It is with great sadness that I report the passing of "Rebel", a gigantic cat with an ever bigger heart. With apologies to Rod Serling, we might have entitled this obituary "Requiem for a Heavyweight".
Rebel made his presence felt in my office for about twelve years. When we first met him, a nice gentleman who lived over the office had rescued Rebel from an animal cruelty situation. Indeed, back then the poor cat was afraid of absolutely everything. It took months to get him beyond that.
For many years the routine was simple. The man upstairs opened his door at the top of the stairs and we opened ours at the foot of the stairs. The cat "went to work" every morning at 7 a.m. and "punched out" at 5 p.m. In addition to supervising the office, Rebel made frequent trips outside to feast on the wildlife in a wetland near the complex.
Rats, mice, small rabbits, birds, moles and voles were all on Rebel's "take out" menu.
Rebel was a very large framed cat who eventually grew quite plump. In his early years if one tried to put him on a diet, he would simply go down to the swamp and bring back his lunch, whereupon he would eat it on the doorstep within sight of us all. Rats, mice, small rabbits, birds, moles and voles were all on Rebel's "take out" menu.
In his youth this cat would just as soon bite or scratch you as look at you. Most of the delivery people who brought shipments to us would "play chicken" to see if they could pet Rebel without getting bitten or scratched. Rebel was a strong alpha male and knew he was a force to be reckoned with. He demanded fealty from all of his subjects, both human and feline. He truly hated dogs and several times beat up a neighbor's Collie when she offended him with an inappropriate sniff.
And so things went along for many years. Eventually his upstairs owner moved to an apartment where cats were not allowed and we also were moving to a new location. It was decided that Rebel should go with us. He spent the next two years hunting around Town Cove in Orleans and impressing everyone with his skills.
One day in 2002 I brought to the office a female kitten that I had adopted for my house. At twelve weeks old Grace was already a fierce cat and feared no other animal, including Rebel. The first time she saw Rebel he was walking towards her doing the "Frankenstein walk" that characterizes a territorial Tom. He sauntered up to her, and she smacked him right between the eyes! The old guy "submitted" to her and the confrontation was over. We are all very surprised by his reaction, for he had never once backed down when challenged by an adult cat in the great outdoors.
Shortly thereafter, we fell in love with a little gray and white kitten at the Animal Rescue League in Brewster. We named him "Edward" and brought him join Rebel at the office. That first day we were a bit concerned over Rebel's reaction but it was literally love at first sight. As do many older, neutered male cats, Rebel "mothered" young Edward. Rebel and Edward were constant companions and did absolutely everything together. Rebel especially enjoyed teaching Edward how to hunt, first by sneaking live prey into the office and later (unfortunately) by turning Edward into a lover of the great outdoors. The attached picture shows a typical Rebel and Edward scene, snoozing together in a chair.
Sadly, Edward's love of the outdoors cost him his life. After Edward died, Rebel was never quite the same.
Sadly, Edward's love of the outdoors cost him his life. After Edward died, Rebel was never quite the same. He grieved terribly. The old fellow never set foot outside again entirely by his own volition. This made his life much safer but also caused him to grow quite obese, eventually topping out at 31 pounds. (All of our cats are indoor-only.)
Over the next many years, an aging Rebel raised three more generations of kittens. Sometime just before Christmas 2009 the old fellow started to fade on us. He became more withdrawn, was definitely off his food and seemed to be having difficulty walking and standing. A trusted vet told me Rebel's knees were gone and his kidneys were failing. Rebel started to embarrass himself in the litter box due to his mobility issues. Rebel's world gradually constricted to about 300 square feet - the area between his bed, his litter box and his food dish.
Thursday Rebel finally stopped coming when food was offered and did not leave his bed. Friday he stayed in his bed except for one sojourn for food and the litter box. Sometime Friday night he climbed up on a box where he liked to sleep but was unable to get down on his own, which is where I found him this Saturday morning.
Despite having owned some eighteen cats over the years, I have never once had the occasion to consider an elective euthanasia. My other cats either died in their own time or during a last-ditch surgical procedure. All my friends who have euthanized pets told me that "you'll know when the time comes."
Slowly every one of the other seven cats came to where we were sitting.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the floor, communing with old Rebel. Slowly every one of the other seven cats came to where we were sitting. They alternated between nuzzling Rebel and me or sharing head-bumps. I have never witnessed anything like that in my long history with cats. One of these thus gathered was my ancient alpha female who truly despised Rebel, yet here she was licking his face and bumping heads with him. The now-grown "kittens" that he raised had shown increasing anxiety over the past two weeks and now seemed so terribly sad.
Upon finding the situation this morning, I knew that the yesterday's cat-convergence had told me that it was indeed time. I took him to the Animal Rescue League shelter in Brewster where the gentle staff (Thank you Dawn and Brian!) sent him on his way to the Rainbow Bridge. There was no struggle, no pain and no fear. Rebel drifted away peacefully. I imagine that somewhere Rebel is already running and playing with his beloved Edward.