May 27th, 2008

eliphas, napping

Obituary for Big Cat

Eliphas, my Big Cat, was put to sleep today. He was only 13, but he had a kidney tumour and was down to three kilos because he didn't eat. Yesterday evening he was sitting on my lap and purring very softly, and drinking very little milk.

In 1995, Tiassa and I had decided that we wanted to move to a bigger flat, get more roommates, and two black cats. Eliphas was the first of them, although he wasn't properly black, but "smoky": his fur was black on the tips and snow white below. He was nearly grown when we got him, and didn't like to be touched, but he was very secure in his position as king of the place from day one.

Day one was in February 1996, when eight heavily armoured SCA fighters clanked through the hallway and yelled for food. Eliphas sat on the window sill, unimpressed, and looked down on the clamour with a calm expression that said, "Nice to meet you. I am the cat in this place. Worship me." And most did, even though he cried at night, demanded food at 5 am, and bit everyone who he felt deserved it.

Tiassa trained him to maul people. Watching four kilos of enthusiastic cat gnawing at Tiassa's hand, clinging to her wrist with his front paws and slashing her arm with his back paws, purring like a madcat the whole time, was just too cute to be believed. Tiassa always felt that he was primarily her cat, and Eliphas agreed.

He grew larger and stronger and cuter, developed a long-lasting passionate affair with woollen sweaters that failed to produce offspring, jumped on top of doors to hunt moths and danced on the balcony rail. His purring shook mountains and turned screen savers off. He could purr open-mouthed and did so when he bit people. He never stopped believing biting people was the height of cuteness, and he wasn't entirely wrong.

When he was three, he had reached his full combat weight of 6.5 kg, and when lying sprawled on his back with his front paws rolled in, he looked like a harbour seal with ears. He had overcome his dislike of being touched, and became the centre of every evening, and sometimes night when he went kamikatze on guests sleeping on the sofa below the high book shelf.

In 2000 the roommates had all moved out and left me the cats. I moved to a smaller flat, and while Little Cat spend the first five days hiding under the sofa, coming out only to eat, Eliphas jumped on top of the kitchen cupboard and watched me unpack boxes, content, it seemed, with knowing that there was a fridge, and that cat food was put in it.

He still enjoyed seeing the house full of guests. Having a lot of people around who would take turns at petting and admiring him was one of his favourite things. So was stealing milk from the can by putting his paw in and licking it clean, leaving everyone to wonder how the cat hairs has got in the milk can. He could shed with the best of them: On one memorable spring day in 2003 I combed a handball-sized ball of fur from him, and when he jumped off the table after, he did so in a cloud of newly-shed hair and made me sneeze.

Early in 2005 he started getting hip trouble and couldn't jump anymore. He could still climb, though -- he climbed the 230 cm high IKEA bookshelves by digging his front claws in and pulling himself up. He learned not to attempt this on people's legs.

One thing he hated was being left alone by his humans. My being away to California was hard for him, and in combination with his arthrosis he withdrew to his scratching post and avoided Little Cat, who enjoyed his new-found role as king of the floor a little too much.

His kidneys began to fail this spring. He spent days in the clinic, lost weight until he was barely recognizable as a Big Cat anymore, but he left his perch on the scratching post and returned to the normal routine of sprawling over the dice and character sheets when we RPG'd, tried to sprawl all over my laptop, and lay on my lap, purring a little less loudly now, when I watched TV.

Eliphas was a beautiful cat -- even at his fattest, he had a beautiful, aristocratic face, and large eyes that reflected aquamarine in the light. He liked people and people liked him, even when he bit them. He was black with black stripes, and snow white underneath, had a loud voice and a gigantic purr, and an amazing stoicism that could deal with anything except separation from his humans.

We all miss him.
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