I was neither a cat nor dog person as a kid, just an irresponsible kid who liked having pets around when it was convenient. The drudgery, cleaning up after them, suddenly made the creatures a nuisance. The birth of Teddy and Mewsette was the event which pushed me into the (some think less masculine) cat camp. I was half-way through high school by then so I was better at handling the daily routines cats required. However, those two were family pets and remained with my parents all their lives, I only saw them whenever I visited.
As much as I loved cats, I never adopted any until I was 31. College was a bad time because your life is rather transitory. Post-graduation is worse thanks to job hunting and borderline poverty. For me, the next several years kept me semi-mobile, changing apartments/houses. I would have never guessed my first true place in Austin was going to last three years but unemployment fears trumped the risk to pet ownership. It was probably the wiser thing to do, traveling from Austin to Raleigh and in reverse a year later would’ve been stressful on everybody.
My brother Brian was the opposite. He took in a pair (Ike & Tina) from Grandpa’s farm while he was at university. Those two were his constant companions for almost a decade. Once Linda was pregnant, he tried to give them to me. I felt guilty about refusing (I was busy planning my Austin return). The guilt was overshadowed by my sense of anger at him though. How could he betray them? Yes, I know pregnancy and cat waste don’t mix necessarily. I think it was an excuse to absolve his obligations but that’s just me, I have developed a greater sense of loyalty to animals in my care.
Still I dodged cat ownership. First the schmuck roommate Mel was allergic. It worked out, I was allergic to his idiocy. Next came three more moves in a year. The longer-term roommate Garrett was probably allergic too, I can’t remember. Moving in with Somara kept up the trend, she already had Wicca…problem solved, I had no issue sharing this cat. The thing is, cats don’t agree since many tend to bond with one primary person.
Meeting Molly and Her Arrival
About a month into our cohabitation, Somara proposed a birthday/cheer-up present (I had recently been stiffed on a job at Apple). She would cover the deposit if I finally stopped objecting and instead picked out a cat of my own at the Austin Humane Society. I figured why not. I made an adequate living plus I decided to never leave Austin again.
We made the quick drive up 183 on a weeknight, browsed the numerous cubes filled with cats people had found or abandoned. The staff quizzed me over certain things. What kind of cat was I looking for? What would I do if the landlord made me ditch the creature (I said, get a new place, the plan is I’m with the cat to the death)? Molly wasn’t the initial candidate, she was number two. Her competitor was alright yet he was a tad unfriendly. Molly on the other hand…I fell in love with her quickly. She was affectionate, she purred, I think she even spoke a little. She had this take-me-home-please attitude.
I asked the handler what was Molly’s story? This cat is roughly a year old and pretty sweet, why is she here? If I recall the answer was the previous owners abandoned Molly because she got pregnant. The kittens had been adopted leaving Molly behind, ready for a new life with a new family.
We couldn’t take her home on the same day, there was some paperwork and a waiting period. I was giddy with excitement. I immediately went to a pet store to get Molly a dish, a collar and probably a toy. Somara had the carrier. Wicca had a litter box. Work buzzed by the following day.
Molly’s arrival transformed into more drama than we planned. Upon leaving the carrier, Wicca was immediately spotted and a chase around the apartment ensued. Up the stairs, down the stairs, around the kitchen, howling, screaming, etc. Seems Molly tricked me. This was no mellow, sweet lap cat, she was an Alpha asserting on another feline she perceived as a threat. Poor Wicca was the mellow kind who would’ve been fine with the new power arrangement via an understanding instead of the 30-minute confrontation.
Molly’s Early Years and the Discovery of her Territorial Behavior
Molly continued to settle in pretty well. She was litter-box trained, she wasn’t picky about dry food and much to my surprise, she quickly demonstrated how vocal she was. The latter trait was something she retained all her life. I think Molly was trying to train me in the early days too; she would “make biscuits” on my chest to wake me…feed me you big ape!
