Friday, January 30, 2009

A cat tale

Back in June of 1989, when I was 17, I found a skinny black cat with a huge belly wandering around in front of my Mom's house in Yonkers. We already had 2 adult cats - Bunny and Pussycat. This pic is circa 1982-

...but I convinced my Mom to take this cat in and find out what was wrong with it. I named our new cat Morticia. Here's Bunny and Morticia -

Morticia was not very nice at all. The least friendly cat I had ever known, but we adopted her anyway. We now had 3 adult cats.

Days later, on June 30th, 1989 (in fact 4 days after I graduated from high school), this very anti social cat climbed to a high out of the way place in our basement - where she proceeded to spit out 4 kittens! (So that's what was wrong with her, she was pregnant! Duh!).

There were 3 girls, and 1 boy. I named the girls Midnight (very thin and sleek, all black), Calico (the ugliest calico cat you've ever seen- white feet, mostly black with some orange) and a mostly black cat with a tiny white patch under her neck, white between her hind legs and 2 white fingers, named Batty-Boo (I always thought she looked like a bat), which later became Booba.

The girls, like their mother, were not at all cuddly and had a very hideous meow. The boy was my absolute favorite. He was a beautiful, sweet tuxedo cat. I named him Spooky. And he was the one I was going to keep. The girls and their mother were eventually going to go to a shelter. But at this moment, we had 7 cats in our house. (3 adults, 4 kittens) Here is Morticia with her very young kittens in my Mom's basement -

Booba, trying to make her escape -

And I remember taking this shot as Morticia was darting out to retrieve Booba, who was always the worst behaved of the bunch-

Morticia stuck around long enough to nurse and wean her brood, then took them outside to teach them to hunt and kill. But shortly after that, she just abandoned them and returned to life on the street. We were now down to 6 cats - 2 adults, 4 kittens.

Later that summer, my high school boyfriend told me that the stray cat that had been hanging out in his rehearsal space needed a home. The other guys had plans to put him IN THE DRUM while they played it. Are they effing kidding me?! What assholes! I had met this cat and knew he was very sweet. I couldn't let that happen. I convinced my Mom to let me keep him. He was all gray. I named him Smokey. (As some of you know, Smokey went on to be the cat love of my life. I lost him in January 2006, after just moving to Brooklyn and had him buried in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. I will never love another animal - or human - as much as I love Smokey. I still miss him terribly.) Now we were back up to 7 cats - 2 adults, 5 kittens.

That September, one of my original cats, Bunny, had died. I had that cat since I was 9. Also a stray, from the street, and I absolutely adored her. That cat followed me everywhere for nearly 9 years. She chased dice. She was blind in one eye. She wanted to be with me at all times. She was so sweet and kind - the first real cat that was 'mine'. We buried her in our backyard and were now down to 6 cats - 1 adult, 5 kittens.

That same month, when the kittens were only 3 months old, a friend of mine slept over on our pull out couch in the den. I told him the night before- 'Do NOT fold up that bed in the morning. The cats like to play behind it when it's open.' The next morning when I went downstairs, the bed was folded up. I immediately freaked out and ran around doing a kitty head count. All of the cats and kittens were accounted for except one... SPOOKY! My boy! Frantically, I pulled out the bed and stuck my arm behind/under it. I felt a ball of fur. I screamed, running barefoot, a block or more to find my mother who was out walking her dog. She came home and confirmed the worst- my sweet little man had been crushed. I never, ever forgave that person, and never will. We were now down to 5 cats - 1 adult, 4 kittens.

Months later, in January, my brother told me that he found Midnight (my favorite of the girl kittens) dead on the street. I assume she was run over by a car. I couldn't believe I had just lost 3 cats in 4 months! She was also buried in the backyard, bringing our total down to 4 cats - 1 adult, 3 kittens.

One day in 1994, I realized I hadn't seen Calico in a few days. She and Booba used to go out very often, so this wasn't too unusual. But after a while I was concerned enough to go out looking for her. As I called her name in the backyard, I heard her crying. I followed her cries to the back of our garage and found her. She was a mess. It looked like most of her legs were broken and she was covered in dried up blood. It was pretty horrific. I called my Mom, who came home and took her to the vet to put her to sleep. I assume she had also been hit by a car. Down to 3 cats - 1 adult, 2 kittens.

