Something I hadn’t considered when I left my corporate job was the amount of time I’d be spending with my cat.
I was so focused on having more time with family and friends, that I inadvertently overlooked my relationship with my pet. He is my friend, my family and having the opportunity to spend more time with him has been a gift – a joyful, painful, warm and messy gift.
To give you some background, PC (“Pussy Cat”) showed up on my front porch one morning in Los Angeles in 2003 – about 17 years ago exactly. He was full grown at the time; my guess was he was somewhere between three and five years old. So…he’s now at least 20, maybe 23?
He truly was a gift. My landlords had been living in an apartment on the property for a few years and had a cat named Bugs. A rather hefty cat who used to spend most of his time at my place.
They recently had a baby and also had a dog, so the cat was third string. He would come over every night to get some love and share whatever I was having for dinner.
After a few years they moved away, taking Bugs with them. A few months went by and I was feeling the pain of not having cute fat Bugs around. I was contemplating getting my own cat…but was hesitant about going to a shelter. All of my prior cats had come into my life in unplanned and surprising ways, which made it more special.
That’s when PC showed up. I opened my front door on the way to work one morning and there he was, this beautiful orange cat sitting on my porch, just looking up at me. It was as if he were waiting for me.
I remember having a little chat with him, but I was running late and had to head off to work. When I got home that night, he was hanging out in the yard.
Over the next several weeks he continued to hang around. He was such a friendly cat, not skittish at all and boldly confident.
I was concerned that someone was missing him. He was quite scrawny and definitely looked like he’d been living on the street for a while, but his friendly demeanor made me think someone had given him a lot of love at some point.
I kept my eyes out for “Missing Cat” signs and made several “Found Cat” flyers that I posted around the neighborhood. No response.
For the first few months he’d stay outside. I’d leave food and water on the porch for him and he’d greet me in the morning and when I got home from work. He’d come in the house for a bit, but I always put him out at night.
Then I had to go on vacation for a few weeks and bought food and water dispensers that I set up in the garage. He could access them via the new cat door my brother put in.
PC had staked him claim. He was becoming my cat.
At some point over the next year, he started sleeping in the house. On my bed. We both loved it.
PC is not like any other cat I’ve ever had or known. He’s not afraid of anything – he likes dogs – even big scary ones don’t make him flinch. He looks at them with a Yoda-like stare and they seem to get the message “don’t fuck with me.” All dogs acquiesce.
His confidence often got him into trouble though. One day he showed up with what looked to be creosote slathered all over him. He had tried to rub it off by rolling around on the ground, but had only made matters worse. He now had a collection of leaves and small twigs stuck to him as well, not to mention being caked with dirt.
This was when I learned I could give him a bath. I filled the tub and soaked him in warm soapy water – he seemed to enjoy it – but nothing could get the gunk off. I ended up having to take him to the beauty parlor and have his hind quarters shaved off. He looked ridiculous. Poor PC.
Then there was the time he got into a nasty fight and got a puncture wound on his head. It got infected and led to an abscess – that erupted at 2 am and required a trip to the pet emergency hospital. Gross.
He got into fights regularly and was clearly the Big Boss Cat in my neighborhood. Other cats didn’t stand a chance. Or birds. Or rats. He got ’em all.
He clearly made it known to others that I was his girl as well. One time I brought a date home – yes, he spent the night – and PC was pissed. The guy had a cat allergy and PC picked up on it right away, rubbing all over him any chance he got. We had to put PC outside which only made matters worse.
The next morning we found a bloody rat head on the doormat. The guy freaked, likening it to the horse head scene in The Godfather. I can still head him screaming, “Do you know what that means? Your cat HATES me!”
Yep, he sure did. Good one, PC. That guy was a loser.
After that, PC and I became an inseparable super couple.
He let me teach him tricks and loved to show off his skills when it was snack time. “Sit, PC.” He’d sit as I held out a treat. “Up!” He’d jump up on his back legs and gently take the treat out of my hand. Mad skills, that cat.
He also had mad style and only wore spiked leather collars, rotating colors every year or so. Red, green, turquoise, orange…he looked good in everything.
I moved up to Oakland in 2009, bringing PC with me of course, and recall the night before we made the drive up. My brother and a few friends we’re helping me pack the U-Haul. I had put PC in the bathroom so we could clean the rest of the house without him escaping.
But he did escape. It’s rather unclear how it exactly happened, there was tequila involved in the packing effort. I just remember this bolt of orange zooming through the apartment and out the front door. Gone.
We spent the next several hours tracking him down and then coaxing him out from under a neighbor’s car. It’s as if he knew he were going to be stuck inside a cat carrier for 6-7 hours during the drive the next morning. He’s so smart.
Once in Oakland, he stayed inside for the next few months, getting used to the new digs.
