Twenty-One Years With Muffin

Dody Johnson

© Copyright 2010 by Dody Johnson


Photo of Muffin taking a nap on the grass.

Was it being born on Easter that gave Muffin her distinct personality and mission in life? She exhibited character I had never witnessed in a cat before. Muffin, a black and white long haired feline entered my home when she was six weeks old and lived a long, healthy life until the age of twenty-one.

Unlike most cats, Muffin quenched her thirst by dipping her paw into a glass scooping out the liquid. Once I discovered she didn’t like wet whiskers I replaced her water bowl with one made for dogs that sat high off the floor. She never needed to drink from a glass again, except to sneak a taste of her favorite drink chocolate milk, when the remains sat on the counter.

Cats don’t like a closed door and will complain with a high pitch sound until the door is opened. Not Muffin, when she came upon a closed door, she knocked. After answering, “I’ll be out in a minute,” I was always surprised to find her patiently waiting on the other side. Throughout her twenty-one years, I never discovered how she made that knocking sound.

Another exceptional talent Muffin exhibited was talking. She didn’t make the normal chirping or meowing sounds like my other felines; she spoke her own language, eerily, almost human sounding. Once a day she ventured into an empty room and talked up a storm while I listened to this strange phenomenon. How does she do that? Why does she do that? I was in awe of her speaking capabilities and hung onto every word she worked painstakingly hard to pronounce. It was especially fun when company came over. While we visited in the kitchen someone would inevitably say, “What is that?” “Oh, that’s Muffin talking,” and we listened to her carry on a conversation in the other room. We never told anyone about her language skills, who would believe us? A cat manipulating her vocal cords needs to be witnessed first hand. She would have been great on Letterman if she weren’t so shy about speaking in public.

In her lifetime, Muffin learned to pronounce two words clearly, ‘Ma’ and ‘Hello’. When daylight entered my room, she jumped onto the bed, knocked on my forehead with her paw and said, “Ma,” she knocks again, “Ma,” and doesn’t stop until I answer her. She loved to greet me when I came in the front door with, “Hello,” just one “Hello” like she knew that was how it was done. I answered her with my own “Hello” and scooped her up for a big hug.

One evening while pampering myself with a good book and a glass of merlot, I sneezed. Muffin, who was curled up next to me jumped onto the coffee table, grabbed a tissue in her mouth and came back to offer her assistance. Had she watched me sneeze and blow my nose so many times that she instinctively knew what to do? I read that a cat matures to the mentality of a two year old. I found that to be true with most of my cats, but Muffin obviously exceeded the two year mark.

Muffin wasn’t always a happy, carefree, funny cat. Her brother Murphy moved in with us first, being ten months older than Muffin; she came in the next litter. They grew up together exploring the house and chasing each other and anything that moved. Murphy acted just like the big brother with Muffin always following behind. Sadly, Murphy died at the age of nine of a slow growing brain tumor and Muffin cared for him the best she could during his last years. She allowed him to take precedence and stepped aside when Murphy came near their food and water bowls. She jumped out of the litter box when he entered the room to use it. At nap time she wrapped her body tightly around his surrounding him with love and protection.

After Muffin and I stopped mourning the loss of Murphy, I adopted Max an orange tabby who was also nine years old. The two of them worked hard to keep up the charade of not liking each other and after three months they still batted and hissed if they came within breathing distance. I didn’t buy into their feuding act and wanted to catch them being close.

One day after running errands I decided to sneak into the house. Quietly, I came in through the back door taking my shoes off on the porch. Slowly, walking into the living room I found them cuddled together on the back of the sofa. In a teasing voice I said, “I knew you two were friends.” They both looked up at me and then at each other as if to say, “Oh well, the gig is up.” From that moment on they were inseparable.

I thought it strange that Muffin shared the same routine with Max that she did with Murphy. Max ranked first when it came to eating, drinking and using the litter box. Muffin knew long before I did that Max was also dying of a slow growing brain tumor. We enjoyed his affection for three years.

I met a nice man when Muffin was sixteen years old. After our relationship turned serious, Muffin and I visited my new fiancé for weekends in the country. She had always been an indoor cat and experiencing the outdoors turned her into a liberated one. She was as playful as a kitten chasing leaves floating in the air and trying to catch dragonflies during the day and lightening bugs at night. Needless to say, she entertained us often.

Every Sunday evening she yelled at me the entire trip back to the city. Finally, four months before the wedding, I agreed to let her move to the country without me. Once she tasted rural living, she didn’t want to be anywhere else. In the country she had woods to explore filled with critters, and the lake behind the house was home to many ducks, geese, sand cranes and blue herons. She was not fearless when it came to the horses walking by and she hid behind a tree, peeking out at the great giants until they disappeared from sight.

One day I invited a friend to visit with her cat. I wanted to know if Muffin was longing for a companion. She was not, and tore after my friend’s frightened cat with a vengeance screaming as loud as her vocal cords allowed. I knew she was yelling, “No more cats, I don’t want to be care giver anymore!” I promised Muffin, she would never have to worry about taking care of another cat again.

Muffin started slowing down at the age of twenty and I had to accept the fact that her days were numbered. As much as I tried, there was no way to prepare myself for letting go of my best friend. We adopted Biscuit, a one year old short haired black and gray cat that Muffin accepted immediately. Biscuit must have known Muffin was old and needed looking after because she never let her out of eyesight. In good weather Muffin liked to sleep under the large birch tree in the middle of our front yard. While she snoozed, Biscuit, still young and playful loved her time outside chasing squirrels and birds and just like Muffin, she favored the dragonflies.

Near the end of Muffin’s life, her mind started to slip. She was frail but not ready to leave us, so I created a nursing home for her in my office. I placed an overstuffed chair in front of the large window next to the closet where I put her litter box. Her food and the raised water bowl sat on the other side of her chair.

My office, her nursing home was located near the living room and kitchen so I replaced the wood door with a full screen one so she could see me in the kitchen and hear us in the house. Biscuit often visited her in the afternoon enjoying long naps together in her comfy chair. During good weather I set Muffin down near her birch tree and she walked to its trunk, curled up and slept for the rest of the day with Biscuit always near by. In the evening I placed Muffin in her favorite chair in the living room and for two hours every night we all enjoyed each others company.

The day came when I knew all quality of life had left Muffin and I needed to let her go. My husband and I brought her to the vet and I held her while they administered the first shot; the one to make her relax and sleepy. The second shot ended her life and I felt her last breath as she left me.

After twenty-one years I had to learn how to fall asleep without the rhythmic hum of Muffin’s purr. But, how lucky was I to have this wonderful gift in my life for two decades.

Today, Biscuit chases dragonflies with her new best friend Shelby, a one year old calico.

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