Requiem for an Air Raid Siren
We had an appointment for our cat Nala to be euthanized this afternoon but sadly, she died overnight. For some reason, she had stopped eating over a month ago and all attempts to get her to ingest food failed. We don’t know what was wrong with her but it was, ultimately, something we could not fix.
She was not yet five years old but in her short time, she had a remarkable impact on our lives. Rather than remember the sadness of her passing, I choose to remember the joy and laughter she brought to our life.
Almost all of our cats are Humane Society cats and Nala was adopted as a kitten. Only six weeks old, she was precocious and social and her ears made up about 65% of her head. She was clumsy even for a kitten. And she was loud.
When she wanted to say something, she would almost seem to set her body up for the act. She would plant her paws on the ground and open her mouth so wide, you could actually watch her vocal chords vibrate as she spoke. Then she would burst forth with one of the most hideous and surprising noises ever to come out of a cat.
It was a little like a combination between an air raid siren and the scream of damned souls being forced to watch re-runs of “Saved by the Bell.”
For Nala, there was no conversational meowing. Everything she said was at top volume and when she spoke, there was no escaping what she wanted to say. It was the feline equivalent of shouting at a friend who was standing on the opposite side of the grand canyon.
It took us a few days to figure out that her volume was due, in part, to the fact that she was nearly completely deaf. She shouted, it seemed, so she could hear what she was saying. If she wasn’t sleeping or eating, she was shouting.
HEY GUYS! YOU SHOULD COME DOWN TO THE BASEMENT! I’M DOWN IN THE BASEMENT RIGHT NOW! CAN YOU HEAR ME? I CAN BARELY HEAR MYSELF SO I’LL TRY TO BE A LITTLE LOUDER!!!!
Because she was hard of hearing, she would sleep more soundly I’ve ever seen a cat sleep. Random sounds would not cause her to lift her head and search the room like our other cats. When you touched her, though, she start awake and be instantly alert, almost concerned that she had slept too long and possibly missed something. Her desire to be awake for everything was so acute, she would often fall asleep while trying to be alert, resulting in the most awkward face-plant sleeping posture I’ve ever seen.
She was always around people. She would be in the same room with us until bedtime and would then follow us up the stairs talking the entire time.
ARE YOU GUYS GOING UP TO BED? IT’S UPSTAIRS! THIS WAY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING WALKING AROUND AND TURNING OFF LIGHTS??? THE STAIRS ARE OVER HERE! I CAN’T BELIEVE WE NEED TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION EVERY NIGHT! I’M NOT GOING TO GO UP THE STAIRS YET BECAUSE I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE WAY!
If I tried to do some writing on the computer before going to sleep, she would shove her face into my hand. She didn’t do this to stop me from typing. She did it because if I wasn’t going to pet her, she was going to do it for me. I think she honestly thought she was being helpful.
Maybe, she reasoned, I’d forgotten how to pet a cat since the previous evening.
Her purr never changed from the loud buzzsaw noises she made as a kitten. Often, simply thinking about getting some love made her purr preemptively. When she was really into it, she would wrap herself around my hand as I scratched her chest and belly.
If I moved my hand for a moment, she would purr louder as if to say “DIDN’T YOU NOTICE THAT I LIKED WHAT YOU WERE DOING JUST THEN?”
I’ve never known a cat to put so much effort into being adorable. When she curled up to go to sleep, she seemed to shift around until she found a posture that was suitably adorable at which point she would open one eye and look up at you as if to say “THIS IS PRETTY CUTE RIGHT NOW, ISN’T IT?”
At about three to four in the morning, her tendency for deep sleep would result in a cat that was AWAKE. She would frequently run laps in the dead of night where she would start in our bedroom and circumnavigate every room on every floor of house and then return to our room at high speed, leap on the bed, wake up the other three cats and then disappear from the room faster than they could figure out what had woken them up because she was moving at close to the speed of light.
Then the cats would start beating each other up because they blamed each other for whatever had just happened (cats are sweet but not very bright). A few moments later, Nala would return from her fifth tour of our home, jump on the bed and say “HEY! ARE WE FIGHTING NOW? WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING ABOUT? DON’T BOTHER TELLING ME BECAUSE I CAN’T HEAR YOU! ”
Then she would crawl under the covers and go to sleep because she was a lover, not a fighter.
She hated the vet worse than I’ve ever known a cat to hate the vet. When we took her in to have her fixed, she didn’t stop meowing from the moment we dropped her off to the moment we picked her up. She had literally meowed herself hoarse so by the time she returned home, she sounded like a little old lady cat who had been smoking since she was twelve weeks old.
One thing that always surprised me was her lack of pride. When she did something stupid, she didn’t try to arrogantly walk away pretending it wasn’t her. Instead, she would run out of the room as if the cabinet that had suddenly become five feet taller than it had been the last time she jumped on top of it had come to life and attacked her. She’d return a few moments later with back arched ready to take that cabinet down!
Then she would smack into a wall because she was never able to figure out that furry paws, hardwood floors, and manic speed do not allow for rapid stops.
She was the sweetest, loudest, craziest, and dumbest cat I’ve ever had. Her voice no longer echoes through our home but we will never forget her or the inhuman wailing that accompanied her wherever she went.
Goodbye loud deaf orange cat. You will be missed.