(This story is written for a child's point of view.)
Our kitty is old now. Not sure how he got that way but before we knew it, he was old. It is a good thing that you and I are not getting any older! Hoover is 19 years old. For a cat, that is pretty old, although sometimes cats can live to be 25 years old.
One day, many years ago, while out on a walk in the neighborhood, we passed a pet shop where we saw him in the window. We went back to the pet shop two more times and played with him to make sure he was the kitty we wanted. We paid fifty dollars and took our kitty home.
He is a “tabby.” His coat is gray and streaked with dark stripes. His fur is thick, luxurious, and feels like velvet. His tail is ringed with circles of black fur from his hind end to his tail end. His eyes are dark, circled with white and then ringed with a black line. His nose is outlined with white, as is his muzzle. He has a dark “M” on his gray forehead.
They say that cats have three names. The one you give them, the one they pick, and the one you’ll never know.
His face is beautiful. That is one of his names, Sheyna Punim, which means Beautiful Face in Yiddish. Hoover. That is his second name, the one we usually call him. He wasn’t named after the president or after the vacuum cleaner. He was named after the school nurse I worked with. Her name was Kitty Hoover. No fooling! Probably her first name was Kathleen but we all called her Kitty. So now I had a Kitty Hoover of my own! His third name, well…
When Hoover was a little baby, he would sleep at the top of the bed between the two pillows. Sometimes when we would take a nap together, he would put his paw in mine and we would both doze off holding hands.
He could chase his tail for hours, loved running after a ball with a bell in it, and would stalk a toy mouse lurking under the sofa forever.
We had a toy fish that was connected by a string to the end of a fishing pole. Hoover loved to jump up and try to catch the fish. He could jump really high into the air. He was really good at catching the fish.
As he grew older, he decided that he wanted to be an outdoor cat. While he loved being indoors with us, he preferred being outdoors with nature. He slept under the bushes, strolled around the neighborhood, basked in the sun, and chased birds, squirrels, and rabbits.
Sometimes he caught a small animal and ate it for dinner. While that might sound yucky or sad, it is what cats do when allowed. In fact, animals in the wild usually eat smaller animals when they are hungry. That is just the way it is.
During good weather, he would spend all day and all night outside. He would come home when we whistled his special whistle. Sometimes he came home to stay for the night, other times he came home just to eat some of his cat food and then would go out again.
During bad weather, he liked to go outside anyway. He would stay out for a while then come to the door and announce in his loudest meow voice, “Let me in!” And one of us would.
He loved to hang out while you were working in the garden. He would lie in the sun and watch you dig holes, fill the holes with plant food, put the flowers in place. Sometimes he would help you dig!
When you were sitting on a lawn chair eating your lunch or reading a book, he would jump up and sit in your lap to keep you company.
Then one day before we knew it, so it seemed, he was old. Now he spends most of his time sleeping on the towel on the sofa in the living room. He doesn’t run as fast anymore and walks up and down the stairs more slowly. We think his hips hurt him.
He started having eye problems and eventually became blind. This is also known as “visually challenged.” We think he can see shadows and light or dark, but either way, he has trouble seeing. He knew his way around the house before, so he can still get around from memory and by feeling and smelling his way.
His hearing got worse so he can’t hear us whistle his special whistle. When it is time for him to come in, we have to go out to find and bring him into the house. He meows to let us know he wants something but in a much louder voice, because he cannot not hear himself. He is now almost totally deaf. This is also known as “hearing impared.”
Unable to see or hear, he has become an indoor cat. We have decided that it is not a good idea to let him outside anymore. We think he is slowly getting used to the change but he still goes to the door and announces that he wants to go out. He meows really loudly, we are patient, and he eventually gives up.
Sometimes, because he cannot hear or see, he sits in the middle of the room and yowls. We think it is because he is not sure where he is or if anyone else is around. When you go up to pet him he gets startled because you took him by surprise. He doesn’t hear or see you coming.
When you touch him, he jumps but he isn’t nervous for long. He loves when you pet him and when he realizes that is why you are there, he is one happy cat and begins to purr. He lies there while you pet him, and pet him, and pet him. In fact you will get tired out from petting him long before he will ever gives up being petted.
Besides the problems he has, he seems pretty happy. He enjoys eating, sleeping, roaming around the house, and having you pet him.
The interesting thing about animals is that they do not spend most of their life worrying about the future. Hoover never wasted a moment thinking he might become blind or deaf. It just happened slowly over time and he got used to it. He doesn’t sit around the house all day thinking “Poor me, poor me, oh woe is poor me.” He just does the best he can and has adjusted pretty well to his new life.
My guess is that he does not sit around and worry about dying some day. We worry about it a little and will miss him when he is gone but have learned many lessons from him and he will live on in our memory.
We have learned not to worry about those things that your cannot change. We have learned not to feel sorry for ourselves when we are having difficulties in life or problems with health. We have learned that our life can change and we can still enjoy ourselves. Most of all, we have learned that love is the best thing to have and to give and that nothing can take that away. We love our kitty and he loves us.
Written: May 19, 2007
Post Script June 1, 2007 – Hoover passed away peacefully today. Announcements of his death went out to family and friends who responded with an outpouring of sympathy and fond memories. Doctor Fox (yes, a fox takes care of our cats) made a contribution in Hoover’s name to the research department of the University of Illinois Veterinary School. Hoover will be missed.