Today I held my 22 year old Siamese cat, Hobbes as he passed over the Rainbow Bridge. My heart is broken and tears fall freely and frequently.
Twenty-two years is a hugely long time for a cat to live. For the past two years, every day has been a gift as I’ve watched him lose weight, stop grooming and talk more as old kitties are apt to do.
I remember the day we caught him. Yeah, caught. We lived in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania at the time. The woman we’d purchased a Siamese from a few years prior, decided she was done breeding cats and just opened up all their cages and set them free. She had the most beautiful barn cats: Persians, Himalayans, Siamese of all types.
We came to her farm decidedly unprepared for the two hours it would take us to herd (insert *chuckle* here) whatever kitten we could into a corner of the barn. The owner of the farm said we could keep whatever we could catch. That should have been a clue. An obviously loud one. We ended up trapping a flame-point female, who we released, and this cute little, wide-eyed, terrified male lynx-point siamese, in a bird cage. See, I told you we were unprepared.
The drive home was uneventful. This little kitten was too petrified to do anything but cower at the bottom of the cage. Linda decided to name him Hobbes. He was supposed to be her cat because her other Siamese had an unfortunate accident in the road.
When we got home, we set the cage on the kitchen table. I prepared a dog crate for him to live in for a while. He was wild don’t forget. As I was putting the litter box and towels in, I heard Linda scream. I looked back and saw her holding her hand and caught a glimpse of a tan colored blur as it high-tailed it out of there. Apparently when she’d reached in to pick him up, Hobbes grabbed and bit her thumb at the base of her nail and right through the cuticle. Hence Linda became known as the kitty ogre.
While Linda doctored her finger, I managed to catch the little one pound ball of fur and fang, and deposited him in the crate. I spent the next week or so sitting next to him after work. I’d talk to him and tried to entice him to play. We bonded. He became my cat.
We started letting him loose in the house and all went well. But he’d developed this annoying habit of hooking our fingers with a sharp claw, and wait to see what we’d do…almost like an “I dare you'” We’d never had a cat declawed before. As a matter of fact we are both against it. But this became a game of survival. We debated about it right until the day he was supposed to get neutered. I was at work and so Linda was charged with catching him and taking him to the vet. We had a cardboard carrier we’d used to transport our other cats from place to place, why would this be a problem?
Linda sustained many scratches, but she managed to catch Hobbes and quickly put him in the box. And in about 4.5 seconds he’d clawed his way out and escaped. She went next door and borrowed an airline pet carrier from our neighbor. Many more scratches, some bleeding profusely, she caught him and drove to the vet. The receptionist took one look at her arms and asked, “are we declawing today?”
The next day Linda showed up at the clinic to pick him up. A different receptionist asked her what animal she was there for. Linda replied, “Hobbes, the vicious Siamese.” At which the woman said, “oh, he’s such a nice little kitten.” Linda looked at her and said, “It’s obvious you’ve declawed the wrong cat.”
Fast forward six months. Hobbes and I were quite close. He’d crawl up to my chest and very gently pat my cheek with his paw and look lovingly into my eyes and lick my nose. As you would imagine, his entire facial expression changed when he laid eyes on Linda. While he didn’t hiss, he sure was thinking about it.
He was still quite shy around people he didn’t know. If I was the only one home, he’d be out and about. But enter one stranger and the boy was nowhere to be found. For several years our friends didn’t believe we had a house cat because they never saw him.
When we moved from PA to Michigan, Hobbes’ entire personality changed. He was no longer flighty and actually stuck around when we had company over. He was nearly sociable….nearly.
The years went by. My chest was a favorite dozing area…I guess because it was close to my face and he could pet me. He slept with us at night, always on me of course. He did well when we moved to NY for six years and as well when we picked up the household and moved back to Michigan.
Two weeks ago he became frantic to eat. I knew he was too old to gain any weight and feared it was a surge, his body’s last attempt at survival.
Today I held him as he took his last breath on this earth. He knew I loved him. He was my buddy. The house is very quiet without his Siamese yowls. My lap is unusually empty. But he’s free of the ancient body that enclosed his beautiful soul.
I look forward to seeing him again someday, amongst all our other beloved beasties that claimed pieces of my heart.
If you’ve never given your heart to an animal, you may someday find you’ve missed it. While their lives are often too short, they love infinitely. I’d like to think that once their mortal hearts still, their soul collects and absorbs all the remaining love and compassion to give to us as a welcome gift when they greet us at the gates.