He’s gone now. After 23 short years, our loving son has passed. He fought valiantly to stay and keep me company, but this last setback was his poor body saying no more. However, we were so lucky to have him with us for 23 years; it’s quite a long life for a cat. Our beloved Jessee died quietly in the living room yesterday at 5:20 with all of us by his side, petting him and speaking to our boy for the last minutes of his life. He was my son, an old man, my midnight snacking buddy and king of the house. He was more than just a cat. He was as loving as any human, with just as many foibles and idiosyncrasies as any human has. He loved food and more than that, he loved us.
We adopted Jessee when he was a year old. He was a feral kitten, part of large batch mama had in a shed. When they were old enough, the woman that owned the shed plucked Belle Elizabeth and Jessee from the group, had them neutered and took them in to live with her. That didn’t work out well. They weren’t easy to socialize, so after several months, she gave them up for adoption. My daughter brought them to me since we had recently lost a pet.
The little boy was a ball of long calico fur with a mane, making him look quite majestic. We eventually decided he looked quite like a Norwegian Forest cat. The other, a little girl, was a black sleek cat, much like those honored in statues in Egyptian tombs. We couldn’t touch either of the two. They wouldn’t allow it. At night, you would hear one running through the house, then pausing to call the other. They ate our food, but that’s where the relationship ended, they had each other.
We were patient and that patience paid off. It took six months, but finally, curiosity got the best of the little boy. Instead of killing the cat, it was the start of a long loving relationship. He watched me as I sat on the edge of the bed. He came closer and closer until I could reach down and pet him. Oh, how he loved those first pets. Within minutes, our little boy was laying on my lap, soaking up the loving attention. Belle didn’t allow us to touch her for another year—but she would rub against us and even walk on our backs when we slept at night.
They were inside cats, but the little boy was extremely curious about the outdoors—it was his nature. He escaped one day and even though I was fast in those days, he was faster. Our little boy disappeared. A friend of ours had a crew next door rehabbing a house to flip. They didn’t come back the next day or for many days following. As time passed and there was no sign of Jessee, I asked Mike to contact his friend to see if our boy had gone in there. Of course, he said it was impossible, so for one month, we searched the streets, but still with no sign of the cat.
The day the crew came back to rehab, I had my first Jessee spotting since he left. I ran into the house and opened a can of food to lure him to the door. It worked. What was once a ball of fur was now just skin and bones. Later, Mike’s friend told him that some cat had gotten into the house and they had to clean and recarpet the entire living room. Mike just replied, “Oh, wow. That’s too bad.” His friend has passed since, never knowing whose cat that was. Our boy was a survivor; he had survived for a month on bugs and whatever liquid he found in the house. He did have scars from the experience, both physical and mental. When the workers found him, one must have kicked him. The experience left him with a need for dental surgery and a horrible case of agoraphobia.
How do you sum up any life, cat or human, in a few short words? How do you condense 23 years of love and affection to a paragraph? He was strong and loving, but so afraid of leaving the house that he actually passed out at the vets. He loved his food and made it to 18 pounds, which turned out to be one reason he lived so long. When our boy was angry, normally because we weren’t giving him the attention he deserved, he peed in our shoes—nowhere else, just in the shoes. It will be a long time before we go back to leaving shoes on the floor; the habit of putting them on the dresser is so ingrained.
I sleep very little and retired early because I didn’t sleep for days. Late at night, when Mike had been in bed for hours, Jessee and I would snack on whatever I found in the refrigerator. He loved broccoli, particularly if I cooked it with butter. The snack only took a few minutes in the microwave and was one of his favorites. However, the boy would join me in whatever I was consuming. I noticed one night that he was having difficulty chewing, so even though it was traumatic, it was time for a visit to the vet for his teeth. That’s when we found he had hyperthyroidism. He hadn’t lost weight, but the blood tests before dental surgery indicated there was a problem.
He talked to me, slept in my arms and loved us all. He tolerated Seymore, the squirrel we raised for release, when she was out to play. However, she kept plucking hair from his body for a nest, so we had to lock him in the bedroom with Rocky-lest she torture the old man and think cats were all friendly. He and Rocky, our other younger cat, played together until this last month. We made the house handi-cat accessible as he aged. He had stair steps to the window and in the final days, a low-sided litter box with puppy potty pads in front, in case his bottom didn’t make it all the way in the box. While he may have hit the pad a few times, he always made it there.
We loved our boy and he never disappointed us. He fought to stay alive, throughout his life, but we all knew it was time for him to leave us. For the first time in a long time, he refused water and food. Eight hours later, our boy passed peacefully at sleep. Good bye my friend, you fought hard. You brought us love, laughter and friendship. I couldn’t have asked for a better son, friend or companion.