07
May
14

Kitty McKitterson, Esq.

Kitty McKitterson, Esq. on the job.

Kitty McKitterson, Esq. on the job.

I had this idea that I would write Flippy’s story, and I’d probably call it “Flippy’s Story.” Flippy is a cat, I think. She didn’t die. And I didn’t want to wait for her to die to write about her. I didn’t want to write a eulogy for anyone. If something alive is awesome, you don’t need to wait until it’s dead to tell everyone else. So I figured I’d write about Flippy, and then I’d do a follow up about Kitty and their various interactions. I was working out “Flippy’s Story” in my head and had about a month’s worth of other stuff to do. I was hoping to update sooner, but just ended up waiting to hear from people or for them to finish things, so instead of some interview or field story, I’d just write about the cats.

Then the worst few days of my life happened and I end up writing a eulogy. But not about Flippy, the weirdo cat with the health problems, but about Kitty McKitterson, Esq., the cat that would live forever, or at least five, or shit, even ten more years.

We took him to the vet after he lost some weight and wasn’t eating much and seemed generally lethargic. He’d always been kind of barfy, and sometimes it was food and sometimes it was hairballs and sometimes it was foamy spitty stuff. But one day he did it and he looked really weird, got a strange look, a thousand yard stare, and laid down and breathed funny for about ten minutes, then he seemed better. We took him in soon after this.

We’d been in between vets. I used to go to VCA for years and years and I loved them, but then they got swallowed up by a corporate monster and were always trying to get money out of me but could never remember why the cats were supposed to go in, and they always lost their charts. I wanted someone that knew medicine, but didn’t find it necessary to spend 500$ every time I took the cats in because if I didn’t I was some sort of horrible person that wasn’t taking care of her kitties. I found an old-school vet and took them there for a few years. The last time, last year, he made some comment that I didn’t really need to get them the vaccination I was getting them and that I probably wouldn’t need to bring them back anymore, implying they wouldn’t live until their next vaccination due date and at this point I should just stop visiting the vet. Please note they were totally healthy, and I had no reason to think they’d have any problems, so I continued to look for a vet. Kitty hated going to the vet. He always got so upset that it was hard for them to get his heart rate because it would beat so fast, and he would try to eat their faces off. I always thought a vet that made house calls would be amazing and awesome. In looking for a vet that did that, Mark came across Codornice’s in Albany. We took Kitty in. I always felt so bad taking him in. He would make these horrible sounds, and I always thought he thought we were abandoning him. That day he didn’t make much noise.

They were nice enough to squeeze us in because I had mentioned on the phone that I thought there was something really wrong with him. The vet was very nice and really liked Kitty. Kitty fought, but much less than usual, so I was pretty worried. The vet thought his weight loss was consistent with hyperthyroidism, which I had thought too from taking care of my friends’ cat that had it. However, cats with hyperthyroidism are usually ravenously hungry. Kitty hadn’t been eating. The vet felt his bladder and said that it felt full, however Kitty had been peeing a little, just not pooping, but since he wasn’t eating that made sense. He felt that Kitty was pretty sick and gave us the option of putting him in an emergency hospital which would run in the thousands of dollars or doing a full screening and getting the results the following day. We opted for the latter. We brought Kitty home and it was clear he wasn’t feeling well, but he still was sort of eating and drinking, but he was also laying under the bed, which isn’t something he often did.

For the few days before we took him to the vet, I couldn’t sleep. I would lie awake crying. I had often thought about what life would be like without him, as I do with most animals in my life, human and otherwise. Not sure if that’s weird, but it’s what I do. I knew it would suck, and I knew it would be difficult, but now it seemed to be closer than ever before, more tangible, and wasn’t happening quite like I’d planned it.

I was working from home the day after. I wanted to be with him. We keep a little gate across our living room doorway because we have a shaggy rug in there, and with cats that have sensitive stomachs or just get mad and poop on stuff (looking at you here, Flippy), the two don’t mix well. If you’ve ever tried to clean raw food vomit out of a shaggy carpet, you’ll know that it doesn’t work. This is why we also have a shaggy rug rolled up in garbage bags in our basement. Thus, the gate. Kitty loved to lay on the rug. I don’t know if it was because it was usually something he wasn’t able to lay on (we always let him in when we were in there, too), or if it was just super comfortable.

Kitty and his carpet.

Kitty and his carpet.

