Remembering Itsy
updated Nov. 25, 1998

Note: I had intended to have this page on the web site by July, 1998 but since I work on so many things I have not had time to finish. So I am posting what I have so far and will update it as time permits. I am still finding typos and other errors and will correct them as I find them. Some of the text is very rough and terse and serves to be a memory jog for when I have more time.

Be sure to check out the Pictures of Itsy .

Introduction

This is the story of Itsy who was a very special cat that I had the pleasure of knowing and taking care of for nearly six years. She died unexpectedly after having her teeth cleaned. She was a great joy and her spirit will live within me forever.

Background

I have always liked cats try to make friends with any cat I see. I live in a house of now only six cats all of whom were adopted stray kittens by me or my wife. Not that I love them any less, I accepted all the cats "as-is" whatever their color, build, or personality as I would accept any cat. Itsy was the only cat that I actually sought out and specifically chose for her special characteristics and thus was the only cat I ever purchased from a pet shop.

Spooky was the first and only cat for about three years and became lonely and withdrawn but perked up when I brought a little kitten home who got the name Frisky. Spooky has remained perked up to this day. When Frisky was about two years old he started becoming withdrawn since Spooky quit having anything to do with him. So I figured that a small kitten would perk Frisky up. Spooky is a solid black male with a grumpy but lovable personality and Frisky is a solid white male with a very shy personality. I wanted a small female cat that was brown with patches of various colors and rich in personality. As a tiny kitten in the pet shop Itsy had a small build and was brown with patches of black, orange, and cream. This coloring is known as tortoiseshell. Itsy was surely a mixed breed but had many characteristics of the Burmese breed - particularly in personality. Although her lack of personality in the pet shop was the only drawback I never imagined the rich personality that she would develop. I am so glad I chose her.

The night Itsy came into my life

It was on the night of Wednesday, October 28,1992 that while at the Galleria I stopped by the pet shop as I always do to see the kittens. The time would have been around 7:30. I had been looking for a brown kitten like Itsy for some time but had not found her. This time I saw her. She was perfect except that her personality in the pet shop did not seem to be very good which might explain why all the other kittens in her cage were already sold - she was the last kitten in this cage. Another nearby cage was full of kittens. She was sitting there seemingly disinterested as I looked her over. I looked at all the kittens but I liked her and there was something magical about her that attracted me. I left the pet shop and thought about her. I decided that I really wanted her and went back. I tried to hold her in my hands but she raised a big fuss - she did not like being held. That magical something about her made me overlook this fact. The pet shop claimed that she was born on August 31 which made her 8-weeks plus a day or so. I have always assumed that she was really born in early September. Itsy was part of an unwanted litter that someone gave to the pet shop to sell. Kittens were $35 but they were having a sale so I bought Itsy for $25 at 8:33 that evening. Never has $25 bought so much joy. I brought her home in a cardboard pet carrier box. She did not make a sound during the trip home although I could hear her tiny claws as she explored the box.

When I arrived home Spooky and Frisky were interested in the box but when Itsy made a noise Frisky ran away scared and Spooky hissed as he did not like other cats. I thought that Frisky would accept her. I could not believe that Frisky was terrified of her - she was supposed to be his new friend. It turned out that Itsy tormented Frisky. She thought it was neat that as a tiny kitten all she had to do was to take one step towards Frisky and Frisky would run crazy trying to get away. She learned this well as she grew up and to the end delighted in aggravating Frisky. She taught this to the other cats that followed.

For the first few days until she was checked out by my vet I kept Itsy in the hall bathroom. Spooky spent a lot of time in the hallway outside the door watching her through the space at the bottom of the door. I do not remember if a moved her to the hall bedroom or kept her in the hall bathroom for the next few weeks. I only let her out when I was home to supervise. I did not want to take any chances with her tangling with the big cats. After a week or two I finally let her have free run of the house once I was convinced that Spooky and Frisky would not hurt her.

Itsy's first trip to the vet

On Saturday morning, October 31, I took her to the vet to be checked out. It is always scary waiting for the Feline Leukemia test to complete. I watched the indicator and only the '-' sign seemed to be forming. No indication of the '+' sign. Itsy was in fine health and their was no risk to the other cats. Her vaccination sequence was started. I took her back to the vet on 11/21/92 and 12/12/92 to complete her vaccination sequence. She was spayed on July 8, 1993.

