Coal Kitty

Whenever we have had people over to the house, I've had the strong urge to hide the cats. It's not that either of them have ever really misbehaved (unless your definition of "misbehaving" is to maul a person with love), it's that you kind of have to see them both in order to not get the wrong idea. Anybody who ever only saw one of them had to think that we were the worst cat owners in the world.

Powder and Coal. Ying and Yang. Never before have two animals been more different. Powder is the almost dog-like cat who follows you around everywhere, but then realizes that he's not supposed to care about you and pretends that he isn't even slightly interested in you. You'll never catch him sitting in a lap by choice, and forcing him to do so is kind of like trying to make an ice sculpture out of warm butter. He's the smartest cat I've ever known, fully mastering the art of turning on faucets and opening doors at a very early age. He's also a beast. A 20-something pound tub of lard.


He would be a big cat even if he weren't fat, but the fact of the matter is that he is horribly obese. If you see just him, you're convinced that we feed our cats Monkey Bread and Doritos and lollipops, without any regard for their health. But, then there's Coal:


Mr. Husband doomed Coal when he was a tiny little kitten by saying something about wanting a gray cat because he had never seen a small gray cat. At his peak, Coal weighed a petite seven pounds and was generally a small little man of a cat. However, in recent years, he weighed as little as four pounds. He. was. tiny.

And sick.

While he was never meant to be a beast like Powder, he also wasn't meant to be a little mound of skin, fur, and bones. That's exactly what he has been for a few years. I have photos of him that show just how thin he was and that he looked like he was a concentration camp survivor. Comparing Powder with Coal is an exercise in opposites, with an almost Evil Science Experiment Gone Wrong twist.

The problem was that Coal had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. No matter how much food he ate, he couldn't fully digest it. He often battled diarrhea and epic vomiting. No medicines seemed to really help, so we tried our best to control it all through diet. We spent a fortune on a wide variety of foods for him, changing each time his system decided it was so over the flavor of the week. Through it all, Coal seemed happy and comfortable, so we just kept battling through the (literal) mess.

After all, he was my lap cat extraordinaire. A snuggler and a cuddler, he was always happiest when he all up in someone's business, giving the person every ounce of love he could muster. For a tiny little man, he could muster a hella lot of love.

That's why he has always been Alexis' favorite. By far. The kid discovered the joy of Coal right around her fourth birthday, and spent a great deal of her time swimming in his awesomeness.


Friday morning, Alexis and I barreled down the stairs at top speed, just as we do every weekday morning. There was hope that we would be ready to leave ahead of schedule, which basically amounts to me having time to grab a cup of coffee before heading to work. It's a really beautiful thing when it happens.

And it would have, except that we walked into the kitchen and found Coal laying on the floor in front of the fridge. The Little Man had spent the prior evening all up in my business on the couch, seemingly as healthy as ever, except that he had been refusing to eat anything much for about a week. It seemed that his body had finally gotten pissed off about the torture of puking and pooping all the time because he was in the midst of a full-blown seizure. As he lay there convulsing, howling with discomfort, I walked over and gently stroked his fur, whispering the most comforting words I could muster. When the seizure finally ended, I went looking for Alexis' shoes. There really wasn't anything else I could do but continue on with our day.

Alexis followed me, asking questions, and I did my best to answer them honestly, even when she asked, "Is he going to be OK?" With tears in my eyes, I grabbed her shoes out of the closet. I returned to find Alexis bent over Coal, gently petting him and whispering, "It's going to be OK, Little Buddy."

Alexis often referred to Coal as "Little Buddy." It was a nickname she came up with on her own.

Miraculously, her gentle touch seemed to give the Little Man the strength he needed to return to "normal." He meowed a few times, clearly begging to eat. I cracked open a jar of meat baby food for him (the only thing he seemed to be able to eat) and he chased after me as I took it down to the basement for him.


Later that evening, it was clear that the seizure had done its damage. Mr. Husband and I had The Conversation, agreeing to see how things went overnight before calling the vet. I sat with Coal in my lap for hours in the middle of the night, certain that he was moments away from his last breath. He was barely responsive, his breathing labored, and didn't have the energy to do much more than lift his head.

In the ultimate act of defiance, Coal made it through the night. Cats may have nine lives, but I swear he had at least 90. He was like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going and going. While he probably should have passed away years earlier, he somehow managed to stay with us until late Saturday afternoon. It was as if he refused to let his body fail because he wanted to be with us.


I don't know where cats' souls go when they die, but I hope Coal's finds its way to a comfy, cozy lap. He deserves an eternity of love and affection because that's all he ever gave to us.

Alexis misses him a lot.


A Girl and Her "Little Buddy"


Dork in the Road