Our kitty cat Oddball passed away Tuesday, June 8. She’d been diagnosed with kidney failure in early April. The doctor recommended daily subcutaneous fluid injections to prolong her life for a few months, so I learned quickly how to stick a needle in a cat. (That job took two people; my wife Beth, and later daughter Emily held kitty, while I did the deed.)
The injections worked very well for several weeks. Our first goal was to prolong Oddball’s life long enough for daughter Emily to return home from college and spend time with her. The major obstacle to that goal, other than her condition itself, was the fact that Oddball had lost a hind leg to cancer in 2005. The handicap had never hampered her--other than preventing her from jumping high, for instance, onto the kitchen counter--but now we feared that, if she lost too much strength, she’d not be able to walk. We really didn’t want to have to put her down, but the loss of the use of her back leg would’ve been the last straw.
It never came to that, fortunately. Oddball stayed pretty strong until the end of May. During her last week she became weak and, for some reason, spent most of the day in the master bathroom, so we brought her food and water in there. She liked lounging in her carrier, so I put that in the bathroom in case she’d like to rest there. Tuesday afternoon I went in to check on her. She shifted hard inside the carrier, so I sat down and stroked her fur. She took three big breaths, and that was all. Emily had cuddled her that morning before going to work, and my wife Beth had just checked on her just a few minutes before I did that afternoon, so we all felt glad that we’d cared for her up till the end and that she died at home.
Oddball was actually our daughter’s cat. Twelve years ago this month, seven-year-old Emily attended a Humane Society camp in Kentucky, where we lived at the time. She announced to us that we really loved this little two-year-old female tabby, already named Oddball. A few days later, we adopted her. In 2000, we moved to Ohio. The vet told us that cats “basically hibernate” during road trips--but this promise became a family joke, because Oddball was squirmy and restless for the two seven hour trip. We lived in Ohio for nine years, then we moved to St. Louis, so we had another road trip with an anxious cat. She did well, however, at the Red Roof Inn where we stopped at the halfway point.
Oddball was not usually anxious. In fact, she had a sweet, calm, and patient personality that vets and vet staff often commented on. She was also a pretty little cat, with a pleasant, oval face. She had a white spot on her stomach, which migrated slightly east but remained when her leg and hip were removed. “She’s the sweetest cat!” people always said. If I believed in reincarnation, I’d say she had achieved enlightenment and peace in a previous life. Her major “relapse” was when we got a second cat, Domino, in 2001. Oddball had come from a household with other cats, so we naively assumed she’d enjoy a buddy. Wrong! She resented the interloper and never really warmed up to him. He became ill in 2005 and we had to put him down, so Oddball returned to being the top cat.
Of course, with any pet that you’ve had for a long time, your mind fills with anecdotes. With cats, you think of a litany of hiding places, times when kitty disappeared so thoroughly you wondered if you had a cat at all, and examples of odd behavior (as in one of these pictures, where Oddball liked to lick soapduds from Emily's bathtub). You also think of the thousands of conversations, jokes, and words of encouragement (“Such a pretty cat, aww, yeah!”) you had over the years with a creature who, presumably, doesn’t understand English (except for recognizing and ignoring some commands). One of Oddballs starring roles was when Emily and a friend did a video for a middle school history class, and Oddball played a puma which attacked a group of Western settlers.
This past Saturday we adopted a new buddy, a tortoise-shell, five-year-old female kitty named Taz. She disappeared for several hours before we realized she was hiding up the chimney. After I closed the flue, however, she settled in and cuddles with us as if she’d lived here forever. In addition to opening a new chapter in our family life, it has helped us enormously to have a new kitty as we continue to reminisce about Oddball and compare the traits of these unique little creatures.