Itsy gets her name

I did not have a name for her at first although I referred to her as Little Precious - a name that I am sure she would have wanted. She was a very precious and cute kitten always demanding attention. Her name came from the fact that I referred to Spooky as Big Putty-tat, Frisky as Little Putty-tat, and since she was so small I referred to her as Itsy Putty-tat. Since she fussed all the time I threatened to name her Fussy or Miss Cantankerous. But the name, Itsy, just seemed to be right for her. I think it was several weeks before I decided on this name. Itsy also went by several nicknames - Itsy Bitsy, Itsy Bitz, and Itsy the Bitsy. Sometimes for short I called her just Itz, Itz Bitz, or Itz the Bitz. On some occasions I called her Itsy Bitzy Witzy. Another nickname (which also applied to Spooky) was In-the-way-Pussy-Cat since she was notorious for sitting right on a book or magazine I was trying to read or sitting right on any papers I was trying to work on at my desk. One friend of mine gave her the nickname Itzer Bitzer when she was about two years old.

Kitten stuff

At first she could only hobble when she tried to run. She liked to run with the big cats and quickly developed the coordination to do so.

Her favorite toy was a red spider with leather legs that dangled from a spring on top of her scratching post. She would swat this toy for a long time and even sleep on the small perch on top of the scratching post. While I kept her in the hall bathroom I would find her on top of the scratching post in the mornings. She very quickly learned to meow for me first thing in the morning.

She had only been with me for about a week and one of the few times she let me hold her was when she laid on my lap purring. This is the only time I can remember that she laid on her back on my lap. This was something that she would normally never do. I always hoped that Itsy would mellow as she grew older and let me hold her.

While Itsy was small she loved to go behind the dresser in the bedroom. She figured out that I really did not like her to do this so she made a point of doing it anytime I was in the bedroom. As she grew the fit got tighter and tighter until she could no longer do it. She kept trying for several weeks but finally gave up.

In her first year Itsy figured out how to paw the toilet paper roll to make it spin. She loved to make it pile on the floor. It took a long time to break her of this. I would spray her with water but usually in a minute she would be right back to do it again. She would make a point to do this just to show me she could. She would often do this in the mornings, particularly the weekends, just to get me out of bed - perhaps her way of scheming to get some canned food.

She loved to swat Spooky's tail while he was on the bed or on the perch. When she swatted it he would growl and twitch his tail faster in aggravation. This just made her swat it more. Spooky would quickly get mad and swat her on the head and go off somewhere to be in peace.

One time when she was aggravating (actually playing with) Frisky, Frisky got tired of this and fought back instead of running off. He swatted her on the head several times and she made an I-was-not-doing-anything meow.

Itsy would jump in any kitchen cabinet door that was open. She even learned how to open the doors herself. Once on a Saturday morning I was playing the piano and heard a scratching sound in the kitchen. Knowing that Itsy loved to open cabinet doors I ran to the kitchen to stop her but she was not there. I went back to the piano and heard the noise again. Once more I went to the kitchen but she was not there. This repeated several more times. Later that morning I was getting ready to go to the store and made my usual round through the house to check on the cats before I left. I could not find Itsy. I looked all over for her. I even checked the basement and outside the house although I could not imagine how she could have slipped loose. I checked every spot in the house and called for her. Finally, I heard a very sad but muffled meow coming from somewhere. I called her some more and traced the meow to the den or kitchen. I finally determined that it was coming from the kitchen and then went around opening all the cabinet doors and finally found her in the cabinet under the oven. She had been in there for an hour or two. Itsy was notorious for getting herself trapped inside cabinets. Anytime I opened the cabinet under the sink she would run inside and not come out. She would make insistent meows but even when I opened the door she would not come out. I would usually finally have to drag her out.

In the summer of 1993 I bought a floor to ceiling scratching post/perch for the cats. I got a good price since the store was trying to get rid of it. I put the post up in the den. Itsy came in a looked up to the top from the base with a look of wow on her face. She then climbed right to the top perch. Over the next two or three years Itsy practically destroyed this post by very aggressive climbing and scratching on it. She loved to run across the room an leap up on it as high as possible and then climb quickly to the top while making excited meows. Later she would launch off of it to land on the sofa or chair. Her launching onto and off of it tore it up. I have it in the basement waiting to be repaired.

I made a cat toy that consisted of a dowel rod and a plastic wrapper to Irish Spring soap tied to a string. The wrapper had a particular crinkle sound that appealed to the cats. Itsy loved to play with this toy. One night in 1993 while I was swinging this toy for them in the den Itsy's front left paw got hung in the plastic wrapper. At first she vibrated her paw at tremendous speed - it was only a blur and the wrapper buzzed. I got down to help her but she was afraid that I would hold her and ran off dragging the toy behind her. She ran into the living room bouncing the wooden dowel rod off of everything and the wrapper finally fell off.

