Thursday, December 20

The Cat Who Lived: A Tribute to Witch, 1988-2007

This morning, I lost a very dear friend of mine. I mentioned Witch in my previous post. Although her health continued to decline over the past couple of months since the stroke, she continued to eat and drink (although very little at the end) and to enjoy attention until the past day or two. We scheduled euthanasia for this morning, but Witch died on her own sometime in the wee hours before we awoke.

In some sense, I was relieved by this: first, because her suffering was at an end, and second, because I know I would have felt guilty by the decision to euthanize, even though it seemed like the right decision. We euthanized our dog Pooche, who was 16 1/2, in the throws of kidney failure back in 1999, and I agonized and tortured myself over that decision long after it was made.

You might wonder, why the title, when Witch has now passed on. Witch was The Cat Who Lived because she was such a fighter. Every time we thought it was the end, she managed to pull through. You see, six years or so ago, when my son was just a toddler, Witch was diagnosed with feline lymphoma. She underwent surgery and radiation treatments and went into complete remission. In the remainder of her lifespan, we saw no recurrences of the cancer. She had little on and off things, such as infections, and a bit of arthritis, but she always kept plugging. Even after she had the stroke, when we were sure she was almost done for, she managed to stay alive and reasonably happy for four additional months. Our vet called her "amazing" on more than one occasion.

I am eternally grateful to my husband, who kept her close by in his office, endured the smells, and cleaned her and cared for her most of the time while I was busy with the kids.

I'd like to share some of my best memories of Witch, a cat who was near and dear to not just myself, but to many who knew her:

How Witch Came Into Our Lives

When I was 16, I lived at home with my mother, my 25-year old sister, and her small son. One morning, in the wee hours, my sister got up fuming about a loud cat outside on our front porch that had been keeping her awake. She got a glass of water, and fully intending to soak the adult cat on the porch and scare it off, she pulled open the door, arm fully cocked. I was standing behind her when I saw her face instantly change the minute she saw the cute little (loud) black kitten with one lame front paw on the porch: "AWWWWWW!!" She was smitten and so was I. I searched the neighborhood to make sure she didn't belong to anyone, and I was very happy that we were able to keep her and give her a good home. She was my cat from then on, although I was happy to share her with my family and later my husband and children. That day was December 2, 1988.


Witch always did prefer the company of humans to that of other animals, but she would tolerate them when she had to. Among the others that she shared house with that have since gone on include Pooche, our little white mutt; Jessie, one of my sister's cats; and Xander, the first cat/pet that DH and I adopted together. Witch was a sneaky thing who would get behind Pooche, for example, and give her a nip just to show "I really don't like you too much" and then later crawl into bed with her. I guess the warmth was worth sharing a bed with a dog. Her latest, and still living, companions include Bronte kitty and Bucky and Satchel, our long haired young mutts.


When she was young, Witch loved to use her appropriately shaped bum paw as a hockey stick to knock coins off my dresser, one by one, like hocky pucks.

She also used that same paw to play on people's sympathy and beg for food. Nothing like one good kitty paw on your leg and the other gently tapping you, like saying "Look at me, poor kitty; I need food!" You'll never believe how many fell for that one, despite the more than adequate belly.

She loved to go outside and lay in the sun and roll in the dirt. As she was an indoor cat, this was always done supervised and/or on a leash (I met my college roommates on one such outing). In later years, she didn't get to go out as much, partially because if you let her out once, she'd spend the next week sitting at the door yowling, begging to be let out again. That and fear of her getting worms and/or fleas, which did happen on occasion.

We used to spoil her rotten. In college, I often fed her yogurt right off my spoon, and DH would feed her ice cream right off the top of his pint. This kitty loved to eat. At one point, she weighed in at a hefty 17 pounds. We managed to keep her weight a little lower in later years, but she still loved eating.

Witch shared vent duty in our current house with Bucky. In hot summers, Bucky lays up next to the vent to cool off. In winter, the spot belonged to Witch.

In short, Witch was with me a very long time. She put up with my teenage angst, my struggles for identity, and later, a house filling up with kids and other pets. She wasn't always happy about things (and she'd let you know if she wasn't), but she always had a purr for me and a warm presence. We'll miss her very much, and she'll be in my heart forever.

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