Tiger: Gone too soon

Tiger - Photo taken 6 January 2012

Tiger seemed to be improving in health over the weekend. His appetite was improving, he was walking around again. The diuretic pills seemed to be making a difference in that he was peeing more. He had stopped wheezing and sneezing so we thought the calicivirus was settling down too.

However around 3:30am yesterday I was awoken by Tiger collapsing in my arms struggling to breathe.  I screamed out for mum. Tiger took a shuddering deep breath and held it for such a long time and then let it out in a wail on anguish and terror. I massaged his little chest and got another breath back into him and screamed out for mum again. I told him over that he was a wonderful puss and please breathe, please cough it up, but he didn’t.  Mum helped massage his little chest and we got another breath into him but in retrospect I think this was a spasm and he had passed by this point as he had already voided his bowels and bladder and I could not longer feel his heartbeat.  We kept trying for a few more minutes and I kept stroking him and telling him what a wonderful Pusska he was.

Tiger in his basket near the fire - Photo taken 28 April 2012

Mum says he knew he was dying and he used the last of his strength to get from his basket near the fireplace up onto my bed to be with me as he died. I cry bullshit; he came to me for help but I couldn’t help him.

I rang the vets at 8am and spoke to the vet who saw him on Saturday. He sounded very surprised at the news and only muttered something about embolisms being common in cats with heart murmurs.

Tiger was buried near one of his favourite early morning sunning spots in the garden. We’ve planted some newly sprouted jonquil and daffodil bulbs over him as he loved to hide in under those flowers and watch the world go past.

Tiger hiding amongst the Jonquils and Daffodils - photo taken 28 April 2012

He was neglected and abandoned by all else who knew him. While he was with us he discovered:

  • You don’t have to wolf down every skerrick of food you see the second you see it.  More will come.
  • It’s OK to leave food you don’t like. Eventually new food will be put down.
  • It’s OK to like or not like food.
  • Dinner is 5:30pm every night. Even if you have to remind the humans. Repeatedly.
  • You can leave food in your bowl, it will still be there when you get back.
  • You have a bowl that is yours and no-one elses.
  • And a basket, and a spot on the bed and various spots in the gardens!
  • How to successfully catch a mouse.
  • How to play with a ball.
  • How to play with another cat. I think Abby and Tiger figured this one out together.
  • To get the midnight crazies and run around the house at top speed for no reason.
  • What brushing or grooming is
  • That brushing or grooming is really really nice.
  • That a hand reaching for you is going to pat you, not hurt you.

Once we raised Abby’s food bowl to a height where Tiger could not easily access it, there was never any need to say no to him. There were never any unkind words or even any exasperation from the humans.  Abby had some territory disputes like sitting in all the  baskets first, but Tiger eventually claimed the one he wanted 🙂  Abby would regularly ambush him at our one curtained doorway, so he would avoid that doorway unless he was in a playful mood.

Tiger would never walk all the way up to any human.  He would stop just out of arms reach and sit or flop and wave all four paws in the air.  If you wanted to pat him or rub his belly, you had to move that final step towards him. This was also his signal that it was dinner time; he would walk up and flop. If you ignored him, he would huff, walk past you again and flop again, just out of reach, earning the nickname Flop Cat 🙂

Tiger relaxed and happy - Photo taken 3 February 2012 (iPhone)

On Saturday afternoon when I decided I needed some new photos for the previous blog post, I found Tiger in one of his favourite garden hidey spots.  After I kneeled and took a few shots, he stretched, and for the very first time he walked straight to me, head butted my thigh and wrapped himself around me. I cried.

We had so many more things to show you Tiger about a loving home. You deserved a much better life than you had, little flop cat.

Tiger aka Flop cat - Photo taken 21 April 2012 (iPhone)

16 thoughts on “Tiger: Gone too soon

  1. What an enormous personality for such a short stay with you. Cat’s amaze me with their ability to forgive. I’ll miss Tiger as I’ve shared your journey with him.