I let Itsy play in the back yard while I was clearing trees that fell during the massive snow storm we had in the spring of 1993. Itsy loved running around and exploring every part of the back yard. She also liked to get out of the back yard by going around the gate by the steps even though I blocked the way. I often had to go catch her and bring her back to my back yard. She liked to get out because she knew that I did not want her to. I was cutting down a medium size tree and she ran right to the spot it was going to fall near the kitchen side of the house. She saw the tree falling, froze for a moment, and then ran to the other side of the back yard.

I can vaguely remember using the lion hand puppet to play with Itsy when she was a kitten as I have done with Teensy and Fluffy since. Itsy loved to attack and maul the puppet but hated it when the puppet caught her.

When I would be working at the computer, Itsy would climb up the chair and get on my shoulder to watch what I was doing. She did this a few times while she was a young kitten. Four years later when Fluffy was a kitten, he did this too.

Itsy loved to play with Ping-Pong balls - she would bat them all over the house.

I can vaguely remember that when Itsy was a kitten she would attack each piece of laundry on the bed as I folded it. She was very bad to claw me as she swatted at socks. I do not think she intended to claw me but it seemed that her aim was just bad.

At a cat show I bought two catnip carrots which are orange, carrot shaped pouches that can hold catnip. Itsy would carry these all over the house while meowing continuously.

One of Itsy's favorite toys when she was young was a round toy with a ball inside. I had both a large and a small version of this toy. About an hour before I would get up in the mornings I could hear Itsy playing with these toys in my office. She would play with these for a long time. She would also lay on her back and hold the smaller version in her paws to make the ball roll. In the fall of 1993 when Itsy was 1 year old I ordered an improved version of the toy through the mail. Rather than being inside where it was hard to get at, the ball was in the open. Spooky and Frisky did not know what to do with it but Itsy immediately knew it would be a fun toy and spent hours batting the red ball around. She played with this toy for years even swatting the ball occasionally during her last year.

It was hard to take pictures of Itsy because she would not stay still and would run to me anytime she saw me. There were many cute poses that I wish I could have captured. Interestingly, she cooperated very well and was a camera hog for the last two pictures I took of her a few months before she died.

Itsy loved to sleep on my legs at night or when I was taking a nap. I would usually sleep on my side with my legs spread a little and Itsy would snuggle up on my legs. I hated to move which meant that she would have to be disturbed. But when I settled in a new position she would get right back on my legs. On some restless nights she would finally get disgusted with me and make an agitated meow and go sleep somewhere else.

In the mornings Itsy would walk all over me repeatedly to get me up. She would walk around my pillow purring loudly. Then she would go somewhere else for a while and hop back up on the bed and do it again.

At times Itsy would run the length of the house meowing. She would jump up on top of each piece of furniture and make a loud rrow -rrow meow and the run to the next piece of furniture.

Itsy never had fleas. The only times I let her outside was when fleas were generally not in season.

Itsy was always an attention hog and sought lots of attention.

Although she was shy at first, she was the first cat to make friends with company and loved it when they petted her.

Itsy liked to go into closets - she even learned how to open door. The other cats (especially Teensy) learned this from her.

Itsy would conspire to get to the basement as often as she could because she knew I did not want her to.. I think she learned to do this from Frisky. Anytime the basement door was opened Itsy would make a dash and often make to the basement. She developed a special trick of sneaking behind me down the hall as I went to the basement door and then darting to the basement the moment the door was opened. Anytime I brought groceries up from the basement she would take advantage of the fact that my hands were full and dart to the basement. At times when she ran down the basement steps I swear I could see a big smirk on her face as she was very proud of out foxing me. When she went to the basement she would wander around waiting for me to come after her. Then she would go under the cars or anyplace where I could not get to her and just meow. I would have to use a broom or something to get her out from under a car and then carry her back upstairs.

Itsy loved to open the kitchen cabinet doors.

Itsy did not like any door to be closed. She would attempt to open any door she found closed. She clawed up the carpet by the bedroom door trying to open it.

Itsy loved to open the shower door. She learned how to paw at it and make it open. Then she would walk around inside and leave. If she heard me close the door she would be right back to open it. She insisted that the shower door remain open.

She liked to chew the corners of newspapers or magazines off

She loved catnip

She would make a real disappointed meow when I would pick her up. I wanted to touch noses but she absolutely did not want to. I always wished that she would let me hold her.

She loved to chew on the venetian blind cord.

She had a perfect record using the litter box.

When she was young she would check the litter boxes and bury anything the other cats did not bury to her satisfaction.

She loved the electric blanket

She would scratch on the curtains just to get me up.

Itsy was a good lap cat.

