Wednesday, June 01, 2011


As you many know, The Programmer and I are confirmed 'cat people', which is a state of being that you have (or not) at birth and can't fight. We have four cats, but a few days ago we had five. Now we have four, which means one of them is not with us anymore :( In the case of Zeus, however, it's not like he was ever fully ours. We used to say 'we have four and a half cats'. Zeus was the half because, in spite of our best efforts, he resisted pampering and domesticity.

The Programmer got Zeus from the cats protection league, long before we met.  Zeus had experienced some hard treatment at the hands of humans and, perhaps because of this, he didn't like to live inside, even though he was quite friendly, except to vets. No matter what the weather he has always preferred to be out in it, and luckily, there is a large area, packed with trees and gardens just a few houses from ours.  This used to house the horticultural centre of the Polytechnic, then it was a community garden and now it is an enviro-school for kids of primary age. 

All of these groups have been Zeus's people and, since about two weeks after The Programmer got him, he has only come home on weekends and school holidays. New Zealand schools take six weeks break over Christmas.  At this time Zeus would follow me around like a lost soul. He still went to the school to sleep at night, but in the day he was obviously bored to death without anyone to look at around except me.

Wondering if he had a home, the Polytech put a collar on him with a note and a phone number. Having learned that he did have a home, but just preferred not to be there, they adopted him as their mascot. He became local legend, hanging out in the sheds, observing the gardening activities and later, sitting in the classroom with the kids. Now and then we would wander down there to check on him, and he would always come running up, looking like a cat with job satisfaction.

Now and then he would get in a scrap and have to go to the vet.  After savaging two vets quite badly, he was tagged in their system as 'semi-feral', which is vet code for 'you won't even see it coming'.  About a year ago I noticed he was walking funny, sort of sideways at the back end, so I got him to the vet. We both noticed he was not himself (i.e. not attempting to sever her thumb), and a few x-rays showed that his spine and one hip were beginning to disintegrate, probably as a result of the injuries he had as a kitten. The only solution was long-acting, painkillers (one injection every couple of months) and a longer-term plan to euthanase him at a future date when the painkillers were no longer effective. We decided to keep him around as long as he seemed happy; the kids at the school seemed quite attached to him.

A week ago the school called to say that they had not seen him for a few days and yesterday they found his furry body on a pile of leaves in a secluded place. It looks like a nice, peaceful end for a very 'different' cat. The kids held a funeral for him today with what the headmaster called 'full pomp and ceremony' and I'm going to print a photograph for them over the weekend to memorialise his place there. I need to make it weatherproof so they can hang it outside, does anyone have any idea how to do that?

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