Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Every now and again, something comes into your life you're completely unprepared for.  A sudden twist of fate, a chance meeting, or just a case of "right place, right/wrong time."  Such was the case some years ago when my parents brought home two cats.   One was named Haiku, and the other we renamed to Yami (because the original name was rather dumb).

When they were picked up from the shelter, the cats were described to my parents this way:

"(Yami) is going to be very friendly, very social.  Haiku might be pretty aloof."

They were wrong on every count.  Haiku was the most "people" cat I ever saw, bringing toys to people in the middle of the night, curling up on any lap she could find her way on to, and refusing to be more than ten feet away from someone if she could help it.

Yami...spent most of his time hiding.

Or perched on things like a guy leaning on a table.
Perhaps it was because my family also had a dog.  Perhaps it was because, as we later figured out, Haiku was bullying him as the two got older.  Either way, Yami was primarily my sister's cat, because he liked to go upstairs and hide in her room or down in the basement.  Rarely did he ever socialize with anybody else.

We were convinced that Yami was essentially anti-social.

He also had a distinctive limp, which we could only figure must have happened when he was a tiny kitten.  The two were found near a road, so we suspected either an animal attack or he was struck (ever so slightly) by a car.

This came into effect one Christmas Eve when he managed to sneak outside and climb up a tree.  Because of his bad back leg, he wasn't able to climb back down, and the tree he climbed was essentially dead, too dangerous to climb up after.  However, it was near another, larger, healthier tree.  That night I scaled up the tree in the cold rain (did I mention it was raining?) with a long board and some food.  I placed the board on the branch I was on and set it firmly on the branch Yami was huddled on.  I tried to coax him over, but he didn't budge.  I placed the food on the board, and climbed back down.

The next morning, with a backpack and some rope, I scaled the tree again.  Yami had managed to walk across the board and was now huddled on the "good" side.  I loaded the shivering, soaked cat into the backpack, tied the rope around it, and lowered him down to the rest of the family.  They took him out and carried him inside, where he immediately struggled, broke free from their grasp, and took off for the cat box.

It sounds like a joke, but it's what happened.

However, as the years went on, we noticed a few other things about Yami as he got more used to the house.  He would chase shadows of things you held out to try to play with him.  If you simply wiggled your fingers so the shadows moved, he'd tackle them and chase them around.  He would sometimes come over to you if you had your hand lowered so you could scratch him.  He stopped running away the moment you entered the room.

When Haiku passed away this last February, there was almost a complete personality shift in Yami.

He would suddenly come into the room and meow for attention.  He would purr more often when you pet him.  He started chasing toys and bringing them back to you so you'd play with him.  He'd curl up on a bed to sleep against people.  As time went on, it more and more became my bed he would curl up on, and I'd wake up to find him either curled up between my shins or pressed against the side of my leg.  I used to hook one leg a little bit just to give him somewhere to curl up in.

When I moved to my current living place, it was decided that Yami would come with me.  The two of us had grown pretty attached to each other, and since my parents still had the dog, it would be good for him to have "his own" place that he would let me also live in.

And for a while, things were great.  We'd play with toys, he'd curl up on the bed with me, he'd come out for attention if I was sitting watching television.

Several weeks ago, my parents were out of town for a few weeks, and I was house sitting for them.  I brought Yami back and some other things to keep me busy.  Yami started to develop a runny nose, which wasn't terribly uncommon for him when he was younger.  He used to need antibiotics every now and again to treat sinus infections (his mother was notorious for constantly having sinus problems, being a Persian.)

He was also thinner, but still eating the same amount and using the cat box, so I didn't think too much about it, and arranged with my parents for us to take him to the vet after they got back.

That day, I received a phone call and a text message asking me to call my parents back.  Yami was very sick.  His right eye was bulged out slightly, and his nose was still running.  He had lost a significant amount of weight, and was severely dehydrated.  We were told there were two likely possibilities.

One was an abscessed tooth caused an infection that traveled up the sinus and was resting behind his eye.  The other was cancer causing a tumor that was applying pressure.

Needless to say, we were extremely concerned.  If it was something that could be treated to get him healthy again, that's great, but if it was cancer, we had to seriously start considering what his life was going to be like from that point on and if we should put him through that kind of experience.

We started a round of antibiotics.

Yami didn't improve.  He would walk around crying, seemingly lost.  He wouldn't jump up on furniture any more.  He started slipping while climbing up and down short broad steps between rooms of my parents house.  He would need to be lead in to eat, and then would just leave a short distance away and curl up.

Today I received a text message asking me to call my mother.  She had carried Yami to his food several times already today, and then watched him go into the family room, circle the room while crying, and then move to the middle of the room and use it like a bathroom.  He hasn't used his cat box since Sunday.  Something is obviously very wrong with my cat.

"I don't know what you think I'm up to, but I promise you I'm not."
I'm heading out to the vet now.  We've decided that leaving Yami in the state he's in, when we aren't able to afford the extensive amount of medical care it would take just to keep him as he currently is (which, obviously, is pretty miserable), would just be cruel.  I'm going to say goodbye to my cat.  I know he won't understand me if I manage to say it, but he was so much more than we expected, and we felt so bad that he wasn't able to be the cat he could've been until so much later in life.

However, that cat he was before and what he became were pretty amazing, and I'll never regret having had him in my life.  He was instrumental in my feeling like I was settled in to my apartment.  My apartment is going to be so empty without him.

1 comment:

S. Blair said...

Hi Erik, I just discovered this blog about ten minutes ago via some disjointed internet rambling (yanno how that is?). Anyway, I just scrolled down to this story; heartstrings are officially pulled. I assume things took their course after you posted, and I wanted to register my condolences. Yami sounded like quite a character, and a one-of-a-kind companion.

Please, keep breathing and taking one step forward... Yami's at peace, and you will get to a place where his passing is easier to bear. Speaking from experience here, and will be doing it again within the next five years or so (my Mooch is about to turn 13).

Take good care, and have a beautiful holiday season. :)