Sunday, October 26, 2008

Things about Clara


I have this one last post to make about Clara, then I'll be back to the regularly-scheduled programming (i.e., recounting my recent trip to South Africa).

When I thought Clara had FIP, and thus perhaps only weeks to live (with medication), I started making a list of things I like about Clara. My memory is poor, and I was quite worried I would forget things about her. Then, two days later, I found out that she had only days to live (turned out to be less than a day) and realized I didn't even have time to post the list in the present tense. So here, in past tense, is the list I made during Clara's final days.

1. Clara liked warm butt spots. Warm butt spots are comfortable places left on the couch when someone gets up. I eat dinner on the couch and Clara would sit on my lap as I ate. When I got up to take the dishes to the kitchen, Clara would curl up in the spot where my butt had just been. Sometimes, she would even leave my lap to take Jesse's warm butt spot when he got up. When we returned to the couch, we'd have to pick her up to get our butt spot back.

2. Clara liked to get under the covers of my bed occasionally. She wouldn't stay very long--I think the limited air got to be a bit too much. Often, she'd want to get under the covers just when I was trying to go to sleep and would paw at the sheet around my neck. I often didn't want to make the effort to lift up the sheets to let her in, but I almost always did, thinking that I wanted to have as much happiness as possible in her short life (it was going to be short whether she lived 10 or 15 years).

3. Clara would sit on the (closed) toilet while I brushed my teeth. My nighttime routine with Clara is probably the thing I'll miss most about her, and I'm pleased to say she did the whole routine the last night she was alive. When I would stand in my bathroom brushing my teeth, Clara would come into the bathroom (pushing open the door to get in if necessary--and if I had shut the door too firmly, she'd just wait patiently outside for me) and sit on the toilet, with her tail hanging over the side. When I needed to use the toilet, I'd pick her up and put her on the side of the sink, and then she'd follow me to bed when I left the bathroom. She also loved to watch the toilet flush when she was younger--she'd run over and stand on her hind legs with her front paws on the rim of the toilet, and intently watch the water swirl away. I'm an internet addict and sometimes (always?), I stay up past my bedtime because I'm on my computer. Jesse sometimes would come and tell me that I should go to bed because Clara was waiting for me. I burst into a fresh round of tears on Clara's last night when she jumped onto the toilet, then I gave her a good rubdown on my bath mat.   

4. Clara would sit on my chest when I turned the lights out at night and when I opened my eyes in the morning. I often read for at least a few minutes before I turn out my light and get settled in bed. Clara would sit at the foot of my bed until I turned the light out and lay down flat, then would walk up and lie down on my chest, facing me. I would pet her for a few minutes, until I wanted to go to sleep, and as soon as I stopped petting her (or when the petting slowed down because I was falling asleep), she would get up and walk to her sleeping spot--between my legs. I still haven't quite got used to being able to sleep with my legs together. In the morning, my alarm wakes me up by turning on NPR, but I don't always start stirring immediately. When I did, Clara would come sit on my chest again. She was a devoted cutie.

5. Clara had amazing speed and agility in chasing toys, especially laser pointers. She was amazing to watch. My friend Dean reminded me that he instituted a "rule" that when we played with the laser pointer with the cats, that we had to always end the game by making the dot disappear into the same spot--the red light on the carbon monoxide detector I had in the hallway. Dean thought that way the cats wouldn't be as confused about where the red dot had gone. About a year and a half ago, I got the cats a toy that consists of a bunch of feathers at the end of a string attached to a stick. When I made the feathers fly around the room, Clara would leap up really high to try to catch it, twisting her body as she went. I had to stop to let her catch her breath sometimes--she would be visibly huffing and puffing after a good session of playing with the feathers. 

6. Clara was the bravest scaredy cat. She would often see "monsters" in every day objects, like a shirt on the floor. She would approach the object very slowly, then finally stick out her leg and poke the object to try and figure out what it was. We appreciated that even though she was scared of "silly" things, that she was brave enough to face them. She never did get used to the vacuum cleaner though--we'd put her into a room and close the door so that we could vacuum the rest of the house/apartment

7. Clara didn't like bare human skin. If I were wearing shorts, she'd do everything possible to avoid touching my legs while she was sleeping on my lap. Some nights when it's really hot, I'll sleep with my shirt pulled up to expose my belly. Clara would also deliberately avoid touching my belly then. Funny cat.

