A sad thing happened a couple of weeks ago. A sad, inevitable thing I have been dreading for years. One of my beloved Geriatricats, Pepper, passed away. I had just assumed at this point that they would all live forever. Her 18 year old body had always been small, and she had been in near perfect health. But nothing can live forever, and she had a healthy, long, vibrant life and I want to remember her for the weirdo cat she was.
My husband and I got Pepper before we were married, when she was about six months old. It became immediately apparent that she needed a buddy cat in the house. So when we took Pepper in to get her lady business taken care of, it seemed like fate that someone had found and brought a tiny stray male cat into the vet’s office that very morning. So we happily adopted Jeremy and brought him home when Pepper had recovered from her surgery.
Well, Pepper did NOT like Jeremy. I had imagined them immediately cozying up together in a kitten pretzel and becoming best friends. But Pepper had been an only cat for months and didn’t like sharing attention. But rather than outright beating the shit out of Jeremy, she had all kinds of devious ways to attack. Her favorite method was The Psych. She’d walk up to Jeremy and lick him on the top of his head. Poor Jeremy would always fall for the attention, then when he’d be purring away, she’d smack him across the head and tear off in another direction.
I came home several times to find Jeremy trapped in the food cupboard, gnawing holes in the bag of crunchy food. It was puzzling since he was far too little to be able to open the cupboard door. I assumed I must have left it open, he wandered in and knocked the door shut behind himself. Finally one day, I witnessed a sweet-faced Pepper prying open the cupboard door. Poor malnourished Jeremy would immediately wander into the cupboard to tease a few crunchies out of his bite holes. While he was busy doing that, Pepper would walk over and casually knock the door shut and wander off.
Eventually though, Jeremy got bigger and grew an enormous pair of balls (before they got snipped). Pepper simply couldn’t continue her dominance and they finally became friends and the cat pretzel of my dreams materialized. But while Jeremy liked to snuggle and sleep a lot, Pepper’s favorite activities were…unusual.
Don’t ask me how they even developed this game, but Pepper and my husband spent hours playing what I call Flying Cat. I was horrified one day to see my him throw the cat across the room onto the back of the sofa. ‘She likes it’!! He promised me. And sure enough, He would fling her across the room, she would land haphazardly on the couch, then she would run back to him gleefully so he could do it again. Sometimes he’d spin her sideways so she would be kind of like a cat frisbee, with her legs all windmilled out. You can imagine my dismay when I walked down the aisle at our wedding to find my groom with a gash on his face from a wedding morning game of Flying Cat gone awry.
The cats followed us from basement suite to basement suite, to apartment, and finally, to our house. They were cautiously excited about having a backyard and somewhere to munch grass and barf it up in. It took months for Jeremy to gain enough confidence to wander outside and stay outside when the neighbour’s dog barked or a lawn mower started up somewhere. Probably a result of his early life on the streets. Pepper, on the other hand, shot out the back door the first time I propped it open to let them outside. She made an immediate beeline for the back garden, filled with fronds of daylilies. As I watched her gobble her body weight in lilies, it occurred to me that perhaps that was a bad idea. Since the cats had never been outside, I hadn’t paid much attention to dangerous plants.
So it turns out that all parts of any member of the lily family are highly toxic to cats and dogs. So FYI if your pet eats some lily parts, you can induce vomiting. All you need to do is shoot hydrogen peroxide down your pet’s throat with a plastic syringe. Total piece of cake, especially when your pet is attached to your skin with their teeth.
However, if the peroxide doesn’t work, you need to take your pet to the emergency vet for a dose or two of activated charcoal. And when you return from the vet, with a cat that’s still alive despite the lightness of your wallet, I recommend isolating your pet in a tiled or laminated area. This is because your pet will most likely try to run away and hide under your bed and then throw up black death vomit all over your new khaki-coloured carpet. Also, I recommend taking any lilies out of your garden immediately, so that your pet who clearly did not learn their lesson the first time does not eat lilies a second and THIRD time.
What I will miss most about my little Pepper is her weird ability to provide comic relief. While Jeremy and Black Cat (whom we adopted in 2009) would unhelpfully lie all over my laptop keyboard on stressful nights when I still worked for Satan Incorporated, Pepper would make me laugh.
One night I got up for a pee break and came back to find her lying all over my office wheelie chair like she owned it. And she would NOT get off. I’d pick her up and put her back down on the ground, and she’d just jump right back on the chair. Finally, I was like, OK, you’re going for a ride, lady! And I gently began to spin the wheelie chair, assuming she’d freak out and jump off. But no. She meowed loudly with joy (which for Pepper just sounded like ‘REER’)!
So, I went faster. And still she clung to the seat of the chair as it spun around and around. And thus began a strange ritual every night while I worked in the office. She would come and park herself at my feet REERing until I finally got up and let her jump on the chair for her nightly spins. When the chair would stop, her head would keep going for a minute or two. When she’d had enough, she would jump off the chair and drunkenly stagger off for a long nap. It got to the point where I could call her up to my office and wherever she was in the house, she would stop what she was doing and come running for her wheelie chair spins.
I’m going to miss laughing at my silly cat. Whether it was her fondness for humping sweaty shoes and feet, her coordinated sneak attacks on her cat brothers, or her penchant for Porno Pets (creepy and hilarious reaction to pets at the base of her tail), our home lost a tiny bit of its spark. Every now and then, I catch a shadow out of the corner of my eye. I think, oh, there she is! And I feel at peace. But then I turn and nothing’s there.
Goodbye my sweet Pepper cat, I hope cat heaven has all the daylilies you can eat.
The Geriatricats think they own the place.