Lewis - or to give him his full name, Lewis Moebius Pussy-Cat - left us forever on February 1st, 2012, after a short but brave and characteristically graceful struggle with an especially aggressive cancer. He was beautiful, unique and gentle even if - like his humans (cats never have owners) - rather reserved, and not given to showing too much emotion.
He was born on May 1st 2004, near Seattle. It was Isabelle's idea that we should have a cat. She thought he would keep me company during her frequent trips. We also hoped he might reduce the number of squirrels who routinely plunder our garden. Even if he didn't catch them, we figured the presence of a big aggressive male cat would frighten them. Because of that, we'd asked for the biggest of the litter.
Our first encounter with our new and still unnamed kitten was his journey to our home in California. Isabelle picked him up and carried him on the flight in a zip-up bag. When she called me from Seattle airport all I could hear was his loud, continuous meows. He knew he was being abducted, and he wasn't keen on the idea. He meowed plaintively for the whole two hours of the flight.
Once home, he explored absolutely everywhere, behind every piece of furniture, under every bed. We were still getting to grips with American folklore and the heroic tales of the exploration of the West, so it was only natural to name him after the most famous of the explorers, Lewis of "Lewis and Clark" fame, especially considering where he came from. For now, he was just Lewis - the rest came later. Like all kittens, he was just adorable.
serious problem with furballs.
His middle name, Moebius, came later, As he grew up he got into the habit of twisting himself into a very odd position, his head pointing one way, his tail the other. This only happened when he was very relaxed. He'd be lying on his side on the floor, at his usual eight feet from his humans. Suddenly his tail would swivel round, and there he'd be, in his Moebius position. At the slightest disturbance he'd spring back to a normal position - even calling his name was enough.
Another unique thing about Lewis was his way of saying hello - I've never seen it in any other cat, and wonder where he learned it. In fact it's the single thing I miss about him most of all. When he saw you for the first time in a while - in the morning, or when he came in from the outside - he would first stretch out his front legs to their full length, his chin practically touching the floor in a kind of curtsey, stretching himself almost flat against the ground. Then he would scrunch his back up into an arch, high off the ground. He would do all this at a respectful distance, six feet or so. Only afterwards would he approach for a little stroke. Sadly, I never captured his greetings in a picture.
really disliked it when we were both away together. One Christmas we were away for nearly two weeks, with someone coming in every day to feed him. When we returned he was in really poor shape, his coat matted and a dirty brown rather than its usual sleek black. We think he had spent most of the time hiding.
That was when we discovered his secret hiding place, at the back of a closet, completely invisible behind hanging clothes, padded by a pile of old clothes, permanently warmed on top of heating pipes. Right up to the very end we pretended not to know about it. Lewis was a very proud cat, and would have been mortified to know that we were aware of his occasional need to cower in a secure place.
|Lewis planning his holiday|
so tempting to give him a little push - not that we ever did of course. He would never have forgiven us.
really enjoyed being dried.
The social life of cats is a complete mystery. While they're not truly social animals, you can't doubt that they have relationships with each other - just take a look at a colony of feral cats. Lewis clearly did a good job of guarding his territory, because appearances by other cats were rare. He definitely had some kind of relationship with a neighbour's cat called Maui, but whether they were friends, enemies or something else, we never did discover. Ever since the time when Maui's humans tried to put him on a diet, he would regularly come into our house and eat Lewis's food. We could tell when, because he would wolf down the whole bowl, while Lewis never did more than nibble. In any case Lewis seemed to tolerate him, in the garden and even inside the house. Maybe this is as close as cats get to friendship.
|Our last picture of Lewis|
before he got sick
We returned home after our Thanksgiving trip to Europe to find him still in good shape, his weight stable. Briefly, we thought perhaps he was recovering. But after a few days we weighed him, to find he lost a whole pound in just this short time. Clearly something was seriously wrong. There was an urgent visit to Dr Cat and tests of all kinds - including an ultrasound scan, Lewis upside down in a cradle purring loudly while she ran the scanner over his tummy. Sadly, her diagnosis was that he almost certainly had cancer of some kind - but which kind? Some are treatable with a decent prognosis, others almost invariably fatal in a short time. We hoped beyond hope, of course, that it would be the treatable kind.
