Yesterday was a sad day for my family: our oldest family cat, Kudzu, had to be put to sleep. She had been holding steady in not-great health for a while, but apparently she wasn’t totally in command of her limbs when mom and dad awoke yesterday morning and could barely get around. About two years ago we thought she was at death’s door, but she rallied from whatever it was that ailed her then after two rounds of antibiotics; I guess having found the Fountain of Youth once before meant it was her time now.
By our best estimate (without getting out her papers, which we have filed away somewhere) she was about 16 1/2 years old. Most of the online cat-age calculators I consulted told me that means she was 83 or so in people years. I was with my dad when we picked her out at a cat show in the fall of 1994. Mom had explicitly told dad that he was not to come home with another cat, but he did anyway. (Interestingly, this same situation played out again 15 years later. What can I say? The man loves kittens.)
As it turned out, the kitten mom hoped dad wouldn’t bring home that day chose her from the very beginning. We named her Kudzu, after the crawling vine found everywhere in the south, because she liked to climb up on mom’s shoulders in the evenings as mom read and drape herself across mom’s neck while they slept at night.
Kudzu on the day we brought her home
Kudzu got scared in the new space and almost immediately ran into the fireplace and behind the gas logs, turning her spotless white coat charcoal gray. My best friend and I gave her a bath in the laundry room sink using Pantene Pro-V 2-in-1. Also, HELLO MID-NINETIES KATHLEEN.
Kudzu curled up in the hood of a sleeping bag airing out in the closet
The other family cat, Bubbles, then the lady of the house, routinely harassed poor Kudzu, but once Bubbles passed on (may she rest in peace) Kudzu became a lot less skittish. She was always an exemplary lap cat for mom, and when we later brought more cats into the house she started to snuggle up with them, too.
In 2009 when my mom had some unexpected medical issues, Kudzu helped nurse mom back to health. Of course, mom had to do penance for the weeks of hospital time that had left Kudzu without a person to sleep on, but the cat forgave her pretty quickly.
Nurse Kudzu at work, 2009
Kudzu was the first of many Tonkinese cats — basically a non-triangle-faced Siamese — in our home. My parents thought she was so pretty and liked her temperament so much that they’ve brought three more Tonks into the family over the years. (One is mine, Little Man.) Here’s the gang, all piled into Kudzu’s heated cat bed after Christmas this past year:
Little Man, Kudzu, Koshka and Crazy Steve (L to R), holidays 2010
And here’s Kudzu in a puddle on the hearth, her favorite wintertime spot when there was a fire in the fireplace. As you can see, she loved to be warm.
Kudzu was the last of the old guard, as my best friend (who also had two family cats growing up) put it; all the pets we currently have arrived in the new millennium. She is now up in kitty heaven with Bubbles (and Buttons and Oreo) where I hope there is a bottomless bowl of half-and-half and heated beds, stone fireplaces and sunspots aplenty. Rest peacefully, pretty lady.