It was early September 1996, and I finally gave in to the begging. I said ‘yes’ to my not-yet-wife to getting a pet cat.
Don’t get me wrong. I love animals. I always had cats growing up. My mom is a cat lover. Some may even call her a crazy cat lady. I had so many, in fact, that I had become too familiar with the feeling of losing your pet and I despised it. To me, it outweighed any possible enjoyment you could get from having one for many years.
But... off to the pet store in Brandon we go. The whole time I’m thinking, “It will be her cat. I won’t get attached.” Well, we get to the store and there are two left. A peaceful female grey one who Jenn took to right away. My eyes caught the black and white Sylvester lookalike and, immediately, my soft spot kicked in. “We can’t leave him in the pet store alone, and it won’t be too much longer before he doesn’t look like a kitten anymore and nobody will want him,” I thought. So, I picked him up and he went berzerk. He scratched my hand and crawled up my arm and came to a rest on my shoulder. He maybe even swatted at some loose hair I had hanging off my head (yes, I used to have hair). I loved him. Not only did I give in to having one cat, I was leaving the pet store with two.
True to form, the grey cat (Kitzya) was really calm and not hard at all to train for what we expected in cat behaviour. Sylvester (I had to call him that as his looks and personality were straight from the Looney Tunes) was much more of a challenge. It seemed like he trained me. He never let me forget meal times no matter what. In those days of no children, I used to sleep a lot. If meal time passed while I slept, he’d jump up on the couch and drive his head right between my eyes to remind me to get up.
He was awesome and his unique personality won me over in no time. I never bragged about him though. After all, I’m a guy and guys aren’t really supposed to like cats. One evening I came home from work and he didn’t greet me at the door for food. At the time, I thought I lucked out and I’d feed myself before getting to him. I never paid much attention until morning I noticed he still wasn’t around. I took a glance at my screen door and noticed it was flapping in the summer breeze. I guess I should stop and say I kept the cats indoors at all times, but he always thought it was a game to try and sneak out. This time, it’s mission accomplished and he’s got, at least, a twelve hour head start in a heavy residential area in Brandon West. I looked everywhere. I spent every waking hour and even some of my sleep hours too searching for him. As pathetic as it sounds, I would sleep in the living room with the door open in case I heard something I could, quickly, get up and investigate it. After about six weeks, my boss at the television station noticed I wasn’t myself for quite some time so I finally fessed up. She blasted me for not using my position of being in front of the city with the news on a nightly basis to take an opportunity to flash a picture of my missing cat. So, that night I did exactly that. A few more weeks passed and we just made the decision to get another cat to replace Sylvester when my phone rang at work. It was a lady near where I lived and she had a cat trapped in her garage. I went over immediately and there he was. Nine weeks after he chewed and scratched his way through the screen door I had my cat back. His paws were roughed up and his white fur was dirty. But, other than that he was in fine form and I’ll never forget the look he gave me when I picked him up. It was like he said, “What took you so long?”
He gave us many memories. I remember trying to change Matthew’s diaper one afternoon and the baby rolled off the edge of the bed and Syl hissed at me.
One time he looked like a black and white Garfield in the corner after I discovered he got up on top of the fridge and chewed his way through a full bottle of Pounce.
It took him forever to realize when I quit morning radio it also meant a delayed breakfast. Lots of head butts at 4 am.
If someone in the family was sick or sad, he made sure he was next to you.
Last July we added a Golden Lab to our family, but 17 year old Syl made sure the dog was aware who came first and what the pecking order would be.
But like all living things, Syl got old. And, on Saturday we made the hardest decision I’ve made as a grown up. He brought me a lot of comfort over his life, but on Saturday I gave him some in turn. A special thanks to Dr. Fafard, who was a real pro and showed great compassion. I’ve had a few really hard days as of late. But I am sure glad I gave-in back in September 1996. I wouldn’t have traded these years with him for anything.
I’m a man. I like cats.