Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

His name was Paws. But before long, it was clear that this cat needed a new name. At 6 months old, he weighed nearly 10 pounds and his paws were huge. Fully grown, he reached an awesome 25 pounds. He was over 2 feet long from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail and he frequently lay stretched out to his full length. His tail was a lethal weapon! So he became PWAS. Pwasimodo the Hunch Cat of Notre Dame. Pwas.

We adopted Pwas and his brother Ba (that's another story) when my daughter was 8. Our tiny house was soon overrun by these two playful tuxedos. Ba was the smaller of the two. Small only in our house. Pwas was the alpha cat. He chose where he slept, where he ate, what windows were his and who would pay attention to him. There was no ignoring this cat. If he wanted you to get up and feed him, his hulking mass sitting on your chest made breathing difficult, let alone opening your eyes to see him staring at you. His demanding "meow" let you know he meant business. "Feed me or I'll eat your nose," he seemed to be saying.

Even though he was a mighty beast, he was always very gentle with my daughter Bridgete. She could bathe him - the only one who could. (He once tore through a leather jacket and scratched my husband who was holding him so I could give the cat his medicine) She could trim his nails. And she could make him seem half his size.

Pwas was always present at bed time and soon became part of the routine. He would listen patiently to the story, curled up next to Bridgete, his deep purr often distracting us from the book. Then it would be time to sing a song or two. Now, I am a singer. I have a lovely voice, even if it is a bit deep for a woman. I'm a tenor - but I have a lovely voice. Yet something about it made Pwas uneasy. I would start to sing and he would get up, walk into my lap and put his paw on my mouth. We would laugh about it and set him down on the floor where he would pace until the song was done. I don't know when it happened, but soon Pwas became part of the music. I would sing the old song, " I love little pussy, his coat is so warm. " And every time I reached the end of a phrase, Pwas would meow at the very moment I sang the last word. Over time, I stopped singing the last word at all and he would add his throaty response. We were a trio, Bridgete, Pwas and me. I don't know who was more sad when Bridgete grew out of needing tucking in, Pwas or me. Of course, he still went along when she went to bed. One night I accused my teenage daughter of playing music late at night. It was actually Pwas lying on the floor of her bedroom, which was the ceiling of my bedroom, and purring. When we realized what the noise was, we fell into paroxysms of laughter.

Pwas was a huge part of our family. Even in a 4 bedroom 2500 square foot house, he dominated the scene. His chair by the kitchen window had to be placed just so. His "perch" on the foot of my lounger remained up all the time. I had to figure out how to get in and out of the chair. His food was first to be served in the morning and evening. And if he thought he was alone in the house, he would wander from room to room, his 'boppy", a stuffed sock-like cat toy, gripped in his mighty jaws, moaning. It was a most mournful sound. I can't even describe it to you. I've never heard thing like it from any other cat.

There I would be in the basement family room, watching TV, and the moaning would begin. I would call to him, trying to make myself heard over his cries, and finally I would hear his thumping footsteps on the stairs. He would make way over to me, drop the boppy, and jump up onto the perch. A few pats and comforting words and he would settle right down, purring and happy, and sleep.

Now Pwas has cancer. My ex-husband has custody of Pwas and he's making him as comfortable as possible. But the end is near for this lovely cat. He was a good cat. A great pet. A companion. A source of humor and a bond between the three of us. It is the end of something that shaped our family. And I'm not sure how to deal with the loss. So if you can imagine it...hear me singing this nursery rhyme and hear the deep intonation of Pwas at the end of every phrase.

Oh I love little pussy, his coat is so (warm)
And if I don't hurt him, he'll do me no (harm)
I'll sit by the fire and give him some (food)
And pussy will love me because I am (good)

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