At our very first cat show about thirteen years ago, my husband Clint, fell in love with the Abyssinian breed. He talked about wanting an Aby for himself so much, I finally decided to get him a kitten as a Christmas gift one year (yes, sometimes even a rescuer will get a Christmas kitten). We went out to Las Vegas to visit a friend of ours who happened to raise Abyssinians and I picked out this bright eyed little ruddy boy with a look of mischief in his eyes. Four weeks later, Royalty Merlot of Pentaclecats arrived in Connecticut, and from the moment he stepped into our home, Merlot was my cat – and only my cat.
There was something special about Merlot and I knew it right from the start of our relationship. He didn’t do anything without thinking about it and figuring out the best way to get whatever it was he wanted. Whether it was the food off of my plate, or the best part of the pillow, Merlot simply knew that it was his for the taking. As much as I knew Clint had wanted this cat as his own, I must admit there was a distinct pleasure that our new addition to the family was so devoted to me.
If I was working on the computer, Merlot was helping me – if I was watching television, he was right there on my lap. When it was time for bed, he was the first one on the pillow, curled up right next to my head, holding my arm and purring away. And what a purr he had – it reverberated all through the house. If I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, he led the way, protecting me from any and all unknown or hidden dangers. He understood every word I said to him and he always had stories to tell me back.
We had our own games as well. On my window sill there are two little wooden cat figurines and Merlot decided they belonged to him. There were times that he would just carry one around in his mouth through the house, talking to his little friend. When he was done, he would return the cat figurine to where he found it. At other times, he would climb to the top of the cat tree right next to the window and meow at me. As soon as I turned and said his name, he gave me the Merlot grin and, with his paw, sent the two figurines flying. Then he would stand there and wait. I was well trained and picked them up and replaced them so he could do it again. And again. And again. It gave him so much pleasure, and even though it could get quite annoying, I had to laugh. It was our game and we played it well, and often.
Merlot quickly became my favorite cat (yes, I do have favorites), and my little soulmate. I commissioned a painting of him with his mischievous grin and his little wooden buddies, as well as a chalk drawing. There were professional photographs taken and I began to show him in AACE. He was third best kitten one year and then second best cat. My goal was to keep him whole and breed a litter of Abyssinians. Even though I had bred and granded a litter of Munchkins to meet the requirements for the judging program, I wanted to breed an Aby like Merlot with my cattery name on him. But Merlot’s testosterone level was extremely high and he smelled worse than any whole male cat I had ever come across before. I could take him to the vet and clear out the entire office within two minutes. It was so bad that I could not let him into our bedroom any longer. I was miserable and so was Merlot, so I made the decision to alter him. Merlot was first and foremost my beloved pet and there was no way I was not going to share my room with him (or the rest of the house for that matter). I remember the day I brought him in to be altered – everyone at the vet’s office met me at the door and applauded.
As an alter Merlot was second best alter nationally, two years in a row. He was an absolutely amazing cat and a true showman. Close to his third birthday he started to get a bit heavy, so I retired him from showing and he just stayed home and took charge of my heart. When I decided to get my first tattoo at the age of fifty, I thought long and hard about what I wanted. It was between my husband and my cat. Since I figured Clint was my third husband and Merlot would always be my cat no matter what happened, I went for the cat. I have a beautiful tattoo that was done from my favorite picture of him. That tattoo made him a permanent part of me.
While I was showing Merlot, I did start to breed Abyssinians and I did become a cat show judge. While they all love me, they love Clint equally as well and that special bond with only me just wasn’t there. Once in awhile one of the other cats would sneak onto my pillow before Merlot, but that didn’t last long. Merlot would sit next to them, giving them kisses and purring away, and when they least expected it, WHACK! Off they went and he settled in for his night’s rest.
Merlot was wonderful with the kittens. I figure it’s because he knew they were not going to stay and he would not have to share me for long. He tolerated the other cats as long as they did not try to take any of his spots when I was at home. Friendly, but a bit aloof, it was obvious to everyone that Merlot belonged to me, and me alone.
About a year and a half ago, I noticed that he was losing weight. But it didn’t look like good weight loss and I figured he had a bad tooth that needed to be taken care of. I will never forget the call from my vet at work that morning. When they told me that Merlot was in kidney failure and his levels were dangerously high, I burst out into tears. I refused to believe or accept that my best friend would die at the age of six.
I did a lot of research and got Merlot into an experimental drug program. For ten months Merlot kept his weight, felt terrific and acted like himself. And while I was congratulating myself for figuring out how to beat a terminal disease, the drug stopped working. I began to take Merlot into the vet twice a week for IV fluid therapy and to have his levels checked. He lost weight at a slow pace and continued to do well on the regime we were using. But at that point I knew I was on borrowed time and every weekend I had to be away to judge a show, I didn’t know what I would find when I got home.
I returned from Denmark just before Merlot’s eighth birthday. I knew that there had been a change for the worse the moment I got home. That same day we went to the vet for a check up. Merlot had developed sores in his mouth. He had lost another pound because he could not eat. I was not ready to let him go and so we decided on a pain shot, a steroid shot and an antibiotic shot. That day Merlot thought he was a kitten again. He played laser mouse and teaser with me – he knocked the little wooden cats off the window sill. He ate two cans of cat food and followed me everywhere, talking constantly. He had so much to say, and that night he curled up on our pillow, held my arm with his paws and purred in my ear. I was full of hope that Merlot would be able to stay with me awhile longer.
When I came home from work the next day, Merlot was not the same cat that I had left that morning. He could not eat the baby food I had bought for him and he just huddled on the kitchen table. His eyes were no longer focused and he started to cry. For the first time I knew that he was in pain and he was too good a friend to allow that to go on. And so that evening, Merlot and I (and Clint) made our last journey together. For his final adventure he would have to go it alone, but I was there to see him on his way. Merlot had lost his purr and he was ready to leave. He had spent the previous day giving me all the memories of our life together and telling me his stories and that he had to leave – I just hadn’t understood the message. That night I set my best friend free and took all of his pain and transferred it into my heart.
I grieve for this little soul cat of mine, whose life ended the day before his eighth birthday. This morning I looked out my window and from the corner of my eye I noticed two little wooden cats. I smiled and waited for the little paw to appear. It never came…..