For some reason, I decided to let him out the morning of the day I was to pick up a friend at the airport and host what was to be the first of many, “Valentini Parties” – named after the Valentine’s Day cocktail of currant vodka, champagne, raspberry schnapps, lime juice and a splash of Pelligrino, served up. Delicious and dangerous.
As I headed out the front door to pick up my girlfriend, there was PC lying on the porch, blood trailing behind him. He had only been out for a few hours and he’d already gotten into a fight. His leg had a large gash and looked like it needed stitches. Into the cat carrier he went.
I remember picking up my friend at the airport with PC in the carrier in the back seat, meowing up a storm. We headed straight to the vet. The vet stitched him up quickly and kindly put a bandage with a heart on him in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
Oh, PC. He loved a good fight.
We moved again when I bought a house and PC adapted quickly. He loved sitting on the floor upstairs when the sun came through the windows in the afternoon. He and my roommate’s little Chihuahua mix, Nika, would sit together, soaking up the warm sunshine.
They loved to sit outside together and take sun baths as well. I’d look out of my office window and see them on the patio, sleeping next to each other on the warm pavers. It was pretty darn cute.
PC was always such an easy-going cat. Nothing ever bothered him and the way he rolled with change was enviable.
Friends would bring their dogs over and I swear he’d roll his eyes at them. He’d just sit there and watch them as they ran around the house, bounced off the walls and spazzed out. It would usually end with them sitting within a tolerable distance from each other, but I could tell the dogs always knew who was boss.
PC and I had developed such a great relationship and the longer we were together the better it got. He loved routines and I loved organization. I’m pretty sure he was a Virgo.
I used to think about what life without PC would be like, but that seemed so far off into the future. This cat was going to break longevity records, I was convinced of it.
To keep him healthy and a prospect for the Guiness Book of World Records, about 4-5 years ago I started making his cat food when I learned how much better it was than anything I could buy at the store. I quickly noticed a big difference – his coat got shinier and he had more energy. Thanks, Dr. Pitcarin!
I’ve mentioned I’ve now had PC for 17 years, which makes him somewhere between 20 and 23, maybe even a bit older. It’s quite possible he’s closer to 25, it’s hard to say. Not quite a world record holder, but impressive nevertheless.
When I stopped working at an office two years ago, PC became my shadow. He’d follow me everywhere. Up the stairs, down the stairs, in and out of rooms…there he was, always behind me.
At some point he decided he liked to sleep under the covers with me and, in the middle of the night, he’d jump up on the bed and force his way under the blankets. Somehow his little body would take up most of the bed, too, and I’d curl up into awkward positions just so he could continue to stretch out and be comfortable. He’d sleep there until I woke up.
When I’d work at my computer, he’d jump up on my chair in the space behind my back, then maneuver himself around to my lap, then onto my desk, which usually meant sitting right smack in the middle of my keyboard. He’d then look at me as if to say, “You’ve been ignoring me.”
It was such a routine. I’d give him a few pets, then gently place him back down on the floor, only to have him do it all over again five minutes later.
These past few years he also began to show considerable signs of aging. He lost a lot of weight, he’d meow at the air in the middle of the night, he’d throw up a lot and the arthritis in his hind legs kicked into high gear.
He was diagnosed with a hypothyroidism so I started giving him medication. It took a while to get the dosage right – that stuff can wreak havoc on a kitty’s GI tract – but we figured it out and he was better for a while.
But age was still chasing him and he’d already met most of his nine lives with all of the crazy fights he got into when he was younger.
He is now a senior kitty and in his final stages of life. He has Stage 4 chronic kidney disease and probably has just a few weeks left. While he’s still trying to do the things he loves – he actually tried to chase a neighborhood cat the other day! – he is winding down.
He’s become an incredibly sloppy eater and usually has food or milk on his face (main photo) and his dental disease has given him terrible breath. But he’s still my sweet PC, stink and all.
As I sit at my desk typing, he is on the floor next to me in his “hot tub” (an awesome heated bed courtesy of my pal, Jeannine). He sleeps a lot now and stopped jumping up on my desk a few months ago. He still loves a good sun bath outside and crawls under the covers with me at night, so I’m letting him enjoy this time until he stops doing what he loves.
I’m not one for heroic life-saving measures when it comes to pets, especially those who are gravely ill. He’s had a good, long life and it’s time for him to move on soon. Keeping him comfortable and giving him a lot of love during these last days and weeks is all we can do.
I think about how much more connected I feel with him since we’ve been spending every day together these past two years and especially recently with the quarantine. We’ve built a comfortable and beautiful symbiotic routine. Seventeen years of my life have been with him. So many memories and experiences.
It makes me so sad to know it’s coming to an end. He looks so sweet and peaceful right now, curled up in his bed, tail extended over the edge, his little body moving gently up and down as he breathes. For now, he’s still here with me, my little cat-man. We have a few more memories to make.