This past week, I lost my pet cat. But this post isn't meant to be sad; in fact the stories to follow are funny and sometimes touching.
So here they are, from the bizarre way a little black cat made it into my life, to the time she saved my life, and everything in between.
Can you watch her on your lunch break?
7 years ago I lived in the same apartment complex as some friends of mine, Rachel and Travis. Rachel did some design work for a church at the time (she is a published author now, and writes full time), and one day a litter of kittens was discovered in the ceiling of the church. Sadly, one kitten had fallen into one of the walls, and although they could hear it meowing, they couldn't locate it.
A couple days passed before the spot in the wall could be located and cut open and the kitten rescued. It was a puffy black kitten, just a few weeks old. Rachel took it home to their apartment but came by my apartment with the kitten the next day.
I was working from home at the time, and Rachel stopped by with the kitten to ask if I would watch it over lunch. Her husband Travis was allergic to cats. Being somewhat of a sucker I agreed, and they never did come back for the kitten....
What the heck is a Klook?
For some reason, I wanted to name the black kitten Klook. I tried it out for a few weeks, and even the vet looked at me like I was crazy when I told them the kitten's name. A friend laughingly suggested Termite, since she was rescued out of a wall, and the name stuck.
Completely unknown to me at the time was the fact that the black jazz musician Kenny Clark had gone by the nickname Klook. Turns out Termite wasn't much of a musician, though.
The Angry Pooping Stage Gives Way to Door Launching
Getting a kitten to learn how to use the litter box is pretty easy. But when your pet is super smart, they learn how to insult you by pooping inappropriately, and boy, was Termite smart (at least until she got addicted to huffing markers, but more on that in a minute).
Maybe it was because of starving inside a wall for a few days, but whatever the reason, Termite was obsessed with food. Each morning at the crack of dawn, she would press herself against my bedroom door and start mewing for breakfast. If I ignored her for very long she would get angry (you could actually hear her meow change), and then she would poo right in front of my door and run off.
Sometimes I would even find turds stuck half-way up the wall or door, and I never did figure out how she managed it. I finally solved the issue by placing her little cat bed right in front of my bedroom door. However, if I ever had to leave for a day or two, I could expect to come back to angry poops strewn around.
Thankfully she outgrew the angry pooping stage, and for the rest of the time I had her, when the mornings came around, she would run the length of the house, launch herself at high speed into the bedroom door repeatedly, and make as much noise as she possibly could until I got up to feed her. After I got married, she would stalk the bedroom door, and wait until I woke up before starting the launch procedure (how did she know when I was awake?!)
Boundary Testing: The Water Bowl
Termite loved to play in her water dish. She would poke her paw into it repeatedly, until she managed to turn the whole thing over and make a watery mess. And after drinking or playing in it, when her face and whiskers were all wet, she would sneak over to my bare leg and wipe the water off on me.
It got so annoying, I had to start disciplining her with the water gun every time she started to dip her paw into the the water dish. One day she sat looking at her bowl, and repeatedly tested my resolve by raising her paw, but not putting it into the dish. After a few sharp "NO"s, she strolled casually out of the room, and came back dragging a long piece of ribbon.
She walked right over to the water bowl and dropped the ribbon in. Then she turned and looked at me with a "Oh no, look what happened!" expression. Then she raised her paw, put it into the water dish and fished around for her ribbon.
I have to admit, I was completely stumped on whether to discipline her or not. I had just been outsmarted by my cat!
The Grinch Steals Christmas
One year I was flat broke at Christmas time, and spent an entire day in Grandma's kitchen baking shortbread cookies for gifts. These were made from an old-time recipe, thick and puffy and not too sweet. I filled a gallon sized ziplock bag with them, and brought them home and set them on the counter.
I left for just long enough to pick up some dinner, and when I came back, the entire bag was missing. There was no way my little kitty managed to get on the counter and drag off a giant bag of cookies... right?! I searched the apartment from top to bottom, and finally found the bag stuffed neatly behind a piece of furniture. (As soon as I discovered it, Termite completely disapeared, and didn't show up again for several hours.)
