Cat lovers have an old saying, "The laps cats
always want to sit on are the laps of people who hate
cats most." Whether they do it out of desire to
reform the cat hater or a sinister sense of humor, it is
an accurate statement.
Audrey had no sooner invited me into her apartment
for the first time, then Tony, made a beeline for my
lap. I was horrified. I sat deathly still, anticipating
the pain that I was sure would come from claws digging
into my skin. It never came. Tony stared at me, wearing
an expression easily translated into: "Well. Pet me
already! I don’t have all day!"
Tony’s early years will be forever shrouded in
mystery. He was a stray who found being a barn cat to
his liking. He walked in a pacing fashion, which as he
stiffened in later years, began to bear the resemblance
of a ‘gabby walker machine’ from Star Wars. Cream
colored and stoutly built, only his deep blue eyes
hinted at any type of bloodline, in his case Siamese.
While Tony found life as a barn cat good, life got even
better when Willy and Audrey moved into the apartment
next to his barn.
It didn’t take long for Tony to make the move from
the barn to Audrey’s back step. In spite of Audrey’s
best half-hearted efforts to discourage him, Tony found
her doorstep quite satisfying and the friendship of
Willy much to his liking. Eventually Audrey gave up the
fight and with the permission of his ‘owners’, Tony
officially adopted Audrey and she him.
Tony quickly settled in and, while he continued his
day job as a barn cat, his evenings were spent enjoying
the constant companionship of Willie and the affection
The lessons Tony had learned as a barn cat would pay
off handsomely throughout his life. A few months after
‘adopting’ Audrey, she moved out of the countryside
and into an apartment in a center of a small town. Once
again, Tony settled in quickly.
As luck would have it, the new apartment was located
next to an old abandoned garbage dump, which in the
evenings attracted every cat in the neighbor. Skilled in
the ruff and tumble ways of a barn, Tony quickly assumed
a leadership role in the nightly gathers, and his yowl
to the others filled the air throughout the night.
Tony took little interest in PJ when PJ and I joined
the clan. Already well seasoned in the ways of a barn
dog, Tony must have realized that a collaboration would
yield nothing, and given that the two were on such
different schedules, PJ at the barn during the day, Tony
in the apartment; PJ inside at night and Tony outside,
the two rarely if ever met.
The whole equation changed however with the move to
our farm and the arrival of Emma.
Instinct must have told Tony that if he didn’t get
his licks in while Emma was a puppy, he would never get
them in when she was an adult. So the first chance he
got, he corned her, grabbed her snout and began to wail
away on her. Emma screamed like a stuck pig. Tony’s
strategy worked, and for the rest of her life, Emma
always gave Tony a wide berth.
In spite of the fact that he now had to share his day
with dogs, Tony approved of his new residence. The
fields were full of mice and moles to catch. The bird
feeder, which Audrey always keep fully stocked, proved
an easy afternoon of pickings, but best of all, the
quiet road in front of our house provided a warm spot to
rest bones weary from a day’s hunting.
It was not unusual to find Tony sitting on the yellow
line, basking in the sunlight as if he owned the whole
road. How he never got hit always amazed us, and in
spite of our constant protests, he returned over and
over again to the road.
Much to our relief, the range of his territory shrank
in exponential proportion to his age, and soon it was
confined to the yard and garden. By this time, I’m
sure Tony was ready to pack it in and become an inside
cat where he would always be assured a warm sunny spot
on a bed, but the arrival of the ‘Binars’, a brother
and sister pair of Manx kittens, threw any thought of
retirement out the window.
Being tailless, Miles, the male kitten, was
fascinated with Tony’s tail. Tony’s frequent
twitching of his tail was often too much for Miles, who
gathered great pleasure in sneaking up on Tony and
grabbing it. Poor Tony, he couldn’t eat without worry
of Miles grabbing his tail, and even his sleep was often
In spite of all Miles’ playful torment, when Willy,
Tony’s life long friend died, Miles and Tony became
fast friends. It was almost as if Tony was mentoring
Miles. As if respectful of Tony’s advancing age, Miles
ceased his attacks on Tony’s tail and the two would
often be found nestled together, sunning themselves.
