Wednesday, December 04, 2013

CLEOPATRA, "Cleo" 1998 - 2014

Cleo was a stray.  She showed up one morning, at our old house, while John was outside in the front yard. She was tiny and in obvious trouble. I took her to our vet found out she had an ear infection, was probably about six months old and pregnant. I had the vet fix her up and brought her home under the guise of "finding her a home". I kept her in the garage studio and when asked how I was doing "finding her a home" I replied, working on it. That's when John started calling her Cleopatra. Apparently, she got the name although I was accused of being in denial. 

John got me a beautiful little kitten when we lived in Boston, only to find out that he was allergic to cats, or so we believed. He drove from Boston to southern New Jersey, in a VW bug, to deliver that kitten to my Great Aunt who graciously said she would take her into her home.

For almost 29 years I hadn't had a cat. That's a long time for a cat person to go without. I wasn't in any hurry to move Cleo out of my life. 

She lived in the studio for almost a year. In the summer she would sit in the window and meow loudly to let us know she wasn't happy about this situation.  She wanted to be in the house.

The rest of the story is now entrenched in our family story.
I thought I would introduce her to the dogs and bring her into the house.  John had been visiting her, in the studio, Cleo allowing him to rub heads with her but not to pick her up. We decided that if he didn't actually touch her he wouldn't start sneezing. So, my plan was to bring her inside the house and allow the dogs to gently get to know her.
The difference between seeing the dogs from her second floor screened window, in the studio, and seeing them lunging up towards my arms to get a good look at her was just too much. She howled, hissed and bit my ear and then my thumb.

I returned her to the studio. Worked for awhile, felt tired and laid down on the little couch, just for a second or two.
My daughter and her friend found me passed out, got the friend's mother over right away and they whisked me off to the emergency room. Little cat bite = big problems if not treated.

I think I spent about three or four days in the hospital.

Cleo eventually made it into the house with better planning for meeting the dogs. She became quite an excellent mouser and our 100 year old house never disappointed her for her new found sport.  She knew that the mice would eventually emerge from behind the refrigerator. When one did she caught it carefully and then put it in the bathtub for recreational sport, later.

She wasn't a people person cat. She tolerated John but only would allow me to hold her and groom her. She established early who was queen of the house, with the dogs. Sophie ignored her and Hannah "chuffed" at her. I'm not sure what the dog equivalent of a chuff actually is but it didn't seem to bother Cleo.

When we moved to our present house, she took it in stride, no more mice but lots of windows and views of wonderful things.

When she was six years old we adopted Louie, from the local cat shelter, Angel's Wish. A little yellow ball of fur she showed no interest in him. She ignored him. Probably not the best choice she ever made. Louie grew into a good size, 13 pounds of orange tabby who loved to "hug" good old aunt Cleo.

Most of the time they ignored each other. Occasional growing and hissing from Cleo would elicit shouts from a family member for Louie to "LEAVE CLEO ALONE".

John would take Cleo outside and give her a chance to eat grass. She would never run off and the system worked as long as Hannah, the dog was kept inside. And, of course, you knew this was coming, right? Hannah got out one day and came over to see what Cleo and John were up to. Cleo freaked, John grabbed Cleo, Hannah barked which is pretty much what Hannah did. It's what German Shepherds do when they think a job isn't being done correctly. And, Cleo bit John.

Now warned about how dangerous a cat bite can be we took immediate steps. John called his dear old friendly doctor (and I stress the old here) and got put on antibiotics right away.  Unfortunately, they were the wrong kind and when we noticed a red line creeping up the inside of his arm we rushed him off to the hospital. He too spent his three or four days of time, in the hospital.

Now, I want it officially ON THE RECORD that Cleo never, ever bit anybody just for the fun of it.  If the stupid humans hadn't done stupid things she wouldn't have gotten scared.
A cat that started out on the streets had certain instincts when she sees dogs lunging at her or coming straight at her barking and she is being held. She bites that hands that feed her.

Those events gave her a bad reputation in our family. Daughter- in - laws advised their children to keep away from the black cat. Frankly, I don't think Cleo minded in the least. As I said, she really wasn't a people person cat.

Time passed and now she was 15 years old, deaf and could barely see. She and Riley had bonded. She made her way around the house, often startled when one of us would walk next to her or she would bump into something.  She spent the days sleeping, in a large indoor plant pot. Her life began to exist around eating and sleeping. Then I noticed her eating more and losing weight, sometimes losing control of her bladder when she slept and it was time. Time for us to make that decision.

Yesterday morning John carried her into the vet's office, wrapped in a towel. We were treated gently by the staff, placed in a quiet room with a couch and after discussing options with the vet we decided to hold Cleo while she gave her a shot to relax her. It didn't take long. 

We said our goodbyes, thanked her for giving us 15 years of her unconditional love. We handed her resting body over to the staff.  Her ashes come home next week and in the spring we will plant another flowering tree, in the yard. That will make four trees that flourish because their roots shelter the remains of beloved animals.

You will be missed, Cleo. May your eyes be clear now and may you hear the sound of birds, may your legs run without pain, where ever you are, good bye.



  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Cleo. We also used to have a Cleo a long time ago. Our feral who adopted us several years ago had to be put down a couple of weeks ago - Kitty Boy. Cleo sounds like she was a typical queen of a cat - and it sounds like she was well loved. It's hard to lose our friends.

  2. A very wonderful and moving tribute to a very valued family member.