She was just there one day when we walked out the door, sleek and friendly. We stopped to pet her briefly and went on our way.
She was there again in a day or two, then again after that, less sleek and dirtier every time. Still always friendly. We put out food when she showed up, but pettings were her first priority. So we pet her. Then we washed our hands.
It was when she showed up with the oil spot on her back, I think, that we took her in. There was a spare bedroom at that point where she could be quarantined until we could get her to the vet. After the gray kitten a few months before who turned out to have feline leukemia, we were careful about getting too attached, and very careful of our two other cats.
The bath was a necessity. She stank, and the oil had to go away before it got all over everything. I’ve never seen a cat enjoy a bath before, but she seemed grateful she didn’t have to clean it all up.
The vet’s visit was expensive. Spaying a pregnant cat, even if she hasn’t been pregnant long, is an expensive thing. “By the way,” the vet said, “what you have is a lynx-point Siamese.” Siamese. First heat. Well, that explained why she was now a stray. That and a certain amount of random cruelty from idiots who couldn’t handle noise.
She was clear on the feline leukemia, and there had been plenty of sniffing and pawing under the door to the spare bedroom, so it was time to introduce the cats. She went straight for the Mysticism, the older cat, the moment she saw her. That’s when she got her first name: Malice. If you were a person, you were golden with Malice. If you were another cat…oof.
She got other names over time. “Bruiser” for the way she walked with her toes turned slightly in and her shoulders turned out. “Underfoot” for obvious, entirely cat-like reasons. “Aforethought” more because it was required than because she displayed any planning. “Football cat” for the shape she eventually took on.
She was Ben’s cat, probably because Humor was so thoroughly mine. He trained her for cute. If she wanted your attention, she would very politely put a paw on you, on your face if she could reach it. She spent countless evenings on the couch with Ben, demanding pettings every time he stopped, until her nose slowly dipped down onto his chest and she was asleep. She was the cat who lived on the bed at night, by Ben’s head or by my feet, because there wasn’t any room by his.
She had a nasty habit of licking herself raw in spots. It looked like compulsion, except that she would scratch if not allowed to lick. Eventually we got her on corn-free food–easier said than done when she’d stop eating at any change to her food or water, even in placement–and that cleared up.
Then this summer, she started licking her shoulder again. It got nasty and infected, and she had to take a course of antibiotics. That was “fun.” Even after she was all healed, however, she’d still scratch at the spot more than she had before. One night, thinking maybe she had a tooth that was bothering her, I checked her jaw for any swelling. There was indeed a bump, so she went to the vet a couple days later.
It wasn’t a tooth infection. It was cancer. It might have been operable, but Malice would have been miserable, and there was no guarantee it would prolong her life. We opted to spoil her for the time she had left.
It made sense of a number of small changes, like the drooling when she was receiving pettings, which was half endearing and entirely gross. It also explained why, for the first time in her life, she wasn’t completely gobbling down the rationed food she received twice a day. We moved her onto wet food. She was hungry enough not to fight the change very hard. Eventually that became liquid food, as we mixed water into it so she could just lap it up.
She still lost weight over time, becoming less football-shaped. She still had her bruiser walk, though. She drooled more. We got used to wiping her chin and smelling vaguely like wet cat food where she rubbed herself against us. Unable to clean herself well, she needed another bath, which she only tolerated this time. She came downstairs less but slept on top of us in bed in order to get her people contact. She was, in fact, spoiled rotten.
Then the day came where her tongue, which she used to sometimes forget about when she’d been cleaning herself, just didn’t really fit in her mouth anymore. It was time to make the appointment at the veterinarian, while she was mostly happy and healthy, aside from the huge chin that was pulling down her gums. She fell asleep on her boy’s lap yesterday, after fighting the sedative. We left her, calm and peaceful, on the towel on the table and came home to an empty house.
For the first time since I lived in a dorm in college, I live in a house with no cats. It will probably be better for Ben’s asthma, but it is a very strange place to be.