Josie was my second cat. She was born in the summer of 2004, and found as a six month old kitten in a truck engine the following winter. There was no hope of finding her mother, if her mother had been near by, as the man who had found her then drove to Lethbridge with her still in the engine! Well, aside from that highly dangerous decision, it brought her to the PAW Society, and she was quickly adopted. But half the couple who adopted Josie was allergic to her, so she came back to a foster-home. She was adopted again, but the woman who brought her home ‘didn’t like her’; Josie was throwing up ‘everywhere’, etc., etc., etc. So she went to another foster-home. (Such movements to and fro are abhorred by rescue-groups but, alas, are sometimes necessary.)
This foster-home was very crowded with cats, and Josie, though well cared for, was, perhaps, a bit unhappy there. I recall being told that someone was interested in adopting her but young Josie was reluctant to leave her habitual refuge under a coffee table. This put off the prospective adopter, and she was saved for me.
In 2008, I thought my first cat, Tungsten, was lonely while I was at work, so I decided to bring in a friend for her. As it turned out, Tungsten may have been lonely, but not for another cat; and Josie turned out not to be a friend. I knew little about integrating cats in those days, and the process, if it may be termed successful, was so only after many months. Initially, the two girls hated each other. There was fighting and brawling and even blood-letting. I felt that I had made a terrible mistake. But eventually, the girls settled down to live with one another, even if they never liked one another.
Josie was a bit of a round cat from the beginning. I recall that someone came to meet a cat I was fostering (I believe it was Rachael, now Muffy, the beloved only pet of devoted cat-parents) and saw, upon leaving, Josie lying on the floor.
“Oh, that’s a big one,” the visitor said.
Indeed, my Chubs was spread out expansively on the rug.
She had what some cat-people call an ‘alien face’. It’s plain to see why. I sometimes woke up to this.
Though she and Tungsten did not get along at first, I don’t think that was Josie’s fault. The orange one had objected to the intruder. Josie initiated few problems with any cat; she was almost entirely pacific. Almost. One foster-cat, Wixie, was a big, barrel-shaped girl; very nice to me and her step-sister, Mystery, whom I was also fostering. But Wixie held ambitions of being the top-cat of the household, and, in addition to trying to intimidate Tungsten, bulled Josie, as well. I recall, still with astonishment, seeing Wixie and Josie, tumbling out of the library in the old apartment, locked in paw-to-paw combat, rolling about, screaming, fur flying. No damage was done, but it was a revelation to me that Josie could fight. It was the only instance in which she felt she had to, thank goodness. (Wixie and Mystery were soon after adopted, and lived happily with their family for years. Mystery died recently; Wixie is, so far as I know, still alive and well.)
Most of the time, Josie was accepting of new cats, which was good because many more came after her. She preferred a quiet life. She found her spots about the three of our residences in which she lived, one after another. In our first apartment, she would often lie on the back of the couch, her bulk deforming the top of the cushion. At night, she took to lying on the bed, perpendicular to me, her big bum against my side. As I did with the other cats, I found her presence at night comforting.
She was also accepting of human visitors, and was, until she became ill in her last months, the cat who greeted guests to the Cosy Apartment. When she chose not to meet them at the door, she was always receptive to them if they chose to go to where she was reposing, usually in the bedroom, in her heated cat-bed or in the saddle-topped cat-tree.
Josie played a decent amount when she was younger. I recall tossing her the rings from the tops of milk jugs, and her scrabbling after them. One time it landed, to her surprise, on her face, circling her eye like a monocle. She looked like a furry Mr Peanut. But she wasn’t an action cat, really, and her playing became more and more sedentary.
was superficially unremarkable. She rarely was, until the end, never seriously ill,
and didn’t often do anything new; she was probably the least reported on this
blog. I sometimes had to write an entry stating simply that she was still with
me. But she achieved a brief stardom of a kind in 2015, when she appeared in
the Lethbridge PAW Society’s calendar. I believe she was November’s cat. She
posed well for the photographer and one of the images captured of her is my
favourite picture of my Great White. (And she was great in those days, filling the frame of the photograph…)
She was not often demonstrative in her affection, though, lying in one of her two favoured spots, the saddle-shaped seat of the saddle-topped cat-tree, she would often stand up, then flop down on her side, and watch me, purring. That was a signal for some petting. She did that until quite recently.