In the spring of 1995, our big, mean, kick ass, polydactl tabby named Pussycat came home and I noticed something was wrong with him - he couldn't close his mouth and he was drooling. Off he went to the vet, where we found out he had cancer. This was the toughest son of a bitch cat I've ever met. It was sad to see cancer take him. He was only 14 and otherwise healthy. And we were down to 2 cats: Smokey and Booba, who were both 6 years old.

In 1995, I moved out of my Mom's house with my brother. We got an apartment in Yonkers. Smokey and Booba came with us. Smokey and I became closer than ever. He was so loving and gentle and always wanted to be with me, on me or near me. Booba continued to go out to hunt and kill. I very frequently had presents (birds, mice, rats, squirrels- even 2 praying mantis'!) left for me. She also had the charming habit of biting or swiping my face while I slept if she wanted to be fed. This cat was cunning and evil. She was not friendly at all. She didn't want to be pet or held. Just feed her and let her outside.

In 2003, I bought a house with my husband. Smokey and Booba made the move there too. They loved the front and backyard and continued to be indoor/outdoor. Smokey was still my darling little man and preferred to be inside with me. Booba still preferred the outdoors. But that year, when she turned 14, she changed. Out of nowhere, she wanted to be a lap cat. She became affectionate nearly over night. I still don't understand it, but suddenly Smokey had to defend his place on my lap because she wanted to sit on me! It was absolutely baffling to see her transformation.

In December 2005, I moved to Brooklyn. Smokey and Booba moved with me again. Now they were forced to be indoor cats. Surprisingly, this transition was very easy for them. Maybe because they were both 16.

Weeks later, in January 2006, I lost my beloved Smokey. And I was left with the one cat I never wanted in the first place, the one I acquired by default because all the others had died: Booba. I had always feared she would outlive Smokey. And surely just to spite me, she did just that... Cut to today, 3 years after Smokey's death...

I noticed in the last few weeks that she had noticeably slowed down, and her stomach was getting gigantic even though she wasn't eating more than usual. She was having a hard time getting up or down from her sleeping position, having trouble walking, and started missing the litter box and even peed in my bed. I brought her to the vet today and they were unsure of the fluid in her stomach. They would have to drain it, do x rays, and run a battery of lab tests just to find out what was wrong with her and determine if there was any treatment possible. The doctor also told me she had a heart murmur and most likely congestive heart failure. After considering the options and outcomes, I decided to put her to sleep today- On her 19 years and 7 month birthday. It was not as easy as I thought it might be and I've been crying about it all day since. I keep telling myself I did the right thing and even if I could find out what was wrong and give her treatment, she could not have had much time left anyway.

I had that cat since I was 17. I'm now 37. She's lived 4 places with me. She's been with me since I was a teenager, single, married, separated and divorced. She knew me before I had any tattoos. She's been with me through the biggest and most difficult events of my life. And even though she was never my favorite cat, it was not easy to let her go today. But I thought it was the right thing to do.

Good bye, Booba. I hope you understand what I needed to do.

Me & Booba, in 1989

Booba, sleeping on my couch in Brooklyn

Booba stuck her head in my yogurt

I will forever remember this expression, because this is the only expression she ever had. My ex husband used to describe it as "I'd eat your face if I could":

How evil looking is she? Ugh

RIP, old gal. I hope you forgive me.


MaryDeluxe said...

I just wanted to drop by and say that I'm so sorry for your loss. I've had to put two of my own cats down and it's never an easy, guilt free decision to make. It still haunts me. I have two left and I love them more then anything and I just hope that when their time comes they go without me being the one to make the decision. It's so hard to do. I'm crying just thinking about it!

All the best,


Mugs said...

Awwwww! Thank you for the detailed account of the history behind and leading up to this difficult decision with Booba. I'm so sorry for your loss - it's difficult to know what kind of void is left behind when a furry companion is no longer in the picture. You made the right decision, but it's a terrible one to make. Don't beat yourself up over it - Booba loved you and doesn't feel betrayed. Big hugs from Mugs!

diana said...

Aaawww this entry made me tear up. I still miss the cat I grew up with, she also died closing in on her 20th year. I am sure Booba understood and she was probably suffering anyway. She lived a long and comfortable life. I'm sorry for your loss, I'm sure it is so difficult to lose a small fuzzy being that has been with you for so long. xo

Trout said...

