43: How Did He Know?

43: How Did He Know?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

How Did He Know?

Cats are a tonic, they are a laugh, they are a cuddle, they are at least pretty just about all of the time and beautiful some of the time.

~Roger Caras

My wife Carol returned from a Guide Leaders’ retreat bearing a furry object in a cage. The squawking, urine-soaked animal, cringing on the floor of the metal carrier, was a black and white cat.

The cleanup revealed he was a handsome American shorthair, glossy midnight black from head to tail, with a black moustache, white chin, throat and belly and four white socks. He had an intelligent face with wild white brows arched above luminous yellow-green eyes. A black velvet nose tipped a muzzle that sported an impressive display of ivory whiskers. When he tilted his head and presented a bright pink tongue, even my heart melted. He looked like he was wearing a tuxedo. The name stuck.

Tux had been twice passed along, making us his third home. Our veterinarian estimated his age at about four years, updated his shots and pronounced him healthy. Tux immediately started to amaze us.

We soon discovered that he had two very un-cat-like quirks. Far from finicky, he was a voracious eater. Also he could not meow; he squawked! As a result we never again needed an alarm clock. Every morning Tux would sit on Carol’s bedside table and emit a sound like the incorrect answer buzzer on a television game show.

This was the signal for one of us to rise and fill his food bowl. He would keep squawking until someone did. And if ever you couldn’t find him during the day, a noisy shake of his dry food container would bring him running. When we had company and dinner guests moved to the table, unfinished hors d’oeuvres disappeared and he followed up by actually begging at the table during the meal.

As the years passed Carol and I became empty nesters with a now “senior” cat we loved dearly. Then Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The surgery was successful, but chemotherapy left her exhausted and feeling very ill. Somehow Tuxedo knew. The morning wake-up calls ceased. Following treatments when Carol lay on the couch, sick to her soul, Tux would come to her. Nuzzling her chin, he would whisker-tickle her nose, tilt his head, look into her eyes and purr as if to say, “It’s alright, I’m here,” then snuggle as close to her as possible.

Shortly after one of Carol’s treatment cycles I underwent knee replacement surgery and returned from hospital bandaged from thigh to calf. Then a week later we found Tuxedo splayed on the floor, crying in pain.

Our vet was truthful and not hopeful. Tux had a very large mass in his belly, possibly malignant. Now a senior cat, perhaps it was time to say goodbye to our friend. They did an exploratory and removed a baseball-sized tumor and a portion of his liver. If Tux survived the night, he might make it. It was heartbreaking to see him in an incubator, lying on his side, his head resting on his curled front paws. A dark red incision, held closed with knotted black stitches crusted with dried blood, stretched from his chest to his pelvis. Each forepaw had a shaved area hosting an intravenous port and one was connected to a fluid bag. He lay deathly still. Carol scratched under his ear. Tux’s eyes opened a little and he purred. The next morning he was still stable and the morning after that Tuxedo ate his food and squawked for more. After that, we knew he would make it.

After Tux came home I ended up back at the hospital with an infected incision in my knee. An antibiotic was administered intravenously and another was ordered for later in the week. No problem! A nurse was due that week to administer Carol’s next intravenous dose of cancer meds, so I was added to the house call. When she arrived, Tux, still recovering, was sleeping by the fireplace. What a trio!

Carol and I sat side by side in our easy chairs; the nurse hung the fluid bags from the overhead lamp between, and hooked us up. Then Tuxedo padded over. He lay down between us, rolled on his back, put four paws in the air and displayed his shaved and still sutured tummy as to say, “Where’s mine?” The nurse just shook her head and smiled. Carol and I started to laugh.

Carol recovered fully and Tuxedo — he restarted his morning wake-up calls. We’ll never know how he knew when we needed him to be a caregiver, and when he could resume being his normal, noisy self.

~John Forrest

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