Snorted when perturbed

When she was being a pest I would say to her, "Itsy, why are you are a problem pussy cat?" I would often say to her" Itsy Bitsy, you are an in the way pussy cat."

She was always glad to see me when I came home. She would meow and run to the food dishes.

Often she would come sit on the sofa when I played the piano. Other times she would repeatedly walk through the living room to check on me.

She would run to me with a special trot.

She loved to attack hands and feet under the covers.

She would run top speed through the house meowing atop each piece of furniture.

Each morning she would get up on the back of the toilet to get a view of the back yard. Often she would see a bird or chipmunk and would get very excited.

She loved to look out the window.

She loved to hop on the headboard of the bed to look out the window. I finally had to tack the curtain so that she could not see anything because I was afraid that she would slip and fall on my face.

She learned to run to the basement from Frisky.

She learned to go into my closet from Frisky.

She did not raise a fuss going to the vet. Generally seemed relaxed.

What Itsy liked to eat
Itsy started the tradition of eating on the counter. She could not wait for me to put the canned food down for her so she would hop up on the counter to get it as soon as possible. Anytime I would go to the kitchen she would run ahead of me to her spot on the kitchen counter and then meow for me to give her some canned food. I would feed Itsy first. She was very good at snatching food from the spoon while I was putting it down for the other cats.

Itsy loved to eat but she never over ate. It was a tradition that I think began with Spooky that during weekdays I fed the cats dry food (Iams Ocean Fish) and on weekends and holidays I fed them Fancy Feast Flaked Ocean Fish Feast which was Itsy's absolute favorite. She would carry the empty can of cat food into the den and lick every morsel left in the can. She always knew when the weekend came and would walk all over me in bed trying to get me up to feed her. She also liked some other types of canned food but did not seem to care as much for tuna. I always bought canned food with her in mind - the other cats liked whatever I bought for her. She seemed offended if I put out some canned food she did not like and would run off and look dejected. She did not like Sheba. When on occasion I would get Sheba Salmon for Spooky (his favorite) I would have to open a can of Fancy Feast for Itsy or she would be upset.

She preferred canned food even as a kitten. She would often ignore her dry food and do her "I'm starving" act to get canned food - she became very proficient at this and it often worked. All through her life she would race ahead of me to the kitchen and hop up on the counter and do her "I'm starving" act which consisted of repeated emphatic meows. She was always hoping that I would feed her canned food. During the weekdays I would tell her "Itsy, this is not a weekend." She would make a disappointed meow and be in the way of anything I was trying to do. When she was sitting on top of the refrigerator and would see me come into the kitchen she would stand up and the base of her tail would vibrate very fast as she meowed.

In her young years she would make a fuss for me to feed her canned food and then when I finally gave in she would run off without eating one bite. I think she liked to manipulate me and was determining what worked and did not work for getting canned food. At that time I was not using the Fancy Feast brand. I think it was Iams. Spooky liked it when Itsy did this as that meant that he got canned food - he was not as finicky.

Sometimes she would not eat. She might go three or four days maybe eating only a nibble of dry food. During these times she would often run to the kitchen and meow for me to feed her canned food and once a rare while I would. She always ate canned food.

Itsy would not eat treats. I tried every brand and only on rare occasion would she eat a treat. When I would toss one she might chase it, sniff it, and then walk off. She did eat some Pounce chicken treats a few days before she died.

There were a few items of people food that Itsy liked. She loved corn oil and would try to get some when I poured it in the pop corn popper. I would give her a small plate with about a teaspoon of corn oil. She loved cracker crumbs. Any time I got crackers out she was determined to check out the plastic wrapper. If a bag was empty I would let her have it so she could lick the crumbs. She loved to lick leftover spaghetti sauce off my plate and any soup left in the soup bowl.

Itsy learned how to open the top of the canister of dry food. She would knock the canister over and then roll it around and paw at the opening. After she opened the lid she would roll the canister to make some food come out which she would eat. Sometimes she would roll over on her back and get the canister up on her four paws and shake the canister so food dropped right into her mouth. I think she preferred eating this way instead of when I poured the food into her bowl. Orbit, Stubby, and Teensy also learned how to open the canister by watching Itsy. I finally had to tape the lid shut so the other cats would not eat too much.

Itsy's rich vocabulary

Itsy was a very vocal cat. She always had something to say about everything. She had many different meows for different occasions. She would speak to me often. We could talk together. I would say meow and she would meow back. I could do this again and again and she would respond. I used to ask her what does rrrow mean? She would rrrow back. At times she had a very sad meow. She would meow repeatedly as if something was wrong but seemed perfectly OK if I checked on her.

