Tucker, my roly poly sausage, came to me in late September of 2010. He had been taken into the PAW Society in 2005 as a rescue-kitten, and adopted soon after. Following five years with the same family, he was evicted for wetting outside the litter-box. The family had just had a baby, and such a reaction on the part of the resident cat can sometimes happen, especially if the feline is particularly sensitive, which Tucker always was. Not bothering to work through the situation, the family returned Tucker, and he came to live with me as a foster-cat.
Like many of those who have come to stay with me, he was initially open and friendly, excited at his new surroundings. Then the reality of his situation set in, and he realised that he was not going home. He became more reclusive, taking to lying behind a corner bookcase in my library; he did come out, but he would not eat. He had to be syringe-fed; not for the first time, though this was the first time I had experience with such a treatment. As would happen in the future, putting food into Tucker this way prompted him to eat on his own – after four days - and he survived. I will always see his big moon-face looking wonderingly up at us, asking why we were putting food in his mouth this way.
I noted in my blog at the time that Tucker’s integration was the easiest I had experienced thus far. After he started eating again, his despondency over the change in his world disappeared, and he wanted to leave the library and meet the other cats. Renn (or Ren, as I spelled his name then) didn’t care for him, but my big boy was new himself; he may have thought Tucker was a replacement. Tungsten disliked him, too, but that eventually resolved itself.
I recall Tucker being reticent about playing. It was as if he had never played before, afraid of string-toys and sticks. I would take him to the bedroom, close the door and play with him; he seemed puzzled by the whole thing. He soon acquired the point, however, though his batting of toys was very hesitant at first.
In the following January, Tucker began his most enduring tradition: going to the veterinary hospital. This initial visit was to remove some bad teeth. This was the first of many such appointments, which would garner the Tuxter his title as ‘my most expensive cat’. It also resulted in stress which manifested itself in licking himself raw under the base of his tail. The answer to that was inevitable.
Time moved on. I decided to adopt Tucker, and that became final in January, 2012. It was a gradual decision, formed of the conviction that Tucker would have a tough time adjusting to a new home; he would become accustomed to it, I’m sure, but it would be a hard road to get to that point. Besides, I had come to like him a lot.
In retrospect, I am glad, from a purely practical aspect, that I adopted him. He had so many problems, some physical, some emotional, that it may have strained some families’ abilities, or will, to keep him. Certainly, his first family didn’t demonstrate any perseverance in the matter.
Tucker’s first major health issue, aside from the teeth that were removed, occurred in September, 2012. Felines will sometimes get urinary blockages. This happens principally - almost exclusively, I think - in males, due to their urinary tract. Tucker couldn’t wet. I remember when I realised he had to go to the hospital. I had moved a litter-box upstairs (we were in our house at the time) to keep an eye on him, and after trying to go the whole day, Tucker simply lie down in the litter and looked at me. He was asking for help. After consultation with a friend in the rescue-group to which I belong, I took Tucker to the hospital.
The doctors there tried thrice to free his blockage. The first time, it worked well enough for the little patient to come home. But he blocked again, and a third time even before he left the hospital. A surgery called a perineal urethrostomy was strongly recommended. I recall my conversation with the veterinary: I said there was no option, Tucker would die without the operation. She confirmed this, so I gave my consent. I didn’t bother asking about the cost, and hoped that I had enough money to cover it.
He stayed in the hospital over night and came home the next day. He hadn’t eaten or drunk since the surgery; he was despondent. I kept him isolated from the others for the day and night, to see how he used the litter-box. He slept in the bedroom with me, while the others were kept out. The instant I turned out the light, he started purring. He realised only then, I think, that he wasn’t going back to the hospital. He was still purring when I fell asleep, about twenty minutes later.
Tucker didn’t have a physical urinary problem after that, though stress caused him to wet outside the litter-box more than once. Apparently, his intestines, envious of the attention his urinary tract was getting, became blocked in January, 2014. After these were cleared, his next great health challenge was when he was diagnosed with diabetes, in August, 2015.
