Stray cat Mems adopted us one Memorial Day, and took over as family cat of all trades. The first task he accepted was to help raise our kids. He walked them to the school bus each morning, and was there waiting for them when the bus returned. When a family member was sick, he sat on the bed all day and slept there all night.
He played catch with the kids. He was the family champ at paw ping pong. He caught mice, rabbits and squirrels and brought them home for us, and wondered why we didn’t join him in eating the fresh catch.
Naturally, being a cat, Mems was independent, and didn’t want to be pampered. If one of the kids tried to put a costume on him, he’d give a disgusted look for a few seconds and then shake it off. We tried to give him fancy cat food, but he always ignored it because he considered freshly-prepared fish, chicken or beef from our table as his rightful due as a family member. And he got it. He came and went as he pleased, outdoors and indoors, and that was pampering enough for him.
When the kids were graduated from high school and went off to college, Mems seemed lost for awhile. He kept looking for them, but eventually realized he still had important duties with the aging parents. He no longer had duties to wake the kids on school mornings by jumping up on the bed by pawing their faces. Now he did it to me to make sure I got to work on time. Mems also walked me down the steps just in case the old guy had forgotten during the night where the kitchen was located.
Mems was 18 years old when the kids left, and despite his duties with the parents, be began to slow down. He couldn’t go up the stairs quite as fast. Sometimes he needed help getting up on the couch he wasn’t supposed to get up on. His muzzle turned grey, and his once bright eyes dimmed a bit. He didn’t want to go outside anymore, and for the first time in his long life he experienced the humiliation of being forced to use a sand box instead of the neighbors’ shrubbery and easy-to-dig flower gardens.
As Mems slowed down, we decided it was time for him to be pampered a bit for a lifetime of loyalty and expert child-raising. Because he couldn’t roam any more, we decided to bring the outside in. In our basement rec room we spread out the fake lawn matting and miniature town from an old train set, giving Mems a colorful exercise route.
We made a three-level miniature house with the addition of some plastic slides and monkey bars. I placed the contraption so that the upper level was a few inches away from the top step of the basement stairs. That way, Mems could ease his way easily downward and upward to have access to the rest of our home whenever he wanted to.
We worked for a week on the construction with the basement door closed. We wanted to complete it before Mems saw it. On debut day, we enticed Mems to the door with some well-placed hot dog slices. He walked gingerly on to the top level, picking up a slice at a time. hesitated a bit and then made his way down to the lower level. Obviously, he was pleased to have his very own retirement condo.
Mems lived another three years, and one morning we found him peacefully deceased in his private quarters. We still miss Mems, a loyal and true member of our family.