Good ol’ Monk is gone. We put our 14-year-old cat to sleep yesterday morning. Although he was feeling fine, he’d been losing a lot of weight, and a blood test showed his kidneys were failing. So rather than wait until he started feeling bad, we made the decision to end it for him. He got to say goodbye to some old friends who loved him, and he was his usual affectionate, happy, bossy, obnoxious self right up until the end.
He was an AMAZING cat. By that I don’t mean that he accomplished much, or helped earn his keep, or showed gratitude for the years of care, feeding and shelter we provided, or that he was nice to the other animals, or was particularly intelligent, or gave a shit about what anyone else did, thought or felt. Still, he was an AMAZING cat.
I got Monk when his original caretakers, good friends, asked if I would adopt him. They were afraid he would pounce on their new baby, and he well might have. Monk was then a big, strong 2-year-old, and well into middle age he was like a coiled spring with incredibly sharp claws on the end. When they saw him leap off a piece of furniture and land claws first in the baby’s bassinet, they reluctantly decided to let him go. (No, luckily the baby wasn’t in the bassinet.)
I brought him home and that night my friends, concerned about the kitty they hated to give away, called to see how he was adjusting. What I had already figured out was that we, the people and pets already living there, were the ones who’d be doing the adjusting. He lumbered out of the cat carrier and looked around with an expression that said, “What’s to eat?”
Monk immediately established a hierarchy. It looked something like this:
He was always really friendly, extroverted even (to people), but until he was 6 or 7-years-old, he would not sit still to be petted. He was always on the move, rubbing up against one person and then the next, his bent tail always whipping back and forth. With many cats, you can tell they are getting restless when they start flipping their tail. Monk was always flipping his tail, even when he was sitting.
And the claws, oh my God. Naturally, he was playful, but I quickly learned to warn people NOT to play with him. When most cats start playing, they have their claws retracted. After a minute or two, they may start scratching a bit to let you know they’ve had enough. Only if you persist in messing with them will they really try to scratch.
But not Monk. His claws were unbelievably sharp and always deployed. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t retract them. Someone playing kootchie-koo with him might well be hemorrhaging after the very first swipe.
Once, not long after he moved in, I startled him. As I walked past him, he leapt straight into the air, then ran to another part of the house. A few seconds later I looked down and noticed a not-insignificant rivulet of arterial blood coursing down my calf. He’d grazed me with a claw and it was so sharp, I didn’t feel it. At first. I’d been Monktured.
Sometimes he got his claws stuck in your skin like fishhooks. It happened to the dog a LOT when she was still a puppy. (And it’s a wonder she didn’t have her eyes scratched out.) But more than once we heard Monk’s claws tearing the flesh on her muzzle. Amazingly, the dog never bled or seemed hurt. Dogs’ gots tough skin.
As Monk got older and mellowed, he did like to be petted—A LOT. And he wasn’t particularly concerned whether or not it might be a convenient time for you. For years I’d get a 3am wake-up call from Monk, who would be standing on my pillow dancing on my head and purring LOUDLY, screaming/meowing every once in a while for good measure. The only way to make it stop was to distract him by carrying him over to his food bowl. This was known as “concierge service.”
Oh, yeah. I guess up until now I haven’t mentioned that Monk was a LARGE cat. Not fat, just big-boned. Well, OK, and fat, too. He topped out at 17lbs. Now that may not sound all that big, but imagine when those 17lbs. are doing a dosey-doe on your chest, with some sharp claws thrown in. It could make some activities, like, say, breathing, a little difficult.
Sometimes adding to the 3am love encounters was the fact that Monk would be soaking wet. Purring loudly, it was like he was saying, “Dude! I love you so much! And guess what? It’s pouring outside!”
Ah, Monk. He was a big bully to the other cats. And sometimes the dogs. He ate a lot of groceries. He shed like a wooly mammoth. He had terrible, terrible breath. And, yeah, after several years the 3am head dancing kinda lost its novelty.
We’re gonna miss him.
Mike Tyson (because of his effeminate voice)
Tiny (head) dancer