8. Clara would sniff anything you put in front of her face. If you brought something near her, she'd stretch her neck to smell it. She loved sniffing fingers in particular and you often had to let her sniff your fingers before you petted her on the head. On Clara's last Thursday night, she was lying in my lap and her breathing got slower and shallower. Jesse was sitting on the couch next to me and we both thought she might be very close to dying. Jesse reached out his hand to Clara, and Clara didn't move to sniff it and that just convinced Jesse and me even more that she was actively dying (and we both burst into even more tears). But, a few minutes later, Clara lept up and went over to her food bowl. In retrospect, we noticed that for over a day after coming back from the specialty vet, where she'd received a tranquilizer for her ultrasound, that Clara didn't close her eyes at all and we think that at times like that night on my lap, she was really "sleeping" as best she could and that's why she wasn't responsive.

9. Clara only used her claws on us once--when Jesse had to carry her through airline security, as I described in a previous post.

10. Clara was very good at not being caught when she'd escape from the house when she was younger. I let the cats go outside in the day for a couple of years when they were very young. After seeing Clara almost get hit by a car and having one too many critter (most still alive and unhurt) brought to me as presents, I decided to make them indoor cats. They clearly missed going outside at first* and they did escape on occasion (or even when they were allowed outdoors during the day but got out when I didn't want them outside, like in the evening). Alice would climb the nearest tree to about 6 feet off the ground, so I could just go pluck her off the tree and that would be that. Clara on the other hand was very sneaky--she would stand nearby and sniff everything in that spot. But as soon as I got within striking distance, she would run a bit further away, then stop and sniff everything in the new spot. And we'd repeat our little "game." I very rarely won and often had to just rely on her wanting to come back inside on her own accord. [*But I still recommend that people keep their cats indoors... Alice and Clara only missed going outside for a very short time and then turned into seemingly very contented indoor cats. They didn't have to get as many vaccinations by being indoor cats, which reduced their risk of getting injection-site tumors, and they weren't at as high a risk of getting run over, sick, or injured. Also, critters such as mice, chipmunks, baby squirrels, baby rabbits and baby robins weren't as terrorized as they had been once Alice and Clara stopped going outside.]

11. Clara would rest her head directly on my (clothed) leg when she slept on my lap. She didn't always do this--she used to rest her head on her leg or something, but lately had been just putting her head straight onto my leg. I don't know why I liked that so much--maybe because it seemed very trusting of her? She particularly did it a lot her last few days, including her last minutes at the vet, while I was sitting in the room waiting for the vet--I took her out of her carrier and she lay down on my lap with her head on my jeans. When Clara wasn't sleeping with her head on my leg, she'd stare at me from my lap. It was quite unnerving at times, actually, and I often asked her to stop staring at me (no, she didn't understand). At other times, she would look back over her shoulder at me--also very cute. No one could claim that she wasn't devoted to me.

12. Clara loved to chew paper and cardboard. No paper was safe in the house! Clara shredded bills, receipts, scientific articles, you name it. And she loved to sit in a box and chew the lip of it. She didn't eat the paper/cardboard... she'd leave all the debris all around. The night after we put Clara to sleep, Jesse was about to hide a piece of paper before going to bed, then realized he wouldn't have to do that anymore. We're still getting used to not having to put books/laptops on top of loose paper when we go to bed.

Clara chewing on the lip of a box while lying inside it. Alice is looking on.

13. Clara was Alice's "mom" in some ways. Alice is a pound bigger than Clara was, but Clara would often lick Alice and clean her ears for her. This is probably why Clara always had dirtier ears than Alice and also more hairballs. I'm going to have to start cleaning Alice's ears now (but not with my tongue!). Actually, the noise of Clara licking the inside of Alice's ears was quite unpleasant--very slurpy and loud. It was hard to fall asleep if Clara was licking Alice's ears.

14. Clara loved catnip. She would eat it and push Alice out of the way to get Alice's too. She would sometimes start chewing the carpet to get loose catnip flakes. When I put Clara into her carrier to take her to the vet one last time, I gave her a little pile of catnip to enjoy.

15. Clara had the softest belly and chest--I loved stroking them. When she was younger, she didn't really like being touched there, preferring to have her head played with. But, at some point she learned that if she rolled over, I would pet her because I couldn't resist her chest/belly. And forever after that, I was a sucker for her when she rolled over. She would start by putting her head on the ground, then flop her whole body over and stretch (even her toes--another thing I loved about her) into a crescent shape, opening up her chest/belly as much as she could. Unfortunately she would try to do this when I was working out in the apartment, too, so I often had to move her out of the way then so she wouldn't get hurt. On a related note, I regularly do exercises (on an exercise ball) that were prescribed by a physical therapist for the problems I have with my pelvis. One of the exercises involves me lying face down on the ball, lifting alternating opposite hand and leg pairs from the ground. Clara would sometimes meow when I got the ball out, jump down from her cat perch (where she would sit and watch me from in the mornings) and come running over, then flop down next to my hands on the ground. As I lifted a hand, she'd scoot over to that hand to get petted, then scoot to the other one when I lifted the other hand. That cat knew how to get attention, for sure! The other softest spots on her body were behind her ears and on the front of her neck (where she had a large orange spot I loved to touch).