    Words fail me sweetie. There’s nothing I can say except I’m proud to have you as a friend and although most (if not all) of your friends would also have comforted Tiger’s last struggling minutes, it doesn’t minimize the fact that YOU DID IT. You took a cat who’d been deserted and abandoned when things got slightly tough and stood by him at the end. It tore your heart out…but you did it (and I suspect the thought of ‘opting out’ never even crossed your mind).

    I love you.

  2. Awww, poor Tiger! Hey, give yourself a break – you gave him a very good life, which he should have had from the beginning, but didn’t, for whatever reason. You did everything you could do, and Tiger knows that. I agree with Denise; sure he was scared, but I do believe animals know when their time comes; he just didn’t want to be alone, he wanted to see you again, since you gave him the life he was meant to have. He started out alone, and knew now it didn’t have to be like that. There are so many more that don’t have that comfort when they need it most…

    Enjoy your memories of him, and give special attention to Abby – she will miss him, too.

  3. So sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to you Mel.

    I went through a similar heartbreak a few years ago when a feral kitten/cat whom I had spent many hours with to get him semi-tame was attacked by a fox. Baby was only two years old when it happened. He came to see me one last time (with the wound) and then disappeared. Capturing him to take him to the vets at the time was not an option as he was not tame enough.

    I could get him to come into the house for brief periods to eat (and warm up in the winter) but once he wanted out, he would throw himself at the sidelights next to the front door, hard enough that I was afraid of him injuring himself. I was hoping that over time, he would adjust and would have been able to be an indoor only cat like my other five “foundlings”. I still miss him, I used to keep the entryway to under the house open during the winter and most days, would be able to find him sleeping on top of the main feeder duct from the furnace to the house.

  4. Mel,
    I am so sorry for you loss. Your Tiger looks alot like my Charlie Cat and I would be heartbroken too. One thing I know for sure is that he was loved. Rescue pets make the best ones because I believe they know they are loved unconditionally. He may have had a rough live to begin with but he had the best life ever with you and your mum.
    BIG BIG HUGS to you and your mum.
    Rae

  5. Thanks everyone!

    Julie. the thought of “opting out” never crossed my mind, I was too intently focussed on trying to keep him alive long enough to get an emergency vet here. We didn’t even have time to ring the number 🙁 I can’t conceive the concept of “opting out”. What kind of person would push an animal away in its final moments or even any moment when it has come to you in pain and distress?? I’m not being pretentious, I just don’t comprehend. The thought is simply too monstrous for words.

    I would have felt worse I had woken the next morning and found him half way to my bed or worse on my bed, but I had slept through it, so it was comforting to me to be holding him in his last moments. I’m so so sorry you didn’t get that chance Susan.

    Karen, Abby has been receiving a lot of attention and love and from the emptiness of the treat jar, has been milking the situation 🙂 After Tiger passed, we placed his body back into his basket until later in the morning when we could bury him. She saw his body, she “helped” mum dig the grave and watch us bury him. Just like she did with Hemingway and Trubs. Yesterday (the day after) she “called” for him three times throughout the morning. I’ve never heard her use the cat call tone before. When mum came home, she found Abby intently aniffing all over the grave site, and Abby hasn’t called since. So maybe in her cat brain she’s put all the facts together now.

    Rae, Mum is already talking about adopting another rescue cat, a young one, Abby’s age or younger as a companion for her. I get the feeling mum has a specific cat in mind so we may be a two cat family again sooner than I expect.

    Mouse and Terri, thanks for your kind words and hugs. Hugs always help!

    I don’t have a lot of photos of Tiger, but those I do have will be going up on Tumblr over the next couple of day. Julie is right, it has been a shared journey 🙂 More than half of his photos and comments about him were on Twitter 🙂

  6. Mel, I don’t have the words to tell you how my heart breaks for you, so I’m going to cheat and say:

    “What Julie said!”

