Mr. Big — The Big Story
Re published from Feb 20, 2018 because the publication it was in appears to have been nuked, or they nuked the article.
I was born under the porch of an old house on Shaw Street, in Toronto. I was one of a dozen kittens and I soon learned that the only way to survive was to be the toughest and meanest.
I fought my way through my mewling brothers and sisters to my mothers teat and kicked anyone blocking me out of the way.
I learned to catch mice and birds and anything else small and grew quickly to a respectable size. I weighed in at between 20 and 25 lbs. I also learned to watch out for food left out by neighbours. There were a few in the ‘hood that left scraps out for us stray cats.
Street life is by no means easy, and in order to remain the top cat, I frequently took part in fights. I gave back as good as I got, but sometimes I got really badly messed up.
I was about a year old when I met someone who, unbeknownst to me, would become a true soul buddy ’til the final frontier was crossed.
It was a time when scraps and small edible animals were getting scarce, and I had been in some dandy fights which had left me with some festering and painful wounds on my back. (All worth it, since I vanquished the attackers, defended my place as ruling cat, and won the lady’s heart.)
As I sat on a fence, keeping an eye out for other cats, I heard someone calling out to a new cat that I had seen break out from his home. This new cat was freaked out, so he escaped and was now hiding in the area. His family were also freaked out, so this neighbour offered to help catch the runaway, using food as a bait.
The truly interesting part to me was the smell of cat food being shaken in a bag. You might be surprised to learn how sensitive our sense of smell is — I could smell those treats even in the bag. My stomach growled. I hadn’t eaten a square meal in three days. I found myself drooling.
I followed the bearer of food at a safe distance. Finally he decided to put some down, hoping to entice the runaway … in a flash I saw my opportunity. As soon as the way was clear I snuck down and helped myself. I thought I’d been pretty sneaky, but the man saw me and spoke to me in a kind voice.
My mother had long warned me to keep my distance from people. She said they couldn’t be trusted and that they would hurt us if we got too close. She said a lot of people hate cats, especially street cats.
So I kept well back, but I also kept an eye out for more food. Lucky I did, because in the continued effort to capture the runaway, the man kept on putting food down.
His ploy worked and the stupid runaway fell for the food and allowed himself to be caught and returned to his home.
So that was going to be the end of free food, I figured. Oh well, no such thing as a free lunch. Turns out I was wrong. The man was a sucker and continued to put food out on the porch of his house to help strays in the area.
Naturally, since I was the Big Cat in the neighbourhood, I made sure that I got first dibs on any free food.
At first I would sneak up when no one was there, eat what I wanted and return to one of my lookouts. After a while, however, I would drop by and take my time eating and then hang around close by on one of the fences where I could keep an eye out for new food to arrive. The man would talk to me, but he never tried to touch me or invade my space. He called me Mr. Big, which really was appropriate given my size and social standing.
After a while, I would drop by for food regularly and the man would stand quite close. He noticed the cuts and wounds on my back and he told me he was going to try to fix them.
Next time I came by, he had some weird smelling goop that he dabbed on my cuts with a paper towel. I was too busy eating to do much, but once I finished I took a swipe at him to let him know he was getting too familiar. He backed away, out of claw range, but he kept telling me this goop would help.
As it turned out, he persisted with the goop for several weeks, and I was surprised to find my back felt much better. Not such a bad thing after all.
It’s funny, I didn’t really pay much attention to this at first, but I found that I could understand what the man was saying to me. It was as if he had a special talent for Cat Speak. Maybe he wasn’t like all the others. But, I don’t think he could understand what I said.
I kept on visiting at this house, and he kept leaving food and water out. There were other strays, but they all respected my right to get the food first. No one dared to stand up to me. This place definitely had the best food offerings in the neighbourhood.
One day, a new young cat showed up. He looked a lot like me, much smaller — but otherwise — me. Turns out he was one of my illegitimate sons. I allowed him to eat unmolested. I even kept an eye out when he was eating to make sure he wasn’t pestered by any other cat. We touched noses.
My kid! See how much he looks like me?
They had a wooden bench outside which I used as a new lookout post, instead of only perching on top of fences — the bench was much more comfortable for a cat of my size. I would sit there on the bench and watch the neighbourhood.
When the weather took a turn for the worse and it was wet and cold, my new friend rigged up a sort of shelter for me. I think it was some sort of dog house, but who cares, it was insulated and had straw in it and a blanket over it. He put it on the wooden bench and I could go in it if it was cold and miserable, or sit on top of it and watch over things if the weather was nice.
This is me, on top of my shelter, keeping an eye out for trouble.
I continued to have fights with the other Toms. I always won, but sometimes I got hurt. One day I got a really nasty wound on my left front paw. It began to hurt like the devil. I hobbled over to get food, and thought maybe my friend could help. I stuck my paw out for him to look at. He made tsk sounds when he saw it.
The next day the paw was swollen up more and really hurting. I could barely walk. I managed to make it to breakfast, and once again, I showed my friend the sore paw. He shook his head and said he didn’t like the look of it at all.