She would check the shower when I turned the water on and would leave once satisfied that it was wet. Sometimes she would cry when I got in the shower. Little short chirp rrows. When I would get into the shower she would make many short sad chirps as if she was distressed that I was getting wet. I could mimic her and she would respond again and again.

Itsy loved to play

She was a perpetual kitten. She loved to chase things.

Itsy loved to chew on stuff. She would chew on the venetian blind cord.

She would chew icicles on the Christmas tree.

Itsy and Spooky

Itsy adored Spooky and stayed near him a lot much to his aggravation.

Itsy would be at her favorite perch on top of the chair by the den window. Spooky would come up and want the spot. He would start sniffing Itsy and this meant for Itsy to move. Itsy would refuse and Spooky would put a paw on her. She would look at him and finally swat him in the face as she gave up her perch.

Spooky liked Itsy and treated her differently than he treated the other cats. Spooky would let her sleep on the bed with him and rarely hissed at her. Spooky and Itsy would have sparring contests that would seem rather rough but no harm was done. Spooky always won.

Spooky is number one in the cat hierarchy and Itsy considered herself to be a close number two.

Itsy and Frisky

I do not know why Frisky was so terrified of Itsy when I first brought her home. One of the main reasons I got her was so that Frisky would have a friend. Itsy very quickly learned that all she had to do was to take a step in Frisky's direction and Frisky would run away. Itsy loved to chase Frisky and thought it was neat that such a tiny kitten could scare a grown cat. All her life Itsy would stalk Frisky and charge him just to see him jump. Unfortunately for Frisky, the new kittens that came later (Orbit, Stubby, Teensy, and Fluffy) learned from Itsy how fun it was to harass Frisky. Itsy really liked Frisky - I have many pictures of them sleeping together. I even saw Itsy licking Frisky's face a number of times although Frisky would be nervous and eventually swat Itsy.

On one Saturday afternoon in the Spring of 1993 I had left Itsy and Frisky playing in the basement. I kept hearing a knocking noise but did not think anything of it. Later that day I was looking out the back window and saw a white cat that looked just like Frisky. I looked closer and saw that it was Frisky. I ran to the basement and found that one of them (probably Frisky) had knocked the board off that covered a broken window on the basement outside door. Frisky had hopped up about three feet to go through the broken pane. Itsy was only about six months old at this time but she also managed to get through the window. I went outside and captured Frisky and brought him back into the house. I then went back outside to find Itsy. I called for Itsy and looked everywhere but could not find her. I did not know how long they had been loose. I looked around the house next to me and could not find Itsy. I kept calling for Itsy but she did not respond. Finally while looking through the bushes between my house and my neighbor's house I heard a faint meow when I called. I was on the neighbor's side of the bushes and the meow came from the other side. I ran back around the bushes but could not see Itsy although I could now hear her. Then I saw her sitting on some pine straw by the steps that go up to my back yard. She had been there all along and had watched me look for her. This was the only time in her life that she did not come when I called her.

One time also in 1993 Frisky finally got tired of Itsy harassing him and swatted her in the head several times. She made one of her sad disappointed meows seemingly to say that she had not done anything.

Itsy meets Orbit and Stubby

Itsy hated it when my fiancÚ's two cats, Orbit and Stubby, moved in early in 1995. Itsy was terrified of them and stayed in my office generally on top of the bookcases or on the top shelf in the closet. She would not come out even to eat canned food. I had to bring it to her. She would meow at me from atop the bookcases or from the top closet shelf. Although Itsy finally accepted Orit and Stubby, she never liked them. She would often charge them and sometimes swat them. When she would see either of them in the closet litter box she would crouch behind the door like she was going to attack and sometimes she would charge them. Itsy was very jealous of either Orbit or Stubby being on the bed and would run them off.

Itsy and Teensy
Itsy and Teensy did not interact very much except that Teensy would paw at Itsy to play and she would hiss and swat at him.

Itsy and Fluffy

When Fluffy was just old enough to run, Itsy would paw at him to get him to chase her. They took turns chasing each other. Itsy loved it. Then Fluffy (who is a biter) nipped Itsy in the back leg. She yelped and the play was over. As Fluffy grew up he would also paw at Itsy to play and she would hiss at him and even swat him.

Things she did later in life
In the mornings she would lick the outside of the Arrid deodorant -this was a regular morning ritual. I do not know why she did this - the stuff is not good for cats but there was very little on the outside.

About a year ago she went through a phase where she liked to nip people on the elbow. She would often nip me when I was in bed.

I won a laser pointer and this became a favorite toy for all the cats. Itsy loved to chase the laser spot.

Itsy would scratch the back of my office chair. She ripped it to shreds. I finally had to put tape and cat repellent on the chair to get her to stop.

