For I Will Consider My Cat
January 14, 2013
"Time spent with cats is never wasted." ~Sigmund Freud
He was named Sam in a fit of geekish glee for the character in the TV show Quantum Leap. We always said that if we got another cat, we could name him Al, for Sam’s best friend on the show. (There was a flaw in this plan, which became clear when our second cat came to us, and Al became Allie. But that’s another blog.)
Sam is turning twenty in February, something I can hardly believe. Twenty years is a long time to know anybody, let alone a cat. It’s hard to remember a time when grey tabby hair did not cover every soft surface. Sam likes his pillows and really puts the "fur" in furniture. He has been with us through jobs that we quit and jobs that we were fired from, as well as through major surgery and minor disasters. He’s outlasted three TVs, three couches, five cars, and seven apartments. We have pictures of him with Christmas bows on his head, in embarrassing sweaters, making silly faces, asleep in weird positions, and wearing inappropriate hats and glasses. He’s one of the family.
Determining the age of cats, as T.S. Eliot might have said, is a difficult matter. Cats – and dogs too – don’t actually follow the "seven years to one" rule. They age very quickly for the first four years of their lives and then more slowly for the rest of it. By the best estimates I can find, Sam will be between ninety six and one hundred years old in February.
Like a lot of seniors, he’s slowing down a bit. We brought a litter box up from the basement because he has a hard time with the stairs; step stools have appeared by all the beds to give him a boost jumping up. He takes supplements for his arthritis and a pill for, of all things, high blood pressure. He’s lost weight. Running a hand over his back, you can feel the sharp planes of his shoulder blades and every knob of his spine. It’s like petting a dinosaur in a cat suit. His legs are thin and bandy with the arthritis, giving him the rolling gait of a retired sailor or maybe an old cowboy.
According to the Internet, the oldest cat on record is Lucy, who’s 39. The chart at the vet’s office only goes to 15 for cats, so Sam has already broken that record. I can hope for another 20 years or so for Sam, because sitting on the couch in the evenings would not be the same without him.
"For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit." ~Jubilate Agno, Fragment B (For I Will Consider my Cat Jeoffry) by Christopher Smart
North Oak Branch