Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hasta la vista to the World's Toughest Cat

I'm generally a dog person but as cats go, my cat Stroker (named for a souped-up Harley engine) was pretty cool.

He grew up with a small pack of wolf hybrids who at first were all anxious to get a piece of him -- he spent the first year of his life being chased up trees by his slavering co-pets -- it was like boot camp for cats. But he learned to cope and to use those retractile claws of his, and one by one the dogs fell in line. He could walk up to the communal dog food bowl, stare at whoever was eatin
g, and intimidate him into slinking away, ears flat against his head, whining. One of the dogs liked to push the envelope: she'd hold the cat's head in her jaws and nibble on it, ever so gently, ever mindful of those claws. The cat put up with it, though sometimes whlle he was lying there with his head ever-so-lightly clamped in jaws that could have crushed it like an eggshell, he'd shoot me a look that said: "The shit I put up with around here...".

He learned well from his canine subordinates, though -- when he heard a noise outside, he'd rush to the door and stand there growling and yowling threateningly. Petting him was an exercise in fear and violence -- a little scratch behind the ear would instantly galvanize him into action, thrusting his entire body onto my arm and attaching himself to me, fangs ripping into my flesh and back legs kicking viciously. I was scared shitless of him. One of my nicknames for him was "Al-Qatta, Terrorist Cat".

But eventually even the toughest cat runs into something tougher, that thing we all eventually run into. Stroker was 14 years old and starting to show those telltale signs -- he was sleeping a lot (23 hours a day instead of 22) and had lost weight recently. When he disappeared last week and didn't come home for a few days, I suspected it was all over. Sure enough, yesterday I found him curled up in his favourite spot in the garden (one place I didn't look for him because it's the wrong time of year for him to be hanging out there). Nothing suspicious about his demise -- it looks like he just went to sleep and didn't wake up. We should all be so lucky, when you think about it.