Portrait of a cat as an old lady

My cat Tidbit is 16, the equivalent of 84 in people years. She’s a tuxedo cat, with fluffy black and white fur. Her back legs and front paws are white and the color stops so precisely that she looks like she’s been dipped in paint. She has white all the way from her chin down her stomach. She has one dab of black on the third toe of her left paw, and the pad underneath that pad is black, while all the other pads are pink. She sports an irregular white stripe down her nose, and her nostrils are half pink and half black. She has surprising, bright gold eyes.

My son Emile and I adopted her just before in late December of 2002. The night we brought her home, she developed explosive diarrhea, and I had to take her, along with Emile, to the pet emergency vet at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night in a snowstorm. I spent the next few days trying to feed her medicine through a syringe, which resulted in me covering myself in neon pink liquid while the cat cowered under the sofa. Welcome to our home, little cat!

Tidbit survived the experience and quickly became my cat. She’s always had a quiet personality — during the day I rarely saw her, because we also adopted a dog at the same time, and between the dog and the boy, our house was rowdier than she liked. Occasionally I would hear a squeak and look over to see that our boisterous puppy Oreo had her pinned to the ground. I would scold Oreo and she’d let go, then Tidibit would scamper away and hide until Oreo went to bed with Emile. After that, Tidbit would crawl out from behind the sofa, sit on my lap, and purr and purr, her little paws kneading my lap as she expressed her contentment.

When I went to sleep at night, she would jump on the bed and snug herself into the curl of my left arm. We would fall asleep together.

Like any self-respecting cat, she likes to get tangled up in some yarn. And she has a thing about blue flowers — she hates them. If I brought home a bouquet laced with statice, she would selectively pull it out and leave it to die on the dining room table. I once placed a bud vase full of violets on the table, only to find their desiccated corpses laid out in a neat circle around the vase the next morning. Sunflowers, tulips, roses — those all passed muster. But no blue flowers for her.

After we moved from a small townhouse into a home with a yard, Tidbit discovered that she liked the outdoors. She never developed the aggressive hunting instinct that our male cat Morceau had, but she liked to sit for hours in the backyard. She would gaze at the birds and squirrels and yearning, crackling mewls would emerge from her mouth. She would bring an occasional moth into the house, but mostly she enjoyed watching the wildlife and being outdoors.

Never an adventurous cat, her health was uneventful for years with one notable exception. In the spring of 2004, I noticed that she seemed to be congested, and finally one day, she began panting rapidly. Alarmed, I took her to the vet, who looked in her nose and said, “There’s something alive in there. Whatever it is, it’s breathing.”

Wait. What?

She gave Tidbit some medicine to knock her out for a few minutes and extracted the organism. She excitedly informed me that the culprit was a cuterebra, which commonly burrow under the skin of rabbits and then burst out of the skin as they hatch.

“I can’t wait to tell my family that your cat had one up its nose!” She said cheerfully. She put the creature in a test tube so we could take it home. It was larva-like and disgusting and for poor Tidbit, it had been the equivalent of having a walnut shoved up her nose.

“Do cuterebra do that to humans?” I asked. Fortunately she said “no,” or I would have had to burn the house to the ground and move 1,000 miles away.

My cat became famous after that. No matter which pet I brought into the clinic, the vet would proudly let everyone know that my cat was “the one who had the cuterebra up her nose.”

Tidbit survived the ordeal, but to this day she still snores a great deal as a result of her tribulation.

Tidbit is the last survivor of all the animals who lived with us in Arkansas. She now shares the house in Florida with our black lab, Shadow, who has been with us for a year.

She doesn’t see well or hear well, and she struggles to get up on the sofa or on our bed. She has thyroid disease, arthritis, anxiety and high blood pressure. I crush up several different medicines for her and stir them into stinky moist cat food to avoid having to try to give her medicine through a syringe as I did all those years ago.

But despite her ailments, she still enjoys sitting outside and listening to the birds, trees and rain, curling up next to me on the sofa and snugging up under my left arm at bedtime.

3 thoughts on “Portrait of a cat as an old lady

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  1. What a sweet old gal I couldn’t help but wonder if she would make it to California, but I’m sure she can count on you to do what’s best. Barbara

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