“I have a kitten for you! Weren’t you looking for a black cat..?”
Truth was, I had been, but had just been bamboozled by a thoroughly evil kitten (who soon earned the name Hades) into bringing her home from a pet store (and I think she’s still the only pet I purchased rather than adopt). So the answer should have been no, I don’t need another kitten.
“But I’m saving this one for you!”
Well. Poop. Now I felt obligated. So I agreed to adopt this little fellow, sight unseen, and my fellow museum employee brought him to work for me, with the warning, “He, um, needs a bath. He won’t leave his litterbox.”
Turns out this little guy, maybe 7 weeks old, was feral and skittish and terrified of the world. He literally cried for 3 days straight whilst hiding under my claw-footed tub. Based solely on that desire to hide, I named him Lurk.
When describing Lurk, I often thought about this quote..except I changed it to, “My poor, neurotic cat.”
It took years – literally years – for Lurk to show signs of being ‘my’ cat. But when he wasn’t being terrified of everything, he was always The Good Cat. He put his toys away into the toy basket when he was done playing with them. He would sit at the dining room table – in a chair – and politely wait to be offered food, which he would remove from the table with one extended pinkie claw so he could eat it off the chair. When the rest of the cats would be running out of the house via an open basement window, he was the one hiding and not getting into trouble. When we moved and I wasn’t sure he’d ever come out of hiding, he would eventually show up, offering toys to, say, the ferrets by lining toys up along the sides of their cage and rubbing his face against the wire, purring his trademark feel-it-across-the-room purr.
Lurk was the kind of cat that wanted to be near you, but he wasn’t a lap cat. I found myself buying furniture that would allow him to sit next to me, because that’s what he wanted. And as he grew older, he discovered snuggling in bed was a grand thing. His rule was, “Don’t pick me up, but please use me like a pillow..or a teddy bear. And please let me insert my head into your eye socket. Forcefully.” I caught him one night sneaking onto my bed, checking to see if I was asleep, and then pushing his butt under my arms so we could snuggle without me knowing it. (Or so he thought.)
Some people were convinced Lurk never existed because they never saw him. Some people got to see, up close and personal, that they were never never NEVER going to play with his toys the way he wanted them to..and that meant they were Very Stupid Monkeys Indeed. (And by ‘them’ I mean ALL of us. We were all stupid. And his expression clearly told us that. Yes, read the linked post.) For a while, it meant that if you weren’t sitting on the sofa, in the exact right spot, you were Doing It Wrong and he was going to walk around loudly telling you so until you gave in and sat down. My housemate in Pittsburgh was apparently the complaint department..more than once he’d stomp past me, storm upstairs, and LOUDLY tell her his opinion about (fill in the blank)…to which she’d plaintively reply, “Your monkey is DOWNSTAIRS. Tell HER!”
When I adopted Lurk, I can’t say I could really get close enough to tell for sure, but I’m pretty certain he was jet black. As he’s aged, he’s slowly gone grey. Heidi always said it looked like he’d been eating powdered doughnuts.
In 2009, Lurk caught fleas (and, I suspect, swine flu) from my neighbors’ cats. He was anemic and dehydrated and so weak…the vet gave him vits and sub-q fluids, and I slept on the floor with him, forcefeeding him a slurry of wet cat food and Pedialyte, telling him he wasn’t allowed to die on me. It was close. But. He was always The Good Cat, and he didn’t die.
Moving to Michigan meant meeting new kitties, and Lurk did really well with that. He seemed fascinated by the fact that the first floor is more or less a huge circle, and he’d do laps, nails clicking on the floor no matter how many times I trimmed them. He developed the habit of clicking through the house at night, climbing the bed stairs Bones had purchased for him, and then waiting..waiting…and “MEOW!!” to make sure I was awake so I would pet him. It was not his best trick. OTOH, he had stopped trying to insert his skull into my eye socket, so I suppose it was an improvement.
Around two months ago, we had an onslaught of fleas in the house. Lurk had developed an allergy to them after 2009, so he was the first to show signs, and he retreated to the basement, not feeling so well. At this point in his life, he had lost his two right side fangs, and he was clearly not eating much, so I started feeding him wet food. He quickly improved, but remained in the basement..honestly, I think he was playing me at that point, as he was always bright-eyed, eager for pets, and very mobile. The only thing odd was that he was still hanging in the basement, where he’d created a sort of clubhouse for himself out of boxes and blankets. I soon caught him eating dry food when he thought no one could see him..little stinker. I’d walk around the corner and watch him eat. He’d look up, see me, gulp, go back downstairs, and start complaining.
He returned to the upstairs a few days ago and outside of choosing to mostly stay on one chair (which was sorta what he was doing downstairs). He didn’t eat the wet food I’d placed in a dish on his chair yesterday morning, but seemed fine otherwise.
We got in late last night and he was…no longer ok. He was struggling to breathe, he was unresponsive, his tongue was lolling out of his mouth…it looked as if he’d had a stroke. Bones was the adult. I just couldn’t do much beyond pet him and shake. We took him to an emergency vet office, and they told us they wanted to do some quick bloodwork, but they thought that if they gave him fluids and such, he’d recover…that he hadn’t had a stroke, but maybe it was blood sugar, or anemia. (I doubted blood sugar.)
So suddenly, there was hope. I sat with Bones and I looked through my LiveJournal to find the post where I’d shared Lurk’s bloodwork in ’09, so we could compare results, because maybe there was useful information there. And because I blog everything.
And then suddenly, there wasn’t hope. The vet came in looking genuinely sad and surprised and said, “He just took a turn for the worse. Do you want to say goodbye?” She said that he was on his way out but yes, he could use some help, so we agreed to have her put him to sleep after we said goodbye. I didn’t stay with him because he didn’t know I was there at all. It was his kidneys. There were no warning signs.
When Hades passed away in 2008, she and Lurk were alone in my house, and he was so scared. So very scared. He was literally wild-eyed and howling when I opened the door, and was inconsolable for over a week. It was as if he’d seen the Kitty Grim Reaper itself. I can’t help but feel he came out of the basement because he didn’t want to face that alone again. (I know it’s silly of me.)
I always used to say that I’d be able to actually hold Lurk without it being a bad thing by the time he was an old kitty. We did that successfully last weekend, when I carried him to the kitchen to say hi to Bones and his kidlet. And when he was in my lap on that car ride last night, that thought came back to me. And when the front desk person asked if Lurk had bitten anyone recently, I said, “The only person he’s ever bitten was my ex husband, when Lurk was 7 weeks old.” Outside of that one instance? Lurk was always The Good Cat. All he really wanted was a cuddle..and for someone to wash his head.
Hades was the kitty that chose me, that was my familiar. Lurk was the kitty I took in because..I’m not sure how good his chances would have been without me. He became my therapy animal of sorts, my anchor when things were not so good, my priority above anything else. And it’s been humbling to see how many of my friends are mourning him right along with me.
…I love him so much.