In Memory Of Tigger: 1990-2008

| February 15, 2008

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Yesterday was a tough day in my world. It was the day that we ended the suffering of a dear friend and companion who had been fighting a long and losing battle. Through his 17 years he had been a steadfast companion, but in the past few months he had slowly been succumbing to chronic renal failure (CRF), possibly brought on by tainted pet food from China.

The story of Tigger – after the jump

Left and Adopted

Tigger adopted us back in 1991. His previous family abandoned him, and he hung out as a “ghost” at the house we rented on Mudge Lane in Escondido. We would always catch sight of him, but he stayed as hidden as he could, we set out food for him and over the period of many months gained his trust.

He eventually began to come into the house and allowed us to pet him, though he was still very shy and would frequently hide for days. From what I understand animals that are abandoned by their first family frequently find it difficult to trust anyone else.

Spicy Cat

After one weekend trip to Mammoth in the early 1990s, we came home to find that our spice cupboard had been ransacked by what appeared to be a mouse or rat. While it had nibbled on many packages, it had eaten nearly a pound of bulk red pepper. This led us to assume that somewhere out there, some rat must have gotten a taste for spicy. We set a few traps after we cleaned up the mess, but we did not catch the thief, though he made a couple of other runs, always attacking the red pepper.

Several weeks later our new friend Tigger was carrying a prize for us when he came in the back door – a rat. Not just any rat but it seems he found the spicy rat, as the raids stopped. From that day forward, Tigger seemed to have a natural attraction to the smell of curry or spicy foods. This is how he got his second name, “Spicy-Cat”

Opera Kitty Goes Missing

When Pages was going under, I ended up moving to the San Francisco area to take a job with NeXT. Our move had many challenges, including trying to capture Tigger (we learned from the neighbors this was his name) so that he would not be left behind. Through the Tammi’s skill she was able to ensure he moved with us, stuffed into our tiny Honda CRX along with 2 other cats and several last minute items. As she says when she passed through Los Angeles, Tigger realized that the stress of his capture meant that we had taken him with us, and purred loudly for most of the remaining 6 hour drive.

Once in the house in Palo Alto, Tigger immediately found the deepest darkest corner and stayed there. He had been a largely outdoor cat, and we were very worried that he would escape while we were moving boxes and never be seen again.

It wasn’t until our third night in the house that we learned that he had stayed with us, when just as we were going to sleep the most bizarre sounds were coming from the living room, slowly moving towards our bedroom. Seems Tigger had emerged from his hidely hole and was calling to us and the other cats as only a siamese (in this case half-siamese) can.

It was then that he earned his third name, Opera-kitty. As it turns out he was quite a singer, and had distinct songs for various moods and occasions.

Then one unfortunate day he was missing. We searched the house and the yard and could not find him. We hoped he was simply hiding again, but after a few days we knew it was not the case. I spent hours roaming Palo Alto calling him and asking everyone I saw for any sign of him. I check the pet shelters and even the road kill morgue looking for any sign of him.

Weeks past and our hope was wearing thin. I set several used bath towels near our back door in hopes that if he was wandering around unsure which house was his, that a familiar scent would give him the clue he needed. Early one Sunday morning 3 weeks after he had disappeared, he was there outside the back door looking hungry and thirsty but otherwise none the worse for wear. From that day forward he never again strayed very far from our home, in spite of us moving another 5 times in the next several years.

A Loyal Friend

As the years went by, Tigger was a good friend. When our other two cats died in 1998 he comforted us, and then helped ensure the new kittens played nicely and understood good manners. He would often call the other cats out to play with a distinctive song he would sing, and was expert and instigating a “chase scene”. He would frequently spend his afternoons in the office where I work at home, asleep on the futon couch. No matter who was visiting, his 10 o’clock nap start would not be missed or delayed. He was happy to find his spot and settle in.

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(a 3 cat pile-up on my office couch featuring Tigger in the middle, Fireball left and Diplodicus right)

He was also fond of “chasing the sunbeam” in our east facing bathroom. One of his favorite perches was the bathroom counter top that would get full sun in the winter.

The Emergency During the Crisis

Tigger became very sick during the wild fires in San Diego county last October. He had spent the day on his couch in my office as normal, but when he woke in the evening was very sluggish and began leaking bloody urine in the evening. He was very weak and probably close to death. Tammi was already distressed because of the fire, the evacuation of the horses and everything else, so I decided we could and would prevent another tragedy. Because of the fires, most of the vets were closed and evacuated to lord knows where. The one hospital that was open took him in and diagnosed him with chronic renal failure. he spent 5 days there as they brought him back to some level of stability.

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For the next 4 months we had been giving him a slowly increasing amount of care. For cats with kidney failure there is only one way that it ends. But we decided we would care for him as long as he could manage. This meant daily sub-cutanious IVs of fluids to help his body processes and special foods to help keep what remaining kidney cells functioning.

He responded very well to our care and gained weight and vigor. Though the IVs were painful he put up with them fairly well. I focused on feeding him, even cooking up batches of special food of my own design to encourage him to eat.

Towards The End

He remained fairly strong through Christmas, but then began to deteriorate. His body systems began to fail one by one due to old age or the stress of his care. He lost his eyesight due to higher blood pressure brought on by the fluids. To our amazement the other cats frequently took it upon themselves to help guide him around the house. (I would not have believed it if I had not seen it myself). But his condition continued to degrade, and there was nothing to do save make him happy and comfortable. He had a few seizures and a stroke that left him unable to move his back legs, and we knew the time had come to say goodbye.

Yesterday at 5 PM we took him to our vet, who is a great lover of cats and we held Tigger as he administered the injection that ended his life. At 5:42, my long time friend Tigger S. Operakitty left this world for whatever awaits our pets beyond. He died peacefully with Tammi and I holding him, petting him and showing our love for him. He gave us one last purr at the end, as if to say he understood and it was ok.

Thanks for everything old friend, my couch seems very empty this morning. But I can only pray that you are in a better place with your friends Haggis, Pooka and Sampo now. Your pain has ended and you can watch the birds all day.

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Category: Main, Personal

About the Author ()

Bruce Henderson is a former Marine who focuses custom data mining and visualization technologies on the economy and other disasters.

Comments (4)

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  1. BWJones says:

    Thanks for sharing Tigger’s story. I maintain that you find out quite a bit about people by paying attention to the pets in their lives and Tigger sounds like he was a great cat who found a good home with you.

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing about Tigger. You and your family have my heartfelt sympathy. My children (two of whom are now well into adulthood) and I had 2 old cats…Angel, 18-1/2 and Loudmouth, 15 or so. We had to take both of them on their final car during the same summer. At the time we took Angel on her ride, I’d had her longer than I’d had children; until that day in August, even my eldest had never known life w/o Angel. If you can find it, read the story about The Rainbow Bridge. And make sure you have a box of tissues at hand.

  3. Jeffrey Carr says:

    My heartfelt condolences, Bruce. We lost 2 cats to renal failure over the years, and at about the same age. It never gets any easier, does it.

  4. Doug says:

    Wow, very heartfelt. Sorry for the late post, but I’m catching up on your blog. I had to put my dog to sleep a little while ago and a cat that was 21 yrs. old believe it or not. I have a new dog and a new cat (that came with the new girlfriend). Thanks for sharing.