Missy, our diminutive Calico cat, came to us at a Christmas parade in 1990. With boys in tow, 2 and 3 at the time, we parked in the Safeway lot that fine day in December, rationalizing our spot with the need to buy disposable diapers for our youngest.
Across the street from Safeway, on the southwest corner, two children came by with two adorable kittens, free to a good home. My friend, Sharon, who joined us to watch the parade, said, “I know you’ve been wanting a cat.”
And so, we became Calico Missy’s people. Free she was; her partner, a black-and-white beauty, also free. She draped herself over my shoulder very willingly, clearly socialized, until the parade ended.
We bought diapers, a litter pan, litter, and cat food. Soon our home included a cat door, for our tiny Missy proved to be an indoor-outdoor cat, and very adventurous. She spent a fair amount of time on the tile roof of our then-home, sometimes being dislodged from her sunning spots by balls lofted from below by her boy children.
She ventured across the street at will, dodging turning wheels. She managed to avoid the predators, coyotes and bigger cats that roamed the neighborhood. She navigated the back yard via the slumpstone fence, taunting our Australian-Shepherd-mix dogs, Chuck and Di. She became accustomed to a bowl of dry food available at any time, supplemented by a morning feeding from a cat food can.
Missy was a reliable alarm clock. Shut in the laundry room for the night, her paw reached out under the interior door to shred the hall carpet as she yowled in anticipation of the morning treat. It seemed logical to feed her in the morning – we had to get up, get the kids up, get going, get to work. We would live to rue this training.
At 10 years old, we uprooted Missy and moved with her to a 4-acre property west of town, where we welcomed Gram to share our home. Gram was allergic to cats, and it seemed that she and Missy reached an accord. Missy didn’t venture into Gram’s bed-sit. Gram spoke courteously to Missy, but declined to give pets. It worked.
It was some years after the move that Missy deigned to venture outside again. We had to encourage her vigorously (read: stuff her through the cat door) to use the newly installed cat door. Eventually she came to enjoy investigating the sandy precincts of the back yard, rolling from side to side, rubbing her hide against the scratchy surface, luxuriating in the sunshine. She never ventured far from the house unless we were with her.
Those of you who know us know that we left Missy with caretakers for long period of time. This never seemed to bother her – regular meals were welcomed. But some 5 years ago she began to have grand mal seizures. These were terrifying, and not just for her. We learned to keep her from harming herself. And she seemed to spontaneously recover within 24 hours.
Two years ago, she had an adverse reaction to some routine vaccinations. We discussed this with our vet, and agreed to opt out. About a year ago, she refused dry food. Perhaps a teeth cleaning would have helped, but we decided to forgo the general anesthetic.
For the last year, she has eaten only canned food. About three months ago, she lost the ability to groom herself. Always a fastidious cat, this was the first sign of her decline. For the last 10 days, she has subsisted on pain medication, some special cat food from the vet, and water drained from canned tuna.
This last weekend, the boys gathered with us to say goodbye. They dug a deep hole in the back yard for her grave. We perused all our gato pictures, ate comfort food for dinner, and drank a fine sparkling wine in her memory.
Today, we asked our vet put Missy to sleep. She had a fine last day, enjoying licking up tuna water, exploring the back yard, and doing a bit of lap sitting. The end was peaceful for the cat, wrenching for us, but merciful for all.