Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: General — Rick Moran @ 2:37 pm

She lies underneath the skylight for hours during the day now, basking in the warmth of the sun, allowing the heat to warm her old bones because her failing body can’t do it for her. When she rouses herself to eat or drink or, if she’s in the mood, make it to the litter box, she rises slowly, painfully to her feet and waddles in a very uncatlike manner the few feet to her destination.

It is very hard to watch a good friend and companion grow old and die. It reminds us of our own mortality and how there is more of life to be seen in the rear view mirror than there is looking down the open road ahead. I believe it is hard for cats as well. You will forgive my anthropomorphic take on this but after having spent a good deal of my life in the presence of these creatures, the one universal truth that can be ascribed to cats is that there is nothing else like them in the animal kingdom. Domestic or feral, big or small, cats are different because, at bottom, their mammalian brains work disturbingly much like ours.

So little research has been done into the nature of cat intelligence compared to dog intelligence that it makes one wonder whether or not there is an academic bias against kitties. I think the truth is a little more prosaic. Cats are basically unreachable. Their behavior is such a troubling mix of instinct and intelligence that delving into the mysteries of what they think, how they think, do they think seems an almost impossible job. Once you think you have them pegged, they go and do something so outrageously original and different that you have to rewrite the book.

Much more than dogs, cats have learned to manipulate their human keepers until they know exactly which buttons of ours to push in order to get what they want. They do it so effortlessly that we hardly notice our enslavement to their wishes. For example, a cat will learn exactly what pitch their meow needs to be in order to tug at the heartstrings of their human companions and get them to pay attention. You can hear this phenomena in growing cats. Like feline scientists, they experiment until they find the perfect combination of demanding arrogance and vulnerable pleading.

All of this, of course, is completely unscientific and admittedly, a little fanciful. But after watching my Ebony for going on 14 years (and having been kept by cats for my entire adult life) one cannot escape the conclusion that our feline companions and their wild cousins are indeed otherworldly.

I get the distinct feeling that she knows the end is near. Her personality has undergone a dramatic change these last few months. She seeks out my company and affection almost every waking moment. She lays quietly at my feet while I write or read and gladly cuddles at night in the crook of my arm while I sleep. There are times when I catch her looking at me - as if trying to say something. You don’t need to be an animal behaviorist to understand what passes between us when we look at each other. If I begin to speak, her face gets a familiar squint as she closes her eyes and pulls her ears forward, connecting with the sounds on what seems to be a spiritual level. Her name, repeated endlessly and endearingly, causes her to purr loudly.

She looks at me now with no art or artifice in her heart; just the pleasure of being together suffices. She doesn’t seem demanding at all. In fact, she’ll let our other two cats Aramas and Snowball do all the manipulating for food, for treats, for love. For now, she seems beyond it all and we simply bask in each other’s company.

She is in no pain as far as I can tell. Her stiffness after lying down a while has robbed her of the extraordinary grace and athleticism she had as a youngster. She used to love the snow. Following a big accumulation, the parking lot behind my apartment would be cleared and all the snow piled into a gigantic hill of frozen fun. What an incredible sight it was to see her climb nimbly to the top of that hill and slide down on her black belly, picking up speed and then tumbling and rolling over and over when she got to the bottom.

Shaking herself off, she’d run around to the side of the hill and once again leap from snow ledge to snow ledge, effortlessly traversing the white mountain side like an expert climber until she found herself once again poised on the precipice. And then down she’d slide, again and again, until exhausted and soaking wet, she would come in to eat, take a long leisurely bath, and then lie down next to the heating vent. perhaps to dream of other mountains to conquer.

Sue and I have decided to take her to the vet after the New Year to make sure that she’s not in any pain and to see if there’s anything we can do about her litterbox habits which have become more and more erratic. But as I sit here writing and looking at her, I get the distinct feeling that she knows something that I don’t about how much longer she has on this planet before she’s called back to commune with the superior beings from which her kind sprang.