He used to really flatten out on it, but keep his eyes open and would follow you with those instead of moving his head because he was just too damn comfortable. I found this adorable. I really wanted him to come out from underneath the bed and hang out with me that morning. I figured if it was a thyroid problem, it would require some effort but he’d be fine. I also prepared myself for other things…things that might cost a lot, like surgery, so he might be away for a bit and I wanted to be with him. I opened the gate and took my computer in and sat on the couch. My plan was successful and he came into the living room. I had him jump up on the couch and lay on the pillow next to me. He seemed thirsty, smacking his lips, but seemed too tired to move. I got some water in a little bowl and brought it to him and he drank from it and seemed satisfied. The morning came and went and I still hadn’t heard anything. Some guy cut up some drugs on my porch and snorted them for 45 minutes. I called the non-emergency police number, but I’m not even sure why I do that. Nothing ever comes of it. It’s the same as if I go in the kitchen and tell my plant except calling the police takes longer. I was super annoyed that I had to deal with this shit on today of all days, but wasn’t going to waste my time yelling at some crackhead when I needed to pet Kitty. Finally around 2 PM I got the call. The vet said he had a lot of things going on. He did have high T4, but he had increased serum levels that could have something to do with his pancreas, and he was losing protein somewhere along the way. The vet told me that I should probably take him to the emergency hospital. The vet didn’t seem completely hopeless, though he said that these could be tough to deal with and would cost a lot and require a lot of effort. He said that I might consider the alternative. I asked, “Ok, how would I do that?” He began explaining how the drugs worked. I interrupted, “No, no. I understand that, but do you make an appointment? Could someone come to me?” I just didn’t understand the procedure. I also wasn’t sure it was something I would have to do. I knew that the emergency hospital would be very expensive and I really wanted to make sure that he should go to the hospital and not the other thing (it was difficult for me to say and I stumbled whimpering over my words on the phone). My good friend Lauren’s father is a vet. He lives in another state, but I sent her the test results and she sent them to him.  He thought that it would be worth going to the hospital, that while it was serious, I should try to find out more about what was wrong with him.

In 2001, I moved to San Diego to get my Master’s in Evolutionary Biology from San Diego State. I lived close enough to the school that I could walk, could walk to a grocery store and lived next door to a burrito shop and a liquor store. A one bedroom was 600$. Stuff was ok. Then it got better. My cousin in Long Beach called to tell me that he was moving to New York City and wondered if I could take his cat for a bit until he got settled. Sure, it would be no problem.

Sean showed up at night and I went out to the car and was handed a slightly heavy cardboard carrier. I took it inside and opened it up. A large, slender, brown and white cat with bright blue eyes tiptoed out and headed under the bed. I was told his name was Blue. Oh, a shy cat, I thought. Ok. No biggie. He won’t be here long. I was given some toy mice and a plastic blue food dish and a glass dish for water. He remained under the bed when Cousin Sean left. He’d only had him a few months. He was about six-months-old and had been adopted at the ASPCA where he was brought in as abandoned. He was very handsome. This was noted a few days later when the man that had been working on the bathroom for the prior week was over and I invited him to look at the creature under the nightstand. Kitty stared back at us, frightened and curious. I don’t know exactly when his name was changed from Blue to Kitty McKitterson, Esq. I think my friend Paul may have had a hand in it, but he just looked very professional. Cousin Sean didn’t seem to happy with the name change and still called him Blue years later, but I kind of got the feeling that Kitty would be staying for a while.

After a while I learned that Kitty was quite athletic and liked to play.

Kitty playing in 2002.

Kitty playing in 2002.

He fetched. He loved fetching tiny mice. He could jump six feet straight up in the air to grab mice I held above my head. He was impressive, and we were soon fast friends. Another cat would meow outside the door and one night we let it in. They sniffed each other. Kitty seemed annoyed, but they hung out. Although that stopped when outside cat gave Kitty fleas and the fleas gave Kitty worms. I know this because he got a piece of his poo out of the litter box one morning and sat it down in front of me. It looked weird. I realized there were worms on it, so we took him to the vet to get him a de-worming pill. The vet was a large man in a Hawaiian shirt. He pulled Kitty out of the carrier and said, “My, what a big cat! He’s a nice Snowshoe.” I’d never heard that term before, but it’s a relatively new breed made from a cross of Siamese and American Shorthair. The pure breeds are supposed to have symmetrical masks and paws. Kitty’s were crooked. Maybe that’s why he was abandoned. Maybe not. I love his little crooked face.

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Crooked cutie face.

We soon moved a block away to a bigger place and I felt bad leaving Kitty alone all the time. He was very social. I had a huge picture window and whenever I would come home he would meow at the window, but with the passing traffic you could never hear him, just see him meowing. The Silent Meow. Matt and Paul used to love to come over and see the Silent Meow. I decided he should have a cat friend and since he hadn’t attacked the cute little fleabag fleabag from the old place, I thought he would be ok with another cat. I decided I really wanted another Snowshoe. This dude was awesome and two of them would be awesome x 2.  I found one online called Inspector Clouseau. When I inquired at the adoption place, I was told he was already adopted, but that they had a sealpoint snowshoe. They sent a tiny picture of a tiny Flipper aka Flippy. She was being fostered in Long Beach, where coincidentally Kitty hailed from. Once we got her home they sniffed each other. Then she hid under the bed, but unlike Kitty, she did this for ten years, but more on that in a future post. I don’t know how much of a respite she provided for his loneliness as he appeared to favor people, however, it did give him someone to boss around.

