Tiger Morin

Sat, Jun 06, 2009 — Sun, May 03, 2015

Tiger’s story – A Heart Full of Love
A Journey of Joy and Laughter

If you knew Tiger well, I hope this story brings you on a healing journey of recovery, and if you didn’t, I hope as you get to know her in these pages, that you will enjoy the happiness and love flowing from them.

Tiger’s arrival
Tiger, a blue cream lynx Birman, was born on June 6, 2009 at Pussetoes cattery, and came home in September 2009. She had one sister, and any number of aunts and uncles and cousins, all romping around the house where she was born. When we initially went to select our kitty, we actually chose her sister. But when we came back to pick her up, Tiger charmed her way into our hearts with her purring, and her talking and her playfulness. We couldn’t not take her home – you might say she chose us.

Tiger’s routine
Tiger quickly developed a regular routine. One of my favourite parts of the day was first thing in the morning, when I opened my bedroom door. Nine times out of ten, the furry worry would be sitting waiting outside my door, and if not, she would likely be at the bottom of the stairs. With her sharp sense of hearing, she could hear the door opening from anywhere in the house, and would come shooting up the stairs straight into to my room, bell jingling all the way. It was at these times she gave me my first smile of the day, as the entity I came to think of as “the white rocket” came “ding-ding-dinging” up the stairs.

“Good morning, Tiger” I would say every morning. “Chr-r-r-r-p”, she would politely respond, as she entered the room. Every time. Then she would wander apparently aimlessly, head butting every desk leg and chair leg in sight. Gradually she would make her way back to me, casually as only a cat would, pausing to languorously stretch her back legs, and then she would wrap herself around my legs, staring up with beautiful blue eyes. She knew what was coming – FAVOURITE MORNING PATS! Here’s how it went: I sit down beside her, and scratch the side of her neck, right in that delicious place under the collar. In utter bliss, she falls over with a big thud onto her side, lost in the joy of the scratching. Then as I move on to a full body pat, she stretches her entire body, front legs to back, arching her back, pointy toes and all, then flips onto her back – her favourite position. Then we do tummy pats to the accompaniment of big purr-purrs for a good while. When we’re done, she gets up and we head into the bathroom for a refreshing drink of toilet water, and teeth brushing (the former for her, the latter for me).

Then came watching the birdies. She would hop up onto the side of the bathtub beside the window, and stare intently out. In the spring or summer I would open the window, so that the soft morning breeze would come drifting in through the screen, which she loved. Nothing excited Tiger more than birdies, and there were usually birdies chirping everywhere. Of course, stealthy hunter that she was, if a birdie flew anywhere close to the window, Tiger would quickly duck down so they couldn’t see her, ears flat, eyes big with excitement, tail switching. This is in sharp contrast to when she came home as a kitten and saw the birdies from the door of the bathroom. In the blink of an eye, she ran toward the window, took a flying leap and launched herself into the screen. The result was Velcro cat, splayed out and stuck on the screen. “Tiger, No!” was one of the things young Tiger was to hear a lot.

After morning routine, we settled into daytime routine. This usually consisted of me working and her sleeping, but occasionally when she couldn’t settle, she would try the “I want attention” tactics. Normally, this consisted of her hopping up onto the corner of the dresser, and finding something small near the edge. Seemingly fascinated by the small object, she would bat it about until it fell off with a crash. Annoyed, as I was trying to concentrate, I would resolve to ignore her until she tired of trying to annoy me: “Fine, go ahead, I don’t care” I would think at her. Then she would do it again. “Tiger, No!” I might say – to no avail. Crash, goes the next object. Sometimes I would make the mistake of yelling out “Tiger, knock it off!” Did I really just say that? If there was nothing small handy, she would find some paper and start shredding it with teeth and claws. Inevitably, she won. With a loud sigh of frustration, I would stop working, get up, and stomp over to the dresser. “WHAT do you think you’re doing?” I would ask her. With downcast eyes she would sheepishly respond “Pr-r-r-t”. “Are you being a bad girl?” More downcast eyes: “Pr-r-r-t”. “Okay, let’s go”, or something similar I would grumble, as I gather her up, purring furiously, and gently transport her to the bed.

