Aurora: The Cat Who Went With Me Everywhere

This week, I decided it was time for my oldest cat Aurora to go to kitty heaven (which actually, yes, I do believe in).

Aurora was 19-1/2 years old, the oldest cat I have ever known personally. The decision to euthanize was easier than with my cat, Max. Max was 14, which is within the normal range but seemed relatively young to me (I grew up with a cat that lived to be 3+ years more). I wasn't prepared to make THAT decision. Consequently, I put off making it far too long.

I refused to let Aurora decline and suffer as badly. When she stopped eating, I immediately begun to watch for other signs. This past Saturday, I made the decision to wait until after the weekend. It was the right decision since I got to take her to our regular vet: The Cat Doctor. It also meant that both she and I were ready. The decision was still difficult (it is never easy!), but comparatively easier than with Max.

Living without her has been far more difficult. Aurora was my "first" cat. (I don't count Sidney, my cat in high school. To put it bluntly, Aurora was the first cat for whom I paid the vet bills!)

I got Aurora from a private owner when I was living in Washington State (1995). She was actually too young, being barely 6 weeks. (Many shelters won't let kittens go until after 8-10 weeks). She literally fit into the palm of my hand. When I was at work, she would creep into the gaps of my box spring mattress. The first time I came home and couldn't find her, I desperately called her name. I heard "mew mew mew" and turned around to find her scampering to me from under the bed.

At night, she would sleep in my hair--yep, I had long hair in those days!

I felt so guilty about her being so young and having no playmate that I would drive 20 minutes each way at lunch to see her: that meant I could only spend 20 minutes petting her, but I didn't mind! At the time I lived in a studio apartment; to entertain Aurora (she was quite active in those days), I would throw balls of paper from one end of the "shoebox" to the other. After we ran through one pile (about 20 of so paper balls), I'd switch positions.

We drove across country in a 1989 Dodge Colt that looked
very much like this 1983 model. From Hatch Heaven.
I moved from Washington to Maine (with a month's break), starting August 1996. Aurora took the trip alongside me! After several test drives during which she snuck under the brakes and clutch (it was a stick-shift), I finally broke down and got a large wire kennel cage that took up half the back seat (every book on traveling with pets says to do this anyway). I added an upside down cardboard box that she could either sit on or sleep inside--plus lots of blankets, a tiny litter box, and bowls.

I discovered pretty quickly that, like her owner, Aurora gets car-sick in the backseat. Every single day started out the same: I started driving--Aurora threw up--I cleaned out the cage--Aurora was fine the rest of the way.

The car was also not air-conditioned--which on the highways made no difference. In the cities and in states with lots of construction (yes, Utah, I mean you!), the car would get unbearably hot and Aurora would start hyperventilating. I would pour water on her head from a water bottle which sounds awful but actually helped.

During that trip, she stayed at a house with a ferret (which freaked her out), a house with another cat (which she didn't mind so much except she and the other cat got into a pissing and pooping match--who can fill up the other cat's litter box the most?!), multiple hotels (which she liked), a cozy bedroom in West Virginia (which she liked) and a basement in Ohio (which she didn't). She spent a few days in upstate New York before we both drove on to Maine, where she stayed on Peaks Island; there she met her brother Max.

Aurora and Bob
From Peaks Island, Aurora moved to an apartment on Woodfords Corner, then an apartment in the West End, and finally, to our current apartment; this means that over her lifetime, Aurora adjusted to a total of five apartments (in Washington, I lived in a much larger and much nicer apartment than the studio apartment for six months before moving to Maine). She was happiest in the last: more roomy than some of the others, fewer intruding smells (although by the time we moved into this apartment, Aurora had reached the utterly-unfazed-by-anything stage of life). 

She also tolerated two brothers, Max and Bob. Max she mothered and played with. Bob she accepted and agreed to play with (she did perk up after Bob arrived). She is survived by Bob--and me.
Feed Me!
Courtesy: Jen Jones

In terms of idiosyncrasies, for most of her life, Aurora would eat anything, including curry! She had a VERY loud yowl. She was shyer with people than my male cats have been. She was a better hunter than my male cats with sharper eyes (spotting birds on telephone wires) and (up until recently) better hearing. After Max died and gave up the position of animal-who-gets-to-sit-on-Kate's-lap-while-she-watches-TV, Aurora took over that position, only relinquishing it in the last two weeks. (When Bob took it over, I realized that both animals were sending me a message.)

Of all my cats, Aurora has been the most classic: short-haired tabby with all the proper markings, beautiful brown-tipped fur with a golden layer underneath, and huge, huge eyes. 

Altogether, Aurora Woodbury had a remarkable life--for a human, let alone a cat--and bore it with remarkable sangfroid, even for a human!

1 comment:

Dan said...

Aurora lived a long, full life! I can understand the absence you must feel. As for "cat heaven" I think this is certainly a case where there must be many mansions.