Leon was ten years and 1 month old when he died. It wasn’t the death I imagined or hoped for him. My last beloved cat was 19 at his end. Ten is too soon for a cat. At least he wasn’t hit by a car or mauled by an enemy creature. He had a bowel obstruction, was made deathly ill by blood poisoning, and was helped tenderly out of his misery by the veterinarian; an end to fatal suffering by request, a service much needed by humans.
I adopted Leon sort of by mistake. I went weekly to a pet adoption fair near my new home hoping, by peering into all the cages, to find the adult cat who would peer back with meaningful eye contact and it would be love at first sight. I didn’t have a sex or a color or a breed in mind but I was sure I wanted one adult cat. I was captivated by a tabby kitten with an apple face. As I held her up to assess her temperament the adoption volunteer said “You know, she has a brother who is her identical twin.”
So I ended up with not one adult cat but two very young kittens. I named them Leon, for Leon Redbone, and Bessie, for Bessie Smith. They had a musical blues heritage from the very beginning. Because they were very nearly identical I bought them collars of different colors so we could tell them apart. Leon was the one who would, reluctantly, wear his. At least one collar was necessary. In the dark, in bed, we could reach back and feel which one of them was standing on my hair and keeping me awake purring loudly and could scold him or her by name .
Of the two, Leon was the most trouble. He was the one who would run outdoors if the open door were not carefully guarded. Two injury producing tangles with a neighborhood stray never persuaded him this was an unwise choice. Any openable door, like the screen door able to be head butted open, had to be guarded until the day he became sick. He also never used his box for anything but peeing. Despite unpleasant scents applied to the floor, sticky tape, aluminum foil, corrugated rug underlayment, and a few more tricks suggested by cat experts (even a psychic), he would poop where he willed, look guilty, and then continue to do it the next day. Eventually he settled on right next to one of the three cat boxes in my working office (not my counseling office!) Fortunately, what he left was easy enough to pick up with a tissue and dispose of in the toilet. In this ten year battle of wills, he won hands down.
About that psychic: six months into Leon’s residence here I was at my wit’s end trying to get him box trained. I used everything my vet suggested, everything I read about online, and every trick I mentioned above. When a friend suggested I use a phone-in cat psychic with whom she had great success I shrugged my shoulders and dialed the number she gave me.
As soon as I got her on the line, Leon oddly jumped onto my desk and put his face to the phone receiver. (Remember those things that sit on one’s desk and are attached to the wall with a cord? I still use one.) The psychic spoke to Leon and he seemed to listen for a minute or so and then jumped off my desk. She then asked me to put Bessie on the phone and after a few seconds I returned to the line. The psychic reported that Leon said, mentally, he just wasn’t trained to a box by his mother and he didn’t want to start now. Bessie adamantly refuted that, I was told, and insisted that their mother trained them properly in the only few weeks they were with her. Leon was not only being stubborn about using the box, he was also a liar!
In any case Leon had a pretty good ten years – sometimes cuddling and sometimes tussling with his sister, always very well fed. (He weighed almost 18 lbs. at the end) and always getting pets and strokes from my partner, me, and any visiting cat lover. He was quite sociable. He ate when he wanted, pooped where he would, and got loved a lot. Other than being an indoor cat for his own good, could a cat have a better life?
Go in peace, Leon. You will be remembered with affection.