Oh Sheryl, my heart is breaking along with yours. I LOVE every animal on my farm, 3 dogs, 30 sheep, 24 chickens and 4 cats. Every time I lose one it's like I lose a small piece of myself. Not long ago I had to make that same decision with a goat that I'd grown to adore. I had the vet over a few times trying to save her in any way I could. The vet was trying to be patient with me, but finally he noticed me tearing up. He put his arm around me and said, "Trout, rule number 1, everything dies, there's nothing you or I can do about it". Sheryl, you did the ONLY thing that could have been done. You are an honorable and responsible pet owner, you own and care for your pets to the very end. I'm proud to know you. You are in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

Lapetitemort said...

I'm so sorry. Pets are furry kids and it's so hard to part with them. Booba was a big part of your life, and you'll always have Booba in your heart. I'm so sorry. You and Booba are in my thoughts.

Danielle said...

I am so so sorry for your loss. Booba was lucky to have such a loving kitty mom.

Criztawl said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm guarantee you that Booba understands what you had to do. <3 <3

Mugs said...

PS - fuck your ex-friend who crushed that kitten. Unforgivable!

sterrapin said...

Reader from OK who's become a big fan, wanted to drop a line to express my condolences ... never easy to lose a pet, especially one with which you had a very very long history. At the end of the day Booba understands what you had to do, and it was for the best. :(

(sorry I dont know how to get rid of my icon picture ... no malice intended, I just like Mr. Yuk).


rowan said...

i could never forgive that person who folded the bed either. Ever. they would be on my permanent shit list. reading about Booba made me teary, too. honestly, you did do the right thing because you didn't let her suffer unnecessarily. it's OK to be upset. really.

*Bitch Cakes* said...

Thank you all so much for the really nice comments. There are people who don't get the human/animal bond, and I will never understand them. Obviously, you all understand.

I have always loved animals- even this mean little cat who was my least favorite pet ever. I really didn't think I'd be as upset as I am over her loss.

Cath said...

Hi Sheryl,
I'm so sorry to hear about your Booba. It was really nice to read about how you got your cats and what you all went through together.
I have 2 cats who live with my ex and it's heartbreaking knowing that I can't have them back at them moment, so I kind of know how you must be feeling.

judy said...

I'm so sorry! Don't doubt for one minute that you didn't do the right thing though.

I had a pet cockatiel that I actually grew to loathe. But because he was the last gift I ever got from my mom right before she got sick and died, there was a certain attachment. He was mine for 15 years and though he was pretty much an asshole, I was really sad when he died too. So I get it.

I will lose my shit when my cats go though. Ugh. Again, so sorry that you had to make such a difficult decision.

KlevaBich said...

Yes, there are a lot of people who don't get it, that our furkids are just as important to us as their human kids are to us. And I don't get them.

You gave Booba a really good life, and you did what you had to do. I always knew you had a soft spot for that cat, underneath it all!

Big hugs, sweet thing.

*Bitch Cakes* said...

Thanks, Judy. I know you get it.

Nancy, despite what Spanky says, we DO like you ;) but I'm sure you know that. And thanks.

Christina said...

So sorry for your loss Sheryl. Booba was a lucky gal to have you for a Mommy.


Jess said...

RIP Booba! (and I hate that asshole who folded the couch!)

Tee said...

Unconditional love is tough to come by and even if Booba had a hard way of showing it, I know she loved having your for her mommy. You did right by her, she had a great life with you and sometimes the hardest choices are the right ones. Love you honey.

remember moments said...

I am a cat lover like you and this was a majorly depressing post. Sorry for all the losses - that's the worst part of being a pet-owner...we outlive them.

Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden said...

I need a kleenex!! What a heart wrenching post. I'm so sorry Sheryl.

I had asked on flickr how old your Smokey was, now I know. I'd still be mad about little Spooky too.
I had a Spook.... and a tuxedo cat named Tux. My Katie is bitchy like Booba. (afterall, she's named after Katie Scarlett O'Hara~ it suits her)

I feel your pain... and will never understand why there are people who do not like cats! (I usually don't like them once I find out, ha!)

Ok, I seriously have a cry headache now, so I'm going to take a Tylenol PM and go to bed, which I should have done an hour ago but I got sucked into your blog world, lol!

Jaci said...

::tear:: This was the saddest thing I've read in a long time.

Although it is curious I happened upon this on the first full day of your new little guy's adventure with you.

Makes me miss my Lilly, who sounded just like your Smokey. It is hard losing cats. They become a part of you. At least we have our lazy boys. I don't think I could live life without a cat in it.