Laura and I have had Merlin, our orange tabby, ever since we got married 12 years ago. He was the runt of the litter and turned into a 15lb big cat. He wasn’t a fat cat, but he was long and definitely bigger than our calico cat. He survived a fall from our fifth floor balcony and spent the night curled up inside the engine of our property manager’s van to keep warm. He travelled with us through four moves and put up with two children and today we had to put him down.
As he grew from a kitten into a cat he started to take up more and more room on my pillow at night until there wasn’t room for me to sleep on my pillow. So we decided to kick him out of our room at night. A decision that I think he laid at my feet for the rest of his life. He would often shun me in favour of Laura – many night when she would be out for choir he would completely ignore me and the space on the couch beside me. Then when Laura got home, he would suddenly appear and meow at her like she had completely abandoned him while she was out. Sometimes though, he would hop up on the couch and curl up with me.
He was a beautiful affectionate cat. He was also quite skittish and after our first child was born he climbed up to the top of his cat tree and didn’t come down until she was three or four. Initially our now six-year old was only able to touch him when he was sleeping or when she snuck up on him. Over time he started to allow the girls to touch him and pet him without running away. It seems that he was so skittish that I can’t even find any photos of him – not since he was a kitten anyway. I suppose the saving grace for him now is that he won’t have to put up with that trauma all over again when our third is born this fall.
When he was a little less than a year old we came back to the apartment from a concert we had been at and discovered he was nowhere to be found. We lived on the fifth floor of an apartment building so this was quite confusing. It became quite alarming when we noticed that the screen door to the balcony was slightly open. Our first thought was that he had managed to walk along to someone else`s balcony on the same floor. Eventually we realized that this was not the case. We decided that he must have jumped up at one of the pigeons that frequented our railing and had either missed and sailed over or had made it up and then had tipped off. Either way he was no longer in our building.
The next morning I was out walking around the parking lot below our balcony calling for him and Laura was out at a meeting or something. I kept hearing faint meows when I called his name. Eventually I tracked them to a van almost directly under our balcony. It turned out that he had climbed up inside the engine – probably to keep warm – and it took no small amount of coaxing and encouragement to get the very greasy cat out of the engine. I was able to get him upstairs to our apartment and locked myself in the bathroom with him so that I could contain the grease-spreading while I figured out what to do with him. I tried to bathe him myself, but that ended in injury – for me.
Ultimately we found a place that was open and could take him that afternoon to clean him up. It was a lengthy appointment and I think they gave us a discount for surviving a five-story fall. He was pretty clean afterwards. We think he actually landed on the windshield of the van and smacked his face and hip as a result. He had no serious injuries, but would periodically limp or favour one-side for the rest of his life.
We got a second cat to keep him company and Molly has been his sister for the past eleven years. Just like siblings sometimes they played well together and sometimes the attacked one another. Most often they tore around the house in the middle of the night. A few weeks ago when Merlin started exhibiting signs of illness – which we did not notice – Molly became much more affectionate around us. She stayed close to my feet and meowed a lot. I thought she wanted fresh water because it was sooo hot out. I thought Merlin wasn’t eating as much because of the heat. It was only after Laura pointed out that he seemed to be losing weight that I really looked at him and started putting together all the clues of the past few weeks. Last night was the kicker for me when I watched him try to get up and he looked like he was trying to stand up on ice. This is the cat who survived a five story fall.
Laura was able to get him in for an emergency vet appointment today and the vet was very concerned about him and she found a mass in his stomach. She listed off the tests that we could do to try to sort out what was wrong with him and offered no guarantees that we would find out what was wrong and be able to treat him. He was clearly starving to death along with whatever was causing him to lose his desire to eat.
We decided that euthanasia would be the kindest choice. He was deteriorating so quickly. Laura explained to the girls what was going to happen. They are fine so far. They came and picked me up from work so that we could say good-bye. The girls waited in the waiting room and Laura and I said good-bye to our old friend and stayed with him while the vet gave him a sedative and then the anesthesia to stop his heart.
He went peacefully and I wept for our loss.