We had Slow Top euthanized this morning, two weeks short of his seventeenth birthday.
Slow was from a litter of four kittens. His mother, a slim little cat belonging to Michael, got out for a “night on the town” back in Philadelphia. The kittens spent their first few weeks in the flat of our friend Trent. The four were given kitten-names of Magellan (first to circumnavigate the room), Spot & Stripe (two tabby cats that different only on a small part of the belly), and of course Slow Top. Slow was the smallest, and a week behind developmentally. Elizabeth gave him his most awesome kitten-name.
We knew Slow was the one for us as he sat, as a little 4 week old, and made hilarious snorting noises as he clumsily tried to clean his little paw. We took home Slow Top and Spot- who was later renamed Kiko. We took them home when they were perhaps a bit too young, which might explain why the imprinted on us so strongly. We would sadly lose Kiko too young, at age six to a vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma.
Slow always had weird medical issues. By 6 he was on multiple heart meds (ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers), and had been the subject of many a test. I remember when a new vet at Charles Bradley’s practice in Arlington Massachusetts met him for the first time and went “this is Slow Top? Wow. I have heard about him”. His little medical file was quite thick, even back then. Honestly, when he went on the heart meds so young, I steeled myself for him not making it to age ten.
He started in Philly, and came with us in our move up to Mystic street in Boston, there he battled royally with Basil for dominance of the house. He then went on to our first house on Locust street in Burlington, where he learned to love exploring the great outside. Then it was onwards and across the ocean and to New Zealand. I don’t think he liked his month in quarantine, or the first few months in a little flat on Cambridge Terrace with no outside access, but then he got to the farm. Yeah, he loved the farm. And when he arrived he was still young and healthy enough to go out and explore.
Even as age took its toll, he remained alpha-cat. As he got weaker, he maintained position by fighting spirit at first (he and Jake had some good scraps when Jake first arrived), and later the other cats learned to treat him as the “respected elder” of the house. They probably took subtle, and not-so-subtle, cues from us that Slow was still in charge and should be treated with respect.
I expect Slow’s death will really shake up social order among the cats. He was the hub, the one cat all the others got along with. Who will rise to dominance in his absence?
Slow began the slide into old age about three years ago. He weight started slipping, and his pharmacopia of drugs started increasing (heart, thyroid, arthritis, occasional liver meds, plus steroids to help with the guts). He most probably has Lymphoma, which is going to be the ultimate “cause” of his demise.
But through it all, and to the very end, he remained “Slow Top”. A special cat indeed, and a memorable one. The nose licking alone endeared him (or not!) in the minds of many a visitor, and he was nose licking to the last- though you had to present the nose at the end, as he lacked the strength to pin you down and mercilessly exfoliate your nostrils. He would still take any lap available, and would pick-pick-pick at your sleeve to get your attention if you dared to look elsewhere.
By Christmas we could see that his time was getting very short. The vet gave him “days” just before Christmas, but he rebounded a bit and managed another month. But we knew one day we would have to make the decision to end it (though I admit up to the end I hoped nature would give me the “easy way out” and that he would die quietly in his sleep). He was down to 3 kg, less than half his healthy adult weight (and to think he was once endearingly known as “meat cat”). For me, it was vitally important that he not suffer. I wanted to make sure he was still “Slow” up to the end, and not a husk of misery. That was a terrible lesson I learned with the last 12 hours of Flopette’s life two years ago.
Does this sadness within me come from an unknown evolutionary advantage of some long-past ancestor, or does it arise from something else? I don’t think that can be known.
Slow Top will be missed, and remembered (and remembered by people around the world- quite the accomplishment for a bog-standard little grey tabby. Heck, he even was the source of his own verb to “slow-topify a cat”. He was even on the front page of the Philadelphia Enquirer).
Slow was a cat that acted more like a dog, and thought he was a human. He was “special” in many ways. He had a good run, and now his body now rests in a sunny spot in the garden. RIP Slow.