It is good we have this time together. But it is oh so sad to know that every stroke of my hand over her head - a gesture she returns by arching her neck to greet the caress - takes us both closer to a goodbye that neither of us wants but both of us realize is now inevitable.


  1. No better words spoken I will say… Our little girl is coming up on her 16′th year. She’s in good health and fine spirits but we know she could leave us at anytime. The only thing that makes it bearable is knowing she’ll be in the place where there are plenty of sun beams, rivers of sweet cream, and the mice don’t run too fast! Oh and she’ll be with her brother again who left us a few years ago. She’ll have somebody to beat up again! :)

    Comment by tps — 12/16/2006 @ 2:56 pm

  2. Oh, Rick… I remember when my dear Romeo was at that stage, and I cherished each moment I had with him. I am fortunate that I had him for almost all of his 19 years.

    I hope and pray that Ebony truly is in no pain, although even if she is, I believe she will let you know what she wants you to do. Romeo “told” me, and said he wanted to hang around and snuggle a bit longer - and then told me one day that it was time to let him go.

    I still miss him, even though I now have two crazy and adorable sisters who race around the house and pounce on everything that looks pounceable.

    Make sure you take lots of pictures of her, too. Romeo died before the real advent of digital cameras, and I really have far too few good pictures of him that aren’t pretty tattered.

    Please give Lady Ebony some skritchies and love from her Aunt Kat, and (although I know I don’t really need to tell you this) enjoy her every moment you have left!

    Thanks, blog-brother…

    – Kat

    Comment by Kat — 12/16/2006 @ 3:12 pm

  3. Rick- I read most of this post through my reader program. I feel for you…I have lost pets- cats and dogs- who were members of my family for years. It’s hard. They leave a void in our heart and soul when they go on to their next venture- and I believe there is an adventure awaiting them when they leave us.

    God Speed friend.

    Comment by Raven — 12/16/2006 @ 3:28 pm

  4. I’m not sure how to express what I want to say. All I can say is I wish you the best. When you know that the time you have with your pet is limited there is something both harder and yet somehow more caring about the relationship.

    I remember when we were told by the vet our small dog Sheba had only a few weeks to go (she managed a full strong six months before we had to put her done). The limited space of time really makes you understand what the friend that you have had for so long. I smiled a little bit extra when Sheba was around. Appreciated her a little more. But I really did miss her when she was gone.

    Comment by Jim — 12/16/2006 @ 3:41 pm

  5. Ebony, obviously, touched your soul with a mutually cherished friendship and trust. The time spent with a true friend is a gift beyond words… and quite rare. You are both lucky. Enjoy the present and cherish times well spent.

    Comment by cheap seats — 12/16/2006 @ 6:43 pm

  6. Whenever I encounter the loss of this kind, my sympathies usually include one poem I find worthy.

    In respect of the fact you see an inevitable reality, I believe it can also be used to adjust to that reality

    So I give you this

    It takes us back to brighter years,
    to happier sunlit days
    and to precious moments
    that will be with us always.
    And these fond recollections
    are treasured in the heart
    to bring us always close to those
    from whom we had to part.
    There is a bridge of memories
    from earth to Heaven above…
    It keeps our dear ones near us
    It’s the bridge that we call love

    Comment by SlimGuy — 12/16/2006 @ 8:58 pm

  7. I too have been in the place you are now. It is so very difficult, and one never forgets a loved friend of so many years. I extend my good wishes for you all.

    Comment by zaq — 12/17/2006 @ 12:15 am

  8. That really brought back some memories. Our “Friskie” past away last year at the ripe old age of 21. He now rests in our garden, underneath the catnip bush that he loved to just lay in. My wife always has flowers on the grave, poinsetta’s for the Christmas season. 21 years….older than our daughter…longer than we’ve been married. He was a great listener! Never once did he tell my wife about my gripes ( or me about hers). His purring would make bad day into a good on. I’m glad he stayed as long as he did.

