In September of 2010 I wrote a column titled, “The cat who came in from the cold,” about Tiger, our neighbor Bob’s cat, who, at a year old, came to live with Bob after a harrowing tale of abandonment by our neighbors to the south, adoption by some kindly neighbor ladies to the north, and a hilarious (if you weren’t one of the parties) custody saga between the ladies and Bob mediated by a pet psychic (hired by the ladies), who aurally communicated with Tiger – over the phone.
Tiger, decreed the cat whisperer, preferred to live with Bob. It didn’t hurt Bob’s cause that Tiger, like Bob, turned out to be a devoted Yankees fan.
Tiger had actually decided the issue much earlier. Bob, a hunky single guy with a robust social life, had never had cats on his radar, so when Tiger kept showing up on his back patio, he repeatedly returned him to the semi-lawful-owner neighbor ladies. (Spending $700 on surgery for an abandoned cat, who shows up at your door should entitle one to a certain proprietary ownership). But minutes later, Tiger would be back. Bob’s live-in girlfriend at the time had asthma and avoided cats, which further decided the issue.
But on a cold rainy March evening, a drenched Tiger stood outside the sliding doors on Bob’s patio meowing piteously. On that night, Tiger moved himself both into Bob’s home and heart. Amazingly, the then-girlfriend suffered no allergic reactions to Tiger and in a twist of fate, now does cat rescue. Bob uses this as an example of how Tiger has impacted the lives of everyone he’s come in contact with, including and especially Bob’s.
The guy who barely knew cats existed was to find himself with a feline soul mate, never mind the perfect sports-watching companion. Bob liked to cite as the basis of their bond that they were both adopted and both only children. But how many girlfriends would have been perfectly (purr-fectly?) content to sit on the sofa with Bob for hours on end transfixed in front of two athletic-event-broadcasting TVs? Tiger not only knew the players, but also never, ever made stupid comments.
When Bob and Tiger walked around the yard together, it was always in perfect cadence, to the amusement of the neighbors. Girlfriends over the years universally fell in love with Tiger. Some even maintained a relationship with Tiger long after the relationship with Bob was over.
Bob never went out for the evening without making sure Tigee (as his intimates call him) was in for the night. Unfortunately, the adolescent Tigee was still very much in his Cat About Town phase and had evening plans of his own, usually deciding to make Bob climb up on our roof to get him. After a while, we just left the ladder out and gave Bob a key to our gate.
A few years ago, Tigee became an indoor cat on the advice of a vet when attempted applications of sunscreen to the pre-cancerous lesions on his nose, not surprisingly, failed abysmally. (It would probably have made a great YouTube video.) But a couple of times when Bob was returning late at night with a date, Tigee would make a break for it, feeling the call of his lost youth. A short time later, he’d reappear, his carpet-softened paws uncomfortably wet and a “you can’t go back” look on his furry face.
In May, Bob noticed that Tigee was having balance problems and was simply not his Tigee self. Multiple vet visits revealed nothing until an MRI at an emergency animal hospital after a late-night seizure revealed a brain tumor. Although Tigee was 14, it was felt that surgery could give him perhaps four more healthy years. It would be pricey, Bob reported to us, adding a few wry jokes about the veterinary hospital ending up owning his home.
Within days Tigee was operated upon by a team that included two kitty neurosurgeons and a feline anesthesiologist. At first it looked like Tigee had come through with flying colors but as days passed, it became clear that he was not progressing as the surgeons hoped. Worst of all, it wasn’t clear he knew Bob. Tigee’s attempts to walk resulted in so many falls that he was fitted with a custom helmet to protect his little orange head. He required an esophageal feeding tube. He spent a month in intensive care. Bob had decided that if Tigee showed improvement he was in it for the long haul.
But Tigee didn’t and four weeks after Tigee’s surgery, Bob took him home to see if familiar smells and sounds (all the TVs were tuned to ESPN) would stimulate some response. But after an agonizing day at home, Bob realized that the Tigee he knew was gone and the decision was made to put him down that night.
R.I.P. Tigee. You were truly a cat among cats. You are so missed.
* Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in The La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org