Slinky was born in Scipio Center, NY to “Matty” Rowlands and the neighbor’s orange tabby barn cat in the spring of 1997. He was named for his resemblance to the toy – gray with black stripes – and also for the way he’d slink around when stalking a toy, a mouse, or trying to sneak away when he got into trouble. He migrated to Cambridge, MA in a box in the back of an old Volvo station wagon to find his fortune in a new home with me, though he did enjoy weekend visits back to his “old stomping grounds” for a few years. Upon arriving in Cambridge, despite the long and confusing journey, as soon as he set foot on the living room carpet, he began to purr. As a kitten he loved to play, and especially liked to chase paper balls and attack my toes as I was starting to wake up in the morning. He was eventually trained not to sleep on my neck and to wait until those toes started wiggling before waking me up in the morning. He was my companion every day during the year I lived on Columbia Street, greeting me at the door of my apartment after I returned from work, making my first apartment feel like a home. He made peace with the other cats who came into his life while living on Essex Street, but preferred to be an “only cat.”
Slinky was not keen on being displaced as the man of the house when Brian started spending time with me, but Brian was able to win him over by taking over daily feedings. “Oh, this is the man that feeds me!” he would think. Eventually he let Brian manhandle him and play “kitty on the ceiling.” Later in his life, Slinky had a prescription filled under the name “Slinky Judd” – we joked that he also done some exotic dancing under that name. We took it as proof that he had truly adopted Brian as part of his family.
During his middle age, Slinky lived in Newburyport and earned his keep by catching several mice – one he consumed, the others kept to present to us as trophies. He would drool when excited, whether that was about meeting someone new, getting scritches under his chin, or just being petted while resting on one of our shoulders. He especially loved the blue wing-back recliners, sitting on top of them to have a view of the whole room. He had to be satisfied with this view, after he’d climbed one of the exposed beams one day and we found him at eye level, which caused us to cover the posts with bubble wrap to prevent him from scratching them to pieces. He also liked to intimidate the squirrels in the back yard, staring at them through the french doors in the fireplace room (and scratching the screens, necessitating a change to plexiglass on the lower panel).
Slinky was lactose intolerant but loved butter. We would leave a covered butter dish out on the counter, and come back to find the lid askew. Finally Brian asked me why I couldn’t put the lid on straight. I told him that I always straightened it, and had been wondering why he couldn’t keep the butter dish covered properly. We looked at each other, and then looked at Slinky, who was not-so-innocently licking his lips and paws. From then on, the butter dish was kept out of reach of the kitty.
When we moved to Chelmsford, Slinky made himself at home, sleeping in various bedrooms but most often being found on that same blue wing-backed chair. His new nemesis was the chipmunk who would come up on the deck to partake in the grease from the grill – Slinky would scowl from safely behind the sliding glass doors. Slinky found a new favorite spot, sitting in the open window in the sun room on a warm breezy day, letting the curtains billow behind him. He was patient and hospitable in welcoming Isaac and recently Ezra to the household. He was always gentle and patient, never minding the antics of the boys, and stepping gingerly over the legos that now littered the floor. Isaac’s first word was “kT” (kitty). Slinky even allowed Ezra to grab a tuft of fur to learn about “fuzzy” and “soft” things. Over the years Slinky’s fur became more gray and his black stripes were barely visible. As he grew older he became like many old men, picky about his food and where he did his “business” but also more welcoming of new people. Instead of hiding during parties, Slinky would come out to find the person who least liked cats (especially if they were wearing a dark outfit that would show off his shedding fuzzy furr), hop up on their lap, and attempt to make a new friend.
This past year, he also grew to love people food. He would sneak into the dining room and brazenly jump up on the table after we’d eaten, especially while we were upstairs getting Isaac ready for school or bedtime, to drink some milk from Isaac’s cereal bowl, lick a platter of hamburger juice, or nibble on some cheese.
Though we don’t exactly know the cause of death, Slinky had not been eating and had gotten more lethargic the last few days. I took him to the vet today to see if there was anything we could do. His temperature was low and she had trouble getting a blood sample. She gave him some IV fluids to try to perk him up. His breathing was labored when we got home and he didn’t want to come out of his carrier. He passed away this afternoon sitting in a sunbeam next to his favorite blanket, with Brian and I nearby. We are comforted to know that he received extra brushing, petting, a treat, and a finger-full of butter in his last days.
Arrangements are still being considered, but for now Slinky is curled up in a soft towel in a cozy cardboard box. He always did love exploring a new box. He came into my life in a box, and now is ready to depart in one. Rest in peace little furry friend.
A gallery of photos can be found here.