After we moved into the old house… our first real, single family detached dwelling in the mold of the suburban American dream… and had settled in a bit, it became time to get a cat. We had a cat at our old condo, a charmer named Woody, but he had passed and we decided not to think about another cat until we had settled down in a new home. Getting there took a while, but once we had ourselves established in the autumn of 2000, we went looking for a cat.
Two cats actually. The thought was that a pair would be happier. And so one weekend we picked Felix from a rescue shelter. He was an adult can of unknown age who had been living in the parking lot of the IBM facility on Cottle Rd. in San Jose. When that was closed, the woman who had been feeding him collected him up and brought him in to find him a real home. He was happy and friendly and liked people and warmed right up to me, so he came home with us the day we met him.
The next weekend we went searching for a companion. Since I had chosen Felix… or maybe he chose me… my wife was looking for a cat for herself. After some searching we came across a black kitten with a white tummy, white paws, and a little diamond shaped white spot on his forehead. He wasn’t a tiny kitten, but about five months old. My wife thought he was adorable and so we brought him home.
He came with the name Dylan, but we changed that to Oscar, to match Felix as the “Odd Couple” of cats, and it turned out to be quite the fitting name.
When we brought him home we followed what we had been told and set Oscar up in the guest room with the door shut to keep the two cats apart until they grew used to each other. That lasted for about 30 minutes. They were almost immediately on either side of the door sniffing and meowing and obviously anxious to see who was on the other side. There were no hostile signs, so we said, “What the hell” and opened the door and the two became immediate buddies.
But while the two of them were pals for life, they had very different personalities. Felix had to be around whoever was over to visit, greeting every guest, and was always happy to sit in anybody’s lap. He was the good cat, gregarious and happy and always in the thick of things.
Oscar, on the other hand, was quite reserved. He loved Felix and my wife, but held himself aloof from the rest of the world. I joked that it took him five years to get used to me, but it was about the truth. He wouldn’t go out of his way to find me, but would seek out my wife day and night to be close to her, preferably in her lap.
Felix would be in the thick of thing and Oscar would be peeking around the corner or sneaking around the periphery of any event, keen to know what was going on but not willing to go out there with all those strangers. He was also always getting into everything. While Felix was content with things as they were, Oscar had to know what was under, behind, over, and around anything in the house. He could be quite the wiener, and his nickname quickly became Oscar Meyer.
And then my daughter showed up and there was a whole new world of adventure for Oscar Meyer. There was some combination of new stuff and a little human that was constantly around my wife and who, no doubt smelled a bit of her, that made my daughter and all of her stuff of immediate interest to him. I don’t think my daughter had been home for more than 10 minutes before he appeared at her bassinet to see what we had brought home.
Of course, he immediately tried to get into the bassinet with her and curl up. She was nice and warm and that was a trait he loved in people. We had to keep a close eye on him and even had to get a mesh “kitty tent” to go over my daughter’s crib to keep him out once she started sleeping there. But her stuff was his stuff as far as he was concerned and looking back at the pictures he was around her and my wife a lot.
Life with Oscar and Felix was good. They were pals and Felix, who would welcome anybody in our house, took up the slack with visitors as Oscar remained wary of strangers and really only liked my wife and daughter for years. I remained under suspicion.
Of course, when it came time to go to the vet, I was the one who had to stuff the kitties in their boxes. Felix would go easy, but Oscar… who could somehow sense I was coming for him even if left no evidence about… would run and hide under the bed the moment I glanced his way. I recall once having to take the mattress and box spring off the bed to get at him. Still, once in a while he would show up and hang out with me.
Felix, older and having lived a harder life in his youth, passed away just about eight years ago. Oscar though, he was in his prime at that time. He was king of the house and soon had to rule over two new kittens. The coming of Fred and Trixie worked out well, and the three of them became pals, with the two younger cats cuddling up with Oscar.
With three cats, everybody in the house had one. Oscar remained ever my wife’s cat, while Fred would sleep with our daughter, and Trixie would hang out with me… though she would cuddle up on my wife in bed. She knew where the warmth was.