The third day I could barely drag myself over to the house and get my food. My friend took one look at the paw and said he was taking me to the vet come Hell or high-water. In my helpless state I did not put up much of a fight as he bundled me into a cat crate.
At the vet, they were shocked at the state of the paw. It had ballooned in size and was badly infected. The vet gave me a shot of long-lasting antibiotic and some steroids and some painkillers. Honestly I don’t remember the return journey, I was out of it. When I woke up, I was in the mudroom of the man’s house. I was free to come out of the crate, but at that time, I was groggy and really wobbly so I stayed in the crate. I just slept for two days. On the third day, my friend opened the door to the outside so I could go out if I wanted. I was feeling better so I did.
I was happy my front paw was feeling better, but I was some mad at my friend for taking me to the vet, so I considered staying away. But hunger took over and I went back for my usual meals there. I have to say, I was never made to feel trapped or that my space was invaded. He just talked to me, and fed me. No pressure.
A horrible thing happened to me when I was 11. The lady who lived in the ‘hood was one of the Spay/Neuter/Release gang. These people go around trapping unwary street cats and getting them fixed, then returning them to the street. So anyway, this lady also left food out for us, and one day she caught me unawares and got me into a crate, off to the vet, and when I came out I was no longer a proud Tom cat, plus they had clipped a piece of my ear — for ID I suppose. How horrible and how embarrassing. I was so mad at her that after she brought me back and released me, I never went to get food at her place again.
I spent more time over on my friends’ porch and on the makeshift house and out in the garden.
This is me lounging on top of my shelter.
This is me lounging around outside.
Then came the worst winter ever. It was freezing cold, ice storms, snow, howling gales. I didn’t know how I would survive this one. My friend however, had been making plans. He knew how much I loved certain cat treats, and by cleverly placing the bowl closer and closer to the door, and finally right in the doorway, he managed to get me. I went for the bowl of treats and he neatly pushed me into the house. You probably think I was really mad at this deception, but you know, even cats get feeling the cold in their bones, and with all the fights I had over the years, I was a bit tired and achey.
So after years of fighting and scraping by on whatever, I became a house cat. Of course there was the adjustment period where the other cats in the home had to learn who was boss. That was easy — my role as Top Cat remained unchanged.
I enjoyed lounging around.
This is me, lounging around outside. I didn’t have any photos of me lounging inside.
My last years passed comfortably in my friend’s company. I realized that he really was my friend, and was always looking out for me.
I was able to return the favour the year he had the operation on his spine. He could only sleep comfortably on the basement couch, so I used to sleep there stretched out beside him, trying to comfort him the way he helped me with my front paw. I allowed one of the other cats, the little one, to sleep there too, knowing it would help. I think we helped him get through that year.
A couple of years ago, they decided to move to the country. This was sad for me because I would no longer be able to look out the window and see the other cats in the ‘hood. On the plus side, my friend thought to build a tall fence around the back yard so I could go outside when I wanted and still enjoy the sun and the smells. That fence wouldn’t been any kind of deterrent in the old days, but these days, I was slowing down and simply did not have the energy to do any clambering and leaping.
So, life was good, except for one notable time.
My hind end and tail fur became very matted, so my friend took it upon himself to get me a shave. Took me to the vet and after slightly sedating me they shaved off my fur from my belly button down my tail and hind legs. On the one hand it felt great not to have those big mats, but on the other hand I REALLY had to restrain myself from biting him when we got back. The indignity of it all!
This is me after the shaving incident. Can you believe how stupid I look? Grrrrrr.
It was the beginning of February 2018 when I started to feel really crappy. My back legs were really hurting, arthritis, I suppose. I know I lost weight. My one eye went funny on me. We visited the vet and they tried a bunch of stuff to see if it would clear up. My friend kind of knew it wasn’t the eye. I lost more weight. My friend told me he felt it was time for me to take that last trip over the last frontier. I knew he was right, I could feel my body shutting down. They — my friend and his lady — took me to the vet for that last trip.
I let him hold me in his arms while the vet gave me a sedative. I could feel the sedative taking me into a gentle drowsy state. My friend held me secure in his arms, me pressed up against his chest, head cradled in the crook of his right arm, my back legs supported on his left arm, and his left hand over my heart. I felt myself getting drowsier and drowsier. The vet gave me that last shot and as I felt myself slipping away, I made one final effort to reach my friend to let him know I loved him. As I left this dimension, I felt his body shudder and I knew he got it.
I’ll be there waiting when it’s his turn.
This is me waiting for my soul friend.
R.I.P. Mr. Big — this is a tribute to a lovely big kitty, who leaves a big hole in the hearts of his friends.You will always be in their hearts
This is me enjoying chilling in the garden.
Last Note: Seen below is Mr. Big’s bench. His guardians brought it from the previous house and installed it at the new place. They plan to have it refurbished and keep it as a memory of Mr. big.
Mr. Big’s Bench.