For 18 years Zuni has been a quiet presence in our living room. The stereotypical cat, she was aloof and independent, but on occasion she would honor one of us with her presence, plopping down on a lap, requesting a rub. Two years ago when we got the new kitten, Jezebel, Zuni's health went rapidly downhill and she stopped eating, growled constantly at the playful thing that kept jumping on her, and turning into a very sad 5-pound bag of bones. She was a gorgeous cat with brown and gold and orange fur, and the fuzziest tail imaginable. She had a loud speaking voice, and when she was hungry she was persistent in getting attention.
In 1990 I got a call from Adriana that there was a kitten in need of a home, born in a basement of a neighbor of her mother's in Queens. I went out there to get her, but she was hiding and it took a couple hours to find her. She was about 6 weeks old and as cute as a kitten could be. We wrapped her in a red sweatshirt that somebody donated and I took her home on the subway. At the time I was living in midtown in a one room apartment. I put her on the floor, looked the other way, and she was gone. I spent about 2 hours sitting there, trying to be really quiet, hoping I could hear where she was. I checked every crevice to no avail. Shaking the box of food didn't bring her out either.
It was about 11pm and I was distraught. I called Slim, who was, back then, not my husband, and not too happy to be disturbed from his routine, but he walked uptown, entered my apartment where I was in tears about losing my brand new kitten, and went straight to her hiding place, pulling her out. He had (and still does) an instinct for these kinds of things. She was under the radiator, all the way back in the corner where I couldn't reach (nor would I, it was that yucky corner of an apartment that nobody dares to go). She was purring immediately, and spent the next three months waking me up every morning by jumping on my head to play with my hair.
When I moved downtown to live with Slim, I brought her with me, and she promptly sent Slim's cat, Kitty, into the same downward spiral that Jezebel caused for her. Kitty got sick pretty quickly but her demise was much more invasive, puking and shitting all over the place, her white fur turning a sickly yellow. Every morning we had to walk very carefully to be sure not to step into whatever mess she had left during the night. If we went away for more than a few hours we had to cover our bed with plastic, because we just couldn't keep cleaning the sheets every second day. We put her to sleep the week before Max was born. We clearly didn't learn the lesson of having an older cat and a younger one together - Zuni killed Kitty and Jezebel killed Zuni.
Zuni's decline was sad to watch. In the past couple of months she would periodically fall behind the couch from her favorite place on the back of it, and not be able to get out, but not crying or making any noise until we discovered she was missing. She appeared to be blind and deaf (though she could always sense Jezebel and give her a good hiss), and her rear legs didn't work properly. When she shook her head, she feel over sideways. She couldn't glide across a table with a mess on it, she knocked over anything in her way, and usually knocked herself over too. And she got dehydrated very quickly. Every morning she stood at the sink, waiting to be lifted up so she could put her head under the running water and lap up the cold water from the tap, which she liked so much more than the water in the dish.
Goodbye Zuni. We will miss you forever.