We knew he was old and suspected he was sick but based on his history we had promised to give him a good life and not traumatize him with vet visits. In the past any trip to the vet required a long chase, lots of hissing, cat pee/poop everywhere, whimpering, and cowering (all before we actually took him to the vet.) Then once there he would be petrified and repeat that whole process again. Once home he would hide for at least a week, avoid all people contact, and even refuse to eat and/or drink. When we moved to Texas we promised not to do it again if it could be avoided. Blue was very attached to our cat Meridian who died around Christmas after a very long life (she was 19+). When Meridian died, Blue's mourned her and his personality completely changed. She had always been his "buffer." He harassed her to her very last day with his constant need to be at her side. Blue was always afraid of people. When he came he had been in a crouched position for so long that he couldn't use his back legs. He dragged himself everywhere and when he finally got used to C. and I he would let me massage his backside so that after a few months we were able to get those back legs working again. Even though he trusted me enough to let me do that and he would sometimes come over and head butt me so I could pet him, he really didn't trust any of us. If we walked near him he would cower and scamper away. He never allowed anyone to stand over him even if you were feeding him or trying to pet him. If we sat quietly he might come up to us or some of our familiar adult friends but even that was rare. NONE of the kids had ever petted him before Meridian died. 12 and a half years with us and none of us had ever picked him up (except for those vet trips and the cross country move) or had him sit in our laps.
All of that changed when Meridian died 8 months ago. Suddenly he would walk right between us if we were standing around talking or even if we moving. He would go right up to the kids and MEOW (we had never heard his voice because he had what we called a silent meow-his mouth would open but no sound came out.) He not only allowed them near him but he sought them out and demanded attention. If we were talking with visitors he would even come up to them and allow them to pet him. We had not realized how much we had missed out on with him (and he with us) until we were able to see the joy the other kids experienced in petting him and playing with him. We speculated that maybe he had alzheimer's and had "forgotten" he was supposed to be scared. We wondered if he had a brain tumor. Yet he was happy. He wasn't in pain, he was walking, jumping, eating, sleeping, etc. and we had made a promise to give him as good a life as he could handle. In fact, the night before he died, both C. and I reminded him of our promise told him we would be taking him to the vet because we could see that he was hurting. (Had he taken the downward turn on a weekday we wouldn't have even waited the day and a half.) Maybe he understood and chose to go before that happened. Maybe it was coincidence. Either way, we were able to honor our promise and he chose to die in the middle of everything. He didn't look for hiding places or try to run away. He spent his last days right there on the living room couch where he could see us and hear us in all our glory (i.e. noisiness.)
Meridian and Blue's passing and Blue's life gave us some insights into our kids. Each child responded pretty much the same way when Blue died as they did when Meridian died. Corazon cried briefly when she realized they died but then she was all business and "back to normal" (which proved helpful as I tried to figure out what to do with his body until C. came home from work.) Pollito looked stunned and shocked and then cried intermittently whenever anyone else was crying or talking about the cats. Milagro was so upset and distressed. 8 months ago she rounded up all of her stuffed animal kittens (she had 6 small ones) and has slept with them every. single. night. since then. She thought of Meridian as "her" cat so she was especially hurt by that. She declared that she wished we would all have died with Meridian so she wouldn't be alone. When Blue died she cried and cried and declared that she wished we could have turned back time and made him a kitten again so he would have a really long life with us again. She also noticed that all her "kittens" were now of dead cats except one (she has named each kitten after their living likeness including 2 neighborhood cats who have since died) and that in no time the last of the cats would probably die. Since we have 2 other cats (which she doesn't have kittens that resemble them) it once again sent me scrambling to try and find stuffed animals with their likenesses.
Tortuga's response each time has been quite telling. He is our ODD/RAD child who "hates" everyone and doesn't "care" about anyone/anything or so he says. Yet each time when we had him say goodbye to Meridian and now Blue he was reduced to a puddle. He cried and cried and wailed until we had to force him away from the cats because he was upsetting them. Each time he asked to go straight to bed and fell right to sleep (which for him is almost always an impossibility regardless of what sleep meds he takes.) He did this on Sunday night and by the time he got up yesterday Blue was gone. He cried again while eating his breakfast and then asked to go to bed. In many ways Blue was "Tortuga's cat." We had 4 cats and each child had "claimed" one as his own. So now we have 2 cats which have been claimed by Corazon and Pollito. They are each 11 years old so perhaps we need to start thinking about adding a younger cat or two.
Blue's life in many ways parallel's Tortuga's life. No matter how long Blue was with us and how much we tried to show him our love and caring he always dealt with us on his terms. He was always just a bit afraid and distrustful. The harder the kids worked to show him love and affection the more he seemed to reject them. Even if they were feeding him a treat he took it and ran or he avoided it altogether if it meant being close to them. If he accidently got too close or let them get near him he might hiss and bolt. He did this to C. and I too but to a lesser degree. When he did sit close to us because he wanted some love you could always see the tension in his body as he was alway ready to run away. He was never able to let go of his early trauma until after Meridian died and whatever disease took over his body/brain. Then he let loose. He climbed onto C.'s lap and even rolled on his back to let her and Pollito rub his belly. He would come right up to Milagro as she was bouncing (literally) off the wall and head butt her for some love. When one of them was upset and crying, Blue went right up to them to try and comfort them. We had NEVER seen this from him before! Whatever happened to him we will never know but he got a whole lot of loving when whatever held him back before was out of the way. It gives us just a bit of hope that maybe someday, even though we think that someday should be now, Tortuga might be able to let us do the same.