The relationship between human beings and animals, which humans domesticate and bring indoors, has been a long one. It probably started with dogs that realized they could follow human hunter/gatherers and live off the leftovers. And, then the dogs befriended the humans and the humans befriended the dogs which would stick around and would bark and warn of approaching danger and predators.
Pickles with his look of mutual admiration
Eventually cats were also domesticated. A similar mutual admiration developed where humans would feed the cats and the cats would eat mice and other critters that annoyed humans. Over the thousands of years that these relationships have been going on, the relationships have gotten deeper and richer, both for the pets and for the humans.
I have had a number of dogs and a number of cats, several parakeets, and a bunch of fish as pets during my life. The ones I have become closest to were the dogs and the cats. I have enjoyed cats for their softness and affection, and their independence. You don’t have to clean up after a cat, and a cat will keep your place free of rodents. I’m a cat fancier.
Its easy to be a cat fancier
I‘ve had several orange tabby cats. They have all been extremely affectionate, gentle cats. The latest of these is a cat that I got when my mom’s cat died. She had an orange tabby which got into some poison. I went to the animal shelter and found a cat that looked just like mom’s cat. On the cage was the name, Pickles. I took Pickles to mom’s house, introduced Pickles to mom and mom said, “I don’t want another cat.” Then she gave me her cat food dish, and Pickles came home with me. From that day on, over a dozen years ago, Mr. Pickles and I have been roommates.
He has been amongst the finest of the cats I have known. As a young cat he was very playful. He caught lots of furry animals and a few birds. He has always been a very alpha cat. If a dog, or a possum, or a raccoon or another cat came onto the property, Mr. Pickles escorted them off the property immediately.
He did show up in the morning one time with a horseshoe-shaped bite mark on his hind quarters. Apparently something that he tried to drive off the property turned on him and bit him. He developed an abscess which he licked until it drained and Mr. Pickles was fine. In all the years Mr. Pickles and I lived together, he only went to the vet once. That was for another bite wound. He lived a very healthy life.
One time I was sitting on the back porch of the house, Mr. Pickles in my lap, when a raccoon came around a tree. Mr. Pickles sat up. Looked at that raccoon, then jumped down onto the ground. The raccoon was about 40 feet away. The raccoon looked at Mr. Pickles. Mr. Pickles took a quick run of about two yards toward the raccoon and stopped. The raccoon turned around and started to walk away. Mr. Pickles took off running toward the raccoon and that raccoon left in a fast run off the property.
There was a time when I had something advertized for sale, a man come over to my house. He had a large pickup truck. And, in the pickup truck there was a large dog. That dog was probably ten times the body mass of Mr. Pickles. When the guy got out of the truck the dog got out. Then Mr. Pickles hissed and ran toward the dog, and that dog yipped and jumped back into the pickup truck. The owner closed the door.
A number of times over the years, I would be sitting in my big easy chair, watching a movie with Mr. Pickles in my lap, his head on my belly and his tale stretched out toward my ankles. He would totally stretch out and fall completely asleep. And, when I’d pet him he’d wake up a little bit start purring.
We spent many warm times together, Mr. Pickles and I.
When I got Pickles and would hold him in my arms he would not let me get my face near his. After a few years we became more comfortable with one another. I could cradle him in my arms like a baby. We would move our faces close together and touch noses. That was sweet, a display of trust for both of us.
Pickles in his condo
Pickles enjoyed ladders. Whenever I put up a ladder he’d climb it, look around and come back down. He was primarily an outside cat. I built a safe, protected place for him up in my carport. It was a box with a sleeping pad in it, like the one you see here. I left a ladder against the garage. He could climb that, jump onto the garage roof, then onto the carport and reach his little condo unit and outside sleeping pad. He was safe from coyotes there.
Pickles would come and sit beside me and watch whatever I was doing, inside or outside the house. If it didn’t involve loud power tools, he was close by. He wouldn’t get near if I was on the lawn mower. But, if he was lying close to the edge of the lawn, and I was on the mower coming close by, he would not move. He’d just watch me go by. I think he knew I wouldn’t hit him with the mower.
If I was in the car and Pickles was lying in the driveway, I would go very slowly and he would always get out of the way. The next I’d see him, he would be at the edge of the driveway watching me go by. We trusted each other.
Some people say that animals have no emotions, that emotions are completely a human thing. But, I say that’s nonsense. I saw Pickles as a very emotional cat. He was aware of what was going on around him. He was aware of my attitude toward him. He shared his attitude back towards me. We didn’t always get along perfectly.
Affection among friends
When I would stand in front of the sink washing dishes he would come beside me and rub against my leg. He’d stop there and wrap his tail around my leg and just stand there like he was giving me a hug. I’d look down at him. He’d look up at me. Then he’d give me one of his “air meows.” I call that affection coming from my cat. By the way, an “air meow” is when Pickles would look at me and meow without making a sound. His mouth would move, but there was no sound. Pickles did that often. My son called those “air meows.”
Mr. Pickles in recent months has had a cough and a sneeze. It seemed a bit alarming at first, but didn’t amount to much. Then it seemed a bit amusing as he would cough and sound like a little baby human coughing. He would just cough a couple quick times, and that would be it.
Recently I was out in the yard and reached to pet Mr. Pickles, like I have so often done, and he sneezed and coughed. This time blood came out of his nose.
I have two claw foot bathtubs in the back yard under a large maple tree. There is also a shower back there. Whether I was taking a shower or sitting in a tub of warm water, Pickles would come and have a big drink. He liked to drink warm water.
A shower and a drink of warm water
It was obvious that he was getting sicker in the last couple months of his life. The vet said, “old age.” We let him live his life out here at home.
In early September I was sitting in the tub, full to the brim with warm water. In his weak condition Mr. Pickles needed two tries to climb up onto the concrete block beside the tub. He took a very long drink. His face was just a foot from mine. I could see he was struggling to breathe. It was a very sad moment. I knew he didn’t have long to live. I thought I’d call the vet in the morning and take Pickles in. I’d let him die in my arms as I scratched his ears and told him I love him.
I went into the house and got my video camera. I took these last few moments of video of him. I went inside and put the camera away. Then I came back out to get Pickles and keep him in the house.
But he wasn’t there. He’d left. I looked for him all over the yard and in the house. I looked all over the neighborhood for him. Calling him. I couldn’t find him.
My eyes played tricks on me for a few days. I would see a piece of wood, clump of grass, whatever that was colored like he was, and I’d turn toward it and go to pick him up. But, of course, he wasn’t there.
About a week alter my senses let me know that he was here. I was upset and pleased to find that he had crawled off to a safe place on the property where his illness took him to his final breath.
It is striking how attached we can become to our pets. They can become our best friends and comforters. And, in the words of the immortal Radar O’Riley, I would paraphrase and say, “Cats are people too.”