My grandparents were suckers for stray cats. Every few years they’d come home with another kitten (or two) that had been dumped on the side of the road. I don’t think it was coincidence that the drop-offs happened so often near their house. There was no animal shelter in their small town, so the Hawleys were the next best thing.
The cats always favored Grandpa. He’d dose off when we came down to visit, sometimes with as many five cats sharing his lap and chair. All of the cats were good with my young children; when the kids got too handsy the cats just disappeared. Until Muggins came along.
Muggins was a kitten when my Grandma found her being poked with a stick by a little hoodlum in her neighborhood. Another kitten was apparently already dead. Grandma rescued Muggins and her mother, Fluffy, and made them house cats. Maybe Muggins never forgot about the poking; maybe she was just born mean. Whatever the reason, that cat would hiss at you just for walking by. Even when she half-chased the socks and strings my daughters dragged across the floor to coax her to play, she did it with attitude.
When Grandma was hospitalized for a couple of months in 2005, I drove down to their house regularly to feed the cats. Muggins greeted me with a hello hiss every time I showed up, so I started hissing back. Wouldn’t you know it — the next year she and Fluffy joined Grandma when she came to live with me.
It’s not secret that older people thrive with companion animals, so I cared for the two cats every time Grandma was hospitalized or in rehab. Fluffy grew friendlier, but Muggins kept her distance. Our uneasy truce held for several years.
In the end, Muggins’ attitude was her undoing. About four years after Grandma moved in, the cat for some reason decided the entire basement was her litter box. Nothing had changed to upset her routine. She was like honey badger: she just didn’t give a shit.
There was no love lost between Muggins and me. But I still helped Grandma position a second litter box in hopes we could curb that cat’s bad behavior. It didn’t help. The stench of cat urine mingled with Grandma’s Spam-meets-dusty-old-closet aroma started to creep upstairs. Muggins wasn’t a young cat, and in my opinion she was beyond rehabilitation. But I wasn’t going to be the one to state the obvious solution.
Grandma finally made the call. She asked me to find a place that would put the cat to sleep, and I happily complied. Tam ended up taking Muggins to meet her maker, and her description of the final showdown, with the defiant cat wrapped in a towel like a burrito to contain her lethal claws, sounded totally realistic. Once she was gone, everybody was relieved, and the basement definitely smelled better.
Even Muggins’ mom didn’t seem to mind.
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