He was also an ornery cat. Just ask his littermate Barbara, who he’d chase around the house until Barbara was cornered in a closet or under a chair and would scream like a banshee. Then he would step back a few feet, sit down and just stare at her in a daring taunt. Ornery.
He loved to eat. Unlike many animals, though, he wouldn’t mind if you sidled up to him while he was at his food bowl. I could scratch his head or between his shoulder blades (he might even stop eating for a moment if I happened to do that), or stroke his fur while he was eating. He’d never protest, at least not while there was still food in the bowl.
His obsession with whatever was happening in the kitchen drew him into that room whenever I happened to be there, even if I was just stepping in for a glass of water. If I was cooking or cleaning in the kitchen, he’d be right there, circling underfoot, threatening to either get stepped on or to trip me. This happened so often that when I’d say “Get out of my kitchen!” to him, he’d learned to saunter off, always hissing. It was, after all, his kitchen.
Ziggy and I developed a smart routine for mealtimes. First, I’d empty a can of food into his ceramic bowl under his watchful eye. Then, as I carried the empty can to the trash, he’d circle me counter-clockwise twice as I’d count aloud, “One. Two.” He’d then lead me to the refrigerator door, as I’d sometimes have part of a can to preserve for later. Whether or not I had to, I’d open the fridge door and say, “Fridge.” That done, he’d lead me to the counter upon which his filled and ready bowl sat. I’d say, “Do a dance!” and he’d shuffle his paws on the wooden cabinet door. Next, both of us turning around, I’d carry his bowl to the opposite wall. He’d jump up with his front paws on the wall, I’d say “What’s the word, Ziggy?” He’d respond with a Mao. I’d kneel to the floor, place my right arm under him, say “Jump!” and he’d slide off the wall until his paws were resting on my forearm. Last, I’d ask, “Give me a kiss!” and he would jerk his head back far enough to tap me on the chin. Then it was his time to eat. We did this twice a day for years. I’d say that he trained me pretty darn well.
If I slept past sunup, he would usually be up on the bed, tapping my face with his paw, or sitting on top of me, staring me down in silence. Here he is, hard at work sending me those “Food NOW!” psychic messages on a recent morning (the cell phone camera was handy):
He rarely played with cat toys but, when he was younger and feisty (the much more pleasant flip-side to orneriness), he’d go nuts if someone wrestled him on the floor with an agressive hand. Rolling around on his back, he’d clamp down on that hand with his front legs and kick like a jack rabbit into the wrist with his hind legs. He’d then jump away and come back for more, just seconds later.
His common name was Ziggy (his pal Clare called him The Zigman), but what most of his human friends didn’t know is that his full name was Zigeunerweisen. After witnessing his jump-around insanity in the first days after I brought him home, I was reminded of a piece of classical music by Sarasate.
Zigeunerweisen means “gypsy airs,” but it might as well have meant “crazy hour” at our house.
A few months ago, Ziggy became suddenly listless and vacant-eyed, wouldn’t eat much and would regurgitate much of what he did consume. His vet determined that he was suffering from nearly 75% kidney failure. He was prescribed a daily subcutaneous saline injection (which I administered, a simple form of kitty dialysis), and he recovered some of his energy. But, frankly, he wasn’t the Ziggy of years past. He’d lapse into sick periods and bounce back partly, but the bad days were beginning to outnumber the good. I’d promised that before he got truly miserable again, I would let him go out on a high note, feeling fine. When he most recently hit a degenerative patch of not eating and aimlessly wandering around the house, wobbling, I decided to fulfill that promise.
So, yesterday, around 9:30 a.m., The Zigman split this scene.
Now, everywhere I look in the house, I see traces of him.
His bowl, with that morning’s barely touched breakfast.
His uneaten food, and an unopened bag of Greenies (chicken: his favorite flavor).
A drawing of a cat that I purchased at an art show at Bottletree Café. It portrays his little black face, and his energy. It is hanging, appropriately, in the kitchen.
His meds. And his IV. And a collection of his used hypodermic needles.
His favorite chair, a faux leather recliner, one that he punctured all along its lower edges before he was declawed. That was his favorite sleeping place.
His perch, on the back of a chair, after meals and in the late afternoons, when he sensed the sun going down and my imminent arrival home. He’d stick his head between the blinds and peer through the glass, waiting. My next-door neighbor refers to the spot as “Ziggy’s window,” as she would often see his seemingly disembodied black head poking out from the white slats when she passed by.
I have two chairs on my porch. On Sunday mornings, I’d read the newspaper in one, while Ziggy slept in the other. I will miss that.
“How many years is it for cats?” my mother asked me when I called her with the news; she meant to ask how many cat years equals one human year. Seven, I told her, It’s the same as for dogs. “That’s, well, that’s…” Ziggy was approaching fifteen human years. “That would be almost 105 years,” she said, “What a good, long life.” Indeed it was.
Farewell, my little buddy. You really were a good cat.