16. Sometimes when Clara slept, she'd put all four paws together in a row (not always in the same order). I found that very cute. Alice does it too.

17. Clara used to love bean water. Bean water being that thick fluid that you pour off of canned beans. She used to come running whenever I got the can opener out, hoping that I'd drain the beans in the sink... then she'd lap up all the liquid. She didn't care for it if I poured it into a dish for her, and at some point, she stopped caring about it altogether, though she still did come give it a sniff every now and then. On the same note, Clara seemed to prefer almost any liquid to the water in her bowl... I used to frequently find her licking the remaining water out of the bathtub after I'd had a shower, but she did seem to outgrow that too at some point. She also, to the end, loved to stick her head down into my drinking glasses to get at my water. It was a funny sight, seeing her whole head through the side of the glass.

18. I loved the way that Alice and Clara would sometimes run with their sides touching each other down the hallway in front of me when I got up in the mornings, or when I put down canned food for them (an occasional treat--they had kibbles available the rest of the time). I felt like they were my matched pair of carriage horses or something. They did it on one of Clara's last days and it made me happy (and sad). When they ate side by side, I could use one hand to pet them both, and I'd run my hand up their tails, with each tail between a different set of fingers.

19. One of the cutest things about Clara was the way she used her ears--when she was paying attention to something, you could see them move as they pointed forwards and down. It was very cute. Another cute thing (there were many, as you can tell) was that the back of her back right leg was solid orange, and I loved watching her walk away from me with her orange leg, and her tail hanging down but curled up at the end so that it wouldn't touch the floor (she seemed to have a long tail for her size).

20. Clara would frequently bring me "presents." Her favorite thing to bring me was a pelt of (real) fur that an ex-roommate of mine, Jeff, had given me for the cats. Jeff's dad had bought the pelt for Jeff when he was a kid--I think he got it from somewhere called "Davy Crockett world" and one day in Madison, the cats found it and started licking it and carrying it around. Jeff kindly left it with me when he moved out. When I would sit on the couch at night, Clara would drag the pelt from my bedroom to the living room, making funny meowing sounds as she went. In the morning while I was still in bed (sometimes still sleeping), she would drag it from the living room back into the bedroom. Her other most favorite toy of all time was a catnip-filled "body pillow" that I got for her about a year and a half ago (at the same time as the feather toy). Clara had a love-hate relationship with it--she would lie on her side licking it and holding it with all four paws, then suddenly start biting it and kicking at it with her hind legs. We imagined she was saying "I love you I love you I love you... I hate you I hate you I hate you" to it. We actually had to take that toy away from her a couple of nights, because it got so intense we were worried she wouldn't sleep. When the catnip wore off a bit, she started dragging it around as a present for me.

21. Clara and Alice used to "wrestle"--they would take turns being the cat on their back on the ground or the cat standing next to the one on the ground, pouncing occasionally. Then, one cat would grab the other one around the neck with her front paws, and kick with both her back legs (the same thing Clara did with her catnip pillow).

22. One night, Jesse saw Clara do something that I never saw: Clara was lying on a cat bed, and Alice jumped up next to her and started doing "pushies" (as Jesse's mom calls them... when a cat "kneads" a bed before lying down) next to Clara. Apparently Clara got a bit fed up at some point and took her leg and laid it across Alice's front paws. Alice took the hint and stopped doing pushies and lay down. I wish I could have seen it.

23. When I would watch documentaries about birds, Clara would often go sit next to or on top of the TV, trying to get to the wing-flapping sound. 

And that's the end of my long list. I'm sure it's not even complete, but I will stop here for now. Thank you for bearing with me as I recount my many stories about Clara. 

2 comments:

Goof said...

Hi Foof, I read all three of your recent posts. They are wonderful. I can see why you miss her so much! How is Alice doing?b

Kim said...

The story about Clara bringing you things reminds me of how Morgan acts sometimes. If we leave socks or any of Wesley's clothes anywhere within her reach (on the floor, the stairs, etc.), she'll bring them to us and whine. Unfortunately, she usually does it around 2am. She has even started picking them up and walking into Wesley's room where she whines by his crib. She hasn't woken him up yet, but I imagine she will some time. He LOVES looking at her.