I made the mistake of letting my wife go alone into the pet supply store, in search of a toy for the kitten. Instead of a toy, she decided that he needed a big brother. The store had a young male cat from the Animal Rescue League there. I didn’t want another cat. The kitten was enough for me… not to mention a soon-to-arrive baby. But after she came out saying that I needed to see this cat I agreed to go back in with her… and there he was…
His name was Tyson. Maybe it was just a coincidence that he was all black, with extra toes on his front paws that made him look like he had gloves. Boxing gloves. He was about 2-3 years old, and had been a stray. Now he had full reign of the store, and was looking for a new home. Our home.
Tyson loved people. He would climb onto your lap and purr while kneading his extra claws into your chest. At night he would curl up against you and try to suck all the body heat from you. He was a people cat. When it came to other animals, he could be a bit of a bully. There was never any doubt who was boss. But with people, he was very affectionate.
Animals display unique characteristics, just as people do. Tyson was quirky. He wouldn’t simply drink from his water dish… he had to bat it around with his paws to make the water move. He loved drinking from a running tap. There was something about the moving water. It didn’t matter how big of a water bowl I used, he would find a way to splash it around, sending water everywhere. If you left water in a glass, he would knock it over with his paw. He would attack your feet if they moved under the covers. He would sit patiently and wait for you to finish your steak so he could have a taste.
Two years after we brought Tyson home, he developed a urinary problem. It’s not uncommon in cats, especially male ones. I was not working at the time, due to an ongoing labour dispute. Money was more than tight. It was non-existent. When the vet told me that the cause of Tyson’s problems were a combination of the cheap food we were feeding the cats, and stress… I laughed. Stress? I looked at the vet bill… $1200 to get him better… If you think Tyson was stressed, just imagine what my nerves were like! But I felt responsible because we had been advised to switch the food prior to the troubles. Would it have made a difference? We’ll never know for sure, but I couldn’t not help Tyson because of something that I had done. People always said “$1200?!? Do you know how many cats you could have gotten for $1200?!?” I understand where they’re coming from… but I suspect that they don’t understand it from my perspective. Tyson was a member of our family, and we were reasonably sure that once we cleared up the problems, that he would be OK. And he was.
Over the next few years any time Tyson would do something I didn’t like I’d remind him how lucky he was that his owner was a big softie.
When my marriage ended, we decided that Tyson would come with me. He was great for this old farm house… regularly bringing me mice from the garage… and even a bat. His natural killer instinct was strong… He would even attack Buddy, the little poodle who desperately just wanted to be friends. Tyson was a people cat. He wasn’t interested in making friends.
About a week ago I said to Tyson jokingly that it looked like he was on a diet. I thought he had lost a little weight, but it wasn’t anything to be concerned about. It never occurred to me at all that he might not be feeling well. Even when he was vomiting, it wasn’t unusual for him to rush through his food, and end up bringing some of it back up. But this was different. There wasn’t any food in what he was bringing up. I should have realized that he wasn’t eating, but I assumed that Paul was refilling the cat dish when he was here to move more of his things. It’s only when I noticed the bloody diarrhea and that I could feel Tyson’s spine when I ran my hand over him that I became concerned. From that point, he seemed to go downhill quickly. I informed my ex that I was worried about him, and would be taking him to the vet for them to have a look at him. We both understood what that meant.
When I called the local vet and tried to make an appointment, the receptionist told me that I would have to take him to the animal hospital. That didn’t sound good.
We sat outside on the deck. He wanted to get away, but I wouldn’t let him. We sat there, and I tried to get him to eat some of the Temptation cat treats that he normally gulps down, but he wasn’t interested in those. That wasn’t a good sign either.
I stayed in the room and pet him… I know that, for some people, it’s too hard… I understand that, but I had to. For me. For him. He just laid there and let me rub his head and pet him. Not once did he purr. I was actually thankful for that. Earlier in the day he purred while I held him, but in that room… he was calm, but he wasn’t going to purr. The vet had a horrible time finding a vein, something he said was an indication of how dehydrated Tyson was. It took a few minutes… and then he was gone…
I like to imagine Kitty Heaven being a place filled with big fat mice and lots of running water…
I’ll miss you…