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Our Cat, Jeri

Our cat, Jeri, died today. I feel compelled to say a few words…

When we got Jeri, we were newly married and living in our first apartment in Los Gatos. I had never owned a cat before but Jon had and he really wanted a cat. He did not however want to go out and get one. The cat had to come to us. In a “if you build it, he will come” kind of moment, Jon said “if we send out a ‘we want a cat’ vibe, a cat will come to us.”

Not more than a month later, a small gray cat, about a year old, appeared on our balcony. We had no idea where she was from, but Jon promptly gave her a snack and she started stopping by regularly. One night, when we got home from work, she was waiting on our stairs. As we walked up, she made a little chirping noise, ran to the front door and sat in front of it with an expectant look on her face. We opened the door, she ran in, and she would not leave. We put her out in the morning and she stayed outside the door, meowing, until we let her in again. That night, she was waiting by the front door again.

We finally learned that she belonged to another tenant from the other end of the complex. They called her “Mickey,” although we had already started calling her “Jeri,” as we were not sure of her gender and she was gray like Jerry Garcia. Her previous owner (a nine-year-old girl) had recently acquired a kitten and I guess this was highly insulting to Mickey/Jeri. She simply would not stay in a home with another cat. Ultimately, they agreed to give her to us and when we bought our house some months later, she came with us and that was that.

That was 18 years ago. Jeri loved it at our house and appointed herself Chief Guard. She got in a lot of fights because she tolerated no cat trespassers. She loved to sit up on our roof and survey her territory.

She was a good hunter and like most cats, very athletic. Once we watched her prowling after a low-flying dragonfly in our yard. Back and forth she went, until suddenly, she leaped off the ground, flipped over, caught the dragonfly with her paws and legs and flipped back over to land on the lawn with her catch. Then she sauntered off, very casual, as if to say “Oh that? Just fooling around….”

She was always a petite cat, never weighing more than 8.5 pounds. Her fur was incredibly soft, like a chinchilla’s. She was very fussy about water and regularly tormented Jon by trying to drink from his glass at night. She also was exceedingly fond of fish, especially salmon and tuna. We also could not turn our backs on any glass or bowl that had milk or yogurt in it, or we would find Jeri indulging her passion for dairy.

She remained hostile to other animals all her life and in all candor, was not the friendliest cat in the world. Some referred to her as The World’s Crabbiest Cat, in fact. When we got our first dog, she punished us by refusing to sit on our laps or to let us hold her for at least a year. Finally she got over it. She tolerated our daughter but I think she viewed her as yet another interloper. When we finally got our second dog, she seemed resigned to the fact that we simply were not a one-pet home. The dogs knew better than to get too close, as she would not hesitate to give them a nasty swipe with a claw if they bugged her.

Other than the occasional abscess caused by fighting with other cats, Jeri was never sick. Over the last couple of years, though, she got skinnier and skinnier and developed a yowling meow that startled us out of bed at 5:00 a.m. more often than not. Our vet said that it was her thyroid and we faithfully gave her thyroid medication twice a day, but she got thinner still.

Recently, we found out that her kidneys were failing, which is apparently very common with older cats. Fortunately she was not in pain or distress, she just gradually stopped eating and drinking and she was very tired. She did not leave her little kitty bed, which we had put on a heating pad on our bed, the last four days of her life. Today she just drifted off in her sleep.

We will sorely miss Jeri. She was a great old girl; I don’t know how old 19 is in cat years but I imagine it’s pretty darn old. People often stopped me in front of our house to tell us that they admired her and I once found a note on my porch that simply said “your cat is nice.” I liked that note.

As Samuel Johnson once said, Jeri was “a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.” I will cherish her memory forever.

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