My cat died yesterday. In a world where terrorists gleefully bomb capital cities and spree killers ruin communities with a single gun clip, this seems like such a small event, I almost hesitate to mention it. A cat’s death, what’s a cat’s death, occurring (as it did) on Good Friday? A large percentage of the earth was already mourning a man who changed much of civilization. So, from one point of view, Moosie’s passing was not really worthy of note. On the other hand, it is important because Moose was no ordinary cat.
The first everyone noticed about Moosie was his size. While the average domestic cat weighs between 8 and 10 pounds, Moosie more than doubled that weight and his fluffy coat made him look even bigger. He came to our home as a stray,but he fit many of the characteristics of Ragdoll breed with his outsized frame, short legs and sweet temperament. It was clear from the start that he liked being close to people. “We’re going to need a bigger couch” my husband muttered after Moosie jumped up on the cushions. “He takes up half the space.”
He irritated the two resident cats with his size, appetite and lack of feline guile. While Charlie and Brindle Lee backed up and hissed, the big fluffy boy went over to the communal food dish and started to eat. And eat, and eat….and eat. Thinking him starved, I refilled the bowl with five cups of dry food and he polished that off as well as a can of wet food and two slices of bologna. Then he tried to make friends with the two senior cats who were seriously offended by a friendly stranger that was twice their size. Unperturbed, the big guy took a nap and five hours later he was hungry again. “He hasn’t got worms” a vet friend later affirmed. “This boy’s just afraid he won’t find a next meal.”
Even for a “big-boned” cat, Moosie carried a plus-sized body that he ran on comparatively tiny feet. It created an issue in naming him. “Bustopher Jones?” I asked, thinking of the Eliot’s “25 pounder” in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. “Orson Welles?” I knew better than that. My husband dislikes fanciful names for pets and won’t use any he thinks are too silly. I, on the other hand, believe that a cat will recognize his/her name once you’ve guessed it correctly and will respond when you call. So the big cat remained nameless and sweet until one afternoon when he was getting a fur rub from the wrong direction. Other cats will hiss and leave if you rub their fur against the grain but this creature loved it, the harder the better, so eventually we were pushing him across the floor with our feet. “What a big lummox” I said, looking down at the animal, flat on his back, eyes closed and grinning “doesn’t he know cats aren’t supposed to like this?” “Don’t think he cares.” my husband replied. And it came to me. Who else intimidated people with his size, not his IQ, but was actually a gentle soul? Moose Mason of course, the football player from the pages of Archie comic books. And so our newest feline became Moose, the cat who acted more like a dog.
Charlie and Brindle-Lee honored the cat code of behavior while Moose liked to ignore it. The two of them curled up in fur circles to sleep; Moose stretched out full length on the floor. Aloof and self-sufficient, the older cats express affection when they see fit to dispense it and only when we hold them as they wished. Moose was always up for having his fur scritchled and it didn’t matter how he was held. At one point, I slung him over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry and toted him around the house. Moose was thrilled. Hanging right side up or upside down didn’t matter, having humans close to him did. He liked all humans, even strangers because Moose believed he was making new friends. When our roof was installed, Moose made friends with the crew, met them at work every morning and followed their cars up the road when they left. Other cats could be wary of people. Moosed believed treats and kindness were automatic gifts from humanity. That belief may have cost him his life.
Moose hadn’t shown up a couple of days when I went to work yesterday morning but I wasn’t overly concerned. Cats like to roam and there are about five women on the mountain who feed our roving clowder of strays so Moosie could always cadge a free meal. So my husband’s mid-morning phone call surprised me. “Moose came home” he said “and I’ve taken him to the vet.”
“What’s wrong?” I said. “Did he get in a fight? Has he been bitten?”
“No, but I think he may have been hit by a car.” My husband paused. “He came in and went right to the food dish but he’s carrying a back leg all wrong. I took him to the vet and they’ll x-ray him as soon as he can be sedated. They have to wait because he’s too full of food. They’ll call you with the report. It will probably be about four hours.”
That was a long four hours. When the vet called she was kind but concerned.
“Mrs. Golden, your cat has been shot. I’m seeing multiple fractures on both of his back legs and the wounds have become infected….”
“Oh God.” I whimpered. “That’s why he didn’t home when I called….”
“I’m afraid so” she said “And I don’t think he can recover, even if we do everything possible. And that would be very expensive.”
“I don’t care about expense.” My throat locked shut for a moment. “Is my Moosie in pain?”
“He isn’t right now, he’s under anesthetic. But he has been for awhile now and with his injuries…”
I gripped the phone. “Then please put him to sleep, Doctor. If you don’t think he can recover, please don’t let him hurt any more.”
She offered to keep him alive until we could get to her office and tell the sweet boy good-bye but what good would that do? Moosie’s last days had been terrible and a return to consciousness now would only reawaken his agony, even if we were there. I wouldn’t do that to our sweet boy. He had made the monumental journey back home and enjoyed one last massive meal in my husband’s company. I know my husband, the vet and her staff cared for him as gently as they could so his last hours at least held some sweetness. Maybe Moosie felt that kindness before he slipped away instead of the terror and pain that came from humans with guns. I hope so. He really was a warm, loving cat.
But we all deserve kindness, even those not so easy to love. I’ll try to remember that instead of looking for a black-and-white face that will never return. And I’ll try to remember each day is an adventure to be enjoyed and explored instead wished away because it’s not something else. I’ll remember that love is a gift, no matter how it’s offered and every stranger may be a new friend. It’s worth taking a chance to find out. Those are the Precepts of Moosie. Consider them Life Lessons from A Generous Cat.