A 14-year-old cat

Min and Chet

Tomorrow, March 15, is the 14th birthday of my cat, Min, as well as Chet, who sadly left us in December. Sunday will mark three months since Chet was put to sleep following his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer—I didn’t realize at the time that he was exactly 13 years and three quarters old, but in my defence I had other things on my mind.

Chet and Min were born in a cat-rescue shelter in Elmira, Ontario. They joined me while I was still in university and sharing an apartment with my friend, Mike. I don’t remember how or why I decided to get a cat, but my girlfriend thought that it would be better to have two (so that they would have companionship). One cat would belong to me and one to her, but they would both live at the apartment with Mike and me.

There were three kittens still available when we visited the shelter, and the third one, Artie, was adopted by a friend of mine. Unfortunately, Artie had health problems as a kitten, and didn’t live for very long.

Min and Chet as Kittens

When we arrived to see the cats, Min immediately climbed into my girlfriend’s lap and cozied up to her. I let my friend choose Artie, and Chet was mine by default. That sounds cold and unfeeling, but let’s remember that we were talking about kittens. I was overjoyed to have any of the three.

Chet was a bit sick when we got him, and right from the start Min seemed to take care of him. As they established their personalities, it became clear that Chet was the goofy one who wanted to please everyone, while Min was more classy and serious. You could play with Chet and he’d rarely scratch you, but the only way Min knew how to play was with her claws out (unfortunately, that’s still the case).

Being the quirky character of the family, Chet almost always got more attention than Min. And as he always seemed to have some sort of health problem, he required more attention than Min. But she seemed okay with it, for the most part. Min was always content to have a nice lap to settle into.

Our first year was eventful. There was the time when I wondered aloud how Chet had gotten so overweight that he appeared to have triple chins. Mike expressed similar surprise, seeing as he was only feeding the cats twice a day…which surprised me, because I was also feeding them twice a day. It turned out that the cats had figured out how to take advantage of our differing schedules. Mike would wake up early to go to work and feed the meowing kittens. I would wake a couple hours later to go to school, and feed the meowing kittens. Then I’d come back home in the afternoon and feed the meowing kittens, after which Mike would come home from work and feed the meowing kittens. So, yeah. We were feeding them twice as much food as they should have had (if not more), and the kittens had become very, very fat and happy.

There was the time when Mike heard me scream and came running to see what happened. I had been washing my face, and as I leaned over the sink Min decided to jump from the bathtub onto me so that, she could look in the mirror. And of course, once she got up there she got her grip by sinking her claws deep into my back. My poor, shirtless back. It was excruciating, but I knew that if I attempted to stand up straight then it would get even worse. As I hunched over the sink, Mike came around the corner, assessed the situation…and broke down laughing. And I’ll give…it would have been pretty funny. Eventually he got a grip and detached Min from me.

Chet and the Candle

And, there was the time when Chet got fascinated by a giant candle on my desk, and wanted very badly to touch the bright, warm light. He would sit there staring at it for awhile, and then slowly reach out a paw before thinking better of it. One day, he finally went for it. Stuck out his paw, got close, and then dipped his toes into the wax. Clearly he wasn’t expecting it to be hot, because he shot out of the room as fast as he could, simultaneously flinging melted wax on my schoolbooks, my computer, and me. But the little guy was okay, and he never again tried to touch a candle.

Of course, Min didn’t have to touch the candle to figure out that it was a bad idea. That was always the difference between them.

I miss Chet, but I’ve lost the sense of what it was like having him around as his old energetic self. And in truth, some things are just easier nowadays. Chet was always the hungry one, and if you moved in the general direction of his feeding bowl, he jumped up in the hope that there would be a treat (even if he had never seen you before). He was also something of a flight risk, as he so badly wanted to be an outdoor cat. Whenever the door opened, he’d walk toward it like it was no big deal, and then make a run for it the moment you let your guard down. Of course, then he wouldn’t know what to do with himself, so he’d just wander around aimlessly until you picked him up.

With Min, I don’t have to worry about these things. She’ll go outside if the opportunity presents itself, but I can bring groceries into the house without having to play goal at the same time. And while she likes to eat, she’s not nearly as persistent as Chet was.

I worried that Min would be lonely after Chet passed away, since she had never been apart from him for more than a few hours. But I also suspected that she had been preparing herself for months, and this turned out to be true. I think she likes being the only cat in the house, and not having to share the spotlight. She seems content…as much as you can ever tell with a cat…and has become aggressively affectionate over the past few months.

I’m glad she’s with me, and I’ll enjoy her company for as long as we have together.