If I was lucky, she would get trapped by the purring blanket (a soft fleece throw blanket). No Tiger could resist the purring blanket, and once she stepped onto it, she would have to knead it with her front paws, purring loudly, for several minutes. When she finally finished, she would be relaxed, and ready to lie down. I do believe she understood me when I would say “Are you going to have a sleep?” or “You go asleep” or something along those lines involving the word “sleep”. Immediately after I said it, she would walk over to her corner of the bed, curl up, and lay her head down, purring softly. Then she was out like a light for the rest of the day. She would usually shift sleeping spots a few times throughout the day, sometimes to different spots on the bed, sometimes to her favourite Beauty box on the desk. The Beauty box was a shoe box from some unremembered store that was inadvertently left out a few years ago. Although much too small for her, Tiger loved to cram her bulk into it, completely unaware that the side of the box read “Beautiful Feels so Good”. You have not seen cute until you have seen sleepy blue eyes peering out over the edge of that box.

On the odd day, she would wake up prematurely. Sometimes, if the room got too hot in summer, I would open the window, and the sweet-smelling summer breeze would come drifting in. If the sound of the window opening didn’t wake her, her nostrils would flare as the scent reached her, and she would lift a sleepy head to sniff the air. Usually this led to a groggy trip over the dresser to the window, to peer out and do some more breeze sniffing. As she came more awake, she often loved to use her scratching post. Her scratching post was one of the few things we bought for her that she actually used. Expensive beds and toys she shunned, in favour of a shoe box and strings or ribbons, but the scratching post actually served its purpose. “Do you have scratchies?” I would ask, and apparently she did, because she would come over and do exactly what she was supposed to do. Then she would purr happily as she received her reward pats.

Most of the time she would go back to sleep, but heaven help me if I received a telephone call while she was awake. This was when she would turn into “psycho-cat”. I don’t know how she could tell when I especially needed her to be quiet, but as soon as I would get on the phone, she would start loudly meowing over and over for attention. The only thing that would keep her quiet was being patted. I recall several telephone conversations with my boss where I was desperately trying to hold the phone in one hand, pat her with the other hand, and maintain focus on the conversation. One time during a conversation with I.T. support where I needed both hands, I actually had to tell the guy “Hang on a second, I can’t hear you. I just have to get rid of my psycho-cat!” Oh, the wails of misery when cast outside the bedroom door! You have never heard such plaintive crying and caterwauling. And the joy of being let back in after the phone call – you could probably hear the purring from another room!

But the talking cat was mostly good. Every now and then, she would seem to forget that she was not alone in the house, and she would wail loudly and sadly at the bottom of the stairs. I would come to the top of the stairs and ask “Whatcha doin’?” or “What’s all the trouble?” to which the response was always a happy chirp and bounding up the stairs. Sometimes, if I was busy, I would just call out “Ti-i-i-ger”, I would hear “ding-ding-ding-ding” and then she would come strolling into the room. “Hello Tiger!” I would say, and “Pr-r-r-t!” she would respond. More often than not, if I asked her how she was doing, she would respond with a happy chirp. She would respond the same way if I asked her “Are you a good girl?” then “Are you a happy girl?” then “Are you sure?” and so on. We could have whole conversations along these lines. If I did something unexpected, like take out a brush for grooming, she would give me her questioning meow that went up at the end: “It’s brushy time?” (in cat language: “me-now?”) It gave me an inexplicable thrill when I would surprise her with a pat while she was just waking up, and she would give me her surprised happy chirp. Feeding times and early morning were other very talkative times – she was described as being “on fire!” in the early morning! I was told she would sometimes wail sadly at the door or window when I was out, but I think that might have had something to do with her wanting to go outside. Heck, she was practically speaking English: “me-out! me-out!”

Some of our fun times included fun with strings and ribbons. She ignored all the fancy store-bought toys we gave her, and did not even care for cat nip. But she did love to chase a string! It was best if there was some challenge involved, like reaching around a chair leg, or under a door. It was funny when she was a kitten and she would pounce and jump and frolic with strings, but even funnier when she was a big cat and she still thought she was a kitten! One of my favourite playtime memories was just after Tiger came home. She was beside my bed, I was in the bed, and we were playing a sort of peek-a-boo game (or at least I was). I lowered my head to where she couldn’t see me, and said as though I didn’t know where she was “Where’s Tiger? Where’s the Tiger?” Then I popped up my head over the bed and said “There! There’s the Tiger!” Instead of the response I was expecting, she ducked her head down and looked around behind her in alarm, as if saying “Oh no, where’s the Tiger?” It was so funny I had to laugh out loud.

