Sunday, September 20, 2009


Soot was born just about a week before Munchkin; (as near as we can figure the 'genealogy,' Soot was not only Munchie's half-sister, but also her aunt!) These two litters our neighbor kept indoors until they were old enough to be adopted. Munchkin, then, never knew life without Soot.

We adopted them both together. Soot was coal black, with nary a single white or other color hair anywhere on her. She had beautiful gold eyes, and a short stubby tail.  (We are not sure if she was part Manx or part American Bobtail.)  Her coat was so, so, soft, like velvet, and very dense, so although she was a short-haired cat, she gave the impression of having longer hair…she certainly shed like a long-hair!

Soot and her half-sister, Munchkin, were the offspring of two of the feral cats in the area. Soot’s mother was known as “Mama Cat,” and Munchkin was "Mama's" grand-daughter. We ‘met’ them when they were just a couple of weeks old, and at that point, spoke up to adopt Munchkin. However, when the time came, little Soot was right with her, and instantly stole our hearts, so that is how we came to take them both.

These kittens were born across the street, as that neighbor 'sort of' looked out for the feral cats, putting out food, and so they felt safe there. “Mama Cat” was probably the most prolific, and sadly, no one had ever been able to catch her to have her spayed. She was a tiny cat...barely 4 pounds, even at several years old and who knows how many total litters.....

At the appropriate ages, we took them both in to be spayed. This was in 2004. We enjoyed having them add their kittenish antics to our household of 2 cats (Patches and Tigger), and they helped fill the hole left by the loss of our dog, Delila, who had passed just a few days before we took the kittens home.

These were the two little kitty girls described in Tigger’s story, as having him cowering him under a chair. Even though he would hiss at them, they did not seem overly intimidated, and pretty much ignored him, preferring to play their kitten games with each other. As they grew, Tigger eventually came around, and they all became buddies.

The kittens grew up, as kittens will, and blossomed into beauties. Munchkin is a gray-white-black tabby, and Soot just got more beautiful every day. Her coat was such a deep, rich black that begged to be petted. She was irresistible, and just as well, for she certainly loved sitting in laps and soaking up ‘pets.’  I even wrote a limerick about her:

"Soot is a very nice cat
Who wears a soft coat; velvet black.
Pet her, she'll purr, as you stroke her fur,
And add a cute tail to all that."
© 2008 Liz Elias

Sootsie seemed very empathetic, as well. I have a bum knee, and in the winter, if my arthritis had set in and had the knee aching, Soot seemed to sense it, and would lay in my lap, more on my leg, acting as a live heating pad for my aching knee.  That also helped with my physical therapy, as I was supposed to do stretching exercises to get the knee to straighten again.  Her warmth and weight on the leg helped, making a gentle, but firm stretch-and-hold.

Both of these girls were extremely interested in the food bowls, Soot especially, earning her the somewhat derogatory nickname of ‘food slut.’ We jokingly said we’ d set her out on a street corner in San Francisco bearing a sign reading, ‘Will do anything for food.” Of course, we would do no such thing….but she did love to eat. And she had the oddest tastes of any cat I’ve ever come across. She loved bread. I did not dare leave a loaf of bread, or cookies even, out on the counter, for as soon as we’d be asleep, Soot would be up on the counter, and tearing the wrapper. In the morning, I’d find a chunk bitten from the middle of the loaf! I did catch her in the act a couple of times, so I know it was she. She would even eat garlic bread!!

Her midnight food prowls got her into trouble more than once. Mostly, it was of the petty annoyance category, but one night, she hurt herself—prowling the counters, she bumped and knocked down a glass candy dish. The crash scared her, and she jumped down and took off…unfortunately landing right on the broken glass. She cut the inside of her hind leg rather badly, luckily missing any arteries, but she still left a scary-looking blood trail. As soon as I heard the ruckus, I bolted out of bed, then yelled for hubby to help. We managed to get a bandage on the leg, and called the vet’s cell number, as it was still before midnight….she asked a few questions, inquired if it was still bleeding actively (it was not), told us how to wrap it for the night, and said to just bring her in next morning…no appointment needed…and no need to spend the extra bucks on the all-night emergency vet.

