Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sister and Moshe: a phase of our lives ends

For many years now, we have had three cats in our house: Sister Itsakat (aka, Dinosaur Kitty), Moshe Jacobawitz (aka, Baby Seal Cat) and Mica (aka, Kangaroo Cat). Now, sadly, there is just one survivor: Mica.

Back in August, we put Moshe to sleep. He had diabetes and we have long sworn that we would not become caretakers (and, frankly, financiers) for deathly ill kitties. [Note: I wrote this originally in March 2008. Moshe then managed to live till the end of July, far longer than expected. We finally had to euthanize him, because he had lost half his body weight and we had to leave for an extended holiday. The vet clearly felt that we had already waited too long and he had likely been suffering. We felt bad.]

Sister died last year, just kind of stopped eating and then stopped breathing, once her thyroid medicine had no discernible impact.

They were both about fourteen years old at time of death.

Even though Mica is left, she is a rather late arrival to our home, having rescued her some five years ago from the home of our older son, Chris. A rescue was necessary because Mica was born with only three functioning legs and lots of internal organ abnormalities. Extensive surgery kept her alive, but the other two, big, black, aggressive cats in Chris' home made her life a bit uncomfortable.

Here's a picture of Mica.

So we took in Mica, but Sister and Moshe had been with us since Eli was seven, just after we moved into our Rogers Park home, and they were a part of our lives for a long, long time - and almost all of Eli's growing up.

And so I thought I would pay homage to Sister and Moshe.

Sister showed up one day in our backyard, just wandered in, almost certainly looking for food. She was a beautiful gray cat and she was impossibly skinny. Must have run away from her home or gotten lost, and didn't really have the hunting skills necessary to live on mice and rats outdoors.

Eli was obsessed with dinosaurs in those days. He put together dinosaur skeletons from kits, read magazines about dinosaurs, and so on.

Sister was so skinny that when Eli saw her, he said: "Mom, that cat looks like a dinosaur!" because her bones were stuck out so sharply.

Veva had some leftover salmon in the refrigerator. They fed it to the starving cat and she decided that there was no reason to leave our backyard. We took her in and Chris named her "Sister Itsacat."

She was always something of a standoffish kitty. She couldn't handle being brushed at all- I don't know if she was the victim of some abuse or maybe her skin was just too sensitive. Her fur was certainly very fine and soft. But she liked to be petted and was very willing to be held. She would just melt over your arms or shoulders. Here's a nice picture of her. And another.

Moshe, well, he was a very different sort of cat.

Soon after moving to Rogers Park, we started spending time at the Nature Center, a small enclave of a park surrounded by residential neighborhoods, a senior citizens home (actually a large complex of building), a university, and a cemetery. We volunteered there, helping to maintain the trails, and visited for holiday celebrations. The Center itself boasted a small "zoo" of sorts, with a variety of animals found on the property (and usually in need of some medical assistance). It was a wonderful place to be able to take a young boy, growing up in an urban environment like Chicago.

One day when we visited, we found that there were several brand new kittens in the Center. Their mother was a feral cat at the park and rather than have a small gaggle of wild cats growing on the property, they decided to find homes for the kittens. Moshe was one of those kittens.

When we first took him home, he was so small, he could sleep curled up inside Veva's slipper. He was tiny. But it was clear from the very start that he had no intention of staying that way. Sister had a fine appetite, but she didn't act as if eating was the most important activity of her life.

Moshe, on the other hand, was so enthusiastic about eating that he would mush his face into the bowl of food, chomp chomp chomp, and come away with food shmushed all over his face. His enthusiasm quickly paid off. He got big and he got fat.

And he was definitely the Alpha Male of the house, to which this photo can attest.

Yet he always remained at heart a kitten. Even when he clearly tired and arthritic, when getting up and down stairs was clearly painful for him, if I took out a string and dangled it in front of him, he would push himself up and go after that string. I could even get him to chasing his tool (well, when he was young, he really did chase his own tail, but when he was older, he chased the string around and around in a circle).

Moshe would have loved to play with Sister, but she was never the least bit interested in playing with him. In fact, she was very upset when we brought him home. She was never excited about sharing her home, and her salmon, with other cats.

Mica was definitely interested in playing with Moshe, but by then he was a good bit older and it was never clear if he liked playing with her or simply tolerated her. She was (is) much more lively, even with only three legs to hop around on. Plus, we removed both Moshe's and Sister's front claws, but didn't have the heart to do the same thing to Mica. She really only has just one weird claw on one paw.

So Mica would dance around Moshe, taunting him, poking her claw out, and finally Moshe would respond, and they would engage in a short dance. The dance would usually end by Moshe falling over onto Mica. Not much she could do about that, being about 1/4 of his body weight.

So...why, you be wondering, did Veva call Moshe the "Baby Seal Cat"? Because he had this endearing habit of lying on the floor and pulling his front legs up so that looked like a seal.

Moshe really enjoyed life. He enjoyed eating. He enjoyed sleeping. He enjoyed bullying the other cats, especially when it came to food. He like being vacuumed and was very well behaved generally whenever we needed to do anything to him (give him medicine, wash him, etc.). He loved to go out to the backyard and hang out in the sun. And if he somehow made it out of the yard, he never ventured far. This home was all he knew and it fit him just fine.

Sister had a taste of the world beyond our yard and if she got out, she could certainly end up at least several houses away. She was good at chasing down rats and mice, even without front claws. We finally erected an eight foot privacy fence around our house so we could let the cats out into the backyard and they would likely stay in the yard, though Sister would occasionally still find her way out.

Mica was totally a house cat; we could barely even get her to step out the side door and experience the wind on her face. That made her a very smart cat, since she would have been pretty much helpless in the face of the most mild of predators.

Our cats enriched our lives, but also made Veva and Eli perpetually at least a little bit miserable, since they were both allergic to cat dander. now that Sister and Moshe have died, and Mica has moved on to a new home, our house is pet free and pet dander free (well, mostly), but also a bit empty feeling.

Maybe someday we will bring a hypoallergenic animal into our lives. But for now....we will be pet-less.

You can find all my photos of our pets here:

And this is a nice one of Moshe and Sister together:

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