A week ago my Dibs cat died. He was 15 years old.
I miss him terribly.
Dibs and I met in 2003 when he was 1 or 2 days old. His momma cat was a stray and had been hit by a car. A Good Samaritan found the litter of kittens (if memory serves there were 8) and brought them to the animal hospital where I worked at the time. My employer took in the kittens and they all were quickly claimed.
Dibs was the first to be claimed. Here I am looking at this pile of furry black & white jelly beans, all of them so small they could fit in the palm of your hand. The runt of the litter was colored like an upside-down skunk and had this ENORMOUS head. Seriously, he looked like a cross between Pepe Le Pew and that Head kid from “So I Married an Axe Murderer.” I picked him up, he nuzzled into my hand, and that was it. I called “dibs” on him so emphatically that Dibs became his name.
With the assistance of a momma cat with her own litter of kittens, and thanks to the efforts of the entire animal hospital’s staff, all 8 of the kittens survived and thrived. Dibs grew into his huge cranium (It was like Sputnik! Spherical but quite pointy at parts! OMG quoting that movie never gets old). He became fat and sleek, and along the way picked up a brother: A brown tabby of the same age we named Tugger, whom we also adopted in 2003.
As the years went on Dibs became a blood donor for other cats in need of transfusions. He was so mild mannered that donating was easy for him and he didn’t require sedation. Dibs loved people and would greet, and sit on, our guests. When the kids were born Dibs learned that snuggling with me AND the baby was warm and very comfy. He learned quickly how to boss the dog around when she joined our family. Almost every night he slept on my pillow. Whereas Tugger was sweet but standoffish, Dibs loved being with people. But most of all he loved being with me and I loved being with him. I called Dibs my owner because it seemed that he called dibs on me as much as I called dibs on him.
Time went on and in the blink of an eye 15 years passed. Tugger died this past May when his kidneys finally gave out. Putting Tugger down was very hard and we were so sad, but no one was sadder than Dibs. He spent the next couple days looking for Tugger and seemed somewhat depressed. We moved the cat stuff to the main level of the house because Dibs wouldn’t eat if someone wasn’t near him.
Over the course of 5 weeks all of Dibs’ minor, elderly kitty issues snowballed massively. He went from occasionally sneezing to constant coughing and sneezing with breathing that sounded like snoring. We hustled him straight to the vet and it was found that he had a extremely infected ear and an upper respiratory infection. He had antibiotics, steroids, and ear drops. Our vet’s office was very supportive, but despite their efforts Dibs’ breathing got worse and worse. He stopped acting like himself, would hardly eat, and vacillated between being uber clingy and not wanting to be touched. Snuggling became impossible for him because he couldn’t breathe in traditional cat sleeping postures. We tried so hard to help him. But when the day came that he was breathing harder than ever, hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours (despite being offered tuna and chicken by hand), was constantly hiding, didn’t want to be touched, had a bulging eye, and started having nose bleeds, we knew he was suffering. He most likely had a mass somewhere in his beautiful cranium and we couldn’t fix it.
The next day K2 and I gathered up all the cat stuff and donated it to our local humane society. They seemed happy to receive the metric ton of cat food I had purchased in the last month in an effort to entice Dibs into eating. I ignored the siren’s call of little kitten mews from the next room and left the shelter crying.
We’re now a cat-free home and I hate it. More than that I miss Dibs and Tugger so very much. I miss having my cat sleeping with me on my pillow. I miss baby talking to my kitty boys asking if they would like snacks and having them kitty chirp back at me that, yes they would like snacks and I should really get to feeding them already. I’m so used to having cats that sometimes I see a vaguely feline-shaped thing under the table, at the foot of the stairs, or in a corner and for a moment it’s like life is normal again. A half a second later I’m disappointed and sad because I remember they’re gone and what I’m seeing is usually a piece of clothing that my kids have thrown on the floor instead of putting in the laundry basket.
I hope that someday we will have cats again. Right now we’re holding off though because our dog has developed health issues of her own and what resources we have available need to go to her. I keep thinking of those sweet kitten mews I heard at the shelter though…
From front to back: Dibs, Ambrose, & Tugger in 2009. Although Ambrose is not mentioned in my story, he was an important member of our kitty tribe for 6 years.