All his life Tony was a heat seeker and as age began
to catch up on him, it became an ever-increasing driving
force in his life. Soon sleep took precedence even over
hunting. The installation of a wood burning stove in the
house was all that was needed to convince Tony that
there was nothing worth doing outside. Tony’s life
soon consisted of daylong naps in the study, basking in
the heat of the stove with only the occasional movement
to reposition himself back within the sun rays that
pierced the room.
But in spite of his advancing age, Tony not only
still enjoyed a good scratch, but also saw it as his
right. One only had to sit down to watch TV or to read a
book, and then Tony would appear. Hopping up next to
you, he would stretch out his left paw and gently place
it on your arm, where it would remain until you
In out later years, as we reminisce about Tony, there
will be at least two stories that always be shared. The
first involving our First Christmas on the farm. Up
until that time, Audrey, a environmentalist, had always
celebrated Christmas with a fake tree. Having come from
a ‘traditional family’ I wanted a real tree. So we
got one. An avid climber, Tony thought he had died and
gone to heaven! We had no sooner set the tree up and
gone to bed then we heard it crash to the ground. At 1
am, the last thing I wanted to do was clean up broken
bulbs. By 2:30 we were back in bed, only to be
re-awakened at 3 by the sound of the tree falling again.
Up until the second time, we had assumed that the
first fall was a result poor support. But a track of wet
Kitty paws leading away from the tree clued us in that
this was not the case. We had no sooner righted the
tree, then Tony re-appeared and in full view of us,
launched himself from the coffee table into the tree,
upsetting it a third time.
To make a long story short, after being quickly ‘re-introduced’
to the tree over and over again, Tony gave it wide birth
hence forth. And for years after, the introduction of a
Christmas tree stuck fear in Tony’s persona. It wasn’t
until Miles, Tony’s apprentice came along, that the
Christmas tree resumed its rightful place as an inside
jungle-jim. But by that time, we had returned to
artificial trees, and had gotten better at securing it
We’ll also remember the ‘forgetful’ Tony. As he
advance in age, he seemed more and more to forget what
he had intended to do. He would march through a room as
if bound for some import objective, only to stop quickly
and sit and stare at nothing for periods sometime up to
an hour, then as if he suddenly remembered, he would
resume his march. While humorous, his unpredictable
stops were often ill timed. Like the time Audrey had
called the dog for dinner. They were running pell-mell
down the back walk way, upon which Tony was also
marching. The were just about to overtake him when he
forget why he was walking and sat down. Unable to stop,
the dogs all leaped in the same direction in order to
avoid him, all landing in the same spot. Un-phased, Tony
looked at the canine heap next to him, got up, and
proceed on his way. The dogs just sat and tried to look
The last two years of his life was not helpful to our
posture, for it was unsafe not to walk around the house
looking down for fear of stepping on Tony.
The older he got, the more contented Tony appeared to
simply sleep away his days. Like a kitten freshly fed
from a loving mother, Tony would purr for hours without
any apparent rhyme or reason, other than he was simply
content with his lot in life.
Age eventually did catch up with him and, the cat
that once could make leaps that astounded me, began
struggling to climb a single step. Soon he had to be
carried almost everywhere which, based upon the loudness
of his purrs, suited him just fine.
Tony slipped into a coma one cold winter day while he
lay in his favorite spot. For three day we keep a death
vigil, all the while keeping the wood burning stove
stoked for maximum heat. During the watch, we built him
a beautiful cedar coffin, and when he finally breathed
his last, we placed him in it and buried him next to
Willy, his life long friend.
With the passing of Tony PJ, my trust Jack Russell,
became ‘the last of the fist ones.’ Given that a few
months prior to Tony’s death, PJ had been diagnosed
with Liver cancer, I knew his time with me was limited.
As I closed the earth over Tony’s coffin, I made up my
mind that until PJ’s time came, I would spend as much
time with him as possible, so that when it did come, I
would have no regrets. I’m glad I did.
"Farewell, Master, Yet not
Where I go, ye too shall dwell
I am gone, before your face,
A moment's time, a little space.
When ye come where I have stepped
Ye will wonder why ye wept."