Recently… Yes, recently, she still gave the impression of wellness. She was starting to become a little more frail, but her white fur remained soft and smooth, and her appetite was good, if not strong. She would start every day yelling scratchily for her breakfast, and would demand food at different times of the day. I fed her when she desired it, rather than when I was ready to serve her. Sometimes, she renewed her old habit of walking out to the kitchen at meal-times, and eat, initially, in the sitting room, to return to the bedroom and expect her food to follow her. She still climbed from her beloved heated cat-bed in the corner of the bedroom to her equally beloved saddle-topped cat-tree, to lie there and look out the window. I gave her regular doses of a gentle laxative, and that helped her bowels, I am sure.
Then, a couple of months ago, I noticed changes gathering. She started to wake me half an hour or an hour before our usual time for getting up. She would move, then pause, standing stock-still for up to half a minute. She would want to walk to the litter-boxes in the storeroom, but miss the open door and end up in the bathroom. Eventually, she would climb onto the bed at night and then stand, unmoving, as if she couldn’t remember why she had come up, or did not know how she had arrived there.
Despite occasional, hopeful bursts of apparently renewed health, Josie started failing. Her weight-loss, very gradual over the last couple of years, accelerated, and she looked and felt very thin. She started to sleep much more and kept almost exclusively to the bedroom, and her desire for food waned. Always dignified and conventional, she nonetheless mustered energy to go to the litter-boxes to relieve herself. She had a history of missing the box sometimes, but that was a relic of her large size, when her bum stuck over the rim. To go anywhere else was unthinkable to her.
The week of February 14th, her body finally had had enough. On the 16th, I observed that she was quite uncomfortable; when she lie in her cat-bed, she couldn’t bring herself to curl up in it, or even to crawl completely into it. Her breathing was fast. She refused food. Even now, though, her manners did not desert her, and she would make the trek to the storeroom’s litter-boxes. But she couldn’t climb all the way in to the box; when I lifted her in, she didn’t try to come out again. And I saw that she was very shaky in her gait. When she would stand, she would tremble and almost tumble over. I moved a litter-box into the bedroom, near to her bed. I had hoped that this frightening phase would pass, but I don’t think she slept that night at all. I watched her, and knew that she was not going to get better. I knew as well that a doctor could offer only two forms of relief: one, very temporary, would have been a strong pain-killer, which of course would wear off and leave Josie in distress again; I decided that the time had come for the second kind of relief.
I called my veterinary hospital’s emergency number at about five o’clock on the morning of the 17th. They have a doctor on call at all times, and she met me at the hospital. A cursory physical examination revealed a lump near Josie’s kidneys. My Chubs, no long a chubs but still mine, didn’t protest the little indignities done to her in the next few minutes, and she died easily and quietly.
For more than twelve years, Josie was with me. I don’t think she spent even one evening away from me, no over-night hospital stays, and no holidays away from her for me. She outlived others of my feline family, but could not remain with me forever. I will remember her qualities, rarely demonstrative, but always strong. Some things about her stand out in my memory.
She had a sensitive stomach, and sometimes threw up; I carried her, if I reached her before she puked (she usually made a wah-wah-wah cry preparatory to upchucking), to the bathroom, where the floor was uncovered and easily cleaned. She learned from this, and tried her best to get to the bathroom on her own, if she felt ill. Hurrying to the bedroom, hearing her about to spew, I would see her trundling down the stairs from the bed and toward the door. If she couldn’t make it to the bathroom, she went into the storeroom, similarly uncarpeted.
My girl was smart: when we lived in our house with air conditioning, Josie learned to cool the important parts of her body over the air vents…
I remember how she learned from my late friend Parker to cross from the bed to the shelf under the window by walking across my computer desk.
I will always remember that India-rubber-red nose of hers...
I used to think my girl was quite literate; she always seemed to like books, though she couldn't open them by herself.
In her early days, she had a habit of leaning on a diner’s shoulder, if she wanted access to the food currently being eaten. In this one thing, even Tungsten acquiesced.
I saw her tolerance toward new cats, even the intolerable Felons, my foster-kittens, when they, locked in the bedroom with her, would investigate this large, grand-matronly cat in the cat-bed.
I have been grateful for her solid – and often, stolid – presence, my ‘adult’ cat; like Tungsten, always dependable and rarely silly. She was my Great White, who wasn’t really great, but good, a quality infinitely preferable. Josie didn’t conquer worlds, just my heart.