    Because she said it beautifully. Tiger was loved in his last days, very much loved, and while it may feel like “too little, too late” for you right now, I’m sure he knew he was loved.

  7. Words just doesn’t seem sufficient at moments like this. {{{{{Hugs}}}}} I’m so sorry for your loss, Mel. At least in his short life, Tiger experienced love. You gave him love when no one else did. Do take care!

    Hugs,
    Veronica.

  8. Hi Mel,
    I have been reading your blog for a while now, and your post about Tiger made me cry – I am so sorry for your loss . My dogs are a big part of my life, apart from the dog hair everywhere :), and it breaks my heart when they are no longer here. Big hugs to you and your family xx.

  9. Mel, you reminded me that when we buried our beloved Maine Coon, Chelsea, two years ago, we buried her with some of her favourite things including her food bowl. It was only used in the morning for the kits’ daily gooshy food treat (they share a very large communal bowl of dry food the rest of the day) but you would have sworn to listen to her screams that this was the only food she was getting. “Mommy, I’m STARVIN”, is what we called it. I just couldn’t see ever letting another kit use her bowl so it went with her over the rainbow bridge.

    We love them like family and it hurts like family when we have to let them go.

  10. This is a wonderful memorial to Tiger. At least his last months were the best he’d ever had. Big hug to you and your mother and hope if you do get another cat he/she will help fill the hole Tiger left behind.

  11. Am so far behind on emails that I have only just come to this. I’m so sorry my dear but you did as much as you could for him. You took him in, looked after and loved him as you do Abby and the relatively short time he was with you was, I’m sure, the happiest time of his life. Sending you huge hugs and to Mum also. I’m sure there will be more cats in the years to come and that they will all be treated with the same care, attention and given the love that only you can give.

  12. Oh luv, I know I posted a comment but once again, the evil apple ate it.
    I am so sad that you’ve lost a 2nd puss in the space of a year, it’s so hard on you.

    Tiger, before “he” found you and Mum, was pushed from pillar to post and unwanted by the sound of it. You gave him exactly what a cat should have, a warm and loving home. I agree that he knew he was dying and wanted to be with you at the end. Clever boy.

    Much much love as always and I hope Denise does bring another home very soon. We waited 3 1/2 yrs before Buzz came to us and that “time space” makes the hurt even worse. Many hugs to you and Mum.xx

  13. Well whether he came to you for help or just for comfort in his last few moments, obviously Tiger knew he could rely on and trust you, and given his history, that’s HUGE! You and Denise made the end of his life a blessing. Hang onto that, eventually it will help. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  14. Thank you everyone for your kind words and wishes and I’m so happy that so many of you have felt like you were on the Tiger Express too 🙂

    Mum did have another cat in mind to rescue. A young cat that was with a stressed family that was not coping with life. By bringing the cat over here mum thought she would be improving life both for the cat and for the family. Unfortunately by the time she visited the family it was too late and the young cat had already passed away. It had probably passed for a few days for a few days before anyone had noticed.

    It was this story that pulled my head out of my arse. You are all correct. I did my best for Tiger and I’m glad he was with someone that loved him at his end, regardless when that end was.

    Susan, Tiger was a different cat when we put a collar on him. He started purring the minute we put it on and he never left our yard after that. He knew what a collar signified. We loosened the collar during his last few breaths. but I made sure we buried it with him. If there is an afterlife, he has his collar and if someone digs up his bones in the future they will know he was loved.

    Tiff, there will always be a small Tiger shaped hole in my heart, just like there’s a large Trouble-shaped hole and a Hemingway-shaped hole and Strife-shaped hole and a Marmie-shaped hole and a Lothario-shaped hole and a ….. you get the picture 🙂 But this just gives me more determination to bring a happy life to those rescue animals I can. Now just to figure out the practicalities of that statement 🙂

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