messages from his friends
March 26, 2001
Way back in the last century, in the summer of 1986, three kittens were under my car mewing. A gray tabby, an orange tabby, and a calico. Dave caught each kitten in turn and brought it in to the house, showed it the food bowls, handed it to me to pet, then let it go. The orange tabby was the last one caught, Dave nabbed him at the curb as he was relieving himself.
The next morning, the orange kitten was at the door meowing - "I'm going to live here!. Let me in! Feed me!" so of course we did. We named him Leo. His brother and sister did not take us up on the offer.
Once Bat got used to not being the baby anymore, he & Leo became good buddies often curling up to sleep together in the laundry basket. Grey Cat trained Leo & Bat to work with him in chasing and cornering dogs.
Since he was born in East San Jose, I often called him miho (mi hijo) Leo. It was fun to call him in for food: "O Leo Leo-o, O O Leo-o!"
For many years his preferred sleeping position was on my shoulder, his cheek against mine, but when he was still a little kitten I often woke up realizing that I was lying on top of him. Afraid that I had crushed or suffocated him I would shake him until he woke up and proved that he was still alive.
He's the only cat I know who preferred cuddles to food. I just had to sing to him and dance with him. He inspired many songs, but the main one I sang to him was always:
I wanna hold your paw, I wanna hold your paw,
Dave liked to sing:
He's a good cat, he loves his mama,
He liked everyone and any gathering at our house, he considered a meeting of the Leo Appreciation Society, where he would make the rounds collecting cuddles and hugs. He never could understand that people didn't like being clawed, because he did it out of love, he was trying to get as close as possible, and what's closer than inside your skin? As a kitten he was always trying to shove his little head inside my mouth. He liked to hold hands curling his paw around my finger.
He trusted me completely and utterly. I could throw him over my arm and shoulder and walk around with him. I could lay him on his back. I'm amazed that I never ran over him as he stood so close to the car, trusting me. If I came home and didn't get out of the car right away, he'd climb up on the hood and around to the window, begging to get in and be with me.
In his prime he was an avid mouser, though I wished he didn't feel the need to bring them all home to eat.
He loved anything his color- he would lie on the orange towels, or in the dry grass in the back yard. He would cuddle especially close to blondes and had a fondness for butter.
Fascinated with water he liked to watch people shower, and toilets flush. For a few years he had a habit of going into the bathroom to do his washing up. He had a special word to ask for water.
He looked so young and had such a sweet attitude that I called him my forever kitten. He kept the kitten-ness going till well over 10 years old.
Last year he started seeming old though. He got skinny and picky and not wanting to go outside to relieve himself (though very considerately he always found a piece of plastic on the floor to use instead of just going on the floor). I took him to the vet. He had an infected tooth. The tooth was pulled. He took his antibiotics with out complaining or struggling, and was rejuvenated.
When I broke my leg, he didn't know where I was and was so worried that he didn't take care of himself and was visibly depressed. When I got home, he was thrilled and cleaned up, but didn't understand why I couldn't just carry him all over the house anymore. About this time he decided that his favorite place to sit was on Josh's back whenever Josh lay down.
He started seeming very old again, so last Friday I took him to the vet to see if they could make him feel better again. When I went to take him though, I had a hard time finding him. He was in the part of the yard that was too difficult for me to get him with my still bad leg. He didn't come when I called his name, "O Leo Leo-o, O O Leo-o!" but when I said "I can't walk there." He got up and walked straight to me.
My sweet forever kitten. The vet said that he had cancer in almost all of his small intestine, his liver and his lungs, she said she was amazed that he was still eating. When I picked him up he was snuggling and cuddling with the vet's assistant.
So I brought him home resolved to be as nice to him as possible in the remaining time. Maybe he was waiting for the word. Maybe he was waiting for Dave. I don't know, but Dave came on Friday night, and over the weekend Leo faded fast. By yesterday evening he could not sit up, and stared blankly. He would not drink water or lick when I put it on his mouth. I held him most of the rest of the night, making sure either Josh or Dave had him when I didn't. Once in a while I could tell he knew me still.
We each told him how much we loved him and would miss him and invited him to come back to us, be it in dreams or a new body.
He passed around midnight, on approximately his fifteenth birthday. At dawn we buried him, near where he lay when I called him to come to me Friday morning. Dave helped me walk there. He is facing the rising sun with the towel he was lying on as he died, folded like a blanket over him and an open can of tuna. May he sleep well, and return to us again or find a new family to love him and adore him.
My forever kitten is greatly missed already. At least I had a chance to say good-bye, which I never got with Bat whom I also miss still after more than five years.
Today was a perfect day for a cat to lie out in the sun. Bye-bye mi-hijo Leo, el gatito. forever kitten...
If you were part of the Leo Appreciation Society, maybe you can take a moment to remember him in his sweetness, and if you missed knowing him, I'm sorry, you missed a lot.