For all his apparent dislike of people, Mr. Rolly came into our home being held by Dee Dee in her lap and thirteen years later, left the same way…
Rolly – sometimes known as “Rolly-Polly” or “Mr. Fluffypants” or “the Mighty Lion of the Savannah” or “will you please shush!” – was a fluffy gray Maine coon mix. What the mix was, we never knew, but it kept him from growing to the size of more his full-blooded relations, and he remained a small, ten-pound cat most of his life.
As a rescue, he had spent most of the first six-months of his life either in a cage or at the vet for the intestinal problems he had as a kitten. Thus he never learned to jump like other cats, and anything higher than a couch was out of his range. In fact, he was the only cat I’ve ever seen who could be kept in a yard by closing a low gate. But he could run if he wanted. Low to the ground, like a Indy-racer, he could cover ground faster than any cat I’ve ever seen.
And he was an expert at stealth. With his gray fur, fluffy paws, and ability to blend in, you could be two-feet from him in the backyard and never see him. He could literally hide in a potted plant…and keep you searching for him for hours. Because of this, few outside our house ever saw him other than as a picture, and we ourselves only saw him when he wanted us to.
He was a strange cat, from the first days we had him to his last. We met him surrounded by other kitties at a pet-adoption where we were more or less looking for a companion for Boo, our then singular kitty. Removed from his cage, this small fluffy not-quite-still-a-kitten tried his hardest to burrow into Dee Dee’s jacket and hide himself while Dee petted him and tried to make him relax.
We never put him back in that cage.
Once home, it took a couple of days to introduce him to Boo, but afterwards she treated him as a combination kitten and toy, depending on her mood. The kitten treatment was good for Rolly because, with his life in a cage up to that point, he had never really learned to cat. Boo taught him many things.
Ironically, while Boo now had her companion, for the first couple of years we saw very little of Rolly. He…just didn’t like people very much, and it took a good year before he stopped immediately leaving a room if you came into it. Eventually, he settled down to he’d only leave (or hide) if you came in and bothered him, and after many years he even began to allow us to pet him without causing a “flight” response. Still, we’re pretty sure he went his whole life believing we were going to eventually kill him and eat him – and all this “being nice” stuff was just to lure him into a false sense of security.
In spite of his distrust for people, he never scratched (except by sheerest accident), never bit, and even if he didn’t want to be held, he didn’t struggle that much…unless you were trying to put him in a cat carrier. Memories of his youth in a cage, probably.
In his later years, he still wasn’t all that into us…but in the winter he would sleep on the bed with us, the warmth of it trumping all other concerns, and every so often he felt the need of a good head-rubbing or back-scratching or even a cuddle, and he would come up to us and head-butt until we gave him the appropriate attention. Then, when satisfied, he be back on his way to his duties.
Those duties primarily consisted of being the Mighty Lion of the Savannah, ruling over his grassy domain of our tiny backyard, often from his chase-lounge throne. He was a kind ruler, allowing possums and raccoons and other cats access to his domains – and occasionally food bowl – while looking serenely on. He could even make friends with neighbor dogs who wouldn’t even let us step outside our own door without wanting to attack.
As he grew older, savannah duty took up more and more of his time. Eventually, he only occasionally required we let him in – usually for a quick snack from the food bowl – before he commanded we return him to the great outdoors. And command he could. Always possessed of a yawl that – when he was upset – sounded like we were murdering him, by the last few years of his life he had refined it into a meow that was the single most annoying noise in the world. You could not – sans serious soundproofing – ignore this call, period, whether it was to go in, go out, or simply fill the hole in the food bowl. And it would not stop until you fulfilled his needs.
His fluffy coat kept him warm on the savannah in winter, his ability to hide in places we have still never found (along with an annual lion-cut at the pet store) kept him cool in summer. He enjoyed laying in the soft grass and tuna water (though oddly, never the tuna itself). And when we were allowed to snuggle, he was soft and warm and always just slightly in the way on the bed.
His last month or so, he started crying his horrifying meow for reasons we did not understand. He didn’t want to come in, or to eat, and rubbing his head stopped the meow for a moment, but it often started up again. Eventually we noticed his hair had matted up again (as a long-hair, mats were a constant problem – one of the reasons for the annual lion-cut) and it looked like it was pulling his skin.
So we bathed him (much, much more meowing – though as a passive-aggressive kitty, he didn’t try to scratch or bite) and Dee Dee carefully cut the mats off of him – then trimmed a bit more, to even him up, because he was always proud of his fur.
The next day, though, he spent laying on the kitchen floor, listless and too tired to even go outside. We gave him some tuna water, and he drank a lot of regular water, but he didn’t eat. The following day, Friday, not improved, we took him to the vet, where he was found to be very anemic. They took blood for a blood test and gave us some vitamins for him – which he didn’t like at all.
Saturday, with him even more listless and not even interested in tuna water, we called for the results – to find those results were that he had a major infection and would need pills for his liver and kidneys and pancreas and…
…and he was a very sick kitty. A very sick kitty with a vet we wouldn’t see until Monday.
Soon after that call, we had to clean him up a bit because he had peed on himself and Dee Dee was holding him, getting ready to try again to give him his vitamins…and resting once more in her lap, his head being gently rubbed, he just silently stopped breathing.
We will miss him terribly.