Kitty bossing Flippy around.

Kitty bossing Flippy around.

Kitty and Flippy.

Kitty and Flippy.

In 2003 I moved to Oakland to start my PhD at Berkeley. The drive up had been made more unpleasant for the cats by the heat and the construction, so it took a long time. And Kitty did not like being in a car for any reason. I felt awful. I let them out into the bedroom and shut the door while we moved stuff in. He hid for about a week. It was in this apartment where I found him snoozing in the sock drawer I left open because I was a slot (still am – and the other night I cut my foot on the open sock drawer!)

Snoozin' in the sock drawer.

Snoozin’ in the sock drawer.

Kitty and I were pretty good friends by this time, but we bonded even more once we moved. Maybe it was because I wasn’t abandoning him. One night my friend Jason came over who I had known when I previously lived in Oakland. We sat on the couch to catch up and out came Kitty. Jason was, like everyone, taken with this large handsome critter. Kitty sniffed Jason, then jumped on the couch, crawled onto my chest and stared him down, purring loudly. Jason asked if we needed to be left alone. Kitty had never done this before, but sitting on my lap or sleeping on my chest, stomach or butt would now be the norm, convenient for me or not (but it was always convenient).

Kitty sleeping on my back.

Kitty sleeping on my back.

Kitty relaxing on Mark's butt.

Kitty relaxing on Mark’s butt.

I lived in lots of different places over the next few years. Kitty got used to moving (but never the car rides) once he realized me and Flippy and all his toys also made the journey. In 2004 I had to go to the field for several months. I cried the morning when Bean picked me up to take me to the airport because I felt so bad for leaving Kitty. I missed him terribly and I worried a lot, but when I returned all was well in the kitteh department. I had several roommates and made lots of new friends over the next few years, and all were smitten with Kitty. Missy used to check on him when I went out of town, even though I had a roommate. Kelsey used to like to watch him fight his arch-nemesis “Grey Cat”.

Kitty takes down Grey Cat with eyes full of rage!

Kitty takes down Grey Cat with eyes full of rage!

Not looking, not looking.

Still not looking.

Still not looking.

Kitty won’t even look at Grey Cat.

Kitty won't even look at Grey Cat.

Not looking, not looking.

I believe Mark met Kitty before he met me since he was visiting my roommate while I was at school. He didn’t know then that he’d end up spending half of Kitty’s life with him. First in a tiny studio, then a bigger apartment in Berkeley, then a house with Neil and Mark while I was in Australia, then another apartment  in Oakland when I got back, and finally this duplex.

It turns out everything was seemingly wrong with him…one thing after another, and they couldn’t tell what was causing what. He had hyperthyroidism, his heart was failing, his kidneys were failing, he had several large masses inside of him and his lungs were filling with fluid. The guilt I feel is immense. How did I not notice? Why didn’t I do something sooner? I’m haunted by him spending his last days in places he hated and was terrified of with everyone poking and prodding. He even wasn’t very relaxed at the very end, with the cold drug going in his vein. He ran even at the end. Everyone says it all would have ended up the same, that cats hide everything until it’s too late, but if that’s the case, maybe I should have been more vigilant about tests and screenings. I’ll never know so is it pointless to think about? Probably, but maybe next time it could play out differently. Money makes it more difficult. I don’t want to be thought of as one of those assholes that gets a bunch of animals and can’t afford to properly care for them. When I was getting a Master’s in 2001, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be working a wage job in retail at the age of 36. I look at these old pictures and wonder if this stuff was brewing then. Part of it is because I just feel bad and partly because of my curiosity as a biologist. I don’t want to think about it so that I can stop feeling so shitty or crying, but then I feel shitty because I stopped thinking about him. All the little things – like, when he stopped being able to jump six feet straight up when he was 8 or 9, should I have looked into things then? When he ate more, when he ate less, when he woke up at a different time that one day five years ago, or when he seemed arthritic and Mark built him a little stool to jump up to before jumping onto the bed…if we’d taken him in then would it have mattered? What about when he stopped getting on the table after dinner, should I have paid more attention? Was it what I fed him? Maybe when he ate leaves and got really sick? I’ll probably think about it forever.

I of course miss a ton of things about him and doing certain things that were part of our routine is difficult. Pulling records sucks. We used to hang out in the living room and he’d help me pick out my DJ night records. We’d listen to them and I’d play him like a guitar or a piano. Now I kind of run in, grab some records and run out. Blah.

