This Old Cat
by Mike Richard
It’s been about a year since our old cat died from mouth cancer. I have never been a cat person, but I loved this cat. We called her, “Gray White”. Why? Well, there were several stray cats here and we named them by appearance; she was gray and white.
We had one that was here during the 9-11 attack (in New York City, USA) and she hid under the bed; we thought she acts like 0sama bin Laden, so we named her Bin. We had one that was old momma gray and named her, Gold Stripe (had a gold stripe on her forehead), and we had others that came and went over time.
But, Gray White was special.
Why would we like a cat when we are in the bird breeding business? It just does not fit, does it?
I was feeding our farm one day in 2008. Since it was summer and breeding season, I could not keep the grass mowed around the barns, because it would disturb the breeders. As I went through the weeds carrying two 5 gallon buckets, one on each side, I felt a thump against my pants. I wore baggy work pants and I really did not give a thought for a few seconds and kept on walking.
When I got out of the weeds, I looked down and there caught in my pant legs with its fangs was a small snake about the size of my little finger, 20 inches long. It was twirling around trying to get loose. I saw it was a copperhead! I’ve seen them many times before around here.
I froze! What was I to do?!
I felt wetness inside my pant leg and on my leg, which hopefully was sweat, since it was around 96-98 degrees outside, but found out later . . .
. . . NOOO! It was venom!
I could not just knock the Copperhead snake off as I was trying to keep my pant legs out from my leg while looking around for a stick or something!
Then, from out of the weeds comes Gray White. She dove onto the snake about middle way up its body and she jerked and pulled so hard I heard a pop on my pants. Later I found the snake’s fangs broken off in my pants.
This cat was fearless!
She started slinging the Copperhead back and forth.
It popped like a whip.
Then, she let go. The snake moved. Gray White dove back on it, slinging it again. She screamed sounding like a loud cat scrawl; again and again she bit and popped that snake like a whip.
I ran to grab a shovel standing about 40 feet away, and then came back. Gray White stood over the snake looking at me, and then looking back at the snake. With the shovel I took off the snake’s head; Gray White had already done damage to it and the snake was going nowhere.
I thought, Gray White, I think you may have saved my life.
Since it was so hot, if I had been bitten, I would not have made it home, but then I thought, Are you bitten?.
Gray White was acting funny. I grabbed her up in my arms and ran; 96-98 degrees makes your body not work so well while running. I ran to Mom’s house and saw Sheila and my Mom standing out on the porch. Out of breath, I could not talk. So, I just handed them the cat, my heart pounding.
I tried to tell them what had happened and finally got it out, "Cat may be snake-bit. Copperhead. My pants, she saved me. The cat needs go vet." I just kept trying to get the words out.
By that time Gray White was purring and Sheila put her down. We looked and Gray White was going in and out around my legs as cats do. She seemed fine and she did not know what the commotion was about. She was smelling where the snake was attached on my pants.
Then, I thought I better get the pants off. So, I went inside the house, changed clothes, examined the pants, and there were small teeth still stuck in the pants. The area was wet; could be venom as the fangs were hung and most likely squirting venom.
Well from that day, Gray White was my buddy. She went everywhere with me. When we got our Kawasaki mules UTVs, she rode on mine like a dog. Every time my UTV was started, she jumped on the seat and rode like she had always done it.
Gray White was special.
When I went around the property, 17 acres, on a walk to check things, there she was walking beside me like she was a guard dog.
In February of 2015, Gray White had a sore on her mouth. We took her to the vet. They said it was cancer of the mouth, common for cats; old cats have more trouble with it. I calculated she had been around us for over 15 years, so she had to be older than that.
I took care of her up to the end. I carried her out to use the bathroom. I fed her with a spoon since her mouth was basically going away. I kept her clean. I wiped her mouth after she ate a soft diet. We gave her every medicine the vet thought might help.
I thought hard about what was the right thing to do. Should we put her down? No. I would take care of her. I selfishly could not let her go that way. She seemed to not be in pain.
At the end, in June of 2015, I sat with her on our sun porch at 11 p.m. Gray White needed to go out, so I took her. She seemed very active. She walked beside me, again, used the bathroom and as I was walking back, she stopped at the Kawasaki mule and looked up at the seat.
I picked her up onto the seat and started up the Kawasaki for her to take one last ride. Oh my! She seemed to love it. Gray White stood right up on the seat as we rode a few minutes.
When we came inside the house, she looked up at me and tried to meow. I sat down and pulled her up onto the porch sofa over against me, and then I fell asleep around 2 a.m.
When I woke up around 6 a.m., Gray White was not there. I looked down. She was on the floor curled up. So, I got down on my hands and knees and pulled her under me, putting my chest down onto her so I could feel her against me and so she could feel me against her.
She meowed slightly, turned around and looked up at me as I looked at her. It felt as if she was just letting go. I rubbed her. She breathed heavy and she looked at me, again.
I said, “Goodbye, girl.”
Gray White meowed again, and then she lay down. I lay beside her, holding her and rubbing her.
My buddy left me, then.
“Goodbye, Gray White; you old cat. You were special.”