When I met Maria on a blind date, she lived with a cat named Harley. For five years Harley, an indoor-outdoor cat was part of the family. She had thyroid issues and one day she disappeared forever. Maria asked me if we could get two cats.
We inherited two kittens, born in a barn in April, 2006. Toby and Django quickly became our entertainment. At first, they would fit under all of our low furniture, becoming shelters, perhaps instinctive for hunting, watching everything Maria and I were doing. We bought them stuffed animals and plastic balls. They’d start with all of them in the center of the family room and within minutes the toys would end up under all of the furniture.
Toby’s favorite toy was a felt wool mouse stuffed with some catnip. Not too much, just enough to keep Toby happy. Sometimes the mouse ended up under the couch, but for years it was Toby’s favorite toy. Django was shy and obedient. When we had guests stop over, Django would hide in a pocket in the back of one of our recliner chairs and stay there until the guests left. He stopped hiding at a older age.
Toby was mischievous; one time he managed to get outside. Django came to me crying and I realized what happened. Maria and I chased Toby through neighborhood yards, but he stayed away from us. We projected our anger a little, but we felt more concerned than angry. I decided to sit in the grass in one of the yards and gently call Toby’s name. He slowly came towards me with my outstretched arm low to the ground. I petted him until he could be grabbed. We had to be more careful leaving the Florida room door open, making sure the outer door wasn’t open.
After a year of growing up at that house, we moved to another and the cats adjusted to bigger surroundings. There, the inside doors had lever knobs and Toby learned how to open them. The cats were not allowed in the utility room, so I replaced that knob with a round one. Toby tried with both front paws but could not open that door. It was a pitiful sight to watch. A couple of other knobs were also replaced. Django never attempted to open doors.
When the cats were two and a half years old, we introduced them to third cat, Gibbs. Toby looked down at Gibbs and acted snobbish while Gibbs was still in his carrier. A lot changed when Gibbs was let out. The eight-week old kitten became king of the house. As time passed, all three cats loved and cleaned each other, but at playtime, Gibbs terrorized Toby and Django. The cats were well cared for and spoiled, but the siblings probably slept with one eye open.
Toby grew to have long legs with a sleek body and Django became real fat. At max, Django weighed twenty-five pounds. One day I noticed that one of the cats was uninating outside of the litter box. There was a vet in the area that took house calls. I suspected it was Toby with a urinary tract infection, but it turned out to be Django with diabetes. We elected to not give Django medication or insulin. He slowly lost weight over the next couple of years.
The three cats survived our move to Florida. Now there was less room to play and Toby and Django were ten years old. We converted the carport into a screen porch and Toby spent most of his time there, maybe to stay away from Gibbs, but Django’s health started declining and perhaps that contributed to Toby’s isolation. Two years later, Django stopped using the litter box. We tried to deal with it but after a month, we took him to a pet care clinic. We were shocked to learn that he was six pounds and all of us decided to put him down. It was sad, but we were expecting this for a while and Toby and Gibbs were doing fine. At first it seemed like Toby would look for Django, but I don’t think he mourned him at all.
A month later Toby started feeling ill. I noticed that the urine in the litter box had a strong ammonia odor, but didn’t think that it was a health issue. Toby stopped eating and drinking. Maria and I figured it was a bug and left Toby alone to recover, occasionally spending time to hold and pet him. At first, Toby would just lay there for hours with his legs under his body, but when he started laying on his side, we decided that a trip to the clinic was necessary.
It was there where we found out that both of Toby’s kidneys were failing. One was already shriveled up and the other was enlarged. Blood work revealed that neither kidney was doing the job and we could not get an encouraging sign from the vet. Sadly, Toby was put to sleep days before he and Django would have turned thirteen. Unlike in Django’s case, we were shocked at the sudden turnaround for Toby.
Today we have Gibbs. Instead of doing the things we did that may have contributed to the siblings dying so young, I put Gibbs on a different diet. We also give him more attention and make sure he’s happy. Caring for one cat is easier than three. People say dogs require much more attention, but that gap is not real wide. Cats deal with alone time better than dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re independent creatures. No matter how much we loved and pampered for Toby and Django, introducing a third cat was probably not a good idea. That probably affected Gibbs as well. Maria and I have decided that when Gibbs passes away, we will have no more pets. That may not be good for our health either, but we are getting older as well.
Today’s picture is Toby when he was a year old.