All my cat’s stories are intertwined. They really do each lead to another.
Panther was kidnapped from a stable. I was not the perpetrator of this crime, but I was the receiver of goods, so-to-speak. Karleen, the rescuer, had noticed a little black cat running around at a ranch and she perceived him to be neglected. His legs had not developed properly and she was afraid he would be trampled by one of the horses.
So one night she just went in and got him. I always felt a bit guilty about it, especially when I realized how totally capable he actually was. On the other hand, he deserved to be more than a stable cat. It wasn’t like he acted upset about being kidnapped or anything.
I had a nice name all ready for the new cat, but it’s important to give a cat the right name. In my experience they will find a way to tell you what it should be.
My new boy “Luca” was promptly introduced to my nice vet who looked at his legs and declared that his mother “must have done drugs”. However, apart from the wonky legs he was very fit. Emerging from the carrier, back home, “Luca” fixed me with a look that said “not my name, try again” and in a flash I saw it. He looked exactly like what he really was, a small black panther. “Panther”! I cried, and if he could, he would have rolled his eyes! (Like, duh!)
Panther was the most self-confident creature I have ever known. It never seemed to occur to him that another creature, human or otherwise, might represent a threat to him. He would always march straight up to anyone new and say “I’m Panther. Who are you?”
With Yeti, who was by then a senior and rather sedate lady, Panther showed a little more decorum, allowing her to make the first overtures. After all, he was the newcomer! She wasn’t terribly pleased, having lived alone with me, since the departure of the boisterous Kina. But it was never a problem, and she continued to sleep by my head, even if she did boycott my lap as a token protest.
Panther had barely moved in when it was time for us to pack up and move to my new condo. Panther was very into packing. In fact he was pretty much into everything.
Panther’s only complaint about his new home was that Yeti didn’t want to play. She got a little testy at his efforts to engage her and I thought, having taken the plunge into multi-cat ownership, that one more couldn’t make a difference. I could save a cat from the shelter and it would be a playmate for Panther.
What a fine idea.
Perhaps it might have been, if Annie hadn’t hated all other cats, as I fast discovered.
I spent a very anguished night, thinking I would have to return Annie in the morning, while at the same time realizing that there was no way in hell I was ever going to take her back.
She had sat drooling copiously in my lap while the paperwork got done. She seemed to be saying “Mum! Where have you been?” I never learned her back-story, but she obviously thought I was her person and she was very sweet, if a little needy.
……………Isn’t it nice to be needed?
So Panther now had two grumpy ladies to deal with and still no playmate, but that situation was soon rectified when our friend Karleen called me once more.
This time I was asked if I could bail a kitten out of the hospital. It had been attacked by another animal and most of it’s tail had to be amputated, but Karleen couldn’t pay the bill. So off I went to get the poor chap. Well, I couldn’t leave him there, could I? On the way home I drove behind a Sysco truck. The name was perfect!
Cisco became Panther’s big buddy.
Looking back, I don’t know how I got so out of control. Suddenly, every time I turned around there was another cat in need of a home. And I couldn’t bear to think of them going to a shelter and an uncertain future.
But to be honest, when I met the next one, I was just plain smitten. She was beautiful and she had long, lovely hair, just like Yeti. My friend Denise had adopted her but then discovered that the cat’s long hair aggravated her allergies. She brought her in to the office to see if someone else would take her.
One of our colleagues was dithering monumentally over whether or not he should once again become a cat owner. He was obviously in torment over it, so I was happy to help out by making the decision for him…
I named Grisabel after another cat I had known very long ago. It really suited her.
Panther was equally smitten by the gorgeous Grisabel. He greeted her warmly, as he did everyone who walked through our door.
I now had five cats. I’ve often wondered if Yeti contemplated this and decided that she had completed her mission with me. It torments me that she may have lived longer if I had not gone down that road. Yet I remember those cats that I took in, and what they meant to me, and I think it’s was the way it was meant to be. For sure, most of them would have found homes but perhaps not the needy and nervous Annie.
Would Panther have had a good life at the ranch? You can torture yourself if you think too much. The fact is, Yeti developed kidney disease in 2002. I had always made a point of giving her quality time, retreating with her alone to my bedroom. The others seemed to defer to her as the matriarch that she was. I nursed her for a year.
Then in November, 2003, with snow falling, I drove Yeti to the vet for what I knew would be the last time. I sang her the song that was hers “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”
It was a bad time and I would have been in an even bigger mess without my remaining four cats.
But in February Denise surprised me with Thimphu and things returned to a semblance of normal. Panther set about showing the new child the routine. He was so tiny, even Annie was intrigued
For the next two years I was occupied with my father’s terminal illness when it felt as if all I could do each day was put one foot in front of the other and just keep going. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun, but so many people have so much worse to deal with in life. Having the cats to go home to at night kept my spirits up.
After my father’s death I packed up twice more and moved finally to a large house which I thought would give us all a bit more room. I was also keen to move away from an area that was becoming crowded with condos going up everywhere. I didn’t realize it then, but it was the beginning of my disenchantment with Washington State.
Free now to travel, I took Denise to Utah for a few days to visit my favourite charity, Best Friends. As we were about to leave, I found a small tumor on Panther. Remembering having been told that tumors in cats tend to be cancerous, I rushed him to the vet and they recommended surgery as soon as possible. They agreed to take care of him and keep him for a couple of days while I was away.
It seemed like a sensible arrangement and I totally trusted my vet but as soon as Denise and I left, I couldn’t get Panther out of my mind. Next day I couldn’t wait to call back to check on him. Everything went well and the tumor proved benign, but I was glad to get back and collect him.
As I paid my bill, Panther’s carrier was placed on the counter and somehow it fell to the floor. In that moment my emotions suddenly peaked. I didn’t say anything. Panther was fine. I just grabbed him and drove home but after that day I realized that I was desperately in love with that little cat.
After Yeti died, Panther always came to bed with me. He would sit on my tummy as I read my book and when I laid it aside he would gaze into my eyes. I used to think he could see into my soul and I felt that I was seeing a very old soul in him.
Panther had become the head of household, in every way. He was with me wherever I happened to be. I would never go out without telling him goodbye and when I got home he would always come rushing to meet me.
If I moved to a different part of the house when Panther was asleep, all I had to do was call “come Panther” and I would hear his funny feet scampering in the way that only Panther did. He was not at all bothered by his foreshortened legs. For a long time, if he wanted to get down from a piece of furniture, he would turn around and climb down backwards. Later on he got bored with that and he would make like Superman and simply launch himself off.
Panther often sat at the top of the stairs if I was in the office.
He made them into a plaything.
Panther was only 13 when he died. He had battled with eosinophilic granuloma (rodent ulcer) which was treated with steroids. Eventually this caused diabetes and kidney disease. One of my other cats has the same disease and I treat her very sparingly as I don’t want her to end the same way. But Panther’s disease was much more pronounced and caused him to suffer with serious gum problems. One can only offer the best possible care for a pet and it doesn’t always work out the way we would like.
Losing Panther was harder than all my other losses. I don’t know why, even now. He just touched me in a very special way. He obviously decided that I was his person and we loved each other so much. I don’t think I had ever felt so accepted and so loved before. He was my boy.