Helping with the LP sleeves.

Helping with the LP sleeves.

Helping me pull singles.

Helping me pull singles.

Listening to Music To Spazz By.

Listening to Music To Spazz By on WFMU.

We also used to cuddle in between doing my PT exercises for my back, but now I do those in the halway. He used to help me do the NY Times crossword before bed, laying across the puzzle. He would usually walk over or on Flippy and take up as much space on the bed as possible. I don’t necessarily miss him taking a horrible giant poo and not burying it, but often after this, he would run around yowling and attacking the door frames, which I found hilarious. I do miss him lightly touching my face at 4 am to wake me up so I’d feed him, but quickly pulling his paw away and looking around as if he had nothing to do with it. He also really liked cuddling under the covers.

This is how we slept most of the time.

This is how we slept most of the time.

Not sure if this is weird or not, but I miss the way he smelled. I miss him sitting on my chest purring or just purring in general, especially when he would really get going and make this little trill sound – I was really hoping to hear him purr again in the last few days, but it didn’t happen. I used to like laying my head on him while he was purring. In almost all of the places that we have lived, all the rooms had two doors, so we could run around playing chase-y. This was where I would go one way and he would follow and then one of us would turn around and go after the other. He always won. He also liked to play “bed shark,” a

Kitty attacking the Bed Shark!

Kitty attacking the Bed Shark!

game where you put your hand under the covers and chase him, pretending you’re Jaws. As previously mentioned, he loved the living room rug, but we didn’t want him to stay in there while we weren’t home. To get him out we would give him a Greenie. He would run as if  all Greenies in the world were going to disappear

. I miss not being able to find him, then finding him somewhere really funny –  some new weird sleeping spot.

Kitty on the hamper in the closet.

Kitty on the hamper in the closet.

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Paw turkeys!

Paw reindeer!

Paw reindeer!

Nearly every night after we ate, he jumped on the table after dinner with no regard for what was on the table. I’d scoot over in my chair and we would grab our drinks and hold them, and he would jump up and turn around about 10 times trying to get comfortable, then we could put our water back down. I miss opening the front door and seeing him when I get home and I miss him yelling at other cats outside. He even chewed a hole in the blinds that fit his head so he could yell at them better. He’d always get really excited when Matt would aggressively pet him and he’d hiss at Matt. I miss making Xmas and Thanksgiving decorations and celebrating Kitty Xmas

Kitty Xmas!

Kitty Xmas!

and watching him play with his new Xmas toys

I can still see his impression in the rug where he sat when Neil came to say goodbye. I still find his hairs on the pillow or even just now on the keyboard. Eventually these things will be gone, including the rug, the pillow, me, you. Existing then existing no more. It’s really simple, but I often get a headache thinking about it. I asked friends what they did with their cats after they died. Some buried in their yards, some had their pets cremated; I don’t plan on staying here in this house/town forever, so I don’t want to bury him, then leave him here; we  got his ashes – I’m not really sure why. I guess I can’t bear to be away from him, and I want him to be around even if he’s a dust pile rather than a fur pile. I kind of wanted him taxidermied; he was very handsome, or to have his skeleton – I always imagined it would look really amazing – long limbs, sort of weirdly long toes, angular face – but if those were options, we didn’t have time to find out about them. I don’t want to spread the ashes anywhere…he liked being in the bed or on the rug and I don’t want to pour ashes in either of those places – also because it’s just pouring ashes on those places. I don’t think I need to. I’m content to have them here with us, with a photo. And what happens to him when I’m gone? I guess they can put him with me and my mushroom death suit.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, there are tons of horrible things going on in the world. People starving, dying in horrible, preventable ways, wars are raging and people are just generally awful to each other and everything around them. I’m not saying the loss of my best friend is more important than those things. I’m saying that he made life, and thinking about those horrible things, a lot less horrible.

MORE PICS (almost all pics link back to Flickr where you can see EVEN MORE Kitty and kitty pics):

Kitty liked sleeping under the covers so I got him his own bed with a cover.

Kitty liked sleeping under the covers so I got him his own bed with a cover.

Kitty sleeping.

Kitty sleeping.

Kitty on his window perch.

Kitty on his window perch.

Kitty dreaming of cheezburgers.

Kitty dreaming of cheezburgers.

Kitty taking care of me when I was sick.

Kitty taking care of me when I was sick.

Kitty sleeping on his face.

Kitty sleeping on his face.

Kitty sleeps on his back.

Kitty sleeps on his back.

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Kitty’s little fuzzy feetie.

Kitty cleans his tie before work.

Kitty cleans his tie before work.

Kitty undercover.

Kitty undercover.

More cute sleeping.

More cute sleeping.

Kitty wants to go camping!

Kitty wants to go camping!

Look at those eyebrows!

Look at those eyebrows!


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