In April 2006, I decided it was time to get a cat. I had ferrets at the time, but I had always been a cat person growing up. I had just moved out of my parents house the previous year to go to college and I was really missing the family cat. It was time.
I went to the San Diego humane society and scoped out the cat rooms. One of the rooms had a little orange tabby named Danny. He was adorable and I wanted him. The woman working in the cat area let me into the room and we sat quietly, trying to coax Danny out of hiding. I was in the room maybe a minute when this white cat with an orange head jumped into my lap, meowed at me, and head butt me in the shoulder. It was love at first purr. Oliver chose me. There was a small bit of drama involving my apartment manager being out when the humane society was trying to verify the pet policy, but long story short, Oliver came home with me.
I had Oliver for maybe a week when he escaped. I used to sleep with my window open in San Diego. There was a screen and he liked to sit in the window. One morning, I woke up and the screen was pushed out, Oliver was no where in sight. I was so upset, I called my mom, who lived 6 hours away at the time. She did give my some good advice though: just go outside and call him. I lived in a complex that was on a busy street and I was pretty sure I would never see this cat again. But I went outside and called his name. “Oliver! Oliver! Kitty kitty! Oliver!” Sure enough, I heard a meow. He was stuck on the other side of the fence that separated my complex from the auto shop next door. The second he heard me, he started crying. We walked along the fence together until he found the opening and he ran towards me. I’ve never seen a cat run towards someone like that before. Oliver was special.
Oliver is one of those cats who is almost more like a dog. Every person I know who doesn’t like cats likes Oliver. And Oliver likes people. He is not happy unless he is being pet. He used to jump on my dad’s shoulders when my dad would visit me in San Diego. he will launch himself at my fiancé’s back if he is bent over to put on shoes. He sleeps next to me on my pillow, sometimes taking the whole thing for himself! Keeping him off the dining room table is a battle, especially when we are eating dinner. If there is a free lap around, Oliver will find it and lay in it.
And this cat is a talker. He chirps at birds, at the other house cat, at the yard cats, at the dog, at his people. He lets you know when he’s hungry. He lets you know when you aren’t paying enough attention to him. You call his name, and he will answer from anywhere in the house.
My favorite thing about Oliver is his purr. You can hear this from across the room. He has this loud, low, motor sounding purr that you can feel in your chest. When he’s happy and in a lap, his whole body vibrates with his purr. You know when this cat is in his happy place.
In May 2018, Oliver stopped eating dry food and started losing weight. Concerned, I took him to the vet. The vet took blood samples and recommended a specialist based on the white blood count results. The specialist ran some tests. Oliver was diagnosed with small cell lymphoma in his GI track.
There was a treatment, but cats with small cell lymphoma typically did not go into remission. Most cats, though, responded well to the treatment and could live good lives for 1-3 years. Oliver is not like most cats. The treatments were hard on him. We struggled to find a cat food he would eat and had to switch types and brands multiple times. When he wouldn’t eat the cat food, we would give him baby food. Finally, even that stopped being appetizing to him.
Two days ago, he wouldn’t come to me when I called. He hid under the couch, no purring, no meowing, not wanting any attention. He’d barely eaten his dinner and what little he did eat looked like it had been vomited up sometime during the night. And I cried. I cried because I knew he was ready even if I wasn’t. I had to go to a meeting at work, so I pulled him out, hugged him and told him it was okay if he needed to go. I left him some food, just in case, and went to work, sure that I was going to come home and he would be gone.
He was still under the couch when I got home and some of the food juice had been licked up, but he hadn’t eaten anything else. He could barely get up and walk to his water bowl. When he did, he was shaking. He’s drank some broth over the last few days and is a little stronger on his feet, but I know he isn’t going to get better. He hasn’t eaten solid food in three days. He keeps tripping over his feet.
Two days ago I made the hardest decision I’ve have yet to make in my life: I decided it was time to say good bye to Oliver. I have wept over this decision for two days now. I have second guessed myself because sometimes he has good moments. Even now, he’s sitting on the table, his head on my arm (making it very difficult to type, btw), purring. But he is a shadow of his former self. He wobbles when he walks. He can barely jump on the table without falling. He isn’t eating. I can’t let him suffer because I can’t let go.
So I will keep his appointment and today at four, I will say good bye to my best boy for the last time. I am lucky enough to have found people who will come to him so he doesn’t have to be crated and taken to a strange place in his final moments. He’ll be in my lap, on our chair, happy to be in his happy place as he closes his eyes and purrs one last time. And he will know that I love him. And I will miss him.
Olive: August 2005-August 2019