A year passed. During the interim we changed apartments (our actual apartment was ready around mid July or was it August?), helped find a feral kitty a home (Mongo), had company over for about every week to play D&D (Molly was good with guests while Wicca hid), took a vacation to Phoenix…and adopted a third cat named Miette. There was no strong, prolonged power struggle. Miette was happy to have food, a safe sleeping spot and she took over Molly’s job of tormenting Wicca; a story for Miette’s own page.
When we bought the house, all the cats didn’t take too long to get adjusted. Their habits changed a tad but life on the ground level brought out another element to Molly’s character, her uber jealous-territorial nature. Our neighbors had a cat named Chloe who they let roam outside. If Molly spotted Chloe in the window, there was howling and the two of them batting through the glass. The key though was visibility. Should Molly not be looking, then Chloe didn’t exist. We witnessed this fact several times through Chloe’s instigations. How? Chloe would pop into our backyard, stroll onto the porch and look into the backdoor from a couple feet away. Should Molly be looking such a direction…charge!, cat cursing and hissing (both animals). Should Molly be spotted lying around with her back to the door, Chloe was ignored. I don’t think Chloe liked this because the next action was a couple knocks on the glass to rouse Molly’s attention and ire. Chloe got what she wanted every time. Other visitors received Molly’s wrath by just being seen: Caliban, Princess Buttercup, Akuma, No Tail (in the video below) and Tybalt.
Two non-Chloe incidents were very comical:
- Occasionally Molly forgot there was glass and smacked into it as she charged.
- The best one I only caught on the phone. Somara and I were talking, some stray were irritating Molly in the front yard while the window was open. In the middle of our conversation I heard this scream followed by a thud. Somara was in stitches. I asked, did Molly just fall off the window sill? Somara replied, yes, your cat got too enraged to pay attention and rolled over.
Molly wasn’t vicious and aggressive all the time. She proved to be a loyal companion very early. My favorite demonstration happened in the Spring of 2002 as I went on vacation in Orlando without Somara. We weren’t carpooling those days and Somara often came home first. She noticed how Molly approached the foyer/front door area like clockwork every night around the same time expecting me to appear to no avail. People say cats are aloof to their humans unlike dogs…HA!
Nemo joined our family the following season. He had some difficulty accepting or understanding Molly’s Alpha rule. Near the final couple years of her life, Nemo had been pressing since he sensed old age catching up with Molly’s fighting prowess. I don’t think he ever forgave her for a dog-style domination tactic we caught Molly doing to him neither nor the attempt on his life which I’ll get to later.
2003: The Emergency
By 2002, Chez Maggi was accused of being a crazy cat-lady house. No way. Somara and I worked really hard to keep things tidy, namely the litter boxes to prevent that infamous cat whiz smell you get at the entrance. Besides, Somara read the homeowner’s covenant; we were allowed four cats before requiring a breeder’s license!
Nemo gained acceptance as he grew to adulthood, Miette mellowed, Wicca pursued a policy of avoidance and Molly’s authority solidified. How this played out took us many years to figure out. Originally we were investigating which cat or cats was starting to refuse taking a dump in the litter box. Often this indicates illness, stress and fear. Wicca was obviously the immediate suspect. We were shocked to discover Molly was found to be the culprit. Many friends told the predictable joke equating her bad habit to people who think outside the box. I could never break Molly of this and gave up when I finally learned it is how dominant cats leave “reminders” to the others about who is the boss. Feral cats do the same thing in the wild by not burying their waste. Thankfully Molly’s deuces were left near the cat boxes making them minor nuisances to clean up.
In the Summer of 2003, we six mammals officially became a family with the Las Vegas wedding. This didn’t change which cat “belonged” to whom. Maybe their surnames but these only come into play for record keeping at the vet’s office; gotta’ be able to tell all the Shadows and Muffins apart.