When I would come into a room she would look at me, yawn, stretch, meow, and come to me.

Itsy's last checkup at the vet

On Saturday, May 9, 1998, I took Spooky and Itsy to the vet for their annual Rabies shots. The vet told me that both needed their teeth cleaned which I already knew. I scheduled both of them to have their teeth cleaned on Wednesday. Before I put Itsy back in the carrier she was letting me hold her like I always wanted to. Itsy was now over five and one-half years old and had never had her teeth cleaned. The only time she had ever been under anesthesia was when she was spayed as a young cat. I knew that she needed her teeth cleaned but had put it off and put if off because for some reason I never felt good doing it - now I know why. I even skipped a discount offer in February for teeth cleaning - I just could not do it. The only thing that bothered me about teeth cleaning for Spooky and Frisky was how long it took them to get back to normal. They would be drunk all night and sometimes be slow the next morning. One time Frisky did not fully awake for two days - his eyes stayed dilated for this entire time. Because Spooky was nearly eleven years old I was more concerned for him than for Itsy. Between Saturday morning and Wednesday I worried about it. I told Itsy a number of times, "Itsy, I have to take you to get your teeth cleaned on Wednesday. I hate to do it but everything will be OK."

Itsy's last day

I do not think that she ate anything the last time I fed the cats the night before. I told her that she better eat because it would be a while before she ate again. Before I got up from bed on the morning of Wednesday, May 13, Itsy and Spooky got on the bed as they usually do in the mornings to be petted. Itsy was in her favorite place laying on my legs and Spooky was to my side. I petted both of them for a long time before I got up. Itsy and Spooky were both purring with Itsy being the loudest as usual. I worried for both of them. I did not want to take them to the vet that morning but I knew I had to.

I first caught Spooky and put him in the carrier. Then Itsy came by and I picked here up and put her in the other carrier. She made her typical complaining meow when I picked her up. As usual, Spooky cried all the way to the vet but Itsy seemed relaxed as usual.

About 7:30 that morning when I dropped Spooky and Itsy off and was talking to the technician I told her that I wished that some way could be found to clean cat's teeth without having to put them under anesthesia - I know that for the present time that there is no other way. The last image I have of Itsy is her sitting relaxed in the pet carrier at the front desk with her front paws folded in. The technician took Itsy in her pet carrier downstairs to the cages and I took Spooky in his carrier downstairs. I put Spooky in his cage and the technician put Itsy in the next cage. I might have caught a glance of Itsy in the cage before I went back upstairs but I do not remember.

During the day I wondered often how things were going always with a fear that something was going to go wrong. Itsy's teeth were cleaned at about 10:00 and Spooky's teeth were cleaned at about 11:00. Both were put back in their cages and were checked on about every 15 minutes. At about 2:00 Itsy still seemed to be doing fine. The technician said that Itsy was laying on her side with one paw outstretched and that Itsy looked at her. At 2:20 the technician noticed that Itsy was in about the same position except that her head was twisted back in a position that obviously was not normal and also did not seem to be breathing. The vets were summoned and they rushed Itsy upstairs to the operating room but there was nothing they could do - Itsy was dead. One thing that I will always haunt me is that around 2:30 that afternoon (before I knew what had happened) while I was either at my desk or taking a brief walk a message popped into my head that said, "Itsy die." It seemed odd and I dismissed it as some random bizarre thought.

About 4:30 that afternoon I got a message from an associate (who has the phone number I used to have) at work that my vet had left a message on the voice mail. I assumed that the message was that everything was OK and that I could pick the cats up that evening. I called back but the vet was busy and no one else seemed to have any message so I said that I would be leaving work soon anyway and would see them in a few minutes. When I got there the vet told me that the cleaning went normally, that both animals had been recovering normally, that both were checked often, but that about four hours after the surgery something went very wrong and "the little cat died." He said that indications were that at the time of death she was not getting enough oxygen - her gums had turned purplish. There was no sign of any obstruction to the lungs.

It was on a Wednesday that Itsy came into my life and it was on a Wednesday that Itsy left.

Itsy's grave

When I came home from the vet and let Spooky out I went outside to search for a place to bury Itsy. I walked around the house and did not see a suitable site. The spot had to be special and one that would not be disturbed. Then I tried to think like Itsy would have thought had she been outside to determine where a favorite spot might be. Then I found the perfect place in the back yard. I then dug a hole about 18 inches around and about 18 inches deep. I then got her body from the basement and Joan and I said good-bye. I then gently placed her body in the grave and gently placed the dirt around her and then on her using my hands. I covered her head last. I only used the shovel once the grave was almost filled. The next evening I selected and placed the rocks around her grave and did some general clean up of the area and continued the clean up on Friday evening. On Saturday I put the flowers and grass in.

