I was not planning to publish this post yet, but a vet visit today has changed that.
For the past three years I have lived with a cat named Oscar. I like both cats and dogs, and I had planned to get a dog when able, but I suppose you could say the cat was dropped in my lap. My brother-in-law bought a property in the country as a place to visit on weekends and be near his family. I visited him one Friday night soon after he bought it to help him set up things. The next morning after breakfast the cat arrived. I suspect he was already living on the property. My brother-in-law fed him bacon that we had leftover from breakfast.
Needless to say, the cat came back. When my sister and brother-in-law visited on weekends he was there ready to eat. One time he was on the roof. Don’t ask me why. My brother-in-law took him to the vet for a checkup and vaccinations. At first they called him Farm Kitty and later changed his name to Oscar.
The following year I began renting the place, and so over time the cat and I bonded, and he became my cat. I grew up with cats, and so I knew how to care for him. Some of my experiences with him, however, have been quite amusing.
He was several months old when we first found him and probably over a year when I began caring for him. He was accustomed to hunting for his food, and that has continued to provide him with sadistic amusement. Hunting for him is not merely a means of obtaining food. It also seems to be game, although he does not hunt as often now. When he does catch something it is normal for him to proudly show me his newest conquest, smacking it around and tossing it in the air. I may come home from work and find a decapitated animal, or just organs, set out on display like trophies where I am sure to see them. One day I found a mouse’s face (just the face), and so for a while after that I called him Hannibal Lecter. That is a fitting name for a cat who delights in tormenting an animal before he kills it. He may smack it around or injure it and then let it walk around before he kills it, and he may even purr with pleasure while he torments the animal like a feline Vlad the Impaler.
Another time I came home and, as was common, he was waiting for me. He eagerly followed me into the breezeway between the house and garage, anxiously awaiting his opportunity to eat some cat food, and then he saw two birds trapped in the breezeway. He switched from normal to psycho in an instant. He darted to the other side of the breezeway where one of the birds was trying to get through a window. He jumped up onto the window sill and knocked the bird down. He then jumped down and quickly crippled the bird, which he then ate, leaving little more than a pile of feathers.
Oscar is also very territorial. Cats typically do not like to see other cats in their territory. Oscar applies a zero-tolerance policy. He has a large territory, many acres, and he makes it very clear that other cats are not welcome. One time my sister brought her cats so that they could see the property and meet Oscar. They appear to be part Maine Coon, and they have the great size one would expect from that breed. Either one is large enough to easily beat Oscar in a fight, but he had both of them hiding under the outside steps while he explained with great clarity that he expected them to leave immediately. It seems that living in the country around raccoons, opossums, wild boar, and even coyotes, has given him a tough attitude that one would not expect from simple domestic house cats.
On another nice day I was sitting on the screened in porch while he relaxed at the top of the steps. Suddenly he stood up and emitted a low growl. Another cat was in the yard near the house. He chased the cat toward the woods. A few minutes later I heard a loud screech, but when Oscar returned he was unharmed. I am not sure what the sound was. It did not sound quite like a cat, but if it was a cat then Oscar was teaching the other cat an important and no doubt painful lesson.
His lack of timidity shows in other ways. For example, if he spends the night inside I need to close my bedroom door. He cannot sleep with me because when he is ready to eat, which is often around two or three in the morning, he will make himself impossible to ignore. He will not climb onto my face or slap me like some cats do. No, his approach is more subtle but no less effective. He licks my face, and it is impossible to sleep with that sandpaper tongue brushing against my cheek. I can push him away, but he will quickly return. I can push him away more forcefully, but he will be back in an hour or less. One time when he was licking my face I covered my face with my sheet, and so he licked my hand. I pull my hand under the sheet, and so he licked my hair. I completely covered myself with the sheet, and so he walked around meowing until I got out of bed with great frustration and tossed him outside so that I could sleep.
I also need to be firm when I am eating. Sometimes when I am eating something that smells good to him he will jump up on the table, and if I do not stop him then he will try to stick his face in my plate. He does not know restraint. Apparently living as a stray for a year taught him that when he sees food he should simply grab it.
Despite his occasionally annoying tendencies, and his sadism toward other animals, he is a great companion. He is usually waiting for me when I come home from work. If I sit in my car for a while he will continue waiting, and when I open the car door he will come to the car and greet me. When I am writing in my recliner he will sometimes jump into my lap, which makes writing difficult, but it is hard to turn him down. If I am writing at my kitchen table, then he is sometimes on the table, either taking a nap or simply watching me.
Now the recent news. When I wrote my first draft for this post a few days ago I closed by saying that he is healthy and that I expect many more good years with him. Now that is no longer true. I took him to the vet today because he has been very sick for the past few days and has not improved. He tested positive for feline leukemia and may also have a secondary infection. He will stay at the vet for a few days for treatment. Even if his condition improves the leukemia will still shorten his life. He will also need to be an indoor only cat because he will be more vulnerable to other infections and can spread the leukemia to other cats. That will be a difficult adjustment for him because he has always loved roaming outside. If he does not recover then his remaining life will be much shorter.
More than three years ago I had no plans to adopt a cat, but the unexpected quirks of life brought him to me, and he has been a good friend. If he recovers enough to give us a few more years together (maybe more) then I will do what I can to make them happy for him.