Trouble in paradise began by Fall. Normally with pets, there’s going to be an occasional incident involving piss in improper locations. The trick is to find it quickly and eradicate it before the animal(s) think this is acceptable. What made this particular outbreak urgent was the blood mixed in the puddles/spots to the point it wasn’t yellow but light red. Again somebody other than Molly was suspected. We started with the youngest cat Nemo. The vet said he had a minor urinary infection yet no bleeding. Then Molly indulged me a couple days later before I went to work…I caught her spraying a plastic bag. She angrily meowed back at my yelling, continuing to pee. When I discovered the blood I realized all along it was Molly, maybe her “anger” was really pain.
I rushed her to my vet Dr. Riggan (we usually call him Dr. Todd) for a diagnosis and went to work late, dealt with the inept boss I had those days. I managed to get back to Dr. Riggan’s office to find what we up with Molly. He said she needed immediate surgery. There was something in a kidney or urinary tract, thus the bleeding. Callously I asked, how much? He or his tech said $800. I still feel guilty to this day for my hesitation in answering “Do it! Save my kitty!” In my defense, I just paused for a couple seconds. It felt like a lifetime. I wish I never asked the cost.
Molly’s operation was a success. The object responsible was a stone the size of a shirt button. To prevent another further stones, Molly had to be fed special food which cost twice as much as what the others ate, for the rest of her life. The price tag was the least annoying part with this situation, the amount of food per bag decreasing over the years was the irksome thing; it meant calling the vet to get more sooner.
The recuperation was a relatively uneventful three days. Molly was glad to be home just not being isolated from the rest of our house; she was kept “locked up” in the bedroom so her world was just this room and the master bathroom. I let her loose sooner after she expressed her discontent by peeing on my jeans; Molly never went out of her way to do such an act again.
The new diet had an upside, it resolved Molly’s recent weight problem. She took it in stride by having the others do all the begging, nagging and misbehaving to wake us whenever they agreed we were oversleeping. Nemo remains the expert on noisemaking: banging on the blinds, knocking objects off of shelves and tearing up the carpet.
Coming home was amusing. Molly would join in the “singing” to make their point. Conditioning her to go to the bedroom for her food was quick. Eventually Molly developed a cute trot to lead the way.
Some days we solved the issue by corralling all the cats out and close the door. They could claw under all they wanted, we heard nothing so resumed sleeping. One Sunday morning it turned ugly with a blood-curdling cat screech. Nemo was hanging upside from the six-foot cat tower in our living room. Part of its rope “skin” came unraveled and had got entangled around a hind leg. He probably fell off a high level, found himself dangling and being an animal Nemo’s first instinct was to panic. Molly’s was to kill him. At least that’s what appeared to be happening as we rushed to Nemo’s aid; Molly tail was puffed out, thick at the base and she was biting him near the throat.
Somara shoo’d Molly away but was attacked by a freaked-out Nemo. While Somara fell back in pain, Molly jumped in for another round. It was really a weird hopping motion toward Nemo she made. I intervened more successfully. I grabbed Molly by the scruff, locked her into the guest bathroom, threw a towel over Nemo so he couldn’t see me and cut the rope with a carpet knife (what the media calls a box cutter). Once Somara’s injury was cleaned and bandaged, Nemo received a bath because he crapped on himself and Molly was later jailed in a carrier for several hours. It was a frightening show of her aggression. She continued throw her body around, banging on the sides to escape for about an hour. The cats acted like nothing happened by evening.
Personally, I don’t Nemo ever forgot nor forgave this attempt on his life. Nemo’s attacks/fights with Molly increased as old age began to weaken his tormentor. Miette and Kuroneko seemed to sense it too; ganging up on Molly was a minor crisis several times this Summer and I noticed her sleeping in remote locations instead of in the open.
Molly’s Final Weeks
Thankfully there were no further crises involving Molly after the attempted murder. Kuroneko joined our family in 2008 without major incident; the little black cat ignored Molly’s authority or avoided direct confrontations.
This Spring everything was looking great. Molly turned 13 and her annual was upbeat. White Rock’s Dr. Hamby said Molly was in wonderful shape: weight was about right, no infections/parasites, good spirits and any issues were the beginnings of old age…natural declining in her vision/hearing, minor arthritis. There was little reason why Molly wouldn’t live as long as Wicca (16), maybe longer; allegedly the average is 12-14 plus two if female according to Wikipedia, I’ll consult my vet.
