Hydrox, the Old Coot
(Click on the links to see pictures of Hydrox)
Hydrox was the Old Coot of the RugCats. Hydrox was 20 years old and he had been a RugCat since he was about 5 weeks old. In fact, he was the only RugCat for 15 years. Hydrox (yes, he was named after the cookie) used to be quite the kitty. When he was younger, he liked to walk around the house with a plastic "busy" ball in his mouth. That was his invitation to play. When we'd try to take the ball out of his mouth, he'd growl a little more and swipe at us with his paws.
One time, my aunt gave me some homegrown catnip, which is more pungent than the stuff we could find at the stores. I kept it in a little sandwich bag on the second shelf of the cupboard above the counter in the kitchen. Well, I came home from work one day and found the cupboard doors open, a plastic bag on the floor, and these tiny chewed specks of catnip all over the kitchen. What an experience that cat must have had; he was still in la-la land when I got home! And to the day he left us, that boy loved his catnip.
Hydrox's favorite litterboxes were my plant containers (this was years ago when I STILL had plants!). I tried everything to keep him from peeing in the plants: sharp stones (he just dug around them), toothpicks (he didn't care), aluminum foil (nope, didn't help). Finally, my husband fastened chicken wire around the base of the plants, but high enough out of the soil that he couldn't reach in to dig. Problem solved...and he was back in the litterbox again.
His favorite nap spot was in the bow window in the living room. Many years ago, he trained me not to put anything in that spot. I tried putting a plant in the window; he promptly jumped up and knocked it to the floor. As I cleaned the mess, he walked over and meowed at me, scolding me for even thinking that I could do such a thing. I learned my lesson well. No more plants in the window!
He also had many experiences catching and playing with the field mice that get into our house. For example, very early one winter morning, he jumped into bed. I heard a "squeak, squeak" that could only mean one thing. Screaming hysterically, I jumped out of bed and leaped to the top of the bureau. Yep, that cat brought a LIVE mouse to bed! I guess it was funny to see a grown man trying to kill a little mouse with a shoe...while the man was wearing only his underwear. Our son was doubled over in the bedroom doorway, laughing so hard the tears were rolling down his cheeks. The mouse was running around in the bed. Hydrox finally caught the mouse again. When he had the mouse in his teeth, Rick picked up the cat, hustled out to the kitchen, opened the door and held the cat outside. The chilly air caused Hydrox to gasp and he dropped the poor mouse, who scurried away. Rick and Hydrox came back into the house. It was a LONG time before we went back to sleep that night!!
Hydrox was the only cat we ever knew who could sit up and beg. He could hold the position for quite awhile. He also figured out how to "shake paws." We would hold out a treat and he would put a paw out to "shake" with us. As he got older, he had trouble keeping his balance and stopped begging, but he could always put that paw out for a good shake.
About a year ago in 1999, Hydrox developed a lump in his belly. Because of his age, we were hesitant for him to have an operation to remove the lump. His vet said that it was nothing more than a fatty tumor, or lipoma. No problem. Well, the lump started to grow and once it started, it grew rapidly. Hydrox could no longer jump on the bed or into "his" window. We took him back to the vet, who agreed to run tests. If Hydrox could withstand the anesthesia, his doctor would operate to remove the lump.
Well, in February 2000, Hydrox had the operation. It was a success, even at his age! When he first came home, he sported drainage tubes in his belly and a plastic collar. But he healed quite rapidly and began to make up for lost time. He jumped on everything: the windows, the bed, even the kitchen table. How could we tell him that he couldn't sit on the table? We were just so glad he could even make the jump! He smacked the other RugCats and then he'd run away and I swear he was grinning. He was in such good shape and was getting into all kinds of trouble. When he turned 20 years old on March 19, 2000, we had a little party for him, complete with his favorite tuna and, of course, plenty of catnip.
By the end of March, the lump was back. Not only did it come back, but it divided into several lumps. Hydrox was diagnosed with breast cancer, uncommon in male kitties, but not unheard of. And this time there was no chance of an operation. He was simply too old. The lumps were firmly attached to his abdominal wall. There was nothing we could do, but wait and watch. And that's what we did. We watched those lumps grow and grow. We watched Hydrox become skin and bones. We watched our beloved RugCat become old and fragile. He couldn't jump anymore. He couldn't sit in his favorite window. His rear paws started to drag on the floor as the lumps damaged his nerves.
One day Rick was home and he just sat and watched Hydrox. He took a long look and then he called the vet. The doctor told him that sometimes kitties know there's something wrong, but they don't know what it is. They just know that something isn't right and they know they can't fix it. So they stop eating....they starve themselves to death. Which is exactly what Hydrox was doing. It was time. People told me that we would know when it was time and they were right. We knew and so did Hydrox.
On Thursday, June 29, 2000, Hydrox's vet came to our house. Rick gently took Hydrox and placed him on our bed. His vet injected a sedative so that he would fall asleep. After he was asleep, he was given the injection. Our beloved Old Coot died at 2:06 p.m.
Gone yes, but never forgotten. Although our grief lessens with each passing day, we still miss him so much. We miss his greeting when we come home. We miss his "OK, it's time for breakfast" grunts at 5:30 in the morning. We miss his "Why isn't this water dish full?" meows at night. We dearly miss all those things that we took for granted.
Perhaps the one thing that I will never forget is that he was always there to comfort me when I cried. Several years ago, Rick was in the hospital for an operation and he was very ill. When I would come home from the hospital, I would sit on the couch and just cry like a baby. Hydrox was always there. If he wasn't in my lap, he was sitting next to me on the couch with his paw on my leg, looking up at me with those golden eyes. When he died, I remember thinking that I was in tears and this time he couldn't lie down next to me.
Hydrox was a wonderful companion. From a tiny five-week old kitten to a sleek and shiny adult to a graying Old Coot, he was always The Cat. We have five other kitties, but he will always be the father of all RugCats. He will always be our Old Coot. And we will never forget him. Rest in peace, my beloved furkid.
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