    Comment by John — 12/17/2006 @ 10:27 am

  9. Your post was absoutely beautiful and so moving. I felt like a fly on the wall, tears and all, watching and admiring your love and affection for your little buddy. Good luck and enjoy each day.

    Comment by Jackie Worthington — 12/17/2006 @ 10:53 am

  10. It’s just a stupid cat, and you can probably find another one in a garbage can near you. Me friggin ow.

    Comment by Cats Aren't Humans — 12/17/2006 @ 11:19 am

  11. I enjoy everything you write even your cat essay and I don’t even like or ever owned a cat! How beautiful your comment about learning more about life while looking in the rear view mirror than looking ahead. Thank you for your poignant insights of our world and personal lives.

    Comment by Pat Barratt — 12/17/2006 @ 11:29 am

  12. Rick: My husband and I, always having considered ourselves dog people, lost our two beloved golden retrievers last Spring. One died of extreme old age, the other unexpectedly from bone cancer. To fill the vast void left after their departure, we adopted a baby Corgi (multi-colored black/white & brown). The first day home, Maggie, as we named her, drew the attention of a small tuxedo cat that began to come around the house every day to play with Maggie. To watch two natural adversaries play was an unusual and amusing sight to behold. This became a repeat performance, and then the cat began to warm to me and my husband. She purred and rubbed our legs and seemed to be trying to communicate with us. After attempting to find her owner and making sure she was up to par with all health requirements, we adopted her and named her Emily. Emily has masterfully intergrated herself into our family. She now stays in the house at night and prowls during the day. She is a warm, affectionate creature with a mind of her own and seems to enjoy practicing her superior intellectual skills on the unsuspecting Maggie.

    We never imagined after the loss of our goldens, that we would be so enriched by Emily. I am so glad she found us and decided to stay.

    Comment by Pammy — 12/17/2006 @ 11:40 am

  13. We love cats dearly here at Entropy House and we have grieved greatly over the ones we have lost(one just recently), so we understand your sadness as only other cat-worshippers can. (I’d be happy to offer suggestions on tending sick cats if you want it, by the way. For instance, they love tabletop fountains.)

    Maybe if you click on my link, it will lighten your heart. Ignore the political aspect; just enjoy cats as full of themselves as only cats can be.

    Comment by Baillie — 12/17/2006 @ 2:56 pm

  14. Cats Aren’t Humans Said:
    11:19 am

    It’s just a stupid cat, and you can probably find another one in a garbage can near you. Me friggin ow.

    But at least cats display far more human qualities than the hominid life form which produced the above response to stimuli.


    Comment by Chip — 12/17/2006 @ 3:59 pm

  15. I went through this with my Raven. We had her for 14 years before we had to let her go. She went blind in her last year and half, but she did it in her sneaky way. We didn’t realize it because she did everything like before, except jumping up on high furniture. She slept cuddled between my husband and I and ran her paws through my hair every night, for 14 years. I still miss her, but I knew we had to let her go. Your kitty will let you know when it is time.

    Until then, enjoy meeting her every demand and earning her “purr” reward.

    Comment by Stormy70 — 12/17/2006 @ 11:39 pm

  16. Rick, know exactly what you are going through. I have 3, sometimes 4 cats and love the creatures. My 2 & 1/2 year old toy fox terrier loves them too. While I was married, we watched several grow to old age. I lost my Labrador Retriever of old age just four years ago. I remember the time when we both knew. I was kinder than usual to her. It also caused me to see my own mother’s down hill slide until death took her also a little over two years ago. My experience with the animals inspired to spend as much time with Mama and saying anything I ever wanted to say to her. Our last few years were far richer that the previous 56, even though those were not bad years at all. I believe these inoffensive creatures in our lives either brings out the best of mankind or the worst, as evedenced by animal cruelty that invariably manifests itself as crimes against humanity. Mohammud didn’t like dogs, probably because they didn’t like him. Animals sense a kindred spirit and will choose whom to associate with given the chance.

    Comment by Jerry — 12/19/2006 @ 3:38 am

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