Posted in Life
It was 1995 shortly after my birthday. I was living in Santa Cruz, California with my two unofficial foster daughters. One afternoon when I got home they insisted there was a siamese kitten living under the big bush in the garden. I didn’t believe them.
That weekend though, when I was gardening, not just a siamese but also two black kittens came wandering out of that bush before their mom hissed at me and they ran away. There were quite a few strays in the rather “transitional” neighborhood which was still half rubble strewn fields after the Loma Prieta earthquake.
I set about trapping the kittens. Pookah came first. Eventually I also caught one of his siblings, but his mother and the third one disappeared after that. The sibling went to the local no-kill shelter but Pookah stayed.
At first we debated about his name. Bonnie and Brynn advocated for “Velcro” because he liked to climb us like cat trees and hang from his claws as we walked around. I insisted he would shortly outgrow that name, though. I don’t remember who suggested Pookah, but the name came with the story that a Pookah is a spirit of a place, like a rock or a bush. It seemed to fit, so Pookah he became.
We moved from Santa Cruz to San Jose in 1998, then to Sequim, Washington in 1999, which is where the first photo was taken when he was about 5. From there to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where we had two homes, and then back across the country to Seattle, WA where we are on our third home.
In every one of these homes he was an avid hunter and became the neighborhood cat in charge. He would be friendly and affectionate to other cats who didn’t contest his lordship, but beat all others to ribbons. If I went for a walk he would always accompany me. When I lived in Sequim and went walking in the woods he would insist on being carried across streams.
We lost five barn cats in the four years I was in Sequim. There were bald eagles, coyotes, bears, and a cougar on the property so it’s little wonder it was a hard life for a cat. Pookah never got so much as a bad scratch.
This is a cat who routinely chased raccoons off the compost bin and I once watched face down a coyote. He scarcely ate cat food in the summer, preferring to catch rodents. He has kept all my homes rodent free until this one. He prefers squirrels, but eating others when he caught them. He once brought home a rabbit that may have outweighed him. Our yard was always strewn with little bones.
He never would tolerate being an inside cat. I tried at virtually all of my houses, but he would sulk and engage in chemical warfare which always won him freedom of movement. He loved lounging on warm sidewalks and miaowing at passers by for attention. I kept my phone number and address on his collar tag, and he was returned to me regularly in any new neighborhood until all the locals knew him.
He got along well with other cats in the household, and dogs as well, up to our poodle Caprica. He was so frail by the time she came around that he never put her in her place when she was small.
In 2007 I decided it was time to get a kitten, as he was 12 and it seemed likely that most of his life was behind him. We ended up with two, Princess and Mickey. He doted on the two of them, and eventually taught them both to hunt. Princess, unfortunately, wasn’t so savvy about being out of doors. She was tiny but fearless, and we suspect a coyote was the end of her. She left us in 2012.
Pookah had a way of “stalking” a lap. I could push him out three or four times, and still find him back again without noticing how he got there. I acclimated, and learned to work around him.
He also recognized screens as his natural enemy, and was quite skilled at interposing himself between us and them whenever he wanted attention.
And he loved us. He slept in our beds with us every night in spite of occasional forceful ejections. If we sat on a couch it wasn’t long before he was with us.
He’s been slowing down for several years, but this last year has been particularly noticeable. He sleeps most of the time, He has been in progressively more pain from arthritis, stopped grooming himself, and sort of wasted away. In his prime he was about 9 pounds; I wouldn’t be surprised if he were half that now.
Still, he has continued to sleep with us, jump on counters, and occasionally hunt. I watched him catch a mouse last week in the blackberry brush across the driveway from the house. He has loved this, his last home. He has spent his days following the sunbeams from couch to porch to carpet to chair as they move through the house from east to west. He seems to know where all the best places are.
He has never liked the cold, and that has become increasingly obvious as he’s gotten older and stiffer. I am glad he got a last summer.
He woke us up this morning crying, and could scarcely stand. It became obvious that he has lost sensation in his back end. I have been making him as comfortable as I could through the day. We have an appointment in about an hour to put him to sleep.
Farewell, old man. Good hunting.