Our cat Moses died, sometime in the early morning hours of February 17.
Less than a week before he was, as usual, scampering about the house, yard and neighborhood, master of his universe, equally obnoxious and precious.
Moses turned thirteen last fall. For spoiled, domestic cats, that’s not a long life span. Given his propensity to stroll across suburban streets and engage in territorial fights with rivals, my wife and I figured he wouldn’t survive two years. So, Moses was too young and surprisingly old.
By looks, Moses was sometimes identified by vapid humans as a member of the inferior Siamese breed. The dude was Tonkinese. He was given his Biblical name because we believed he’d lead his beleaguered fellow cats from their despair over living with a rambunctious golden retriever puppy to feline freedom. Moses failed. Instead, he and Hannah, the diva dog, became best buds on the first day they met, in our kitchen in December of 2000. This near immediate defection shifted the balance of pet power for the older and diminutive Jynx and the older and pear-shaped Madison.
Moses was unashamed of his lineage as a predator. For years, birds and squirrels were stalked and killed. He showed no mercy to the vulnerable. Until a scary confrontation with his favorite two-legged (my wife Jeanie), Moses assumed we’d want him to drag his fresh kills into the house. In a rare deference to another creature, Moses didn’t bring any more “meals” inside after the usually levelheaded Jeanie screamed at him while he attempted to shove a squirrel through the pet door. In our family, this is known simply as “the squirrel incident.”
Moses despised vets. No, let’s be clear with an over-used but honest word: he hated vets. He’d lunge, claw and scream at any vet that attempted to touch him . . . or that thought about touching him. When our long-time vet retired last year, the new vet told us there was a one-word warning about Moses in the charts: “WILD.” I think Moses had control issues. If he was in control . . . no problem. But if a vet thought he or she might be in control . . . well, wild was unleashed.
Moses was a lover. I have never met a cat that enjoyed so much lap time. He could become a furry barnacle for hours . . . on a lap, shoulder, back, stomach, blanket, exposed or covered flesh . . . you name the place, he would snuggle beside you. As long as he was in control (see above paragraph), he was also cute, curious, affectionate, amusing, playful and calm.
If you’d asked me a week ago which of our current feeble and cranky animals would be the last to die . . . Moses would’ve been the one I’d immediately mention. Though thirteen, he was still a solid nine pounds of muscle and mayhem. His dog buddy Hannah will be fourteen in March. Tiny Jynx—just over five pounds—is nearly sixteen and Madison (who still resents having a dog in the house) is fifteen.
But Moses died. Quickly. One day scampering, the next day lethargic, and less than two days later . . . I was digging a small grave in the backyard. As with many older male cats, Moses’ urinary tract was blocked and his interior rapidly filled with “poison.”
It is like that, isn’t it? Death is a hammer blow, as nonchalant as it is blunt.
A decade ago, we surveyed our little household and couldn’t believe the activity level. Every silly, wonderful pet was young . . . bouncing off the walls and off of each other. Not now. The youngest has died. There will be more, and soon . . . Jeanie and I dread the future that is upon us.
I believe pets make us better humans. They are gifts. We don’t own ‘em; instead they share time with us. They are a guaranteed hurt in our lives because we will outlive them . . . and we know that on the first day a kitty or puppy skitters across our kitchen floor.
I will miss Moses, dearly and deeply. As I said to my wife yesterday, even the worst of his traits were interesting and entertaining and (yes) enlightening. He was a dude, a stud, a beast and a warrior. And he was a lover. Of the thousand things I learned from Moses, there was certainly this . . . it’s a good thing to sit on a couch with nine pounds of love reminding me to relax and not take life so seriously.
Farewell, little buddy.