Itsy's grave is at highest point in my yard on top of the hill behind the house that overlooks the view from her favorite perch by the den window. She is wrapped in a plastic bag and lying on her side with her head to the West and facing North. Her grave is circumferenced by rocks and the front of her headstone is centered about sixteen inches above her head. The rocks are surrounded by liriope grass and the grave is covered with four colors of impatiens (deep orange, cranberry, lilac splash - kind of violet, and blush - pinkish white) symbolic of Itsy's four colors. If Itsy were alive and I let her out in the back yard, the grave site would surely be a favorite perch atop the rock garden to watch birds in the birdbath below and the many chipmunks in the backyard. I am sure that she would chew on the liriope grass and flowers as she chewed on everything. As a final touch I will plant catnip around or nearby the grave. She loved catnip and I would love to see her roll in fresh catnip. I am sure that other neighborhood cats will visit her grave often and this will be a special treat for the six cats that still call my house home. Attempts at growing catnip this year failed - I will try again next year.

I had expected to enjoy Itsy's antics for at least 15 more years before her time would come. On an evening that I expected to be working in my office with Itsy at my side (or perhaps in the way) I buried my Itsy instead. Part of me is buried with her.

In retrospect

We will never know for sure what killed Itsy but looking back on her life I have a theory. I suspect that she had a chronic respiratory problem - perhaps asthma. The problem was not enough to interfere with her many activities or to cause me to have any concern. Otherwise I would have taken her to the vet. All her life her breathing was faster than normal - about 60 times per minute even when she was resting. She often sat beside me and purred so it was easy to hear her inhale and exhale purr at this rate. Even when she was not purring (which was rare) or sleeping I could see her body pulsating at this rate. I think that there were times particularly when she was sleeping that her breathing was closer to a normal 30 times a minute. The high rate never concerned me - it seemed normal for her and she was a small cat of only nine pounds - you expect a small animal to breath faster. Besides, she was the picture of health - not one ounce overweight, was never sick, always had plenty of stamina, and was very strong. I did not know that a breathing rate of 60 times per minute is abnormal until I was reading about it after she died. Also, about once a month for as far back as I can remember, Itsy would have a coughing spell. The cough was deep, low-pitched, and very moist sounding. She would hunch up on her shoulders and stretch her neck out next to the floor and hack repeatedly somewhat slower than about once a second and finally gag up a foamy white liquid most of which I think she swallowed - only a little was on the carpet. I never saw that she had any discharge from her eyes or nose. I wondered about this but she always seemed to be fine afterwards - I just assumed that she swallowed wrong or got a hair in her throat. She might have several spells over a few days and then not have another one for weeks. I did not know until after she died that this might have been a symptom that I should have discussed with her vet. Spooky and Frisky also did this on occasion but much less often than Itsy. There were times, particularly late at night, that Itsy would begin meowing continuously as if crying. Sometimes I would check on her but she would seem fine and then stop. Since she was a very vocal cat I did not think much about this. I wonder now if this could have been a sign that she was hurting. I also wonder if the fuss she always made when I picked her up might have indicated that it was hurting her - she made a particularly emphatic and desperate fuss if I turned her on her back - like one would hold a baby. Her fuss consisted of very aggravated meows and she would use all her strength to get loose but she would never scratch me except incidentally in launching away. Once loose she would always come right back to be petted.

To me the most likely cause of death was that she had a coughing spell while she was still a bit drunk from the anesthesia and was unable to clear her lungs and suffocated. Since the technician found her with her head twisted in an odd position perhaps that was a contributing factor. Itsy may have had a chronic respiratory problem that was masked by her apparent excellent health - if only I had been more aware of the possible symptoms. I realize that this is only speculation as their are numerous other things that could have killed her but at this point all one can go on is what is most likely. If this is what killed her then I might have come home someday to find her dead. I would be interested in any other theories that someone might have. I had been worried that she might die under the anesthesia but the greater risk is complications while coming out of anesthesia. My vet asked an associate if she could shed any light on what happened. She said that in doing autopsies of cats it had been determined that about 90 percent of cats with a heart murmur die of suffocation because their lungs fill with fluid when a certain type of anesthesia is used. This happened to be the anesthesia used on Itsy. It is not known if Itsy had a heart murmur. I realized about a week after Itsy died that she must have been drinking a lot of water as there was substantially less material in the litter box. Also, I did not have to fill the water bowls as often. I had wondered a number of times in the past why the water bowls seemed to go down faster than I thought they should. This was also a symptom that I was unaware of.

