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Good Bye, Shasta

2023-11-11 8 min read People marco

I was perusing the articles on here and found the one I wrote when my older cat, Mondo died. When the younger one, Shasta died, I wrote a private one but nothing to commemorate her publicly, so here goes.

Cats are weird animals, but they are weird in a way very similar to how humans are. Both of us are social, but not too much. We like interacting with other members of our species, but we also know we are competing with them. We are smart, but not too smart. We are playful, at times too much. We can be hyper, and we can be sleepy.

In short, humans may love cats so much because they are the feline equivalent of us. We love dogs because they love us, but most humans are nothing like dogs - we are not as steadfast, we are not as loyal, we are not as excited in general, and not as excited about each other. Dogs are better than people, if you ask me.

If we love cats because they are like us, then I loved Shasta because she was specifically like me. I am not going to list the attributes that made her like me, because I thought the world of her and I’d end up just sounding like a self-aggrandizing pompous bastard (which she at least wasn’t).

Shasta was a tiny snow Bengal. We got her because Mondo was bored, since everyone worked long hours. He was already seven months old when she arrived, she was barely two months. A giant male Bengal and a tiny kitten. But she was fearless and held her ground, quickly becoming the revered queen of the household.

(It helped that she had claws and the people that owned Mondo before us had him declawed. What a barbaric practice.)

You could immediately see that Shasta was very intelligent and communicative. From an early age, she had a huge vocabulary and could make very precise vocalizations. She was also a huge troublemaker, using her smarts to get into all sorts of mischief. The first Christmas tree she saw was felled in a giant splash of glass ornaments shattered, and the handyman had barely repainted the kitchen that the heating ducts were chirping with her meow: she had gotten herself into them and we raced to find her and coax her out before she went too far or the heat/cold of the day killed her.

In fact, we got her out using the thing she loved most: paper balls. You took a piece of paper, crumpled it up, and threw it on the ground. As soon as she heard the distinctive sound, she’d run. She sounded happy when she chirped from the duct, but as soon as she heard the crumple crinkle, she crawled out and we could scruff and pull her out of harm’s way.

Mondo chased movement, Shasta chased sound. In fact, Shasta’s world was sound-based. She was a luddite: anything electronic that made noises was The Enemy. She was The Vanquisher of Printers, the Destroyer of Roombas. Only the vacuum scared her, and the brief attempt to use an automatic litter box was over as soon as she witnessed the thing move and whir.

Shasta stayed in Los Altos until I moved with the two to San Francisco. From there she flew to Minneapolis with him and stayed a few years. Then they came back to me to San Diego, which they both loved. Mondo made it through three more years, then passed as mysteriously as a cat can: the vet implied I had left him in the car, but Mondo had never left the house.

Shasta was weird in that there wasn’t a single person on the planet she didn’t like, but she was not fond of other cats. She’d get along with Mondo just fine and you’d find them napping with each other all the time, but even when they slept in my bed they preferred opposite sides of me. When he was gone, she didn’t miss a beat. In fact, she loved stealing the food I was giving him while sick.

Two years later, the move to Denver. The first time we drove together, she was in a carrier the entire time and hated every second of it. She meowed loudly, which was very unusual for the normally quietly chirping cat. And she attacked the carrier, trying to get out. About half-way through the ordeal, in Salina UT, I didn’t put her back in (although she made no fuss when I’d try). She immediately quieted down and from then on, Shasta drove with me free.

Shasta loved the new house in Lakewood. It had a tall fence and enclosed garden, so I felt safe letting her out supervised. The previous owners had installed a flap door on the patio, so she could roam alone if she wanted. There were birds of prey, though, and she didn’t want to get out alone, anyway.

Of course, she started her usual mischief. First, she ran off and balanced on the fence on the neighbors’ property, unable to turn around, with two dogs on each side barking at her. That was the last time she tried that.

Next, she managed somehow to snag a bunny that had crawled through the door flap. She was terrifying the poor thing and was mightily upset when I sat her in a closed room while I caught the rabbit and let it outside.

Also, she decided that only tap water was good enough and the only time when she could possibly drink was in the middle of the night. I cannot tell you the number of times I had to get up at 2a or 3a because she trampled on my face and needed fresh water right then and there.

While Shasta loved Denver, something happened in the transition. She got sick in the last days in SoCal and never really recovered. In particular, she would have bad days when she would just hide in a corner and wouldn’t want to know anyone. At first, those bad days were rare and I attributed them to the unfamiliar environment or a spider bite. The vet said she was physically fine and couldn’t find anything wrong with her.

The bad days came more and more often. From once a month, to once a week, to every other day. Shasta was losing weight and the vet said it was time for her to go. I didn’t want it to be true, because there would still be a day, once in a while, when she perked up and was her old self.

But one day she had enough. She walked to the basement, barely able to do so, and never came out.

And I still think about her to this day, almost every day.

The picture that shows above the article was taken in the weeks between moving to Lakewood and finding a house. We were staying at an AirBnB nearby and she did a routine I had taught her, begging for treats by standing on her hind legs and touching my nose with hers.

Shasta, as mentioned, was a very intelligent cat. She loved being challenged and working for treats was more than a trick, it was a way for her to use her brains that she thoroughly enjoyed. I recall the moment, during one of her last days, when I was giving her treats and she refused them. I though she was just not feeling like eating, as was often the case. Instead, after she scoffed at the treat and I walked away dejected, she stood up on her hind legs with her front paws dangling like in the picture. I rushed back and held my nose out for her to touch with hers, and then she took the treat from my hand.

It was such a poignant moment. She was barely able to walk, barely able to move, but she managed to stand on her hind legs because she wanted to play with me, challenge me for her treat. I swear, I thought she was smiling at me after she crunched down. It felt somewhere between “I still got it” and “Thanks for being my friend.”