Another favourite game of Tiger’s was chase the mousey under the covers. She knew not to chase hands, but if a hand was under the covers, it was fair game! Her hearing was so acute that even with the TV on, she could detect the slightest scratching noise under the covers. And I mean slight. When I did a tiny scratch under the covers, even with no visible movement, her ears would prick up, her body would go rigid and she would look directly at the spot with big eyes, ready to pounce. Imagine her delighted frenzy when the mouse went on the attack, zipping in under her legs and out again quickly. She was quick as well, but that mousey just seemed to always get away!

Some of my favourite things about Tiger included the way that oftentimes when she passed by me, she would incline her tail slightly toward me so that it brushed me as she passed by. It took me a while to realize that whenever this happened, I had just been patted by the cat! You normally don’t think of the cat patting you – it’s usually the other way around. But I came to feel that this was a quiet “I love you” reminder, just for no reason at all, other than she happened to be passing by.

As loving as she was, we didn’t always see eye to eye on everything. One of her favourite habits was to chase down flies and eat them. This completely grossed me out, although I know it is perfectly normal cat behaviour. On the other hand, when I had to give her fur-ball remedy, apparently that completely grossed her out (although the tube says cats are supposed to love the taste). She absolutely detested it, and forced me to resort to alternative method of ingestion number 2: smearing it on her face and paws. Although effective, this method always resulted in her being a little mad with me for a while because it was very undignified. Plus it probably tasted bad. But she always forgave me. Luckily, she didn’t require it very often.

The last mile
As hard as it was, the days and weeks after her diagnosis on Friday, March 13, 2015, held many smiles and happy moments. Ironic that her medical condition was that her heart was too big. She gave us no trouble, even though she had to ingest 30 pills every week. Once we found out about her compelling attraction to dog treats (raw, freeze-dried chicken), pill time became treat time! The pills went into chicken-flavoured pill pockets, which were then rolled in freeze-dried chicken flakes, and the result was apparently a cat delicacy! She couldn’t get enough! She looked forward to those daily treats with such anticipation that she would often hang around the walk-in closet door where the treats were stored, sniffing at the bottom, and making very clear that she was ready for a treat any time. And when the treats actually came out in the “treat bowl”, look out! There was a cacophony of eager meowing as I went to put the bowl down: “Oh, hello Tiger! Would you like a treat?” “ME-YEAH!” “This one?” “ME-YEAH!” “Are you sure?” “ME-YEAH!” “Absolutely sure?” “ME-YEAH!” If I opened the closet door too slowly, a furry white paw would sneak in and pull forcefully to make it open faster! As I was coming out, I sometimes felt like a soccer goalie trying to protect the closet entry from a furry white ball dodging this way and that to get in. If I put the bowl down too slowly, she would be up on hind legs, trying to eat the treats before they even hit the ground! Once, I was in the closet preparing the “treats” in advance while she was sleeping in another room, but somehow she knew – I don’t know if she heard me or smelled them, but I heard jingling bell outside the door, and knew I had been discovered!

The best part about the last mile was that every day was a gift. I took pleasure in every single patting session, every conversation and most especially, treat time! My heart swelled with joy to see her happily watching birdies, sleeping peacefully and rocketing up the stairs on cue! She did all of her usual things with almost all of her usual flare. She was a bit less purry, and toward the end, she was not comfortable in her favourite position on her back, because she couldn’t breathe in that position. I think it was because her heart was so big it was compressing her windpipe when she was on her back. In a non-medical sense I like to think her heart was so big because it was full of her love for us. And our hearts were full of love for her too. There is no question in my mind that Tiger was a happy cat until her very last day, and probably even until her very last three minutes. We’ll miss her, but I want to remember her with all of the happiness and love she gave us. She will be forever in our hearts.