I had had no experience with the condition previous to this, and have learned a lot, through necessity, since then. Tucker was always very good about taking his insulin, usually twice a day, though his numbers veered from time to time and, at one point, I was giving him insulin only once daily. He also had to suffer ‘curves’, a series of pokes in the ears to draw blood to measure insulin’s effects on his blood-sugar. They were day-long ordeals, but the roly poly was quite coöperative on all occasions. Though the vicissitudes of his numbers were a constant battle, once he was on insulin, Tucker was able to manage his diabetes.
But three years later, his teeth had deteriorated to the extent that they all had to be removed. He looked funny with nothing but gums, though he recovered from this probably more swiftly than from any other procedure he underwent. Once he figured out what he had to work with in his mouth, his dental omissions did not affect his eating, whatever else may have.
In December, 2019, my long-suffering boy was discovered to have kidney failure. This necessitated more medicine, a ‘binder’ in the form of powder, mixed with his food. That, in turn, meant a small syringe of watery food twice a day. He also received subcutaneous fluids thrice a week. Again, Tucker bore his trials with fortitude, and, as much as it can be, his renal trouble was contained.
Tucker developed cancer some time this year. Its effects became strong by September and severe in November. He died on December 4th.
I provide this catalogue of woes not for sympathy for my roly poly sausage of a cat, but to show his history, and what he - and other felines - can overcome. Tucker was a happy fellow, always ready to purr, and he met each calamity but the last with forbearance and strength, and he defeated each calamity, but the last.
But the Tuxter was more than just the list of his health problems. He was a character. There are aspects of that character that I will never forget. One of the first quirks I saw in him was what I called his ‘bathing beauty’ pose. Put him on a beach-towel like that, and he’s ready for a summer month’s illustration on a calendar.
It’s entertaining from different angles, too.
He had a strange cry that he made now and then. I first heard it at about one o’clock one morning; it woke me from a sound sleep and was more than vaguely disturbing. It can be heard here: https://ihavethreecats.blogspot.com/2021/08/tucker-calls-his-home-world.html
He would never make the sound while I was in the same room, and if, coming from another room, I looked at him while he was uttering it, he would stop.
Periodically, Tucker would sleep with his eyes open, and scare me into more than a suspicion that he had passed away. But no, he was just giving a good imitation of death.
He had a number of favourite spots in the Cosy Apartment. He liked to lie on the cushion of the nearest dining table chair, even when I wasn’t at the table. It was the perfect spot from which to watch me eat and intimate that food should be given to the cat. He would also lie there while I prepared dinner; it was a good location for conversation.
Then there was his heated cat-bed. No one else used this bed, and I think Tucker liked the warmth, especially as his body aged. Latterly, he took to using the hammock much more than in the past. I wonder now if it helped ease the pressure his tumour might have been exerting on his insides.
Memories of Tucker flood my consciousness. One of many readers’ favourite pictures is of Tucker’s atrocious attempt to hide from my insistence on giving him medicine, fairly early in our acquaintance. He eventually became rather stoic in receiving his pills, liquids and powders. That’s good, because a master of camouflage, Tucker was not.
Another time, I came out of the bathroom after a shower prior to bed-time, to see Tucker in front of the fireplace. Then, as I drew closer, I observed that he was not in front of the fireplace, but in the fireplace. It was spring, so the grate was empty and cold. But, cleaned it though I had, it was still sooty. Even as he moved to escape, sensing that he should not be where he was, I hurried toward him, to stop him from tracking the soot everywhere. I caught him in time, and had to bathe him, the only time I’ve washed more than paws or a bum on a cat.
I don’t like to encourage the beasts to try to escape the apartment, but when I know they will remain under control, I can allow them some privileges. Tucker considered exploring the corridor outside the Cosy Apartment to be quite the adventure. As his body grew feeble, he still liked to go out, but I would carry him if he felt like going any distance. He would purr as soon as I picked him up.
And when I would come home, he would rush out with a squeal, perhaps of delight at having fooled me into opening the door. But he would only go a foot or two, then stop to sniff what I had brought home. I would pick him up and he would purr. He was always happy to see me. Frequently, I would hear him meowing from the other side of the door before I’d even opened it.
Sometimes he could be quite photogenic. One picture I took made him resemble a Mafia boss sitting in his chair, dispensing favours and revenge. As the Catfather, he was made a resident of Trout Towne, by the Tabbies on their blog, and figured in a number of adventures in that enjoyable village.