The top of the ziploc bag had been neatly sliced open, and every cookie for the first 2/3 of the bag had one corner chewed off. Not a crumb, a SINGLE CRUMB, was on the floor.
They say confession cleanses the soul, so I have to admit that I still gave cookies away for Christmas that year. I ate the ones the cat had munched on, but all the others still made it into gift bags. For anyone reading this that ate those cookies, I do feel bad, but you have to admit, they sure were tasty!
Termite Saves the Day and Possibly My Life
For a couple of years, I lived in a duplex. After the first year there, crime rates in the area skyrocketed. some sketchy neighbors moved into the second building that shared the drive, but the other half of my duplex became vacant. It was during this time that my really nice bicycle was stolen. (The theives cut down the little tree it was chained to in order to take it.)
One night I was playing on my computer, and Termite came into the room meowing. She never demanded attention, and she never meowed unless she was begging for food at her morning or evening feeding. First I gave her some attention, then tried to shoo her away, but she became more and more insistent. Finally, she stood up on her hind legs and put her front paws on me, looked me in the face, and tried to talk to me. I can't describe it another way.
It was so clear she was trying to tell me something that I got up to check her water dish and litter box for anything amiss. She walked into the main room with me and continued to meow, even after I had given her fresh water. She was sitting near the front door, and when I looked up, I realized that when I had come home that evening, I had forgotten to lock the door.
I walked over and turned the deadbolt, and she immediately became quiet.
I can't explain the chill that came over me at that moment. We underestimate animals and what they understand. Their instincts for danger are much better than ours. The full implications of what had happened wouldn't be clear until the next evening, however.
A police officer came to my door the next night as a courtesy and told me that the duplexes on all sides of me had been broken into. She warned me to keep the door locked and not answer for anyone because the theives were checking doors and then forcing their way in. It was by the protection of God, and the instincts of my little pet, that I had been kept safe.
Termite Develops an Addiction
I always loved Christmas. We would get 2 full weeks off from work, and I loved having the free time to catch up on chores, visit with family, work on art projects, and play video games. I had a huge bag of art markers that sat in the corner of my home office for lack of anywhere better to put them. It was a black canvas bag, and the markers were bundled up with rubber bands inside according to color, but otherwise loose in the bag. These were professional grade markers used for full color illustrations, and they had a strong chemical base.
I was happily working away on some project, when I heard a very odd huffing sound. I turned to see Termite with her head in the bag of markers sniffing deeply and curiously. I quickly shooed her away, and as she pranced out of the room I noticed her eyes were as big as saucers and her tail was swishing wildly. I didn't think about it that much, but then 20 minutes later, her head was back in the bag, and she was sniffing that same rapid fire way...
Could it be......?! No way.
Just to be on the safe side, I found a spot out of reach to stuff the bag of markers. 20 minutes later Termite was back looking frantically for the bag, and I realized the terrible truth.
She was addicted to marker huffing.
How long it had been going on before I caught on, I have no idea, but I have to say, she was never quite as smart after that... and to the day she died, she had an unnatural affinity for canvas.
Don't Feed Your Cat Cheap Food
At age 6, we discovered that Termite had developed diabetes. This is VERY common in cats that have been fed a high carb diet... which is basically every cat food you can buy at the grocery store or supermarket. Their systems are made to handle proteins, not carbs, and a carb rich diet will essentially destroy their spleen.
I thought I was doing well by getting her "Naturals", and thinking I was doing something healthy for her. The truth is, all those pet food companies are lying to you about what is healthy for your pet, and they fill their food with crap.
After she got diabetes, she only lived for 18 more months, and required insulin shots every 12 hours. She never felt as well as she had and became totally dependent on us to keep her alive from day to day.
If I can save even one person's precious pet with what I know now, I will have felt like Termite's short life of 7 years will continue to do good. I loved her so much, and I miss her more than I ever thought was possible.