I’m writing this in the final hours before I take Tony, my almost 15 year old Siamese cat, to the animal hospital to cross over to the Rainbow Bridge. I wrote about his illness and a bit about his history just over a week ago here. (If you are an animal lover and haven’t read it yet, I’d ask that you do because it contains a special message.) The past few days his condition rapidly deteriorated. He’s been pretty well catatonic for the past 24 hours. I’ll hold him a few minutes every hour, but at this point it seems more for my sake than for his. He doesn’t even look at me and has little awareness of what is going on.
In my previous post about him, I shared a bit about the special bond we have had but I wanted to share some additional memories of the good times with him. Although friends and acquaintances have been super, I’m feeling a bit out of sorts about how much I’ve talked about him the past couple of weeks. I mean – he is just a cat right? But Tony has been special. I have 3 other cats who I dearly love. I’ve had 3 others who I’ve lost. I’ve had dogs before I had cats. But none of them have been anything like Tony. When he’s gone, there will be this huge void that just can’t be replaced. No other animal can be Tony.
I remember several years ago, hearing about animal cloning. Even at the cost of millions of dollars, even then, I thought for more than a few minutes of how wonderful it would be to have Tony with me forever. But cloning is about genetics and not personality. Personality is what made Tony so incredibly special and no clone would ever be Tony.
Tony As A Kitten
When we first got Tony, he was so tiny on his first trip to the vet, his weight didn’t register on the scale alone! The scale didn’t show weights below 1 kilogram. To find out his weight, he had to be weighed with Pina who was much larger than him. He was a little runt.
Like my other cats, when he was a kitten, the first month or so, he slept curled up against my chest. Since we got Pina at the same time (we had actually thought at first that they were biological siblings but we found out later that they weren’t), I actually had 2 kittens with me constantly.
Tony grew fast. He turned out to be a very husky Siamese. In my previous post on him, I wrote about his sickness when he was young. Other than that time and a couple of years ago when his teeth had to be extracted, he was always very active. He never lost the kitten playfulness. His weight peaked at around 17.5 pounds – very large for a Siamese – but since he was not sedentary, we weren’t concerned. He was just a big cat.
Tony and His Special Heart
Tony has always been very intuitive about how I am feeling. When I’ve been sad or upset about something, he was always quick to comfort me – even if I felt I didn’t need comforting. When he’d sit or lay with me, if I was sad, he had a habit of taking one of my hands between his two paws and looking at me intently. Even when he was sick, he did this many times with me.
He had some really cute habits with me. When I’d hold him in my arms, he’d actually wrap his two arms around my neck – much like a toddler would do. He’d lick my face very aggressively – just showering me with kisses and love.
Until earlier this year, he would often jump from the floor into my arms. Knowing I’d catch him. As he grew older, this happened less and less frequently. But it was something we both seemed to take pleasure in him doing. Until he was around 8 or so, the odd time, he’d jump onto my shoulder even.
I was always able to feed Tony right from my hands. He never nipped me. He was also careful to never scratch humans. The only time he ever scratched me was the night before he went to the vet for his diagnosis. He was doing very poorly that night. 🙁
His big heart wasn’t just for me but also with his fellow cats. He got along well with everyone. He never had a fight except for play-fighting. He’d take his time while eating his meals and look around. The odd time, one of the others would be interested in having Tony’s food and Tony would just let him or her.
The Sensitive Side of Tony
As much as Tony showered me with attention, he was also a very sensitive cat. I travel frequently – often I’ve been away from him half of the year – and whenever I’d return, he’d ignore me. Totally. Sometimes it would be for hours. Sometimes it would be for days or even weeks. Supposedly, he seemed fine when I was away. But he liked to let me know when I returned he had felt abandoned.
The Annoying – Yet Lovable – Side of Tony
Tony was so great at showing love and wanting attention that sometimes it would border on the annoying. I’d have loved to have him sleep curled up with me every night but that never happened until he was sick. I actually had to keep my bedroom door closed. Here’s why – when he’d come into bed, he would want to be curled up in my arms just like when he was a kitten. But he’d start the licking my face thing – continually. Incessantly. I’ve tried sometimes for as long as 2 hours – thinking he’d get tired of it. But no. He felt if he was in bed, he had to lick my face. If I’d turn over to the other side, he’d jump on the other side and start from there. If I went on my stomach, he’d do this digging thing on my shoulders and back to get me to turn over.
What’s interesting is the first day I was actually able to sleep with him curled up peacefully – with him purring away – was on my birthday – less than a week after finding out he didn’t have much longer. It truly made it the best birthday gift I’ve ever received. 🙂
If Tony heard me on the phone with anyone or if I had my earphones on listening to music, he’d always come running. He seemed to think that no one else should get my attention except him and he’d just meow until I’d pick him up.
Tony’s Incredibly Playful Side
For several years when we lived in Montreal and we had 7 cats, we had a huge entrance way with hardwood flooring. We routinely used to have soccer matches with the cats. I wish I’d captured it on camera because it’s hard to visualize or imagine it without seeing it. Tony would break the 7 of them into teams… with one of the cats sitting out. We’d then engage in organized soccer games with Tony keeping the order.
After the other 3 cats had passed on, Frisky, who had previously been very quiet, started coming out of his shell more. For the last couple of years, Tony and him would routinely play tag – running around the house and up and down stairs. This lasted until just a couple of months ago.
Tony almost always had a favorite toy of the moment. He had a cute habit of placing the toy next to the water dish after he was finished playing with it. It made it easy for him to find it again.
Some Random Things About Tony
He loved going outside. Unlike most cats, he would stay in a human’s lap or arms and be well-behaved. Nothing would bother him unless he saw another cat. His nostrils would flare taking in the fresh air and he’d purr away contentedly.
When he felt it was time for us to get up to feed him, he’d make a huge ruckus. His favorite trick was making a mess out of newspapers, papers and fliers laying about. He’d also knock over what ever else was laying around.
Every night, sometime between 11 pm and 1 am, he’d come into my office with a big and insistent meow. He’d continue until I picked him up to give him a hug. It was his pre-bedtime routine. If I didn’t hold him as long as he wanted to be held, the process would start all over again. Usually he’d want a good 5 to 15 minute hug session.
The Final Chapter of Tony
I started writing this post at around 3 am Eastern. His appointment at the animal hospital was at 9 am. When I’d written maybe about a third of this post, I heard a meow in my office that sounded like Tony’s, “Ma.” Very insistent like I was used to hearing from him. Until I turned around and saw that it was him, I really thought I was imagining things. He’d done this maybe once since I found out he was sick. But sure enough, it was him.
He spent around an hour cuddled up with me in bed. Licking my face and patting my face, neck and shoulders. He kept his eyes peeled on me. He chattered in typical Tony fashion. No idea what he was saying, but I’m pretty sure that he was telling me everything was going to be okay.
After that, for the first time in 2 days, he was not only willing to have normal food but he ate rather well. A nice plate of about 2 ounces of tuna! We had some more cuddle time then I had to get ready and take him in. During the drive there, he sat on my lap and chattered away.
Until we got to the animal hospital, I started to have second thoughts. Was it the right decision? Should we wait longer? Was this a real turn around for him? Then I realized, it was Tony looking out for his mom, just as he had the past – almost 15 years. He had told me the day before it was time. This was him showing total unconditional love and letting me see him okay since he knew my heart was breaking.
P.S. You can see more pictures of Tony and his siblings at my Flickr album.