Everyone had a rough late Spring/early Summer though. Due to our foolish generosity, the Thunderkittens’ fleas infected Molly and the gang. We managed to defeat the bloodsuckers through the stuff you apply on the back of an animal’s neck every 30 days. I the product’s name. Every pet owner knows it isn’t cheap yet it works. The side effect on Molly was her fur falling out on the hind legs and belly. She was allergic to fleas, not the solution which takes time to do its thing…poisoning the fleas.
Gradually Molly’s fur returned to its expected glory around my birthday. All seemed to be normal once again. Somara and I could focus on two more pressing matters: house/catsitting for our friends the Lowrys; getting pumped up for the annual vacation in Las Vegas.
The former task usually means we don’t come directly home about half the week. The Lowrys have three cats, one (Angel) has special needs to attend to and another is a handful (Tiki), the last cat (Jack) hides 90 percent of the time. Besides the animals, there was watering duties and August is often the height of Central Texas’s drought season. 2012 went better thanks to a couple storms mixed with lower than expected temperatures; I never thought I’d be stoked to live through days of being in the upper 90s/lower 100s. Lastly, somebody has to watch the cable television and swim in the pool our hosts are paying for!
The Maggi cats were totally ignored. We spent time on Sundays and other evenings with them. Dinner might have been late but nobody went hungry. Friday nights were the sleep over days at the Lowrys, thus Molly got locked up in our bedroom with a overfilled bowl, plenty of water, good airflow and tidy litterboxes. Ditto for Nemo, Miette and Kuroneko. The only thing I was guilty about was leaving Molly in a bored, isolated state. She didn’t seem too upset every Saturday we returned. The goal was to keep this situation to less than 24 hours.
When the Lowrys returned around Labor Day. The affection got overcompensated on our menagerie. The cats reacted like tweeners…Stop! You’re smothering us! Jeez!
Vacation time quickly arrived and during the evening we were packing I asked Somara if she noticed how fat Molly had become. Her belly was rather big as if she were bloating. It didn’t seem to raise an alarm. There was no change in Molly’s personality or habits. I figured it was the combination of age, inactivity and gluttony from the previous month. Off to Sin City we went without a care.
Day three was when we were alerted by Caroline (my mother-in-law). Molly wouldn’t come out to greet her, a bad sign given my cat’s gregarious/ambivalent nature. Caroline had to retrieve Molly the previous evening and the news got worse, Caroline found a noticeable lump around Molly’s abdominal area. Somara asked her parents to take Molly to our vet ASAP. I was on my phone simultaneously trying to get my cat seen on a Friday afternoon because the details were coming together…lump, bloating, hiding. I feared Molly was having a relapse of what sickened her nine years earlier.
The White Rock people were aces. They were upfront on what was entailed and how much it may cost, especially with the weekend starting. I didn’t care, I had let too much slide now I was going to pay the penalty but Molly would recuperate, I mean she had a solid physical six months ago. It didn’t pan out that way as Dr. Riggan said the initial prognosis was a tumor. He assured me to keep enjoying our vacation, many tumors were benign, they don’t automatically mean cancer.
I wish I could say I completely immersed myself in the fun time we experienced all weekend: Adam Ant, Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love, swimming, eating, jogging and gambling. There remained a nagging percentage asking myself what if Molly has cancer? How long will she live? How much could we spend? Some people have gone bankrupt trying to save an animal all for nothing. Will people see me as a selfish asshole for not trying harder? So on.
Dr. Riggan and I talked some options on Monday in light of no lab results. Another day spent trying to ignore something I can’t control yet will be affected by.
The news hit Tuesday morning after my workout…Molly had cancer and it was inoperable, she was terminally ill. What about steroids? This kept Wicca alive for a year and a half. Maybe. I wouldn’t get Wicca’s results though. Dr. Riggan said to finish the vacation, Molly is in good hands and we’ll talk more when we returned Wednesday. I bawled as I told Somara the news in our room.
