Friday, May 13, 2016

There's a Cat-Shaped Hole in My Heart: In Memoriam of Monty

I'm not sure whether it's fitting or macabre that we chose Friday the 13th to put a black cat to sleep. I recently read online that black cats are the hardest for shelters to find homes for, and they have the highest euthanasia rate. Truth be told, 17 years and 3 months ago when I headed to the pet store in search of a kitten, I wasn't looking for a black cat either. Superstition would have swayed me to another option.

But I had only three black kittens to choose from and when one clung to me like his life depended on me, I had to take him home.

It seems silly that a housecat could turn out to be a pillar of my existence for nearly half my life, but that's exactly what happened.

I bought Monty when I was trudging through my fifth year of college, and had just reconciled with my boyfriend after a breakup. Knowing that another breakup was probably inevitable, I decided it would be wise for me to get a pet.

Cats were easy. Low maintenance. And familiar because I'd grown up with them. So I brought Monty into my 450-square-foot studio and never looked back.

I had no idea at the time that I'd end up spending tens of thousands of dollars on him throughout his life. And I had no idea he'd end up repaying me in tens of thousands of hours of joy.

He was a funny baby—I remember him running up the back of my jeans and perching himself on my butt like I was his chauffeur. He used to steal q-tips from me and flip and twirl them around on the carpet like a miniature baton thrower. At night, he'd curl up on my pillow and nuzzle in my hair then ever so gently close his little kitten teeth around my earlobe—chomp.

Cuteness aside, he quickly became my companion and the one dependable man in my life (other than family) throughout my single years. He cuddled with me when I lay crying on the floor after ending love affair after love affair in my 20s. He napped on the couch with me when I was home sick with the flu. He rested against me when I'd camp out in front of my wall heater on cold days, reading the latest Harry Potter book.

No matter what was going on in my life—how bad work was, how sad I was about being single, how little money I had in my bank account—I knew I could always come home to him and find comfort and unconditional love.

We also worked out a great deal when it came to my dating life. Monty was an alpha and he put each and every one of my prospects through an aggressive vetting process. Even after Mr. W and I moved in together, there were occasional challenges about who was in charge and who would take up the most room on the couch. He knew he was my main man and he wasn't just going to step aside for anyone.

Initially, Mr. W was suspect of my chubby little bodyguard. He was allergic to Monty and not very eager to spark up a friendship. But Monty won him over.

Pretty much everyone he met, he won over. One of my girlfriends once said, "It's like you own a living version of Garfield." He was fat. He was funny. He was smart. He was kind of irresistible.

He would snuggle his face in your leather shoes and talk back when you talked to him. You couldn't help but find him charming.

Two and a half years ago, he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, and not being able to let him suffer or leave me yet, I took on the painful task of administering subcutaneous fluids to him every other day to keep him hydrated as his kidney function slowly shut down. His needs quickly shifted to every day treatment, and eventually to fluids twice a day—IV bag, needle, the whole shebang. On top of it, he developed diabetes, so he had to get insulin shots with breakfast and dinner as well.

But he was used to fighting. He'd almost died from a liver condition and something that seemed to be pancreatitis in his younger years—even had to be syringe-fed through a feeding tube in his neck twice.

The cat had about 90 lives to the usual nine.

We are so fortunate that he decided to stay with us as long as he did, particularly because we really wanted him to enjoy his golden years in Santa Ynez. And I think he did enjoy them. He loved laying in the sun patches that would come in through the sliding glass doors. On cold days when we used the oven, he would stretch out on the tile in front of it, soaking up the heat. He loved hanging out in the kitchen when we were making dinner. He'd listen to whatever was cranking on the iPod and beg for scraps of food.  

Despite being in not so great physical shape, I think these last few years were pretty good for him. And although it's awesome he survived so through so much and lived such a long, fat, happy life, it was completely heartbreaking to say goodbye to him today.

There will never be another like my Montrose P. Maris.

He was the kitty king.