I don't know why he was sent back to the pound not once, but twice, before we wandered in. We had been looking for a pet to complete our family, someone for Youngest to take care of, to help him learn empathy, compassion.
My list was simple, spayed, of course, and declawed. Having worked with the Humane Society before, I am not an advocate for de-clawing, and would never have it done, but practically speaking I knew that having 4 and 5 year old boys and a cat with claws was not a good idea. Lastly, I wanted an older cat. Everyone loves the kittens, but the older ones, they sit the longest and are most often put down. And the realist in me was only up for a 6 or 7 year commitment.
We sat in a little room, my boys tearing through it like caged animals themselves, while one by one, our "choices" were brought in. Three females, some long hair, some short, all good tempered, and all uninterested in the crazy kids descending upon them wanting to hold and pet them. The last one they brought in was a 6 year old, short hair tiger cat. He growled. He hissed. He had a large patch of fur missing from his back. Apparently, some cats, not unlike myself, rip out their own hair when stressed out. He spent most of the time hiding in the corner under the bench of the little room. I don't even think the boys held him. But as we left, Youngest knew. I tried to dissuade him, said we'd come back in a week, but no.
"He's our cat. This one."
So, here we are not 6 years later, but 11 years. ELEVEN. This May, Mr. Chewey Cat will be 17, which roughly translates to 84 in people years. His hair grew back after a few short months and I don't think he's even so much as hissed at us since, despite being carried around like a baby, stuffed in pillowcases, and trapped under laundry baskets. At times I think the boys treated him more like a baby brother than an animal. He greets everyone as they arrive by crawling into their lap and attempting to eat their jewelry. He refuses to leave the house, taking two steps out the back door only to run back in as soon as the opportunity arises. He prefers his car rides out of the carrier, so he can take in the sights, just so long as his paws don't get dirty. When he was 12 we discovered he has an intolerance to gluten, just like Youngest and myself, forcing us to put him on only wet food. Because of this, when we vacation we have people stay at the house, and he has convinced even the strictest dog-only humans into trying the cat-nip.
He is, simply, one of a kind.
In October we noticed some changes in his behavior and I brought him to the vet. I assumed he was diabetic, or maybe it was his thyroid, but no. He is in early stage Kidney Failure. We changed his food, had his teeth cleaned, and while this helped slightly, last week he stared showing other signs. Going through bowls of water, an ammonia smell from his mouth, decreased appetite, excessive snuggling, and the husband's favorite, peeing behind the couch. His numbers revealed that he is now in Stage 2. We pumped him full of fluids, gave him anti nausea meds twice this week, and while the first round helped, the second seemed ineffective. I've moved the litter box to his choice area in the living room, not that it helps much, as he is literally standing in it while peeing over the side onto the pee pads. I change the pee pads in the living room now like I am changing diapers. I have ripped out the carpet padding in that corner and thrown it away. When the weather improves a bit I will be cutting out that section of the carpet and washing it outside. I suppose the only upside is that we were planning to replace it in August anyway. I burn candles, have air fresheners, and am considering buying stock in Fabreeze.
We estimate, based on his numbers, he has six months to a year. I've done a ton of research and I am not comfortable waiting until he goes to stage 4. Renal Failure is not pretty in it's late stages, and quite frankly, it's a horrible way to die. I will watch his symptoms and follow his lead, but we all know his time is coming to an end. Until then, he will snuggle to the point of annoyance, I will spend a small fortune on prescription food, and change the pee pads.
I have no idea why two other families gave him away, and at times when I was at my wits end with him, I could understand why they would have. But over the last few days I have come to appreciate that they did, and I can not imagine our home without him. His absence will leave a hole, much larger than the cat door in the basement.
One that just may never be able to be filled.