Flying home was an anxious experience yet Somara pulled off some incredible driving skills on 130, Austin’s far-east-side toll road; you can go 80 mph on it.
We arrived before White Rock closed with 12 minutes to spare. The tech explained how to care for Molly: the food via a syringe, the medication, what to watch for, how to handle her (aka the Molly burrito) and set up a promissory note to spread out a $1500 bill (we got it under control, don’t worry). Fortunately I had the following day off to practice this. It was a two-person job initially. A good sign, Molly was still her full-of-hell self!
The cancer proved to be more aggressive than Molly. Within several days she weakened, I could feed her by myself, she didn’t struggle much, she wasn’t going to the litterbox, she spend the days hiding, her spine became more noticeable and worst of all, I could see the light in her eyes fading. Somara and Dr. Riggan said Molly wasn’t going to make it another week, I might be torturing her.
Reluctantly I scheduled her euthanizing on my first day off from work, a Saturday. Dr. Riggan really stepped up and volunteered to stay late Friday if it would be better. I said yes, he had been Molly’s doctor for most of her life and he handled Wicca’s situation too. He was cool with a couple requests I had, playing some music in the background.
Molly was ready on Friday. That morning see endured the 10 ccs of liquified food and when I retrieved her after work, she was listless. I didn’t need the carrier or a towel to restrain her, Molly was limp, purring. I was braced too. She was a champ previously, sitting on my lap at night, letting me pet her while we watched Star Trek and other TV shows through Netflix streaming.
The ceremony (what else can you call it?) went smoothly. I played Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Not Forget You” as we took turns whispering in Molly’s ear about it’s going to be okay, the suffering would be over soon. Somara discussed girl things with her, she won’t say. I will. I let Molly know I’d given anything to have her stay another year and she would always be special. I drummed up two other songs to soothe her: Tom Jones “What’s New Pussycat?” and Garrison Keillor’s “Cats May Sleep Safely.” They were more for me, please indulge me.
As the end dawned, I whispered the final verse of Tom Jones to her, again, bear with me.
Pussycat pussycat I love you!
Yes, I do!
You and your pussycat lips! (Whoa oh oh oh!)
You and your pussycat eyes! (Whoa oh oh oh!)
You and your pussycat…nose.
Molly expired shortly after this and I knew it was over when a small shot of bile came out of her mouth into my hand.
Aftermath and Her Legacy
Molly was cremated and her remains are in a sealed urn. The long-term plan is to have it stored alongside Wicca’s in a little, polite, tasteful shrine we will be putting together.
Unlike Wicca, Molly will not be replaced and I am going to stick to this. As much as we love cats, it is stressful on everyone to have four. Cats are territorial and irrational; I can’t assure them there’s enough food, love and places to sleep. For us, there was an ongoing piss war entering its probable 11th year and we’re enjoying a bittersweet cease fire, knock on wood.
It breaks my heart to see all those abandoned cats every time I buy supplies at Petsmart yet I am going to resist. I love Miette equally and will shower affection on Somara’s duo. Somara thinks Nemo is starting to bond with me. Nah, I feel he’s trying to find a solution to eliminating the only other male in our house.
Instead I calculated Molly’s expenses and proposed an idea to Somara. Next year White Rock will be moving to a new facility up the street. I don’t want a wing dedicated to Molly but in her memory, I want to start an annual fund entrusted to Dr. Riggan and his staff. The money I provide can be used to help subsidize some cases or be used as a discount to help other people pay their cat bills, namely for spaying or neutering. Molly’s pregnancy was the root cause to her abandonment. I need to discuss it further with Dr. Riggan on how it will work. He or his staff can guide me with the IRS crap because I know my part will exceed $250/year.
This isn’t an ego thing and it won’t be a serious drain. I could finance it with the remainder of my inheritance for a dozen years alone. The White Rock people have always been good to me, Somara, our cats and animals we’ve rescued. I guess I want something to let a small part of the world how much Molly meant to me.
I want to close with a couple more choice pictures I love that Somara compiled for me.