As I drove up to Annette’s house one night for dinner, a light flashed on the ground in front of me. It turned out to be a reflection from the eyes of the tiniest little kitten I’d ever seen all by itself. When I came out from dinner, the same little white puff was on the doorstep. What choice did I have? I took him home.
We found out later that a neighborhood ‘cat lady’ was missing the kitten, but I asked Annette not to tell her where he was; he was flea-bitten and hungry; he needed a proper home. Since I had a dog named Kibbles, the only answer for a name was Bits. Now I’d completed the jingle, “Kibbles & Bits, Kibbles & Bits. We’re gonna get us some Kibbles & Bits...”
Bits was an albino cat – the purest white short fur and crystal blue eyes. I carried him around the house because he was so young, feeding him by dropper. When I couldn’t carry him around I kept him in a box, since the current cat and the dog might get too rough in greeting their new family member.
When he was young, Bits was quite the scrapper. Almost every morning I’d let him into the house, red from blood. I’d carry him to the sink and wash his wounds. Some of the wounds were very serious. One time the vet had to put a drain in his cheek; years later this area re-infected and got necrotic; then the vet had to cut away part of his cheek. My favorite nickname for him, “Pretty Boy” seemed odd after that – he appeared to be sneering all the time. At that point I asked the vet if altering my tomcat, even though he was already six years old, might slow down the fighting. He said it might – we did – it did. Still, I could hear him growling as he patrolled the property line each night (How did he know where it was? There was no fence) and he still got into a fight now and again.
No matter what the weather, Bits spent most nights outside. Those mornings when he wasn’t bloodied he’d seek me out and I’d carry him to the kitchen for his breakfast and my coffee. He loved being carried around and he purred at the slightest attention. He liked to sleep on my pillow, wrapped around my head, licking my scalp and hair as if to groom me. He didn’t play much, probably because he was raised around a mature dog and cat. But when a new kitten came to join the family (Minerva), Bits would flick his tail for her to play with.
In December 1988, we had a house fire. I thought one of the bravest things the firemen did was administer oxygen to Bits. We had to leave the two surviving cats in the house, even though there was no heat or water. The workers would pour water from bottles we brought, and feed him daily. The other cat (Midnight) apparently found a nicer, warmer home. But Bits took care of his house, and was ecstatic when we moved back in four months later.
For his last couple of years, Bits had been wavering back and forth from healthy and pretty (albeit sneering) to thin, sickly and bleeding. I kept thinking each time I let him out, he might not return. But then he’d rally again.
For his last month, he’d been getting skinnier and skinnier, even though he was eating everything he saw. Daily he weakened; he would fall off the bed trying to get down; he couldn’t retract his claws; he needed to be lifted to the bed and counter. In the last week, even his head got bony, making it eerie to pet him. I finally decided I’d have to put him to sleep, and made arrangements. Knowing it was his last week, I fed him canned food and kept him on a plush rug on my bed.
One morning he looked really bad, so I carried him to my bed, laid him on the rug, and gave him some soft food. He wouldn’t eat. I closed the door to keep the other animals from disturbing him or taking the food. That night when I came home from work, I went straight to the room to check on Bits. Not long before that moment, on March 16, 1998, my Pretty Boy had died. At least this way I could bury him in our garden.
I’ve never had a cat before or since who could get to my heart like that one did. I wish I could find a way to express it. I lovingly carried him one last time outside for burial. I hope he knew during his eleven-plus years that he was very much loved.
© 2014 Bonnie-Jean Rohner