Fred and Trixie were not with us long however. They both suffered from a congenital issue that cut both of their lives short, feline aortic thromboembolism. Fred went a year before Trixie, and in the interim she had to have a new cat to call her own, so Rigby joined us as a kitten.
Not being black and white, the new tabby kitten wasn’t welcomed very warmly. It took a while for Trixie and Oscar to accept Rigby, but eventually they did.
By this point Oscar was slowing down. He was still king of the house, and held court on the couch where he would welcome any guest and sit in their lap… so long as it was warm… but he was more interested in sunny spots and treats than running around and playing. Then Trixie passed and it was just Oscar and Rigby.
Those two were not pals. When Rigby was young he wanted to play when Oscar wanted to sleep. Later when Rigby came into his adult size, he stated testing Oscar over who was really the boss. There were the occasional fights, but mostly it was the kitty equivalent of “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!”
They could be cuddly at times, but their rivalry was never far from the surface.
And Oscar was getting older and slowing down even more so. The vet told me a couple of times that 12 to 15 years is a good life span for a healthy cat. Oscar hit 16 last year and was closing in on 17 this year, but time was telling on him. His hips were bothering him, so we got him a heating pad to sleep on during the day. He had gone deaf at some point, which meant that an already vocal cat had no real way to gauge his volume. He then got a bad ear infection about 18 months back that took a long stretch to go away with antibiotics, a respiratory infection late last year that sapped his strength before it was over, and then this past January an episode that looked like another ear infection (head tilt, problem with balance) but which the vet thought was an issue with his brain; not a stroke but some sort of episode. His blood pressure was very high and in addition to his other symptoms he was blind in one eye.
I started writing this post after that day at the vet because he looked to be done, even crawling under our bed to be some place dark, something past cats I have owned have done that indicates their time has come.
Then he bounced back a bit. The “maybe this will help” medicine the vet gave us seemed to actually help. He got up on the bed with us the next day. His balance improved, he could get around the house on his own, and he started eating again. He wasn’t eating much though and he was far from his old self. We made him as comfortable as we could and offered up food he really liked just to get him to eat more. Even Rigby (mostly) stopped being a pain to Oscar and would groom him.
But it was borrowed time. Oscar was eating less and less and was losing weight. Even for an older cat who slept a lot already, a lot of his time was spent asleep. And then when I got home from work Wednesday I found him in the middle of the floor of office. My wife said he had used the litter box, but then just stopped in the carpet there and wouldn’t move. She had food and water close to him, but he was just sitting there. I found a cat bed he would occasionally deign to sleep in, put it down next to him, then placed him in it. He curled up there and slept. He did not move until the next morning when he was trying to walk to our bedroom. I picked him up and put him on the bed in the dark room and he curled up again and stayed there.
I was working from home yesterday and my daughter was home sick from school, so we kept an eye on Oscar, but things did not look good. There was no interest in food or water. I let my daughter take him out in the back yard where it was warm (72 degrees) and sunny to see if that would stimulate him. Oscar has never been outside and has shown no desire to ever leave the house. But as a cat any new environment is of interest to him. He explored a bit, but could barely go a dozen steps before having to lay down and rest for a bit.
While he was out there with my daughter I called the vet and made an appointment for one last check before the end. We all went to the vet and cried a lot as we said good bye. He is at peace and suffers no more, but we are still sad today and miss him.
The end of an era. We always grow attached to our pets, but after 16 years the bond is very strong and the parting all the more difficult. Oscar had been with us since before my wife was even pregnant with our daughter, and we used to joke, when my daughter wanted a sibling, that he was her older brother.
It is even difficult to choose pictures to post of him. We got our first digital camera as a gift just before we got Felix and Oscar and he has been a kitty of the digital camera and then the iPhone age. There are literally hundreds of pictures of him to choose from. But I think my favorites are from the early days, when he and Felix roamed our house and were such pals, and when Oscar just had to get into everything, so I will add a few more of those to the end of this already over-long post.