Aside from her penchant for over-eating—despite our attempts to ration her food—(after all, how do you put just 2 of 4 cats on a diet, in an open-plan house??!!)—she was a happy, healthy cat. That is, until the last year and a half of her life. She began to ‘go down’ with extreme lethargy and fevers. We’d take her to the vet, she’d be put on a course of antibiotics, get better for a couple of weeks or a month or two, and ‘round we’d go again. The vet ran every test she could think of, and everything came back negative—there seemed to be no reason for her to be getting these mystery fevers. It got so that I would just keep a supply of the antibiotics on hand at home.

(Munchkin also ate more than she needed, but has never--knock wood--developed any health problems. Aside from being somewhat overweight, both girls would otherwise be quite small cats.)

One day, Soot began to feel poorly again, but with a new symptom…she was ‘oozing’ a clear gooey fluid from her rear.. I cleaned her up, and we put her with her bed in the bathroom overnight, so she wouldn’t mess the carpets. She was to see the vet in the morning.

She never made it to the appointment, having crossed the rainbow bridge sometime overnight. We were devastated. I think she was hubby’s favorite: she was the most cuddly, loving, sweet kitty of the lot. And she was only 4½ years old! Not fair. No reason she should have died, and so young.

The vet was equally perplexed, and did a necropsy at no charge out of 'professional curiosity.'  She expected, she said, to find ‘massive peritonitis’ or some other grossly evident problem…but there was nothing. Soot’s heart, she said, was “slightly enlarged,” but certainly not enough to have caused her death.

I cried my eyes out for days and weeks… and even now, almost a full year later, I am tearing up at writing about it. I have kicked myself over and over and over, feeling so very, very sad and so very guilty at leaving her locked up in the bathroom for what turned out to be her last hours with us…and we were not even with her! If I had only known she was that sick, I would have sat up with her and held her all night!  It still kills me to think about it. She deserved better…she gave us so much joy.

Munchkin came up to us in the morning, where I was sitting on the floor holding our beloved Soot and sobbing like a baby. She sniffed at her, and walked away. But, as I said at the outset, Munchie had never been without Soot all her life, and was depressed and looking for her every now and then for at least a couple of weeks…and she stayed rather depressed for a good couple of months. (I didn’t blame her a bit.)

Even Tigger missed her, as they had all gotten, finally, to be friends. We had by then acquired Jigsaw Puzzle, and had had him just about 8 months when we lost Sootsie. His presence was somewhat of a comfort, but there will never be a cat to replace our beautiful little Soot. Jigsaw had been tested and vaccinated before he was introduced, so his introduction in no way contributed to Soot’s untimely passing….she had, after all, been suffering these on-again, off-again mystery fevers for over a year prior.

Munchkin finally recovered from the loss of her sister, and is still with us. She has even seemed to take over some of Soot’s “duties,” such as being the ‘timekeeper’ and reminding mom if their dinner or breakfast is tardy. She is very playful, loves toys, and is very vocal—a trait that was also Soot’s. .. Munchkin has become more vocal of late. We call her the ‘confused cat,’ for she will miaooww… ..meew, meeeeoowwww… purring all the while… or interrupt purrs with complaints. She is a bit of a clown, as was Soot. She has been more of a clown lately…sometimes, it seems as if she is ‘channeling’ her sister.

We treasure our little Munchkin, as we do all our fur babies. May she live a very long life!

1 comment:

MizzBassie said...

What a wonderful account of Sooty's life. She was obviously very much loved. Please don't blame yourself for what happened during her last night. You didn't know she was going to die. You gave her the best care you could and, ultimately, that's all you can do.

Gentle hugs and purrrrrrrrrrrs,

MizzBassie and mom