On Friday we put down one of our two cats, Mose. He’s had a mysterious intestinal ailment for nearly two years—I’ve mentioned it before—and recently he’d been throwing up and having diarrhea multiple times a day. When healthy, Mose weighed over 11 pounds, but by the time we took him to the vet for one last Hail Mary round of tests, he was down to 8 ½. It was time.
I’m not going to write about the actual events of Friday—let’s just say that Stephen and I tried hard to handle it in a way that would be less scary for Mose, and I’m not sure we succeeded. Just thinking about it makes me cry, so I’m certainly not ready to address it here. Instead, I’ll offer a few reminiscences.
Mose had six toes, and an endearingly indifferent personality. The only other living being he clearly loved was Stephen—the rest of us, he could take or leave (and often leave bleeding, thanks to his fast claws and sharp teeth). He loved people food—as soon as he’d hear the can opener, the egg carton, the milk container, he’d come running, and stand on his hind legs clawing at the cabinet. We’d let him sniff the food and decide for himself if it was worth begging for. Tuna, egg yolks, milk, any kind of animal protein—no leftovers were safe if Mose was awake.
He liked to snooze in unusual places. On top of the fridge, on Stephen’s desk right above his keyboard (only while Stephen was working, of course, and he’d often drape one foot or his tail over the keys), inside paper grocery bags, on top of the wall unit in the living room… In our bed at night, he’d sleep either at our feet or beside Stephen, sprawled out to take up maximum space. Really it was his bed, and he kindly allowed us to share it.
And Mose rarely slept through the night—we might have a week or two of undisturbed slumber, but then he’d start up again: At 4, 5, 6 in the morning he’d climb up next to Stephen’s head and methodically knock items off the nightstand, until one or both of us woke up and showed him that, yes, there was food in his bowl. Sometimes that wouldn’t be good enough, so after we’d climbed back into bed and started dozing he’d sit by the bedroom door and scratch it—but only until we looked up or said his name; then he’d sit innocently, pretending it wasn’t him who’d woken us, and repeat the action over and over again. This would happen multiple times each night (good practice for September, when the baby comes…). I took it as a sign of his fondness for Stephen that Mose only did this when his father was in bed—if Stephen was up late or out of town, I was allowed to sleep peacefully. There’s one reason to be glad he was such a daddy’s boy.
In this real-life Of Cats and Men, Mose was the crafty one, playing George to his brother Samuel’s Lenny. In the hallway, he’d crouch behind an object on the floor, lying in wait for Samuel. When Samuel would amble down towards the living room, Mose would leap out at him, giving a (we think) playful bite or a swat before running off, often leaving Samuel wondering what had just happened.
His long, slender body made Mose an excellent dancer. I’d laugh and laugh when Stephen pulled him up on his hind legs to do a soft-shoe, or a Guns-n-Roses shimmy. We called him Axl Mose for the sinuous way he moved his hips.
On Thursday evening we packed the boys into their carrier and toted them to a bar down the street from us, where there’s a photo booth. The bar had just opened and there weren’t many customers yet, but the bartenders were all cat lovers (and we’ve done this before), so they were happy to see us. True to form, when we freed them from the box, Mose was intrepid, walking the length of the bar, investigating everything, while after a few frightened moments Samuel decided he’d be happiest crouched under a bar stool. We four crowded into the booth for three rounds of photos (no small feat given my current pregnant girth), and by the final round Mose had had enough—he swatted his brother, he meowed vigorously, he made it clear he was FINISHED:
It was the perfect Mose Moment. I only wish there were more of them ahead.