Today marks the sad occasion when we chose to have our cat, Toonces, put down, due to failing health and complications from old age.
Toonces was our cat for 16.3 years. She lived a good, long, pampered life. My aim here is to highlight her journey.
Toonces was the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself in eighth grade. I have always loved cats, and I had several from elementary school through junior high. Unfortunately, each one managed to meet their end either in a tragic way or in one case, simply disappearing, never to be seen again.
After losing our fourth cat, my parents decided they’d had enough. They refused to let me get another cat, and suffer more tragedy. I was upset, but I knew their minds were made up. At that time I vowed to myself that as soon as I finished school and moved out on my own, I would get another cat. That was sometime in the mid-90s.
Fast forward to 2002
Fresh out of college, I had moved to the tiny South Texas town of Beeville to take a job as the evening DJ at a country radio station. At that time I was determined to become a syndicated radio star eventually, and getting your start in an unrated market was the natural first step.
Living in my own apartment for the first time (2200 miles from home), I remembered my vow and realized I was now able to fill the ever-present longing in my heart for a kitten. However, I was hesitant to take on any additional expenses in light of my meager salary. I was indecisive about it, and not ready to make a move.
One sweltering hot Saturday afternoon (in other words, any old Saturday in South Texas), I was on my way home from a walk, when I came upon what I later referred to as the “ghetto roadside humane society.” A group of kind-hearted ladies had formed an organization with the intent of finding a home for every stray cat in town. They took them all under their wings, refusing to take them to the actual humane society, where they would likely get euthanized if they weren’t adopted.
They had lawn chairs by the road, with pop-up tents providing shade for a couple of open kennels full of kittens, and some older cats up for grabs to a good home. In my uncertain financial state, I planned to keep walking, but I thought to myself, “I could at least go take a look.” Famous last words.
The selection process
I had my heart set on a gray, frisky kitten, to replace the last one I had as a youth, that had gone missing after only a few weeks. I found a cute gray one, sitting in a box with several other kittens that were resting in the hot afternoon sun. My mind was almost made up, except for one thing. Frisky, high energy and gray were equal criteria in cat selection. The gray one was definitely not high energy, but she fit the bill for looks.
Sharing the box with her was an adorable fuzz ball with a black & gray head and back, with the rest of her body white. While the other kittens tried to nap, this one was stumbling about like eight-week-old kittens do, frolicking, and climbing over the sleepy cats as if to say in kitten-ese: “Hey guys, it’s time to play! What’s everyone sitting around for?? Hey, who wants to play? Hey!”
I knew I “needed” this cat, but was hung up on the gray one. The lady managing the kennel slyly suggested I could have both. I wasn’t even sure about one, let alone two. But she assured me they would pay for its shots, so I decided, what the hey, why not take both of them?
As a side note, I did take both, but they gray one turned out to have serious health problems (it sat motionless most of the time and would sit in the litter box without moving for long periods, so I gave it back to them after a week or so). I only mention it because she was part of the story.
That is how I ended up with Toonces. She was my roommate and faithful companion in those lonely months away from friends and family. My odd working hours and introverted tendencies provided me with only two hours of human interaction each day, with co-workers, before everyone in the office and studio left for the day, and I was alone doing my show until midnight.
I would return home to have her greet me at the door, meowing with happiness to see me. I was equally happy to see her cute face, but I left the meowing to her.
Next stages of life
When it was time to head back to the northwest, I packed up all my belongings into my 1983 Honda Civic hatchback and placed my beloved Toonces in her cat carrier perched where I could see her from my rear view mirror. As we made the multi-day journey home, through the hot southwestern United States in a small car without air-conditioning, though I was extremely uncomfortable as well, Toonces did enough whining for both of us.
Upon my return, I did the now standard boomerang move and reclaimed my childhood bedroom at my folks’ house while I worked on the next part of the plan. My parents wouldn’t allow Toonces in the house (something about ruined furniture I guess?), but my dad allowed her to stay in his workshop, where I would frequently go out to visit and let her run loose in the yard under supervision. It wasn’t an ideal dwelling, but I didn’t have many other options.
Eventually, I moved out to rent a room in someone’s home; another dwelling where the cat was not welcome to roam the house. Having no other choice, I turned her loose to become an outdoor cat by day, and in the evening I would bring her into my room, where she was allowed, as long as she was kept contained.
An upward trajectory
After having survived in conditions that she I am sure she felt were far beneath her queenly status, things took an upward swing. A move to an apartment with a couple cat-loving roommates (one being a cat whisperer) meant three times the affection and freedom to claim the whole living space. Finally, dwellings worthy of her royalty.
She thrived in this environment, got fat, remained sassy, and continually filled my heart with delight at her cuteness and friskiness.
As bachelorette living goes, things change often, and people get married. When the cat-whisperer roommate got hitched, it was time to move again. This time back to a rented room, where Toonces was confined to my bedroom when I wasn’t home, to avoid destroying the homeowner’s fancy furniture. Although it wasn’t ideal, it was at this stage in the game that a new dynamic changed everything.
Introducing … your future dad
In July 2009, I invited a handsome bachelor over for dinner. It is worth noting that over the years, Toonces developed highly anti-social tendencies. She would run and hide whenever someone unknown to her entered the house. So imagine my surprise when, this guy in whom I was extremely interested comes over and sits down in the kitchen, and Toonces heads straight for him, jumps on his lap and allows herself to be petted like he was her best friend. It was a sight to behold.
Their friendship became cemented from that point forward, as that handsome bachelor became my husband, and Toonces suddenly had a father. 🙂 Turns out that Mike is a cat-whisperer himself, and it quickly became clear that Toonces liked his doting ways even better than she seemed to like me!
Family of three
From 2010 on, it was nothing but luxurious living for Toonces. She had her own place, which she was kind enough to share with her mom and dad, and the transitions and woes of the unstable life behind her.
She remained a frisky cat until the last few years. We got endless amusement out of her fiercely batting around pens and bottle caps and tirelessly chasing the red dot from the laser pointer. She warmed our laps in the evening, retained an unquenchable need to be petted at all times, and looked and acted like a youthful cat for many years.
She had spells of acting naughty, some of which were very trying for mom, and later for dad. I suppose all pets do that. But overall, the joy, mirth, and cuteness she provided far outweighed the trouble she caused.
It was sad to see her slow down over the last year and troubling to see her health take a nosedive in the last few months. I shed many a tear thinking about the inevitable arrival of this day. Her symptoms of illness were adding up, and the full-of-life cat that we had known was replaced with a sickly, weak, shrinking, shell of a kitty with very little life or energy left in her. In the end, we knew it was time.
It was a very gut-wrenching decision to make. But I am convinced it was the right one. We had over 16 years of delight with Toonces; many more than I ever thought possible. She used up all of her nine lives with flair. In so doing, she brought untold joy to our lives. We’ll miss that cat something fierce.