You've probably heard the expression that cats have nine lives. Well, Sebastian had one very long life. Seventeen years is a long time for a cat, although when it comes to our furry family members, it's never long enough.
I met Sebastian's mother in autumn of 1988 when we moved into a townhouse in Kenner, La. She would dart in our door every time we opened it and she really seemed to know her way around. I theorized that the previous tenant left her when they moved out. My parents, with whom I lived at the time, were pretty insistent that we were not adopting another pet. My poodle and mixed breed dogs weren't amenable to the idea either. She was a very sweet, very affectionate cat, though.
Soon it became apparent that she was pregnant. I managed to leave open the door to the storage unit on the back porch. Inside I placed a box with shredded newspaper and a towel. Mama Kitty bypassed the little feline maternity ward that I set up for her and decided to have her kittens in my dad's tool box. Not pretty. I eventually found homes for all of the kittens.
As short time later, or so it seemed, Mama Kitty was pregnant again. If memory serves me, my dad locked the storage unit door and hid the key so Mama Kitty had her kittens elsewhere. My dad thought that was the end of it. Not to be outdone by a mere human, Mama Kitty brought all seven of her kittens back over the fence into our backyard and set up camp under the barbecue grill. The kittens were about two weeks old at the time and their eyes were just opening. Most of the kittens were gray tabby like their ma, one was black and white, another was orange striped, and Sebastian was part-Siamese! No kidding. As a kitten, he had the darker face, paws, and tail and the beautiful blue eyes. As he grew older, his paws and tail would take on the grey tabby stripes, but this body would be mostly pale beige.
It was agreed that I could keep Sebastian if I found homes for all the other kittens and their mother. We were finally down to one kitten and one mother cat. Now, I don't advocate dumping pets, but my cousin lived down the street from a nutty cat lady. She took very good care of them (fed them well, provided shelter for inclement weather). She'd never notice two more, my cousin said. What's more, if she did notice, she'd never turn her back on them. True to his word, Mama Kitten and Last Kitten lived down the street from my cousin for many years.
Sebastian was accepted by my poodle and mutt (and later, Dear Hubby's labrador retriever). He moved with us to our apartment in Virginia, to the first home we ever purchased (also in Virginia), back to Louisiana to an apartment, then into our final home. He was strictly an indoor cat for the first 14 or so years of his life. He had no interest in the great outdoors and would hide under the bed if he suspected we were trying to get him into his crate for the dreaded car ride to the vet.
He outlived his three canine companions, and barely tolerated the two canine family members that came later. For a long time, he'd sleep on our bed. I'm a side sleeper, so he'd curl up on my hip. I also toss and turn and he'd scratch the dickens out of me when I'd try to roll over. Long before being diagnosed with coronary artery disease, Dear Hubby and Sebastian would eat Spam and watch late night television.
Something odd happened in May 2004, though. I remember it clearly as it was the day we brought home the rescued greyhound that we adopted. The dog didn't even glance in Sebastian's direction, but Sebastian might have thought enough was enough. He walked out the door, never to come (willingly) back inside. In truth I don't know that I can really blame it on the dog's arrival. Sebastian had been acting peculiarly for the few months prior. He stopped using his litter box in the garage. I switched litter brands (several times), bought a brand new litter box, you name it. Instead he would go to the bathroom in inappropriate places. Like on my garden tools (what is it with felines and tools, anyway?). Although he seemed to recognize me, there were times that he didn't seem to know the kids. Perhaps it's the equivalent of kitty-alzheimers?
Deep down I thought then - in 2004 - that his end was near and perhaps this was his way of sparing us the difficulty of having us die inside the house. Probably I'm reading too much into it. In any event, he spent the past three years happily rolling in the mulch in my garden, completely disregarding his own personal hygiene. A couple times a year, I'd sit with him on the porch and pretty much shave him bald from the back to the butt because he'd let the fur get so matted. He tolerated the shave and a haircut, but he absolutely hated being brushed (always did). Have you ever seen a cat with dreadlocks? Yep, that's pretty much him.
Most mornings, I'd open the door to peek outside and expected to find him dead on our mat or behind my hibiscus plant in my garden. The sort of thing you'd rather your kids not discover first. But no, I'd occasionally find a dead lizard on the mat (a little 'love' gift from Sebastian), but the old codger of a cat was hanging in there.
Until this morning. Dear Hubby put out the trash and noticed Sebastian lying under the van. He was meowing but didn't sound normal. He put a towel in Sebastian's crate and fetch the cat from under the van. The fact that he didn't rip Dear Hubby to tatters when he put him in the crate told us something was seriously wrong. We woke Son #1, told him that the end was near for Sebastian and we sat our on the porch and said our goodbyes. Son #1 is my most sentimental child and he's taking it the hardest. We then woke Son #2, who although he loves Sebastian, is much more pragmatic. Finally Son #3 awoke. We explained what was going on, he shed a couple of tears and asked for .... a hamster. Oy!
We spent time petting Sebastian who mostly seemed to be unaware of what was going on. Since, he did not once indicate that he was in any pain when we touched him, and it was clear that nature was taking its course, we felt no need to involved the vet.
It was odd, because the weather this morning started off nice, but quickly turned gloomy and rainy (as did our mood). We had lunch plans with a friend of mine so we went out for a few hours. When we came home, it was still dreary and raining. Sebastian was still breathing but was mostly non-responsive. Every now and then he'd let out a little murmur but mostly he'd lie on his side looking helpless.
About an hour ago, I was checking my email on the computer in the kitchen and I noticed that although it was still raining, the sun was also shining. I've always loved the phenomenon of rain on a sunny day (or is it sunshine on rainy day? - drat, that song just popped into my mind. I bet it will overstay its welcome). I felt compelled to check on Sebastian, as we had been doing every 15 minutes or so, and there he was still lying in his crate. But instead of lying helplessly on his side, he mustered the strength to lean up against the side of the crate, still technically on his side, but his head was up and his paws outstretched, just like he did when he slept. It was almost as if he positioned himself how he would prefer to be remembered. It was kind of nice to see the sun shining and Sebastian finally at peace. And I'm sure there's a rainbow out there somewhere.
Vaya con Dios, Sebastian, you were a good friend indeed.