Facebook Friends have been inundated over the last few months with status updates of a recent addition to the Claratee Household, a fuzzy kitten-shaped ball of mischief called Penny. Before I annunciate about her charms on this blog I should probably put the memory of another cat companion to rest – it seems most respectful – that of Mr Baxter.
Mr Baxter was a large black long-hair who I adopted in Seattle – my friend Ms Scarlett delighted in labelling him ‘Clara’s huge black pussy’ who she would inquire after on email lists or loudly in public places. Mr B gave hugs that you would not believe. Yes, a cat who hugged back. Front paws either side of your head, face snuggled up to your ear, purring madly.
Mr B had some *ahem* issues though, which made me consider the benefit to burden ratio of pet ownership. I and my dear friend Cherry Divine shared a house, while our cats shared animosity. In an attempt to enforce their territory and dominance, they would pee liberally around the house. It was unceasing tit-for-tat terrorist urinary warfare. There was definitely a certain aroma, and a need to suspiciously pat or sniff all surfaces before one sat or lay down. Our washing machine was tasked to clean duvets regularly, in a mixture of vinegar and/or anti cat pee solution. Futons were considered a disposable commodity in our house. Rather like dish cloths, nappies, bin bags. The futon frame in the living room was often empty, its slats exposed like a sad whale carcass, until we could get a replacement off of freecycle.
We tried a number of different methods to impose order and domestic decorum: expensive pheromone diffusers to calm the nerves, spray bottles full of various liquids, angry punishment, treats with catnip. To no avail; our boys continued to sneak into each of our rooms during the day, and leave little damp surprises on our beds. I counted five unique spots on my duvet after a weekend away. I started laying plastic sheeting on my bed. Eventually we just locked our cats in our rooms when we weren’t in the house. It got really desperate.
I was planning to move back to the UK earlier this year, and was rather troubled by the need to rehouse my pissy territorial cat. Black fluffy loving cat who hugs back. Can you detect some ambivalence there? I heard that the number one reason for cats to end up in a shelter is inappropriate indoor peeing. I knew that I would have to be honest with the people that took him in, warn them – “caution: urinary leakage”. “Does not mix well with the feline competition”.
A friend of a friend was eager to provide a home. I had described all the good points of Mr B, but not the bad. I mulled it over for weeks, I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps Mr B would learn the error of his ways, miraculously. I knew it would not work out, I could not pass on the burden, I’d have to tell.
What happened was ghastly, but a strange mixed blessing. A few weeks before I was due to leave, Mr B did some late night unplanned gymnastics off of a cat tree, and suffered some serious internal damage, resulting in an enormous and painful blood clot in his bladder. He spent the next week spinning wheels high on morphine, nesting in his cat tray.
Please, will someone take my pissy, broken, elderly cat? He hugs back, if he wasn’t in so much pain.
I got him put down, after deliberation, he died in my arms. My housemate drove me to the emergency surgery in Lake City Way, and hugged me while I cried and cried and cried.
I’ve got some strange mementos from Mr B. I’ve an ultrasound, and some x-rays that might make an interesting but macabre stained glass piece.
I still miss Mr B, sometimes. I miss the sensation of his weight in my lap, his fuzzy belly pressed against me, his paws wrapped around my neck, his face nuzzled in my ear, purring loudly, a delicious comfort after a long horrid day. Penny is too squirrelly and too tiny to do the full-on Baxter hug. Every cat has a ‘thing’ when interacting with their people, hers seems to be shoulder sitting and leg climbing, but who knows what it will be when she is fully grown.
Rest in Peace, Mr B. May there be no cat competition where you are. May there be ever-full food bowls, laser pointers, and boxes and platforms upon which to sit. May the cat trees be sturdy and hold firm against your considerable weight. May the futons and furnishings be self-cleaning. May there be patient people with open arms and laps and soothing voices. May there be sunbeams cast through windows onto comfortable, deep pile rugs. Rest well, Mr B. Rest well.