Nikki and me
Posted by Trixter on April 1, 2009
In 1994, when I was 23, Melissa and I adopted a kitten from a stray that someone from work had taken in, and named her Nikki. She was more neurotic than playful, more stupid than smart, more heavy than svelte. Her fur was dull, with a dander problem. Once she was no longer a kitten, she didn’t like being held or scratched for very long.
She turned into a crotchety old woman in about two years. She now wanted scratching, but only on the sides of her face — and if you weren’t doing it right, she’d bite you as a reminder of the proper technique. She complained every time you brushed her, making her the only cat I have ever encountered that doesn’t enjoy being brushed. She no longer purred, even when given a favorite food or scratched in an acceptable manner.
No matter the outcome, time heals all wounds. It took the both of us about a decade before we had each other figured out. Some examples from the last six years:
- At night, I would sit down at the computer, and she’d bug me to scratch the sides of her face (complete with impatient biting). Sometimes she’d stand on her two hind legs just to reach something to bite. Then she’d lay back down, either at my feet or under the nearby table. Clockwork.
- I could call her name; like a dog, she would come from anywhere in the basement. (She preferred to live in the basement, even though she had full run of the house.)
- When guests visited, she was abnormally affectionate and purred loudly. To mock me, I suppose.
- When I tried to record video of anything, she made sure to get a word in edgewise to ruin the shot. You can hear her at the end of the 8088 Corruption google video, for example.
- When I got up and left the computer room, she pretended not to notice. Yet whenever I returned, she’d be at the doorway.
- When we developed a mouse problem one year, she left me mice under my chair until I got the hint that the mounting corpses were not an isolated event.
- Amazingly, she learned to teleport. At least, I think she did, because whenever I sat down to watch some TV, she would somehow appear next to me on the couch without me noticing how she got there.
I also found out that if I held her very tightly, as in preventing-her-from-escaping tightly, she would actually enjoy it, settle down, and start purring. This, after 13-odd years of not purring. Crazy. The world’s first autistic cat.
A few months ago, we noticed that the common pet water bottle in the kitchen was getting emptied at nearly double the rate it had the previous year. We discovered we had a raccoon problem (let that be a warning to those of you with pet doors), and we took care of it… but the water usage continued to be high. It turned out to be Nikki, who was escaping the comfort of the basement to get additional water when hers ran out. We then found her pooping outside of her litter box. Then the pooping slowed to one movement a week, while the wayward urination grew to such volume that it saturated her litter box every day. I didn’t want to admit it, but recognized this as chronic renal failure. We’d been through CRF with a previous pet. CRF is terminal.
Two days ago, I made the heart-wrenching decision to put Nikki to sleep. My decision was made to spare her the later stages of CRF, which include severe pain, wasting, uncontrollable vomiting, and convulsions, all of which can last for weeks before death. I wanted her to leave this world in comfort, with dignity. I spent last night with her doing whatever she wanted to do, which was mostly laying on me and watching TV. (I am fortunate she enjoyed watching UFC and Adult Swim as much as I do, so we didn’t have to fight over the remote.) I dragged a string around the floor, which she chased, even at her age. I let her eat some of my cereal. She took a nap while I read a book.
We said goodbye this morning. I had to pull over driving back.
She was 15 years old. She witnessed my marriage to Melissa, then the birth of my two children. She was that unique type of cat who acts more like a dog than a cat, as she was somehow always in the same room you were in. In fact, I think that’s why she preferred to stay in the basement: Not to avoid the dog, but to be around someone with consistent patterns (me).
Most owners would prefer that their cats not bite their fingers. I am already missing it.