Meanwhile we desperately tried to stimulate his appetite. We bought numerous different flavours and types of cat food, but nothing worked, or not for very long anyway. He would eat something new with enthusiasm the first time, prompting us to lay in stocks - which he then refused to look at. We suspected, though of course could never know, that he ate because he was hungry, but that every new thing made him nauseous which in turn put him off eating it. The list of attempts to get him to eat was very long: smoked duck, duck confit, smoked salmon, turkey baby food, various tinned cat foods. And each time we'd give him a second helping the next day, and he'd sniff at it, lick his lips - and walk away. It was horrible.
so happy that he'd managed to lap up a few drops of cream - and so devastated when, half an hour later, he vomited. It was clear that he'd become completely unable to eat. Next day he was in hospital with tubes everywhere. He didn't seem to mind very much - I spent an hour with him one evening, tickling his ears and talking softly to him, surrounded by other sick animals, as he purred gently. The next day Dr Cat snipped a large growth out of his intestines, sewed them back together, and stitched his tummy up. He came back home the following night, and straight away he could eat - amazing really. For the drips, the hospital had shaved two bald patches on his front legs, bright white compared to his matt black fur. They stayed with him until the end, like little headlights.
|Lewis the office cat|
|Lewis joining in the|
Christmas celebrations, his
"headlights" very visible
|Lewis as beautiful as ever, yet|
with less than a month left to live
We were delighted that at New Year he was still not only alive, but in reasonable shape. There was a very cold spell and he decided to spend nights outdoors, barely above freezing. If we brought him inside he'd stay with us for a little while, so as not to seem ungrateful, then went back outside. Why he did this was a mystery - it lasted for about a week, then he started spending the nights inside again.
|Lewis snoozing under his favourite lemon|
tree - you'd never guess that he had just four
One evening he was dozing in our bathroom, his favourite daytime place indoors. I called him, using two of the three words in his vocabulary - "Lewis, prawn!". (The other was "cream"). He trotted smartly out to the kitchen and munched his way through not just one but two whole prawns, with delightful enthusiasm. Later he ate a piece of meat too. We really thought that perhaps he was perking up again, that the chemo was finally working. Although when I weighed him, he was for the first time under 3kg (6.6 lbs), barely half his healthy weight. Stroking him made it painfully obvious just how skinny he'd become - just a bag of bones, with every rib and every bump on every bone obvious to my fingertips. Still, he purred when stroked. During the night he came and went, spending some of the time with us and some in the garden. But then the end came astoundingly - and mercifully - quickly.
At 7am, we were awoken by two long yowls, of obvious pain. He was just outside our bedroom. I gave him some pain medication. There was no question of going back to sleep after that. Still "the cat" and offended by the indignity of the medication, he wandered off to one of his favourite places under the lemon tree.
Later, I saw him outside. He was unsteady, trembling with the effort of standing or walking. He managed to get under a bush in a sheltered spot. Those were the last steps he ever took. His distress was obvious. He was panting rapidly, his eyes wide open. The decision we'd dreaded, dealing with the slowly diminishing health of a still somewhat capable cat, had made itself. There was no choice. We briefly wondered whether we should let him die in the garden he knew so well, in his own familiar territory, but he was just too distressed and probably no longer aware of his surroundings. Occasionally he made pathetic attempts to meow, managing only the most feeble kitten-like mew. It was heartbreaking.
Dr Cat was not available, but we decided just to take him anyway. Our distress must have been obvious because as soon as we walked into the hospital, they went into emergency action. Before we knew what was happening, we were in a treatment room, surrounded by technicians, Lewis on oxygen and surrounded by warming packs. His temperature had already dropped catastrophically. Everyone was very kind, to the humans as well as to Lewis, but it was obvious that there wasn't much to be done. Dr Cat appeared and told us that he was "actively dying". She felt his tummy and said, "There's a large mass there. The chemo has failed." And then there really was only one thing to do.
By now he was sedated and peaceful. He passed surrounded by his humans. I nuzzled up to his fur and said, for one last time, "Goodbye, Lewis. We love you." And he was gone. He looked as beautiful as ever, his long black fur as lovely as ever, his eyes still open. But there was no cat left inside. It was time to go.
|Lewis at his most beautiful, as we want to remember him|