase when Princess and Isaac were happily snoozing together, Princess had her first school camp.  We prepared for every eventuality we could, down to driving to the camp site before she went, so she was familiar with it.  Off she went, on the big bus, with me waving her off, big grn on my face, right until the bus went around the corner, then I fell into the arms of her best friend's Mama, bawling my eyes out.  The one eventuality I hadn't considered was that Isaac, the cat who had previously never attached to any of us, or our friends, had truly become Princess's cat.  He was fine until bedtime, when he wandered into her empty room.  He looked all around the room.  He came back out to us and gave a sad meow.  Back to her room, sniffing and wandering and howling, so sad, so lonely.  We cuddled him, we patted him, we tried to snuggle him in her bed.  He continued to howl, a despairing sound.  This was the moment when I finally accepted him.  Finally felt all the stress and misery he had caused me was forgiven.  Because he missed my baby as much as I did.  He LOVED one of us.
So, we found her dressing gown, wrapped him up in it, put him in her bed, turned on the heater (of course) and he finally settled down, snuggling deeply into that dressing gown that had his girl's scent on it.
So cute.  So pleased with her when she came home.  


  1. My old Boy Mr Tinks is 16 now and is slowing down and getting a bit forgetful about in he want to eat every hour like he forgets he just ate...lov and long hours in the sun is what we can do for them and let them go peacefully when the time comes. All the best with your boy xx

    1. Thanks Jen, that's what I'm hoping for, peace, quiet and a cat that doesn't have to suffer.
      I send my best wishes to Mr. Tinks. Isn't it wonderful that they have both stayed with us for so long. Awesome cats!

  2. Aren't we ruled by our animals? To have a cat for 19 yrs must be a record and to be such a little stinker makes for every one going to miss him when he has gone.
    Pets are such a lot of work. Bloody hairs every where, food, ants but aren't they worth it.... I hope for a smooth and peaceful passing over for him. We have a stray cat that was stranded on our side of the creek by floods and after 5 days of thinking we saw a cat, we called him down to the house. He was so grateful that every night for about 2 months he caught a rat or a mouse! We live in the bush and have a few sheds along with neighbours with sheds and poultry feed. He's on my bed as we speak!

  3. I hate how pets get old and sick. It breaks my heart. But, nineteen years is a very good innings! Hope he goes peacefully when the time comes.