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In Kitty

In early September, 2000, my daughter Nikki came home one evening while I was watching TV, carrying a cardboard box. “Look what I found!” I eyed the box, knowing what she’d probably found. More than once she’d brought in a baby rabbit or other prey caught and damaged by our mighty hunter cat, Spot. I wasn’t much interested in nursing another casualty back to health, especially since my record of success wasn’t better than fifty percent.

But when she reached into the box, she brought out a tiny furball of an orange-and-white kitten no more than six weeks old. He grabbed my heart that very instant. I jumped up to take him. “Oh, my God!” The little guy was starved nearly to death, only skin and bones under the long fur. He had eye infections, skin infections, fleas, worms, diarrhea, just everything bad that can happen to a kitten had happened to him. I held him and he was mine. I called to Dale, “Hey, come see what followed Nikki home from Smyrna!” Dale came into the room, took one look at him, and said, “His name is Silas.”

We fed him, though he couldn’t eat much without it going straight out the other end. But when he’d had enough, I took him back to the living room, settled onto the couch to watch TV some more, with Silas wrapped in a towel to keep him from pooping on me, and he started purring. Just as loud as you please, though he was a very sick kitty.

That was always how he was. If he was in my lap, he was purring. Or even nearby, when he couldn’t be in my lap, he just purred up a storm every time.

I took him to the vet the next day, where he was medicated and cleaned up. He rode home on the passenger seat of the Altima, stretched out full-length on his belly, purring, and I swear he had a big smile on his face. Silas thought he was a dog. He was as affectionate as one, and as he grew older he became as clingy as one.

When he was little, he was always either running, or sleeping. Never in-between. At first we weren’t sure if he was going to get along with our Border collie, Ziggy, but when I saw Ziggy chase Silas the length of the house, and went to rescue the kitten only to find him chasing the dog back the other way, I knew Silas would be all right.

One day when he was still little but had grown some, he was playing mouse hockey as usual. Hiding beneath the TV stand in the office, he decided to pounce on his toy but hadn’t realized he was now bigger than he used to be. He no longer fit in the space beneath the bottom shelf of the stand. I heard a “clonk” and saw two little legs sticking out from under the shelf, still trying to reach the toy mouse though his head was too large to go under. Of course, he meant to do that.

Silas was an indoor cat, but he liked to rush the door and escape whenever he could. He would graze on the lawn, and chase away the white male cat that presumed to enter Silas’s yard. One of his favorite things was to roll around on the cement gutter drain in the back yard. Another favorite thing was to have burrs and things combed out of his coat.

Early on, Spot was his second mommy. But when she died he was only ten months old and he took it hard. It was a few years before he would have another attachment, and that was me.

Silas was my favorite of all our animals. He had to be. He required it. He needed constant reassurance that he was the favorite. He had to be fed separately, and got special food. He rather needed special food, for he had a sensitive tummy and would barf up most foods. He was the hairball king of Middle Tennessee, and for years there was hardly a day that he wasn’t coughing up something. He was susceptible to infection, and learned to take pills without complaint. It was plain he’d made the connection between pills and feeling better, and he never once gave me guff about medication.

For a while he slept on the bed. He got in the habit while Dale was on the road for several weeks. When it was bedtime, he presented himself and claimed his spot on Dale’s side, and I got used to waking up with Silas draped over me or lying on top of me. But when Dale returned from the road, and it was bedtime, Silas came in and stopped cold when he saw Dale in his spot. The look on his face was like, “Uh…don’t you, like, have a tour to go on, or something?”

The shower mystified him. Every night he would come running when the water started, and sit outside the curtain, trying to see inside. He’d poke a paw in, and one time came all the way in. After that he limited himself to just playing with the edge of the curtain. Then, when I was finished and the water turned off, he’d run inside and drink off the floor. I can’t imagine why, but every night he had to have his shower water.

Silas was afraid of the television. He didn’t like anything on a screen, but he did eventually make peace with the computer monitor. I think he did that because it was the only way to hang out with me. The last year or so, I couldn’t sit at the computer without him climbing onto my lap, even if I was working with the laptop in the bedroom. Whenever I came home from a business trip, he always ran to greet me, then lay in my arms so I’d know how much he missed me.

Always purring at full bore. Even the night he died, barely able to breathe, he spent some hours lying on my bed, purring away. I petted him as much as I could stay awake, wishing morning would come so I could take him to the vet. I had no idea he wouldn’t make it.

If Nikki hadn’t brought that kitten home, it’s certain he wouldn’t have lived more than another day or two. Nine years is not a long life for a cat, and for that I’m horribly sorry. But I’m so thankful for the years we did have with him. I thank God for sending me a tiny orange-and-white furball named Silas.


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