We are listening to Grieg in memory of Lina. The Hall of the Mountain King exactly matches those moments when she'd whirl into the bathroom, wrap herself around Dan's bare ankles — he being trapped in a manner no one can escape — and kick and bite and claw while he howled for help, before tearing back out of the bathroom and hauling her monkey butt down the hallway to terrorize another cat.
Dan once brought home a horrible horror film while I was off to a trade show, just to see what Hell Devil and the Machete Nights or whatever it's name was, was about. Vietnam vet and all — perhaps because of it — he couldn't watch it. But he had to leave it runnning for Lina while he did the dishes. Every time he looked back into the living room, she was sitting in front of the screen, craning her neck, gleefully watching and listening to the nasty meaty sounds and the gunfire and screaming. The guy at the video shop to whom Dan told the story said, "Your cat is seriously disturbed."
A friend writes:"2 things I'll remember about her: the Terrible 2 Inch Tongue, and the time she went after that little calico kitten that used her tummy for a trampoline on the way to the kitty tree: that's the fastest I've ever seen a cat that size go from fully relaxed to fully locked and loaded." She means the time Lina lay on the couch, front legs extended like the Sphinx, having finished washing, her tongue protruding rigid at least an inch long, while we laughed at her and she glared at us like we were crazy.As for the kitten — found lost one afternoon, and returned to its anxious door-knocking owner by the evening — Lina was actually lying on her stomach, and the kitten caromed off her back, but if I hadn't grabbed her, that kitten would have been live-skinned mincemeat. A National Geographic special once described housecats as "hardwired to kill." I'd never seen the programming go into action so fast in my life.
From the time she was a tiny kitten, until she was gone, Lina never had a day's real problem or pain, and had anything she wanted, including a BIG bathroom to boss other cats around in, and all the bananas she wanted, and two humans to push around. She got the Lotto in life.
She was originally found when a friend returned to work on a Saturday and heard mewing in a warehouse wall. He literally had to dig a hole in the wall to find the tiny four-week-old. He thought he'd discovered a kitten. What he'd found was a little striped savage. When she discovered her own tail, she bit it so badly that she reared back in pain and patted it to comfort it. She tore out onto the back porch at eight weeks old, glaring at the world, then realized how big it was, and tore back into the house. She rolled down from the second floor, her round head sounding like a large rock thumping down the stairs. Didn't seem to hurt her any. She helped people move furniture.
She tattled on workmen who opened the walls to replace plumbing or put up tiles. We think she might have thought they were mining for kittens. Well, where else would kittens come from, in her mind? She didn't like meat or fish. She adored bananas. And nectarines and watermelon juice and avacadoes. She insisted on black olives to play with and chew into little salty bits. If you blew on her head, she bashed it against you.
With her huge heart tumor – discovered while x-raying for other problems, and bringing the vet nearly to tears — and her very bad kidneys, we'd always feared a bad death. We were so lucky. She had a very good passing. Right to the end, she insisted on being in the room she wanted, and JUST the towel to lie on she wanted, even if it meant staggering down the hall leaning against the wall ("Don't pick me up, damnit!! I'm trying to die, here! You people must think I'm helpless."). She was sleeping on a rug in the small bathroom. She'd insisted on a cold room for the last two and a half years. We realize now she must have had a fever, due to her chronic conditions. She was tired of all food, and not even milk tempted her. She lay comfortably; all cats should be able to sleep quietly away in a nice safe warm room, on a soft rug or cushion. That same friend reminded us of the cat chemical levels. As a cat dies, seratonin and dopamine flood the system. They slip into a state of euphoria. Gradually, they feel as though they've eaten and drunk, no matter how long they've gone without.
Cats are cool. They even do death right. In her last hours of a good old age, we were watching the dvd of Lost and there was a meaty CSI moment, with squishy noises and shots fired. Sleeping deeply in my arms, worn nearly to a skeleton on her last night, Lina's poor skinny skeletal head wavered and held upright, shaking, her fading eyes pinched open so she could watch the nasty bits. The cat was a gore freak to the end. As she slowly sank out of the world, deeply asleep on the couch, her breathing became slower and slower. Her heart, that had beat too fast, thumped slower, until it was no faster than a human's, and then even slower than that. I petted her, and stepped away, and came back and put my hands on her and kissed her, and the breath went out of her.
She owned her own death. We should all get that chance.