Posted by: viewfromtheriva | December 22, 2012

Good-bye Tabby (2008-2012), such a fabulous cat!

Tabby was at home anywhere!

Tabby was at home anywhere!

We said good-bye to Tabby today, a remarkable cat who passed away from acute renal failure.  More than just a pet you play with and feed, Tabby had a unique ability to share his feelings and literally respond to us, other people and his environment in words as well as actions.

We first discovered Tabby four years ago almost to the day.  He was one of a litter of four or five, born below our terrace in the bushes, like so many wild cats in the neighborhood.  His brothers and sisters were mostly black and white, so his orange tabbiness really stood out.

One of his favorite spots in “his” garden–lizards and other cats beware!.  

For some reason he was the least skittish of the litter and always amazingly well groomed.  So it was not hard to admire such wonderful white paws and that perfect white chest.  What’s more, he really liked being touched;  never bit or ran away, so we quickly took a shine to him and like our other neighbors, always left  food and water in the hallway and on the small patio down below on the staircase.

For the first few months, we would enjoy stroking him on the way in or out of the flat–but never invited him in or even thought of adopting him until one frigid day in the pouring rain, I saw him on a neighbors terrace 20 meters away.  He looked right at me and I found myself saying out loud, “hey, come here, get out of the rain!”

Very quickly he ran over the terrace walls, jumped down to the ground, scampered up a tree and onto our terrace.  He was a wreck.  Hunched over and hacking like a heavy smoker.  Next day we took him to the vet.  The verdict?  Feline asthma!  So for the next two years when he had an attack we would feed him a pill and the symptoms would stop and he’d be fine–but without the pill the vet said he could die in an hour!

Tabby 2Tabby, like all cats, could sleep on a picket fence—so my knee was easy!

We look back at this episode in Tabby’s life as the first of his nine lives. Life two through five were all those times we were lucky enough to be home to give him his pill.

Last year, out of the clear blue, he comes home looking like he went 8 rounds with a doberman.  Bruised, cut, miserable.  We took him to the vet but the vet didn’t have a clue and just said keep him indoors and  gave him a shot.  But even keeping him indoors, he got worse and worse–eventually retreating into a closet, hiding and refusing to eat.

We finally decided to take him to another vet who immediately took a swab of one of his wounds, put it under a microscope and said, “he’s got an infection–allergic reaction to some plant or tree”.

Tabby 5

            My two favorite pussycats, secretly photographed at 7AM!

Within two weeks Tabby was back to his lizard-chasing old self.  By now of course, he was more than a family member, he practically had Croatian health insurance!

Both Natasha and I have had cats before–mine was with us for 19 years!.  But Tabby was unique in many ways.

1.  Natasha taught him to play hockey.  Honest.  He would stand between the legs of a kitchen chair and she would toss a soft ball and he would kick it away before it went through the “goal posts”.

2.  Natasha, who speaks fluent Russian and English, only spoke to Tabby in Russian so he had to learn a very foreign language.  Not only did he know what she meant when she said, “now this is really delicious” or “stop pulling the wash off the clothes line you silly cat”, but Tabby SPOKE.

We classified his vocabulary as different kinds of “meows”

Meow #1 was “I’m bored”

Meow #2 was “I’m hot, can you take off this coat?”

Meow #3 was “I love you mommy” (only said after Natasha cooked fresh fish and refused to give it to him unless he said these words!)

Meow #4 was reserved only for night, when we would shoo him out.  He would sit as far away from the outside terrace door as possible and we would say,

“Tabby, out!”–firmly, but not aggressively.

He would look right at us and scrunch up his face, open his mouth and say, “Menoooh”—about as close to “no” as you could, it was a hilarious, unmistakable response that we only wish we could have filmed and put on You Tube!

fat, happy and always near food!

fat, happy and always near food!

His vocalization was remarkable because he let us know not only how he felt personally, but how he felt about us.   From that first rainy day, he somehow knew that we were home, that we would always love and take care of him.

So in late August, working on life 6 or 8, who knows, he suddenly stopped eating and just looked crappy.  Not even fresh sardines could tempt him.  Back to the vet who intuitively knew our cat and immediately gave him a blood test.

What a shock:  renal failure!  Huh?  Happy as a lark two days ago and total kidney shut down?  Privately the vet said he thought he might last a week.

We just couldn’t believe it, so for the last three months, between hand feeding him with a plastic syringe and coaxing him with yummy vitamins and making sure he drank water as much as possible, he hung in there.

Tabby 6

Tabby in the garden next to his favorite tree and scratching post

The trips back and forth to the vet went from once a month to several times a week to make sure the toxins in his body, unfiltered by his failed kidneys, were kept at bay by antibiotics and us making sure he got water and food.

The last time we took him, the vet gave him a particularly tough injection–like when we humans get a tetanus shot and our arm feels like it will fall off.  Tabby, not one to keep things to himself, not only shocked us by hissing at the vet after the shot, but meowed long and loud.

Natasha, the linguist, teacher and translator that she is, howled.  “Oh my god, he is telling the vet that if he ever does this again he will tear him to shreds!”

The vet, who I can easily say was a miracle worker and way ahead of the “most famous” vet in Split in his ability to both diagnose and treat, got the message and joined in the laughter.

Tabby was such a member of the family that when he wanted to join us at dinner he would jump up to Natasha’s chair and put his head under her arm and his face practically on the plate–but never eat until she would pluck a delicious small morsel and hand feed him.  Even when he was outside lying on the table with food nearby, he would always politely ask, “hey, when you have some time, I am here.”

So many little things he would do and say that made him more than a “pet”.  Like how he would hear us walking up the street and somehow know it was us and burst out of the bushes and walk with us up the steps, and then when Natasha would ask him to roll on his back before continuing up the staircase, he would!

This past week was tough.  For the first time, he came into our bedroom and spent the night on the floor on a pillow in the corner–we knew it was a first of a series of goodbyes.  He perked up on Tuesday and actually ate some fish, but the next day could barely move.  Then when we touched him near his kidneys he meowed “it hurts”.  And this morning, he meowed clearly that it hurt when lifted him up and was clearly very weak and disoriented, so we took him in and after our vet said it would only get worse, we decided not to let him suffer.

Filled with tears, stroking him until he went to sleep, we said our final farewell to a remarkable feline!

May he forever be chasing lizards, enjoying sardines, sun and enjoying our love in his dreams!

Tabby sleeping two


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