Shredder: The James Bond of Kitties
Not merely another pet story!
If you read my last article, about my dog Max, then you know what to expect from this one. It will be 88% true and 12% Hollywood for your reading enjoyment. I promise you, my readers, that by the time you finish reading, you will have met your daily quota of purring, explosions, cuteness, danger, hair-licking, and epic gun battles involving cats. If the fact that half the internet is all cat-related these days is any indication, you will LOVE this article.
A Tiny Ball of Fur in a Bathtub
I'll begin this tale with my first encounter with our subject. My parents had brought in a cat who had just had a litter, laid her and her kittens inside our bathtub, and told Chris--my older brother--and I that we could pick just one to keep.
There must have been 6 or 7, I don't recall exactly, and they were all adorable because, duh, kittens. Chris picked an all tan colored male and my sight focused to this little black and white fellow struggling to climb up the side of his porcelain surroundings. He had white tipped paws, like a butler's gloves, and a white tipped tail, that looked like a snow cap atop "Mt. Cattail."
Curious, I picked him up, and he wriggled out of my 9-year old hands and landed on my shirtless chest (ladies) and immediately dug all four clawed paws into my flesh and just sort of hung there, like a painful ornament upon my skin.
It hurt like hell as I recall, but there was something about the whole thing that made me aware that this my cat. We had bonded through his jitteriness and my subsequent pain.
I forget what I was going to call him, probably something lame, and then Chris, observing the scene, came up with his (absolutely perfect) name.
This is how I met my new friend, Shredder.
Yes, after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain. It was 1990.
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Secret Agent Cat (With Mob Connections)
Time passed and Shredder grew. It was discovered that his temperament was amazingly relaxed. That boy simply didn't give a fuck. Nothing phased him, and I mean nothing! The vacuum cleaner? Nope! Barking dogs a few feet away? No biggie. New cats introduced into the house? Couldn't care less. FIREWORKS?!? Yaaaawn. Nuclear explosion? He'd be napping.
This cat was unflappable. He was the zen master of Burlington, WA, perhaps even the world.
He adopted the nickname, "The James Bond of Kitties," for this reason (being just so damn cool under pressure) and because the way his fur pattern was arranged made him look like he was wearing a tuxedo 24/7.
Another distinct Shredderism was that he must have been a hairstylist in a former life, because that cat loved licking people's heads until their hair formed a tongue-swept wave. I've never personally known or heard of another cat doing that. It was all at once weird and awesome.
Interestingly enough, every single cat from his litter either died or disappeared within a year or two after being born, except Shredder. I was very proud of this fact, yet sad for the other cats of course. I often wonder if it was because Shredder was so wise and zen-like, keeping him out of harm's way, or if he had hired the Feline Mafia to "take care" of the others.
I guess I'll never know.
Hatred For the Nomadic Lifestyle
When I moved out of my parents house at 17, Shredder stayed behind. Then I moved again into my girlfriend-at-the-time's house and was able to bring Shredder along. She also had a cat, a territorial female who did not take kindly to this new guy at all. Again, Shredder just did the feline-equivalent of a shrug and a verbal "whatever" and found his own area of the house. After the girl and I broke up, I moved out and Shredder went back to the parents house until I could find a new apartment. I found a place to live with some friends and once again took Shredder with me. That house was a party house and Shredder loved it, he partied every weekend with us, taught us how to do keg stands, put us in touch with all the local loose women, and introduced a few of my friends to heroin, which ruined their lives eventually but you can't blame a cat for that, can you?
No wait, that last part was complete bullshit. I think that might have just been a dream.
The reality was that Shredder clearly hated all the moving around. He lost energy, and just wasn't the same. So he went back to live with my parents again, where he would remain for the rest of his looooong life.
Now, after he moved back in with my parents, my mom did something I can never truly forgive her for; she had him declawed! To put some extra perspective on that, she had SHREDDER declawed. His name is motherf%@#ing Shredder, and now he has no claws! He was also the best damn mouser I've ever seen. His claws were like Rambo's knife, Predator's shoulder cannon or, more accurately, James Bond's Walther PPK. Now he had to resort to using a sniper rifle to hunt mice, which he lacked the opposable thumbs for.
Her reasoning was that he would sharpen his claws on furniture, but there have been other cats before and after Shredder that were allowed to keep their claws. It was a conspiracy, I tell ya.
There Be a Demon In This Cat: Shredder's Swan Song
Aside from him being permanently disarmed, Shredder lived out the remainder of his life in peace. I visited him whenever I came by to see the folks and on a few occasions, I came by just to see him (and Max).
In Shredder's 20th year (!), he started losing weight and was having kidney problems. My mom and I began a ritual of hooking him up to an IV and flushing out his kidneys while keeping him hydrated. Now, I spent a sizable chunk of space explaining to you how calm and cool Shredder was, but he did not like being stabbed with thick needles. He became shockingly spry and wriggly for an exceptionally old cat but we ultimately got him juiced up and on his way.
A few months shy of his 21st birthday, he started walking weird. The back half of his body remained sideways as his front half faced forward. I screamed, "DEMON!!!!" and called the Vatican immediately. They were able to send a young priest and an old priest to perform an elaborate exorcism under a full moon in a graveyard near Halloween. The old priest lost his life in the ensuing ritual.
Much to my relief though, it wasn't a hell-spawned demon, but just some nerve damage or something. He wasn't in pain and he was still eating on his own, so no worries. My apologies to the Vatican and the friends of that poor old priest.
After a month, he got worse and we took him to the vet where we were told that he would only get worse and that he wouldn't last much longer. I wanted to try to keep him going another 2 months until his 21st birthday because I had already booked the hotel in Vegas and reserved us a nice pair of high-priced hookers.
Again, I was given the choice to let him go peacefully or draw his agony out for my own selfish needs. I chose the latter. Just kidding, I did the right thing, only this time I did not want to go into that room with him. My head filled with memories of being there with Max a few years prior and I went the cowardly route this time. Judge me all you like, I don't care.
I said goodbye to him in the lobby, tears already preparing to take their swan dive down to the floor below. But I held them back and went outside to chain smoke probably 500 cigarettes in the cold Washingtonian rains of February.
I miss that smooth sophisticated cat and have had countless dreams about him still being alive in the years that followed. I think it took about 2 years to finally accept the truth of his passing. I rounded out the months and consider him to have lived for 21 years, which is more than most cats ever get so I can't really complain too much. Plus he probably has his claws back and is systematically eradicating cat-heaven's mouse infestation problem.
I'd like to think that at the exact moment he died, some 9 year old kid, miles and miles away, looked inside a bathtub full of kittens and found their first and favorite pet.