Tiger and his brother Petruccio arrived on our porch, asking for food. They were both neutered males, so we advertised them as lost pets. I have no idea where they came from, and their humans were never found. Perhaps they came through another dimension, which would be quite normal for Vashon and explain some of the events later in their lives.
Petruccio, a tuxedo cat, was charming. He played with the cat toys scattered around our house and the other cats adored him. Tiger acted more reclusive. He watched his brother play and hid under furniture until he made his way to the nice warm waterbed, and there he stayed.
Petruccio, however, was a cat made for adventure. He found a house with little girls who would dress him in pajamas and take him for walks in the doll buggy. They were much more fun than I am, and frankly, their house had better toys. Petruccio moved next door.
Tiger stayed on the waterbed for months, ignoring the other cats. He soon began to snuggle up to me on the bed, nuzzling his head on my chest. Soon, the nuzzling started to feel a little like bad touch. I narrowed my eyes at the cat and tried to tell myself that the cat wasn’t a pervert. He just liked soft things. I gave him toys. He preferred my daughters’ soft parts. My daughters pushed him away and screamed, “Mooooom! There’s something wrong with this cat.”
I thought he just wanted contact comfort after the trauma of being homeless. I held that belief right up until the evening I held a business meeting at my house. This meeting involved a group of people interested in disabilities, people from adoption agencies, and someone from the state government. We didn’t have money to hire a room, and my house was centrally located so everybody came to the island.
We sat in very proper chairs in a circle in the living room. The person from the state thought we should play one of those games to build trust and get to know each other. Other people listened to the proposal and tried to pass it off, saying we needed to get down to business, and others gagged in the corner. I sat in my chair, blinking and trying to decide if this idea was appropriate.
Tiger swaggered into the room, distracting the group from the awkward proposal. He ignored the other humans and walked straight to the woman sitting across the circle from me. I stifled the urge to warn everybody that the cat was a pervert, saying to myself, “Delinda, don’t be weird. Just keep your mouth shut and act dignified.”
Tiger jumped up on the woman’s lap.
I jumped out of my chair making noises about “Sorry, he’s usually shy with strangers. I’ll get him.”
Before I could grab the cat, he stood on the woman’s stomach, hooked his chin into the vee in her low necked sweater, pulled the sweater loose and nestled his head in her ample cleavage.
Everybody gasped in shock then broke into laughter
I grabbed the cat. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I was tempted to warn everybody he’s a pervert, but that sounded too weird.” I tried to pull the cat away from the poor woman, but he was still fixated on the front of her sweater, making grabbing motions with his paws. I finally got the cat over my shoulder and left the room with all the dignified, important people rolling on the floor laughing until tears ran down their cheeks. That was the end of any suggestions for ice breakers and stupid games.
Like King Solomon, Tiger was a lover of women. I was his favorite woman and he eventually learned to stifle his obsession for our soft parts. He seemed to know when we were sad or sick and would hug and comfort us.
When Tiger was about thirteen, Hubby and I took a short vacation. We were gone for about four days. When I returned, I thought Tiger had lost weight. I watched him for a couple days then took him to the vet. The vet, Nell, checked him over and ran a battery of tests for senior cats. We found his white blood count slightly elevated. Over the next three weeks, I watched Tiger, thinking there was something wrong with this cat. He seemed too weak.
One day, I returned from work and found a message on my phone from my neighbor two doors down. “I have your cat. It looks like he’s not going to make it. I have to leave. He’s in a crate on our back porch. You better get him to the vet right away.”
I stopped to call the vet’s office before I ran out the door and drove to the neighbor’s, pulling my car up close to their back door. I jumped out, ran to the porch and dropped down on my knees in front of the cat carrier on the porch. I looked through the bars of the crate as my hands shook trying to open the latch. I finally fumbled the latch open, thinking my cat would make some move to come to me. He lay in the crate. His amber eyes looked toward me, unseeing.
I reached into the crate and stroked Tiger’s fur. I couldn’t see any sign of blood. Maybe he’s had a stroke. HIs eyes weren’t dilated equally. I stroked him again. Touching the cat, I could tell that this cat was way too sick to be moved out of the neighbor’s crate and into mine. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I knew what I had to do. Sobbing, I loaded the cat in the car and drove to the vet’s office. They rushed us into an exam room, and the technician gently removed the cat from the carrier.
I blew my nose while the technician held her stethoscope to the cats chest. She stood up straight and shook her head. “I’ll call Nell.”
