Knowing iYesterday we took Mystique to the vet for the last time and patted her while Dr. McNeill administered euthanasia. We were very sad but the time had come.
Mystique came into our lives 17 ½ years ago on Halloween when our son brought her home from work. I came in and found my husband and the two kids clustered around a tiny ball of grey fur. She looked like a Tribble.
“Oh, no,” I said. “Take it back. We already have two cats and we don’t need a third.”
They looked up at me and chorused, “But she’s so cute!”
Well, she was and that cuteness armored her against reactions to her prickly, anti-social behavior. Taken from her mother too soon, Mystique had never absorbed the hormones that make a cat friendly and sociable. She lived with us but that was her only concession.
The Mutant Cat Gets a Mutant’s Name
Outvoted by my family, I joined the discussion on what to name her. We already had Houdini and Spooky and this new addition had to fit in with an oddball naming convention. The new kitten was a mutant, with six toes and nine claws on her forepaws. She also sported a striped M on her forehead. What else could we call her but Mystique?
As she grew it became apparent that Mystique had one Maine Coon parent from whom she inherited the long, low boxcar body, the short straight legs, the huge neck ruff, the Lynx tufts on the ears and the cry that was more “Meep” than “Miaow.’ She got her diminutive size from the other parent.
An Outdoors Cat
From the beginning, Mystique preferred the outdoors and would rather be out in a chilly rain than inside where it was warm and dry. Given the wildlife in the neighborhood and the fact that we had already lost her predecessor, Buffy, to a coyote, I did not expect her to have along life span. Boy, was I wrong.
Mystique was fierce. That’s the only word to describe a feline that demanded the world take her on her own terms and gave no quarter. Her attitude said, “Don’t look at me, don’t touch me, don’t even think about patting me. Just put the food dish on the floor and walk away.” We did. The other cats got all the affection that Mystique didn’t seem to want.
Stoned and Friendly
That lasted until she started having seizures. We don’t know why they started and we passed on getting a $2,000 MRI to find out more. Instead Dr. McNeill put Mystique on phenobarbital and that controlled the seizures. The drug also left her stoned and soporific. She relaxed and slept in the sun a lot more. She grew friendly, if not affectionate. That went on for a few years and we enjoyed the new personality, even if it was drug-induced.
Queen of the Neighborhood
When we moved to our condo, Mystique got confused. The buildings all looked alike to her and she had no scent markers to point the way home. On cold January nights, I would go out in my robe to find her and often discovered Mystique on the porch of the next building down. Our neighbors were in Florida so I just picked her up and carried her home. She seemed happy to see me.
After a while, she established her territory and patrolled it twice a day. Another neighbor, Rich, said that Mystique owned the top of the hill—and she did. She went where she wanted when she wanted and wasn’t afraid to protect it her turf from intruders. Once Rich saw her confronting a flock of wild turkeys and chased them away. Another time she came home with a groove on the top of her head that could only have been left by a big beak.
The terror of the neighborhood chipmunks, Mystique spent hours crouched outside a hole, waiting for one to emerge. I imagined the little critters huddled in their den saying, “Don’t move. Don’t even breathe. She’s up there again.” I found whole chipmunks by the door (not too bad) and sometimes just chipmunk bits (ick). Mystique did not quibble about taking a bird but I rarely found feathers on the welcome mat.
Mystique’s Big Fight
Mystique came in at night (we left the porch light on) but last June she stayed out all night. I worried. In the morning, she crept slowly and painfully up the one step to the deck. I wrote the details of what happened in the post, “Mystique is a Sick Kitty” and its sequel, “Mystique is Struggling to Recover.” Given all the meds she was taking for her injuries, we stopped the phenobarbital and the seizures did not recur.
She got better and things seemed back to normal. But a few weeks ago, she stopped eating and smelled bad. Another trip to the kitty hospital revealed that she had an abscess in her mouth. Antibiotics began healing it and painkillers helped her to recover but her appetite did not return. She would only nibble at the food we put out but drank a lot of water.
The End Approaches
Mystique’s hind legs began to go out from under her and she could no longer jump the four feet onto the retaining wall behind the house. Then she had trouble getting up on the couch. She crawled more than walked and fell trying to jump on the bed.
Her weight began to drop. Already down from 7 pounds to 6.5 after her battle with the wild critter, she had no extra poundage to give her a cushion. Mystique became skeletal, and we could feel every bone in her body when we patted her. She had developed a heart murmur and an X-ray had revealed that her kidneys had shrunk and. Mystique began to sit on our laps obsessively, seeking warmth and comfort every time we sat down.
The Rainbow Bridge
Monday night she slept between us, something she had never done, before sliding onto the floor in the morning. I found her crouched in her litter box, covered in urine. We took her to Dr. McNeill and talked it over.
We had brought Mystique back from the brink before but this time we made the decision that her quality of life had become insupportable. In human years Mystique was 85–frail and unsteady on her feet.. She weighed only three pounds. It was time for her to cross the Rainbow Bridge.
Knowing it did not make It any easier to watch the light go our of those big green eyes, though. Mystique came home wrapped in a blanket and we buried her in the backyard where she had spent so many happy hours.
So here’s to Mystique: Patroller of the neighborhood, mighty hunter, family member for nearly 18 years, and fierce defender of territory. We miss you already.