The Furry Red Menace died this afternoon. Or rather, I approved his euthanasia. And of all the goofy things to think about at such a time, the thing that kept running through my mind was that Rajah hung on until we ran out of cat food.
He just wasn’t going to leave until he’d gotten every last bite out of life. Or at least out of the pantry.
I came home to the usual “where’s my grub?” caterwauling but as I approached the kitchen I realized that (a) we’d run out of catfood this morning and (b) Rajah’s complaints had an odd, strident note. I leaned down to pet him and saw a tremor that hadn’t been there before. He seemed oddly weak and his right front leg couldn’t get traction.
I bundled him up, headed for the vet, and the prognosis was bad: Rajah was having seizures, and a mass in his stomach and blown pupil hinted strongly at metastatic disease in the brain. There wasn’t much hope and, as I watched, he went into another seizure. I asked the vet if we should end it.
He said yes, and Rajah died in my arms at 5:40 pm, May 12. It was fast, and I don’t know if he really knew I was there. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. I’m sorry, little guy. I’m so sorry.
Rajah came to me as a kitten, full of bounce and not afraid of anything. He’d fit into the palm of my hand, if he ever held still long enough, but he terrorized my hip-high greyhound to the point that I finally had to separate them. (And he was permanently dubbed FRM, the Furry Red Menace)
Abyssinian mothers usually have only two or three kittens, but Rajah came from a litter of six and his mother couldn’t feed him. So his owner fed him round the clock for the first three weeks, tucking him in bed with her and nestling him under her chin at night. But she had a litter of “preemies” to deal with, so at four weeks, I agreed to help out by taking him on…and that was that.
All that drama left Rajah with an insatiable appetite and an obsession with being the boss. By eight weeks, he’d beaten up Presley-the-greyhound and both cats, officially taking over our little animal kingdom.
Rajah had just three rules:
- If you can get it into your mouth, eat it
- Get as close to the nearest heat source as possible and cover it with your belly
- Get your chin scratched
He did all three with gusto and he flat-out didn’t give a damn about anything else. Humans had nice long appendages for opening refrigerators and scratching chins, and they were fun to own, but I’m pretty sure the word “love” never entered his mind.
Didn’t matter; in a roomful of cats Rajah would be the one everyone fell in love with. He looked like a naughty little boy, purred like a motorboat and glinted copper-gold in the sunlight. No other cat stood a chance.
His middle name might have been “indomitable,” for I’ve never seen a cat more determined to have his way. Most cats will at least learn that “no” means “don’t do that when the human’s in the room,” but Rajah could care less. Until Rajah, a water-filled squirt gun was my ultimate cat deterrent. Under a full spray, however, Rajah would simply put his ears back, grit his teeth and keep coming. Swat him, and he’d look astonished…then swat back.
He was obsessed with aluminum foil; any foil in the kitchen needed to be bundled into a ball and thrown. He played a mean game of fetch, especially if there was just enough food residue on the foil to make things interesting. I once gave him a ball of foil left over from roasting the Thanksgiving turkey, and I think that was the only time he ever truly fell in love. When we finally retrieved the tattered ball he cried at the trash can for an hour.
Rajah’s step-brother Chinni was an old hand at catching mice, so when we had an infestation and dead, chewed-over mice started appearing in the cats’ food bowl, I congratulated Chinni. The next mouse was dropped on my foot by a growling Rajah, who apparently wanted rightful credit.
I praised him, disposed of the mouse outside and came back in to find Rajah with yet another mouse (this one alive), which he dropped on my chair. He’d found the nest that two different pest services had been unable to find; that night he neatly disposed of eight of the little things, and the mice got the message. The mouse droppings stopped, and I’ve not had a problem since.
Aby breeders tell me the typical Aby lives for about 12 years, and by year 10, Rajah was having some health issues. He was diabetic, with seesaw insulin levels that gave the vets fits. He had arthritis, a couple of scary-bad bouts with pancreatitis that nearly saw him out, a heart condition and hypertension. He still wasn’t afraid of anything, and called out the raccoons regularly (even though he did it through a sliding glass door).
He’s the only cat I know who actually looked forward to being medicated, as long as at least one of his doses was immersed in tunafish oil. He needed a pill, an insulin shot and hypertension medicine every morning and, like clockwork, would line up at the “medicine station,” and open his mouth to receive his prize. First the pill, then the distraction of the tuna oil, and while he was chewing on the tuna syringe he got his insulin shot. Then he’d head for the food dish, purring.
No one really expected him to actually make 12 years of age…but last month was his 16th birthday. He never obeyed anything else; why should he start with lifespan? But I suppose that, eventually, even the most indomitable spirit needs a rest. He’d used up every one of his nine lives along the way, and it was clearly time for him to move on.
And so now I’m officially catless, and the way things are I’m probably going to stay that way for a very long time. It’s harder to contemplate than I thought.
Gee, Rajah, I’m really going to miss you. I’ll keep a heater vent open, just in case.
Say hi to Chinni for me.