jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
[personal profile] jazzfish
I've been expecting to write this post for, what, four years now? It's somehow not gotten any easier in the meantime.

When Emily and I moved in together in summer 1999 we decided we wanted a cat. So that fall we went down to the SPCA to adopt one, and fell in love with a cute white kitten. That didn't work out; the SPCA very reasonably weren't willing to adopt to two college students who lived in an apartment whose lease didn't allow cats. (I got Emily a small white stuffed-animal cat to make up for it.)

But Big-Jay's roommate Bert had a cat who'd just had white kittens (on Jay's bed, as I recall), and he said we were welcome to one of them. So shortly after the start of 2000 we brought home The Crawling Chaos That Is Nyarlathotep, and he was the Best Cat.

You'd think that naming a cat "Chaos" would be asking for trouble but he was pretty laid-back, for the most part. The archetypal Chaos story is of Emily yelling at him from the back bedroom to get off the counter, because he wasn't sneaky enough to avoid stepping on the answering machine. Crinkling grocery bags terrified him, unless they were left on the floor for him to explore at his leisure. He had white fur and blue eyes (I think the first thing Erin said was "That cat has the most amazing eyes"), and wasn't deaf, which I'm told is rare. He got along fine with other cats, first Joe's Spotless (who wasn't) and later our own Kai, and then Lisa's very very old Atticus.

He was Not Fond of things above him. When we moved into the apartment with a ceiling fan he got freaked out and hid under the bed for several days. I believe the only time he escaped into the outside world, we found him huddled against the edge of the townhouses, because the sky was scary. He liked hanging out on porches and patios as long as there were people there.

In general, he liked people. Kai was the shy cat who didn't like noise or crowds but would come out to see who was there if folks were sitting and talking quietly. Chaos just loved everyone. If there were noises in the hall outside he'd go to check the door, to see who was coming to pet him. He almost never got enough attention. I say "almost never" because when Keira stayed with us for a few weeks, she managed to pet him enough that he got confused: this is all the petting I want! But there is petting and that is good! But this is all the petting I want! Etc.

He also liked eating. Once Lisa left the garage door open, and he got out and chewed a hole in a twenty-five-pound bag of cat food. We had no idea where he was, until Emily called him in for dinner and he came waddling in in search of his scheduled cat-crunchies. He spent much of his first decade a little overweight, between twelve and fourteen pounds.

In 2011 we moved cross-continent by train and left the cats at my parents' place for a couple of weeks, until we could get settled in. Then we got a couple of friends to drug the cats and fly them out here. Chaos especially did not take well to being shoved in a carrier for multiple hours but he forgave us (and them) pretty quickly.

He was stubborn, mostly. If there was something he wanted to do then he was going to do it, and if there was something he didn't want to do then no amount of coaxing or force short of hurting him would get him to do it. When I was working from home and taking afternoon naps on the couch in the summer, he got in the habit of sleeping on my chest. This became problematic when Emily was the one more often at home, and he kept insisting that she needed to lie down so he could properly sit on her.



Shortly after we moved out here his back legs started giving him trouble. He stopped jumping up on the bed, and then mostly stopped jumping straight up on the couch if the slightly-shorter ottoman or coffee table were clear. I didn't think much of it; he was well over ten years old at the time. I figured he'd just carry on.

Then he developed a heart murmur in 2013, which was the first big scare. A year later he got his thyroid nuked, which made things interesting. The most notable change was that he forgot how to meow. He'd open his mouth into a meow-shape and at the end of it a tiny squeak would come out.

That was also when his stomach got super-delicate, and he started throwing up on occasion. Sometimes it was actual cat food. Sometimes it was just foamy-white spit-up. Luckily he's a fastidious cat who hates making messes. We realised pretty quickly that he'd start yowling "Yow-owwl-oww" about a minute before throwing up, which was plenty of time to grab him and get him over the kitchen sink.

After that there was the bad tooth that had to be pulled, and then the diabetes scare, where we had to give him insulin shots for six months or so, and then he went on gabapentin for his arthritis. That, coupled with moving to an apartment that didn't get nearly so cold, helped a lot. He really liked it here. He spent less time camped out on the heated cat bed and more time climbing up onto people. He batted around the wire-toy that for ages had been the only toy he'd play with. We could even get rid of the stepstool box that we'd had for him to climb onto the coffee table the last couple of years.

We'd been planning to go to the beach with the Arlington Board Gamers this week, but Emily's work interfered. Instead I went up north to spend the week with Erin. Emily mentioned on Thursday that Chaos wasn't eating much. This isn't completely uncommon, neither of them are entirely convinced that wet food is Food and they sometimes don't eat much one day and then chow down the next. She was worried enough to make a vet appointment for him on Saturday.

Friday evening she sent me a picture of both of them curled up in her lap. That was followed quickly by "Chaos is having trouble breathing, I'm taking him to the emergency vet." And, well. Lots of fluid in his lungs, apparently caused by heart failure. We talked that evening and decided not to keep him around in pain just for me to say goodbye, and a little before eleven he was gone. I caught a flight back a day early, in the hopes that he'd still be around, or more likely (knowing this cat) had just decided to give us a really bad scare. So I'm here now at least.



I don't have a whole lot of experience with grief. I've not lost any contemporaries that I've been particularly close to. When my grandparents died I was surrounded by family, who are about the least safe people I can think of. (I believe it was at my granddad Taylor's deathbed that my mother gestured around me at the other Taylors etc being mutually supportive and said "This is what family is," and I though "Ah, family is a thing I'm not a part of.") My uncle Jim's death came literally right in the middle of the worst February in memory, at a time when everything bad seemed to happen in February.

Kai misses him, a lot. She dislikes changes to her routine and her routine definitely involved curling up with Chaos several times a day. Last night she wandered around meowing for an hour or more.

On the other hand, she's taken over the duty of sitting with whoever's on the couch whenever anyone's there. She is the Best Kitten.

For me it comes and goes. The hardest part so far has been feeding the cats Kai this morning and only making one bowl of food.

Emily brought home his collar and tag, and some cat fur that she needle-felted into a heart. (We tried this once before, with shed fur from both of them, but the moths got into them.) That was pretty rough, as well.

I expect I'll be picking white cat hairs off my clothing for years.

I miss him, a lot.
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jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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