December, 2014. My friend Margaret’s parents were moving from their farmland to a condo in a retirement community. The two outdoor cats weren’t going to be able to go along. Margaret was in Eastern Washington, helping her parents. Her husband Bruce, terminally ill with cancer, was in West Seattle. Of course, Margaret agreed to take the cats, but they already had a cat that was unlike to get along with the newcomers. I told Margaret and Bruce that if they took the better-behaved cat, Buster, I’d take the tough one—that being Mr. Cat.
As I recall, Bruce drove over with him in a carrier and we put Mr. Cat into our basement (a basic rec room, these being the days before the Mr. Tippy Incident that led to the basement remodel).
Mr. Cat turned out to be a real sweetie. Skinny, with a tendency to nervously lick fur off his stomach, he loved to cuddle. After a few weeks, we attempted to introduce him to our other cats. Bad idea. He panicked and tried to kill the big neighborhood tabby, Max. Max fell over backwards with surprise and peed himself from terror. We took Mr. Cat back to the basement and prepared an elaborate public relations campaign on Facebook to find Mr. Cat a suitable (one-cat) household. Since it was Christmas, I used a “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme for the campaign.
Mr. Cat ended up with our friend Jane Hawkins. And the campaign inspired our friend Arlin Robins, who was attempting to re-home 20 cats who had lived unsupervised in an Orland, California, house for two years after their owner died. (Spoiler: we ended with three of the Orland cats—one of whom was Mr. Tippy.)
But back to Mr. Cat, who Jane renamed Merkel (after the German chancellor Angela Merkel). Mr. Cat adapted well to living at Jane’s as an indoor/outdoor cat. He even got along—well, somewhat—with a Siamese cat that came to live in the household.
Mr. Cat became well known in the neighborhood. I visited occasionally, and once cat sat. Mr. Cat recognized me by my voice, and got was excited to be petted and cuddled. His personality hadn’t changed much, though—when I attempted to pet his Siamese housemate, he chased the other cat out of the room.
Mr. Cat died of cancer Nov. 19, 2021. This happened just as Jane, who had dealt with multiple cancers over a period of several years, was reaching the end. She died through assisted suicide January 7, 2022—exactly seven years to the day after Mr. Cat went to live with her.
I like to think he was waiting to greet her when she arrived at her next adventure.
Jane wrote this on Nov. 19, 2021:
Merkel aka Mr. Cat aka Max died last night. I’m sad but not traumatized — he had an untreatable kidney cancer and I have known for months his time was limited. Merkel got off to a tough start. He was dumped on a farm that belonged to Margaret Organ-Kean‘s mother and hated being a barn kitty. Didn’t help that the pre-existing barn kitty was beating up on him. Karen G. Anderson rescued him from that and got him cleaned up. He had become so massively infested with fleas that even after they were gone he was compulsively ripping at himself so much that his belly was bald. Karen couldn’t keep him because his attitude towards other cats wasn’t just hostile but downright murderous. I adopted him in 2015, when we think he was around four years old. The first year, I could barely sleep because he wanted to snuggle and then would start ripping at himself in the middle of the night. I’d snuggle him some more, he’d stop, I’d fall asleep, and then the whole bed would start shaking as he went at it again. If I weren’t the kind of person who can fall back asleep easily I might have had to shut him out of my room. The vet said that sometimes cats never did stop doing that, but eventually he did. He was a classic ginger tom — sweet and cuddly, territorial and surly, with one the best purrs you ever felt vibrate your chest. He became a feature of this neighborhood — everyone who walked by got accosted as he demanded pets and cuddles. The last few months, he got very skinny and slowed down a lot, but up until Sunday last he was still doing pretty well. Rather suddenly, he stopped eating, got outright bony, and started staggering when he walked. I had an appointment for him with the vet for today but I guess he decided he wanted to die at home. Jo and I buried him this morning. Goodbye, sweet guy.