Many of my friends already know we had to put Cuddle Bug down last week. Last year, we lost Belle, which was hard enough, but Bug was my baby. She was the runt of Belle’s only litter, born in this house, and the only one in the litter that would seek me out.
Belle delivered her litter in a box in the guest room, but as the kittens grew and got more adventurous, we moved them to the laundry room. Which was great, except when I needed to do laundry. Then, all six of them would escape and explore the house, from texture of the furniture to the tufted curtain tops. Except for Bug. She’d want to be wherever I was. I still remember her scrambling up the upholstery of my recliner to rest in my lap. Even then, she was still so tiny, she’d fit in one hand. The others were much bigger.
When it came time to give the kittens away, I announced that Bug was mine, and though it would mean we’d have three cats (we had Tom too at that time), I was not giving that one up.
She remained loyal to me for the next eleven years. It was a peculiar kind of loyalty. For reasons of her own, she was scared of my husband. He’d never done anything to her, she had no obvious reason to be afraid, but during those eleven years, she’d rarely allow him to even pet her. She was quiet, too, compared to all the other cats–especially PB, the rescue kitty we obtained after Tom died. I wasn’t sure Bug could say anything more than the occasional “meh.”
Bug never was much of an outdoor cat. Didn’t like to get her feet dirty. If I sent her outside with the rest of our felines, she’d dart up the tree and sit on the roof until she could come back inside. Bad weather had her hanging from the top of the screen door, look of sheer terror in her eyes. These were the few times she found her voice, and the rare time we could translate Cat into English: Let me in!
Things began to change during the three-year stretch that I was frequently in the hospital. Having no other human to scratch her ears, she began to trust the man of the house. And later, during my long stay taking care of Mom, she began to sit on his lap. But only if I wasn’t home. When I was home, MSB didn’t exist. Finally, after one of my particularly long periods in the hospital, the time came when Bug would look for him, arch under his hand, weave around his legs, but it took around a dozen years.
None of the cats ever warmed up to the scratching post no matter what I did to convince them, so for several years, we lived with shredded furniture. Eventually, I got to buy new. After a few times of our indoor/outdoor cats bringing in fleas despite the flea medicine, I decided it was time to turn them into indoor-only cats. According to the Vet, Bug had a kidney condition, so she was the only one who got to keep her claws. Always docile, always deferring to the other cats, she suddenly became the only one with a weapon. Dynamics changed. She usurped PB as second-in-command to Belle (Belle was boss. Even without claws, she could pretty much slap the other cats across the room. With Bug especially, Belle was all “I brought you into this world, I can take you out”). Between the two of them, they really did a number on PB. She’s still trying to figure out her position in the family–different now, since she’s the only remaining cat.
Bug stayed quiet until she was around seventeen years old. One day, I heard her singing in the kitchen, head up, tail flicking, just yodeling away. The older she got, the more demanding she became, and the more she used that newly discovered voice.
After what I went through last year with Belle, realizing too late that I should’ve taken her to the vet to be relieved from her pain much earlier, I kept a close eye on Bug. I took her in right after losing Belle, because at the time, she was only a year younger. Dr. Lott discovered she had a thyroid condition, which I managed for an entire year with special food and raw venison. But within the past two weeks, she boycotted her food–even her beloved venison. She wanted what PB ate. I arrived at the point when I didn’t know what was worse–let her starve, or feed her food that was bad for her. I thought I’d allow her to eat regular cat food and re-introduce the special stuff to her, but in a couple of days, she tired of the regular food too. All she would eat was kitty treats. Since she’d lost weight, I figured that couldn’t hurt. But then I noticed how much water she drank. A lot of water for a cat. That scared me even more than the hunger strike.
Dr. Lott said only two things caused a cat to drink that much water–diabetes and kidney failure. Bug didn’t have diabetes.
I miss both my girls. I miss Tom, and he’s been gone for a while now. We’re trying to get PB to understand her place in the family now, keep her from shying away from the kitchen–apparently Belle and Bug told her it was off limits unless she could go in alone. I’m trying to teach her that she is no longer to take her meals in the living room, that the bowl on the fireplace mantle is no longer there.
She’s an odd little girl, but we love her. We just have to undo the damage done by the big cats. Still, I miss my big cats.