Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This is an obituary for our cat, Winston. He died on December 20, and I miss him.

It may not be apparent from my writing style that I develop close attachments, but I do develop very close attachments, with cats at least. One day my younger sister brought home our first cat, which my father then named Dusty. He was a small kitten then but grew up to be a large gray cat. Later we adopted several other cats, and he clearly didn't like living with them. I took him to college one year, where he lived with me in the dorm. He also lived with me during my brief hippie period in the summer of 1970 in Bloomington, Indiana. When I left home permanently, he moved with me to Ohio, Oregon and Indiana. When he died at the age of 15 in 1980, the same year my daughter was born, I was more deeply saddened than I had been when my father died. I buried him in our back yard in Terre Haute.

I had not had any pets since Dusty died, when in 2011, one of my partner's sons' friends died suddenly and left behind a dog and a cat named Eton, who was then about 10. The friend's family took the dog, and my partner's son took Eton, who otherwise would have gone to the pound. However, the son didn't want to keep Eton, since he already had a cat. Eton was soon pawned off on my partner, and he moved with us from Illinois to Vermont shortly afterwards.

My partner renamed him Winston because of his pudgy appearance. He was a very fat tabby with a grouchy disposition. He weighed twenty pounds and had short legs. Unlike most cats, he couldn't jump. Usually it would take him several attempts to jump up on the sofa. We put him on a diet, and he got down to fifteen pounds, but he still couldn't jump.

Like many male cats, he thought he was in charge even when he wasn't. He could be quite bossy, and would lead us over to his play area so that we would play with him when he felt like playing; he was too lazy to play by himself and hardly ever ran or played alone with his toys. He had no interest in hunting and ignored birds, though chipmunks sometimes got his attention. He had an unusual habit of finding knitting and dragging it around like a female cat by the neck for mating. My partner knit him a special scarf that became known as his "girlfriend." We could hear when he was playing with his girlfriend from a distinctive yowl that he would make.

I think Winston liked Vermont a lot. He probably had been confined to a small apartment in Minneapolis for much of his life and now took every opportunity he got to go outside and eat grass. Since this usually led to vomiting, he had to be curtailed. Because of his health problems, he drank a lot of water, and we kept a full bucket for him outside on the porch, where he did most of his drinking. Every day, first thing in the morning, he would go out and drink, or attempt to drink, from his bucket, even when it was frozen.

He became very personable over time and liked to sit with us. In the winter he would sit on my lap in the morning, and year round he would sit on my partner's lap while we were watching the evening news. However, he became irritated easily and would leave if his seating became disturbed by movement or he was uncomfortable. He enjoyed our company and didn't like being alone for long stretches. When we went outside he would stand in the doorway and watch us. When we went away and came home, he would hear the bell from the motion detector and be waiting for us at the front door.

Although he wasn't very physically fit, he seemed healthy enough most of the time we had him. But by early November of last year he was eating less and losing more weight. We took him to the vet, who did a blood test that indicated kidney failure. After discussing it we decided to let him die a natural death.

He functioned almost normally until the last few days. Eventually he couldn't eat or drink and had fluids oozing from his mouth. For the last two days he could barely move. Finally, not long after we had returned from a day trip, he let out a loud yowl and died. The next day I buried him in the garden, and my partner will make him a tombstone when it warms up.

Connecting with cats is like connecting with nature for me, because they are wild and they are being themselves. Dogs are monstrosities created by humans through breeding, and I avoid them when possible. We think owning a dog is like adopting a mentally handicapped child. Who in their right mind would do that? I would get a cat again, were it not for the fact that it is too hard for me when they die.


  1. I don't know if it's the lighting but his eyes are like jewels.

  2. He had pretty eyes and markings. There are reflections from outside that make his right eye look green instead of yellow. This was taken last June.

  3. I agree with your point about how connecting with cats parallels connecting with nature. Not everyone is able to appreciate their subtler qualities and individual personalities, so it is reassuring to read your thoughtful recollections of Winston. I am sure that he was a very lucky cat.


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