My cat, Phoenix, passed away this morning suffering from either liver failure or liver cancer. He lived a long life providing a great deal of companionship to me and then, after I left for college, for my mom, who lives alone.
We adopted him from the groomer, The Dog Patch, that we took my collie, Duke, to in 1992. Another client of the groomer went to the local mall and left her car doors unlocked. She returned to her car to find someone had left a litter of kittens in her backseat. She brought them to The Dog Patch where my dad found him and adopted him, without consulting my mom.
He was a light gray pile of fur when he was a kitten, thus the name Phoenix after the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes.
He never seemed “quite right”, a bit slow or stupid, if you will. We joked that being left in the backseat of a car in Texas must have fried his brain a bit. We realized later something else was going on.
The most remarkable story, which if I wasn’t there, I would not believe it myself, took place in early 1997. My mom found Phoenix playing with a live mouse in our living room. Flipping the mouse up in the air, letting him land and running away a bit, only to come in and pounce the rodent. Repeatedly. There is truth to the notion that cats like to play with their food.
Mom freaked out–yelling, a bit scared, since well, it is a mouse. Phoenix promptly killed the mouse and ran with it back to her bedroom in his mouth, returning empty handed. Great. Not only is there a dead mouse in the house, but the cat hit it somewhere.
Later that night, when my dad returned home from work, my mom approached the cat and said in a calm voice “Okay Phoenix, you were a really good boy today killing the mouse. Momma doesn’t like mice, but Daddy really does. He would like to see your mouse.” I would testify in court to this, as sure enough, the damn cat who we were convinced was stupid and slow, ran back into the bedroom and came back to the living room with the mouse. He stopped and set it in front on my dad. I feel insane typing this out now, but like I said, I would testify to this in any court-of-law as the truth.
Nevertheless, after that day, we never called him slow again.
My beloved collie, Duke, and Phoenix had a great life together. “Wrestling” around with each other, fighting, literally, like cats and dogs, but would tire themselves out and fall asleep together–Phoenix sleeping snuggled up along the underbelly of the 100+ pound dog. After Duke passed away in 2001, Phoenix became much more picky without the competition for his food.
In the years after my dad’s death, the animals provided a bit of companionship to a virtually-only child (all my siblings are 17+ years older than I am and none lived at home much after I was old enough to remember). After I left for school, Phoenix was “my” cat, providing my mom with a bit of me and companionship as she adjusted to life alone.
My wife doesn’t quite understand the attachment that some pet owners have with their pets, so I do feel a bit silly typing all of this out, but nevertheless, having a pet, namely a dog that was with me from age 4 to age 16 and a cat from age 7 to age 24, can really mold a person.
While he was only a cat, he was a faithful part of the family who (even if he had motives of wanting to ensure a supply of food and clean litter boxes) always was there when you needed a little paw resting on your leg as you watch TV, or someone to talk to in an empty house.