Her death is nobody's fault - these things will happen from time to time - that is the randomness of Nature. My only regret is not knowing enough to ask questions about Itsy's breathing and coughing at her annual checkups.

Life without Itsy

The house is very quiet without Itsy. I only hear her many varied meows in my mind. When bringing up groceries I no longer have to block Itsy from running to the basement (the other cats do not try). Anytime I come up from the basement I still instinctively block the door so Itsy won't run to the basement. When I have crackers out I no longer have to protect them from Itsy. When I read a book, magazine, or the newspaper Itsy is no longer there to get on top of them. When I am working at my desk Itsy is not there to get on top of what I am working on and be constantly in the way although Spooky continues to "help" me with my deskwork. Fluffy now sits on my desk to watch me work but generally does not get in the way. Itsy no longer sleeps on my leg when I go to bed or repeatedly walks across me in the mornings to wake me up. As I write this Itsy is not hoping up in my lap, or on the computer, or in general demanding attention.

Except for Spooky I do not think that the other cats are aware that Itsy is gone. They all act the same. On that fateful day I carried the pet carrier with Itsy's body to the car and the technician carried the pet carrier with Spooky. I placed Itsy's carrier in the back seat first and then Spooky's carrier. The doors of the carriers were facing each other and Spooky could see Itsy's body wrapped in clear plastic. While I was talking to the technician I could hear Spooky making mournful meows but this may have been due to the fact that he hated being in a carrier and traveling in a car - he often cried in this situation. Somehow though I think he knew that something was wrong but he just did not understand what. I think Spooky misses Itsy - she was his only four-footed friend, sort of. For the first week or so after she died Spooky would sometimes look at me as if to ask "where's Itsy?" Spooky has been a bit melancholy and has spent more time beside me and has let me pet him in ways he never has before such as petting his paws. On a few mornings he has walked right next to me to see if I am awake - like Itsy would do. I have seen him sitting by the basement door as if looking or waiting for something. Perhaps he knew that Itsy would often slip to the basement and then meow on the other side of the basement door when she wanted back up. Spooky sits by me more and has even become a lap cat - something he would rarely do in the past. In fact Spooky has become an attention hog like Itsy. I have also seen Spooky sleeping and staying by Itsy's favorite scratching post in the living room. Teensy has taken over Itsy's food dish by the bookcase. I was going to put the dish up but Teensy seems eager to eat at that spot. Fluffy now eats his canned food at Itsy's spot on the kitchen counter. The tradition of canned food on the weekends will continue. I still buy Itsy's favorite since it seems to be the other cat's favorite too. I have also tried some different flavors to see what the other cats like. Fluffy and Spooky now share Itsy's portion of the canned food. Fluffy sits in the living room now when I play the piano and even checks out the shower before I get in. In many ways Fluffy takes up where Itsy left off. When I see him come to me particularly when the room is sort of dark I sometimes think I am seeing Itsy - Fluffy has the same bold but sneaky gait.

Bitsy

Although there will never be another Itsy, I planned to get another cat similar to Itsy within about a year of her death. In August I saw a Humane Society cat with kittens at the pet shop where I purchase supplies. The first time I saw her she was inside a hut with her recently born kittens. I could see only part of her back leg and could tell that she was a tortoiseshell. The silhouette of her face inside looked exactly like Itsy. The cat was a tortoiseshell with many characteristics of the Burmese breed and resembled Itsy except she was darker and quieter. I visited her and her kittens each week or so as I bought pet supplies. I figured that she would be an easy cat to adopt out once her kittens could be weaned. But even after all her kittens were adopted she remained and few people showed any interest. So on Saturday, Nov. 21, (I had known the cat for about three months) I decided to take her home to see how she would do with the other cats. I would have taken her home a lot sooner if I could have seen characteristics of Itsy in her. After a day or so when she go adjusted to her new home her real personality came out. Although she is not as vocal as Itsy she has many of the same characteristics. She will let me hold her but only for a short time - then she complains just like Itsy. She watches and stalks Frisky exactly the same way Itsy did. She also has no use for Orbit and Stubby. She likes Itsy's favorite canned food, catnip, demands lots of attention, and has taken over Itsy's favorite perch on the chair in the den. Her walk, facial expression, and mannerisms remind me of little things I forgot about Itsy. She is a very playful cat and made friends with the other cats very quickly. I thought for about a day as to what her name should be and on Sunday evening it occurred to me that the name, Bitsy, would be perfect for her. Like Itsy, she came from a pet shop and I specifically sought her out. Also, her personality in the pet shop was very sedate and her real personality came out only after she had a home. I will begin a web page with her story and pictures soon.