I stroked the cat and shook my head. I hadn’t seen him for maybe eighteen hours. He hadn’t slept on my bed the night before. I felt waves of guilt wash over me that I hadn’t paid more attention to my cat. I knew he’d been weak. He’d started to stagger when he walked, but to …
Nell came in and held her stethoscope on the cat. She shook her head.
By this time, I was sure he was gone. “How could he go downhill so fast?”
Nell stroked the cat and looked at his chart. She shook her head. “It happens like that sometimes, but he was just in here, and his blood work was a little off, but nothing that would indicate he would go like this. I’d like to do an autopsy to see if I can find what we missed.”
I nodded through my tears.
“We’ll have time this afternoon. Do you want us to dispose of the body, or do you want to take him home?”
I managed to speak around the lump in my throat. “I’ll take him.”
I went home and called my husband to tell him what happened. “I feel so guilty that he got that sick that fast.”
“He seemed okay at dinner last night. He ate all his food, but he was weak. His only real symptoms were weight loss and staggering when he walked.”
“Maybe he had a stroke.”
Just before the vet’s office closed for the day, I returned with a nice box lined with towels and one of my sweatshirts that Tiger seemed to like. The vet tech took my box to the back and wrapped Tiger up laying him in the box so he looked as if he was just sleeping under the blankets. I carried him home.
I’d stopped sobbing by the time my husband got home. Silently he got a shovel and went out to dig a hole by the apple tree.
When the hole was ready, I carried the cat in his cardboard coffin out to the hole. Our youngest daughter arrived home just in time to stand beside us as we lowered the cat into the grave. We stood while Hubby read a poem from T S Eliot’s Cats collection.
My daughter and I sang Hymn of Promise, the resurrection hymn. I got the words to the second verse wrong, but my daughter corrected me.
Silently we filled in the hole. The sound of dirt hitting the top of the box felt so final.
As I set the table for dinner, I looked at the cat’s empty food and water dishes, thinking I should pick them up. Later, I’ll pick them up later. I can’t do it now.
By the time we silently sat down to eat our dinner, I’d grieved to the point of allowing the thought of how much money that cat had been eating flit through my brain.
Hubby said the grace.
I looked up and lost all sense of rational thought.
Hubby looked at my white face and turned to look out the window to see what I was staring at. He froze for just a few seconds.
There on the patio was Tiger, staggering toward the house from the direction of the apple tree.
I ran out the door.
Hubby ran past me and out toward the grave as I scooped up my cat. I stood for a moment frozen in horror at the idea that we’d just buried our cat alive.
Bless my frontal cortex, it noted. Wait a minute, there’s no dirt on this cat.
Hubby ran back to the patio. “The grave is intact.”
I answered, “Nell did an autopsy. That cat was definitely dead.”
Hubby put his forehead down to do head bumps with Tiger.
I held Tiger close as we walked into the house and Hubby filled Tiger’s food dish.
Still shaken, I asked, “What should we do? We just murdered someone else’s cat.”
“You said it died on the way up there.”
“Yeah, I guess all we did is give it a decent burial.”
After eating a few bites of dinner, I paced wondering what to do about someone else’s fur friend buried under my apple tree. Finally, even-though it was after hours, I decided to call the vet at home.
“About Tiger. He just came home. He’s okay. But what should we do about the cat that we just buried. Should we try to find its owner?”
Nell answered, “I’m glad you called. That cat had really bad liver failure, and I couldn’t figure out how we missed that.”
“I couldn’t figure out how he could go downhill so fast. He normally sleeps on my bed but didn’t last night, and I felt so guilty for not checking on him this morning.”
“Tiger is a male.”
“Um, neutered male, yeah.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I knew I’d been saying he and him, but the cat we autopsied was a female, and I couldn’t figure out how I made a mistake as obvious as that.”
My heart rate had slowed to normal by this time. “I’ll call the office and make another appointment to bring Tiger in. If we could believe that sick cat was him, there is something definitely going on with him.”
I suppose the Jane Doe cat buried under our apple tree saved Tiger’s life in the sense that I did take Tiger to the vet. Nell examined him closer. We eventually discovered that he had thyroid cancer. We took him to a specialty clinic where he was treated with radiation. The vet tech there told me that he liked to snuggle. I warned her, “Yeah, be careful. He’s a bit of a pervert.”
“I noticed. I wear a lead apron when working with the cats, and he tried to get his paw under the apron.”
Tiger lived to a ripe old age of eighteen.