Where culture goes POP!
But it was pointed out to me that I deal with my grief by writing, and that this site is for things we love.
Fred The Cat is one of those things!
So if you want to pass this post by, no hard feelings, but I did want to put some words out there, and tell Fred’s story.
Fred came into my life in October 1999. I had just lost Albert the cat a month earlier. It was my birthday and I was heading out to celebrate, when I came across a Humane Society display in the Cataraquai Town Center in Kingston, Ontario.
And there he was, the idiot.
Fred didn’t do well with people, and he was in a wire cage with nowhere to hide from them. But as soon as we made eye contact, he clamored for my attention, his paws reaching through the cage at me.
From then on, he was like my own Snuffleupagus, no one ever saw him when they came to visit. He would spirit himself away from view until he was sure it was only me in the apartment and then he would reappear as if he’d never vanished.
When I was getting all the info about him from the Humane Society they made sure to disclose all of his history to me, and he’d definitely been rather fortunate so far…
It seems he was born in a rural area outside of Kingston, and, while still a kitten, crawled up inside the engine block of a woman’s car, curling up atop it, to stay warm, while the engine was running!
The poor woman didn’t realize this, and drove all the way into town with him curled atop the engine.
Upon parking, she heard his mewling, and popped the hood, to see that lucky little furball looking up at her. She delivered him to the Humane Society, where they initially thought he may be deaf due to the engine noise (turns out he just had selective hearing – he knew all the important words). They also had to remove a cataract on his left eye, which in the end, left him with a leaky eye when he got excited, looking like he was crying.
During our time in Kingston, Fred was quiet, friendly, and would often curl up on the bed beside me. But he never really purred.
In fact, vocally, he never seemed to have much to say at all. When I would stumble from my morning shower he would be waiting in the kitchen, watching me, and open and close his mouth in a plaintive meow, but he wouldn’t often make the noise – unless he was really upset, or a yowl right before he was going to visit a hairball upon us.
And of course as you can see to the left, he tended to look like an idiot, a lovable idiot, but an idiot nonetheless while he played.
Before moving to Toronto, Fred and I spent some time living with my mother. Of course being very people-phobic, Fred would barely leave the tiny room we stayed in for close to six months. The poor fella wasn’t as happy as he could be. I also think that he didn’t really get along with my mother’s cat. He was used to having the run of the place.
Then, while I moved to Toronto, Fred had to stay behind until I got settled in and had my own place…
Another six months.
In June of that year, 2008, I moved into a tiny, tiny, did I mention tiny? bachelor apartment, and with my sister’s aid, she delivered my belongings, including that loveable furball in a rental truck.
Fred never traveled well, and his carrier was soaked in urine. We both slipped into the bathroom, and as I washed out his carrier, he explored the tiny enclosed space, where I had stowed his littler box, and temporarily placed his food – at least until I got all the boxes into my tiny room.
When that was done, and Fred and I were alone in the apartment, he started to sneak out of the bathroom, and then he did something he had never done before.
He’d never done that.
That seemed to be the one constant of our time here in Toronto – he purred… A LOT! Almost non-stop whenever we were together!
We played and goofed off, and by day’s end he would always end up sleeping beside me on the bed, both of us under the belief that it was ours, and the other was lucky we were sharing it.
So we went on.
I had no illusion that both Fred and I were growing older, neither of us nimble as once we were.
But I thought we had a couple more years ahead of us.
At some point over the past couple of days, Fred got himself a spider or bug bite on his rear left flank. I washed and cleaned him out, and while he was upset while I was doing it, I think he realized it was for his own good.
In fact he seemed to be doing alright…
Until I got home yesterday evening.
He hadn’t eaten anything all day, nor had anything to drink. I carried him to his bowl, he didn’t struggle, just looked at the bowl on shaky legs, and then wandered back to the bedroom to curl up on the sheets I had left on the floor for him.
I tried to put him up on the bed, but he slipped right back down to the floor and the sheets. I went and got his food and water bowl, brought it into the bedroom, and then threw a couple more sheets on the floor beside him.
He stayed with me for awhile, resting on my arm, the two of us watching one another, until it got too dark to see one another.
It was at that point that he got up, walked away, and crawled under the bed. I rolled over, to see him curl up, his breathing a little labored, and I told him I would be up on the mattress.
I pushed myself into bed, just in time to hear Fred let out a low growl. The only thing I could think of was that he was warning Death away.
I drifted in and out of sleep, waking when I would hear Fred growl at the encroaching presence.
He slipped out from under the bed timing it with one of my waking moments, and I rolled over so I could stroke and talk to him. His breathing still labored, and I knew, I think on some level I knew, that he was saying goodbye, he simply wasn’t strong enough to jump up on the bed.
I stroked him, told him I loved him, said that I understand that he has to go, even if I didn’t want him to.
He crawled back under the bed after that, and I had a dream…
Fred and I were in Bermuda, in a sunny room, he was purring and happy. We were told, or I knew, or he told me, that we had to change rooms, we’d run out of time here.
So I lifted him up, carrying him down a short grey hall, to another tiny room, almost a grey cell… like a grey cell of brain matter, and I thought maybe this was where I would keep my memory of him. As I tucked him in this room for safekeeping, I noticed there was another door next to it, which was also the end of the hall.
There was light coming out from under it, and playing in this light was a tiny kitten.
That’s when I woke up, and although I knew, I rolled over at 4am, waking as the dream finished, to check on Fred.
Fred, who lay still.
I was heartbroken, a weeping mess, and then troubled when I saw that his tail had frozen puffed out in fear.
I think that was one of the things that ruined me most.
I hate to think he was scared at the end, his growling to keep death at bay coming to naught, and being so scared about what came next.
We lay together on the floor again, his body already stiff and cold, my hand resting on him, as I wept into the phone, sharing my pain with the most important person in my life, though I was fairly incoherent at the time. I was traumatized by the thoughts that these two people who were two of the most important presences in my life would never know one another. She listened, being supportive, letting me cry on her shoulder, and sharing in my loss. Thank you for that, and I know he would’ve loved you as much as I do.
I also messaged Sue, telling her what had happened, begging her to let them know at work I wouldn’t be there today. And like the true friend that she is, she wasn’t mad at me texting in the middle of the night, and promised to help out however she could. Thank you Sue.
Then began the long vigil until morning, alternately crying and sleeping, until 8am rolled around, and I could get organized in seeing Fred off onto his final journey.
I contacted the Parkdale Animal Hospital right around the corner of my apartment and they very kindly, and with great compassion helped me make Fred’s final arrangements. And for that, both Fred and I thank you.
Yes I’m still a wreck, yes my throat is tight and my eyes are red. Yes I want to call Fred to come out and join me in the living room, and then I remember he’s already gone…
And then I get really upset.
But I keep remembering that little kitten playing in the light and I smile.
You are the best Fred, and I will miss you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.
Love you big guy.
Safe journeys Fred The Cat…