Pete is not getting around like he used to. Going up the stairs hurts. Going down the stairs hurts. He’s not as active as he was in his youth, not by a long shot. He naps a lot. Pete doesn’t like to go anywhere: he hates to ride in the car for any distance. He’s impatient.
On the bright side, he’s much easier to get along with that he used to be. He doesn’t complain about very much. He’s way past middle age, right at the beginning of elderly.
Pete and I have a lot in common. We are both 68 years old. Well, Pete is 68 in cat years, which, in solar years, is about 12.
We didn’t intend to bring Pete, or “Petey,” as he is normally called, into our family. Over a dozen years ago, I was visiting a family in our church. During the visit I was offered a kitten, one of two left over from a litter. I declined. We already had a cat and I have always been a reluctant cat person. My wife is the cat-o-phile (if there is such a word).
A look of sadness came over the young lady with the kittens as she said, “Well, I’ve asked everybody. I guess I’ll take them to the pound.”
Although this may be wrong, I have always seen the pound as “death row” for cats and dogs. Some may receive a reprieve from some kind-hearted person, but what about the rest? Every year about 2.7 million cats and dogs are killed while in the custody of humans. Around 45 percent of these are cats.
The two kittens had about a 50-50 chance of survival if they went to the pound (I know that “animal shelter” is the politically correct term but 2.7 million animals find death and not “shelter” in these places). I decided to change the odds.
I said, “If you’ll promise me that you will keep one cat until you place it in a home, I’ll take the other.” She agreed and the angel of cat death was denied two kittens.
We already had a female cat so I took the male. “Kitter,” as she was named was already old by cat standards, being over the age of 10. She was not happy with the new addition. Kitter was petite, only weighing between 3 and 5 pounds at any given time. But she was a dominant little thing.
The first half of her life up to this point was spent totally outdoors controlling and ruling her world. My wife finally decided to turn her into a permanent house cat so she was declawed and brought inside. She adjusted to her new surrounding easily. Until Petey was introduced.
Compared to Kitter, Petey was tiny. But he grew. And grew. And grew some more. We finally ascertained that Petey had Maine Coon Cat in his genes and he eventually topped out at about 26 pounds, five times the size of Kitter.
It didn’t matter. Kitter was the Queen and she intended to remain so, and she did. Even though the young male tried to play, the old lady just tolerated him. Barely.
When Kitter died at the ripe old age of 112 (or 20 solar years), Petey was lost for weeks. He traversed throughout the house searching for her and calling forlornly for her. He finally adjusted to life as the only animal in our lives and, always affectionate, his desire to be close to one of us increased.
Given a choice, Pete will stay in a room where either my wife and I have taken up residence. If we are out, he will, more likely than not, be waiting for us when we return. If we are gone overnight or longer, even though we have someone come in and feed him, change the litter, and spend time with him, he will yowl at us his disapproval and, I am pretty sure, he is reading us the riot act for being gone so long.
Like Petey, I’m not getting around like I used to. Going up the stairs hurts. Going down the stairs hurts. I’m not as active as I was in my youth, not by a long shot. I don’t nap a lot, but sometimes, when I go home for lunch, I’ll fall asleep at the table. I don’t travel as well as I used to. I am told that I’m more impatient.
On the bright side, I’m much easier to get along with than I used to be, but I do complain more than I used to, according to the other Queen in the house. I’m way past middle age, right at the beginning of elderly.
At least I hope it’s the very beginning. Pete and I have a lot in common.
I’m not sure that I am a cat person but I have definitely become a Petey person. It’s funny how some people become close to their pets. I used to wonder about that, but I wonder no more.
Yet, there’s a sadness too. At 12+ years of age and a big animal, Petey is old. I worry about him. My wife says that sometimes she will see Petey staring at me and say, “I think he’s worried about you.” Perhaps Petey thinks that I, too, am a big animal and that I am getting old.
But at the moment, we’re both still here, still reasonably healthy — just two guys chilling out together, keeping each other company. I didn’t want another cat 12 years ago. We had a cat. Who needs two of them? We aren’t “crazy cat people!”
But … on that day, Petey needed us. And over the years I have come to realize that perhaps I don’t need him. Not “need” exactly. But I enjoy him. I care about him. I am comfortable with and am comforted by him. After all, we are growing old together.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and is the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]