Tucker loved human food. Even when he was going through a phase (of which there were many) of not eating cat-food, he rarely turned down a morsel of what I was eating. There were times I was grateful he had no teeth, as he probably would have taken a chunk of my flesh in his eagerness to snatch a piece of pork or chicken or toasted cheese from the palm of my hand.
We would play a few games, Tucker and I. One involved me repeatedly peeking at him from around a corner. He would become more and more intrigued until at last he would roll on his side and squeak. I would come rushing out at him and he’d squeal as I seized him by his ticklish sides. Other times, he would be sitting on his dining-table chair and I would speak his name over and over; he would rub his face against the chair, which I always felt was like a child giggling. Periodically, I would hold out my hands threateningly; he would flex his paws in anticipation. Then I would hasten toward him and he would scream, like a couple of guys in a buddy movie as something comically threatening came hurtling at them.
A game of which we never tired consisted simply of Tucker grabbing my hand with his paw and stuffing it into his mouth, where he would gum my fingers. I would cry out in simulated pain. He seems to like the ferocity that that implied he had. I could point my finger at him, and he would snap at it, as if to bite off its tip. He knew he had no teeth, and he rarely came within three or four inches anyway; it was just a little bit of fun.
Tucker needed fun in his life, as he had enough that wasn’t.
On Thursday, December 2nd, I took Tucker to the veterinary hospital for what would be his penultimate visit. His health had been diminishing for months, but in particular since early September. His weight had generally moved around the seven to seven and a half kilogram 15.4 to 16.5 pounds) range; at the start of September, it was down to five kilograms (11 pounds) and two months later had dropped to just 3.93 kilograms (8.66 pounds). His fur coat hung on him like it was a cloak on a coat-hanger, and he had begun experiencing nose-bleeds, that were increasing in frequency.
The doctor - not the one Tucker normally sees, but trusted nonetheless - felt a “mass” in Tucker’s abdomen; I asked for clarification by x-ray. A picture was taken and shown to Tucker’s usual doctor, who had arrived at the hospital by then, and who also physically examined my boy, as did a third doctor who was present. They all agreed that Tucker had an advanced tumour; two thought it was attached to his liver, the third to his intestines. Its placement was unimportant. The x-ray was sent to a specialist hospital for interpretation, but that was really unnecessary. My friend was wasting away, and rapidly.
I thought of letting him go then and there, but it didn’t feel right. So he was injected with a pain-killer and Cerenia, which would reduce inflammation and abdominal turbulence. I was given Mirtazapine to increase Tucker’s appetite.
He had quite a good, last day on Friday. When I came home that evening, he enjoyed an excellent dinner, eating half a tiny of Fancy Feast, more than he’d consumed at one time in months, in addition to some cut up roasted pork. He purred a lot that night, and rested well.
But the artifice of that situation was demonstrated Saturday morning. Tucker’s appetite had deserted him once more, despite another dose of Cerenia and Mirtazapine. He did have one final delight, though: every Saturday, for breakfast, I have a meat pie. They are an inexpensive but reasonably nutritious, and certainly tasty, meal, though not normally eaten by people for breakfast. And every Saturday, I leave some of the gravy and a bit of meat on the dish for Tucker to lick clean. It was never healthy for him - probably full of gluten - but it was a small, weekly treat to which he looked forward. This morning, his last on Earth, he licked it all up.
I had made an appointment for Tucker on Saturday morning. As always, the veterinary staff were very kind. There is a small room set aside in the hospital for such events as Tucker and I attended then; there is an outside door by which one can leave afterward. Tucker stood on a blanket-covered table as a sedative was administered. He lie down. I held him, with a hand under his chin, as the fatal drug was give. He gave a slight growl, perhaps as he felt his heart troubled for an instant, and then he seemed almost to deflate in my hands. I felt his life depart.
I’ve not had a cat who was so physically near me as much as Tucker; perhaps that is why I feel his loss so greatly. He was always close by. I recall many, many instances of him ambling up to me and rubbing against my legs, just to let me know that he was there, and that he liked me. I liked him, too; Tucker R. Poly, the Catfather, the Tuxter, the baby of the family. He was my friend, and I liked him very much indeed.