Back in December 2010, my wife brought home a jet black kitten from the barn in Benson. The little guy had been wandering around in the stall area and clearly needed a home.  No mom cat was seen, so I got a call to get a room ready at home, my wife would stop by the vet on the way, and a few hours later, this small guy found himself in a warm room, with food, water, and a person who lay on the floor, two legs becoming a good place for him to lie.  He still does that.

The kitten did not want to be alone. He was an absolute feral hellion.  We dealt with it for two days, until my wife said there was an orange kitten down at the barn, too.  We had one of those discussions about a multi-year commitment—do we take this kitten, too?  Our first two cats were littermates, and they did fine and were not a lot of work.  We adopted three—now two—brothers, seventeen years ago, and they were easier to care for than one cat. 

We decided to capture the kitten, and the next day, after being pulled off the wall, put in a carrier, and hauled to the vet, another small, orange fluffy thing entered our house and promptly hid in a bathroom drawer.  She—for she was a she— was found under the paper in the drawer, some place that looked impossible to be, but she was found with the Sherlock Holmes approach that whenever everything else is completely ruled out, what is left, no matter how improbable, is the answer.

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SoFi and Bad Boy, December 2010

We called her SoFi, with that spelling being the German term for eclipse: Die Sonnenfinsternis, or just SoFi. I was beginning to learn German at the time, and I wanted a German name for her. And so SoFi entered our lives, found her brother, Bad Boy, because there wasn’t a day then–or now, for that matter– that he wasn’t bad, the two of them entertained each other, and my free time at home soared.

The two kittens played with each other, slept with each other, and were fine, so long as we didn’t try to catch them.  Bad Boy sat on my legs; SoFi never did. Touching her was a big deal. One weekend, her poop got stuck on her hair between her legs; my wife was working in Phoenix, and I had to wait 24 extra hours until she got home. Both of us were miserable waiting. Together, we caught SoFi in a kitchen cupboard and barehanded cleaned her, getting nasty scratches in the process.  We had annual vet appointments, but we had to first capture them, which we did by cornering them some place.  Bad Boy gave up easily. SoFi did not. Later, she discovered a kitchen drawer accessible from below and slept there. Once we knew she liked the spot, we would check by gently testing the drawer.  If it felt stuck, there was a cat in there.  At first, both of them would stay in there, but as they grew, there was room enough only for her.

When they were three, we moved, and the high point of the packing was catching SoFi in fewer than five minutes. She traveled well to Oregon but disappeared in the new house.  We knew she hadn’t gotten out, but where she could hide was anybody’s guess.  I went into a closet and opened a nightstand to get something out and by chance discovered the bottom of it felt a little too warm.  I checked underneath it on the back, and found SoFi wedged in it. 

The first summer, whenever I took a shower, I sat on the recliner afterward to read. SoFi would jump up on the back, put her paws around my forehead, and lick my wet hair.  I didn’t dare move suddenly, or I would have had halo marks on my skull, like those who have to have their necks immobilized.  

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The recliner is about 45 years old and has survived about two dozen cats. It is falling apart, but when we moved, it never occurred to us not to bring it.

She and Floyd, a tuxedo male who came from a hoarder, had an unusual relationship. He was neutered, she spayed, but Floyd looked at SoFi as a girl friend.  They would sleep together at times; at other times, SoFi was pinned down by him, finally growling and wriggling loose. 

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When she was 8, we were able to catch her to clip her paws, a major step forward.  Later that year, she started allowing us to pet her.  We had two new cats come into the house; SoFi did not like the female, staring at her, trying to get around the gate we had set up, and being basically obsessed with grabbing her.  We called SoFi “killer.”

But as annoying has having a gate in the middle of the house came a very different change. The Killer allowed me to pet her, first where she was sleeping, and then I was allowed to pick her up and put her on my lap, much to our surprise.  She liked having her cheeks rubbed, and she purred and wanted as much of it as she could get.  After 9 years, she was becoming a house cat.  She would meow and quiet down only if I stroked her in the right spot.  All those years she could have had that if only….

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Only took 9 years with Killer to be able to do this without needing a transfusion.

During the pandemic, all the cats got far more affection than they did normally.  In mid-April, Floyd died after a short illness that appeared to be lung cancer.  SoFi seemed fine afterwards.

And was until a Sunday morning in June when she suddenly stopped eating and had some vomiting. This occasionally happened with a hairball, but that evening, she screeched and vomited.  The next morning, we found her in a corner where she had never been before.  She was taken to vet emergency where they found her in moderate renal failure with a phosphorus level off the charts. Her white count was low with some odd looking cells suggesting perhaps leukemia, and the vet recommended euthanasia.

I was stunned, so much so that I had to think about it for a couple of hours.  How could a cat so happy two days ago be dying?  I realized that as much as I wanted the lab repeated, it would not be for 24 hours, and she was not going to be any better. That afternoon, SoFi died.

SoFi’s loss, along with that of Floyd, at 14, made a house with a lot of cats suddenly appear very empty. Every time I fed the cats in the morning, I found myself looking at the dining room table, where SoFi wanted to be fed. I still see her flying through the air, landing on the climbing post, ears back, attacking the sissel.  

We have old cats now, and we will have more deaths sooner rather than later.  This was one death I wasn’t expecting, not that any are easy. 

Another at the Rainbow Bridge to meet.

While a cat can never be replaced, we did have a vacancy, and the Humane Society had many who needed a home. Flick, the third cat we have had with a name from “A Christmas Story,” joined us. We can’t save them all, but like the man throwing the starfish back into the ocean, we can save that one.

And a little bit of ourselves, too.

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  1. denise l helmkay Says:

    are any of the felines visiting you in dreams?

  2. denisehelmkay Says:

    are any of the felines visiting you in your dreams?

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