She walked in through the front door and helped herself to pizza.
It was, after all, just sitting there invitingly. All warm and cheesy, flipped open on the coffee table waiting for the Friday night after work sofa plop.
(Back track: 12 year-old Talli’s kidney issues had taken their final toll. I chose not to take that ride with him to the veterinarian’s office two blocks away. I said my goodbye’s and handed him to my husband, happy to hold onto my memories.
A short time later, my husband was home, asking if I wanted another cat. Talli was such a lover, a hugger, a good one. We were beginning the search for a non-rented home, planning to be married, working full-time jobs, selling at craft shows, budgeting. Partly too heartbroken, partly too logical, I said, “No.” We donated Talli’s food, waterer, feeder, and an unused bag of litter; tossed the litter box, used toys and collar.)
We picked up our traditional Friday night fare of pizza, and soup. Jeff always had soup with pizza. He set up dinner as I ran upstairs to change. He stepped outside to get the forgotten soup out of the car.
Just as he came back in the door, I came down the stairs. We met at the juncture and stared. There was a furry black lump the middle of the pie, licking its way to a full tummy. Green eyes barely glanced up at us. We glance at each other, laughed, which startled the cat under the couch. We couldn’t leave it there, so Jeff crouched calling, “Here, Fred. Here, Fred!” Fred jumped into his arms, and casually sat there are we decided what to do.
I put on my coat, picked up the saucy kitten, and went trudging through the snow door to door asking anyone who answered my knock, “Is this your kitten?” A few folks confessed to feeding it once in a while, although it mostly fed from the dumpster. Someone had tried a few times to catch the stray to take it to a shelter, but did not succeed.
Within a half-hour it was clear no one wanted to take ownership, and we weren’t going to send it back out in the freezing snow. So, we put the toilet seat down, secured the downstairs half-bath door closed; threw out the pizza, and headed to Pamida.
Another half-hour later, we had all the makings of cat accommodations; litter box, litter, food, treats, collar, toys, waterer, feeder and a new addition to our lives.
It was another week before Fred was able to make it to a Saturday health check. How my farm-knowledged husband mistook Fred for a Fred remains a mystery. Despite well-meaning recommendations of alternate names like Fredericka and Francine, she remained Fred. Although, to avoid confusion, her fill-in form name was always listed as Miss Fred, and amusingly explained as Miss Fred the Misread Cat.
She disappeared once – on the day Jeff’s mom died. I hysterically surmised she must have jumped into a half-packed moving box, fallen soundly asleep and been accidentally sealed up inside. He rationally believed she must have run out an open door unnoticed. He was right. One night later he heard her distinctive pigeon-mew, and opened the door.
Freddie wasn’t at all like Talli. She disliked being held, had an anti-purr dove coo, didn’t care to play, but loved her catnip. She tolerated our new baby Jack Russell to an extent. She would sit under the rocking chair and slap Sadie’s puppy nose as she ran by in pursuit of a ball. We always thought we could easily make $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos, but Freddie never cooperated when the camera was rolling.
At 11 years old, she seemed bored, slept a lot and was getting chubby. A friend of mine rescued an adorable stray. I checked with a vet and was told as long as the new kitten was a boy, we should all be fine. Three years into being a two-cat household, H. Blu was still willing to be friends, and Freddie was still not.
When we moved into the condo this past March, the frequency of Fred’s 3 AM “I’m-not-amused, I-don’t-like-you, I-don’t-want-to-play-with-you-and-never-will” zombie wailing lessened, but never went away. Mid-April, her voice changed a little, she began losing weight, and making funny sounds when she swallowed.
Two and half a months of vet visits, decongestants, antibiotics, and steroids only slightly slowed down the tumor making its way from her ear canal down her throat. Her dry food became painful to swallow, so I fed her tuna and chopped pork. When she stopped eating soft foods, I created tuna water and offered milk.
After two separate veterinary recommendations, I made an appointment at a specialty clinic for Wednesday. The information on their website almost talked me out of it siting statistic such as 92% of feline nasal tumors are malignant, and extended survival after treatment is an average of 382 days.
Sunday night, she refused both cold liquid dinners, so I warmed up some beef broth. She worked at it a while, and maybe got 2 tablespoons down. Monday morning, we woke up together as the alarm went off. I went through 3 snooze cycles just enjoying her company, even though she could only get one eye open, and was trying to purr but couldn’t. I phoned the vet again.
This morning, at 14 years old and 9:00 AM, I opened a can of Hunt’s Garlic and Cheese Tomato Sauce, spooned some into her milk dish, and set it down with a prayer. She didn’t understand, because she couldn’t smell it. I scooped a bit on my finger and touched her mouth. She didn’t hesitate a second, and when that finger was clean, I scooped another bit, and another. Her feasting sounded painful to me, but she kept going, and kept her nose pressed to my finger between extra-long breaths.
When she had enough, I sat with her for a while then scooped her up. She didn’t resist or complain, and for once went quietly into the carrier. I missed this part with Talli.
It was better and worse than I imagined; sad and painful, but only for me. Miss Fred went quietly through another open door, and I went home without her.
I doubt pizza is a staple in cat heaven, but I’m sure Jeff will find a way to get it for her.
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