Charlotte 1998-2012
Click here for George's biography of Charlotte.
After thirteen years of love and life with us, Charlotte died Feb. 20 of renal failure.

She was, as George said, a spectacular cat. One day she jumped up on the bed with a bit of thick cord in her mouth and dropped on it his lap. He tossed it off the bed and she flew after it, setting up a game she played every chance she could when she was little. More than once she had to be extricated from a ficus tree she just had to climb. Her early days were full of adventure.

Charlotte and Emily came to Wilmette in late 1998 from Felines Inc.
They were very little girls with big ears! These are pictures from December 1999.

Charlotte spent lots of time upstairs hitting the books.

But she also liked to flop around on the porch.

Classic Charlotte (2001)

She loved the porch in most weather (2005)

She also loved the Christmas tree (2005 above, 2011 below)

She was at home everywhere, on the dining table, the coffee table, any doorway (2009 and 2007)
Charlotte loved the sunshine indoors. Here she is in September 2011
And she was ever vigilant of her water dish, which she loved to try to overturn.
Anybody would miss such a beautiful, friendly, willful creature, and we know we will.
The last picture, January 2012.
Charlotte had taken to sleeping in this big shoebox just outside my office.
Rest well, Charlotte, and thank you for your wonderful life!

Remembering Charlotte (1998-2012)
George R. Paterson

The kittens Starkat and Lala were cage-mates (not yet released into the general population) at the Felines, Inc. shelter. They may also have been litter-mates (sisters), though no one was really sure. Born in June of 1998, they came to live with us about six months later on Nov 31, and were rechristened Charlotte and Emily. We hoped they’d be close pals, and at first they would sometimes curl up in a basket or on the cat tree together, but soon they went their separate ways. Charlotte, the calico, entirely abandoned the cat tree, which became the exclusive domain of Emily, the tabby. Charlotte preferred just to sprawl on the bed for her naps. And they pretty much ignored one another.

Charlotte was in all ways a marked contrast to timid, reclusive Emily. Fearless and adventuresome, wanting to climb, probe, investigate, always ready to make trouble, Charlotte had to be closely watched for her own safety. More than once I stopped her, just in time, from leaping from the headboard into the upturned dish of the halogen torchiere lamp. She got her paws pinched when she stood on two legs, unseen, beneath an open dresser drawer, and again when she tried to run through a closing storm door at the last moment. Oh, the howls! And oh, the guilt I felt for not having been more attentive!

She had her special projects: one was to push and drag her water dish across the floor, slopping water everywhere as she went. Similarly, if I happened to leave my watering can on the floor with some water in it, she would noisily drag it around and make determined efforts to overturn it. I finally constructed a wooden frame around the water dish, and attached it to the baseboard with screen-door hooks.

The frame for the water dish succeeded, but I didn’t do so well with the answering machine. She would constantly march across it, either turning it off or triggering its message announcements—often when I was trying to sleep. My efforts to shield it didn’t work, so this was one nuisance I just had to put up with.

As a kitten, Charlotte would get her paws under the double doors to the living room and tug and pull and wrestle with them until they finally popped open, despite their built-in spring catch. I finally bought a little brass latch and installed it to keep her from muscling her way into the room when I wasn’t around.

Newspaper, magazines, books, etc. that were left on the bed were rarely safe from her shredding efforts, and she could get quite cross if I moved to intervene. I still own several objects that bear traces of her destructive impulses. At night, if there were any such things on the bed, I had to make sure they were covered with a protective pillow or a folded blanket before I went to sleep. The screen door to the back porch ended up thoroughly shredded, and there was no point in having it rescreened.

All these antics could be mightily annoying when they happened--so much so that at one point I drew up a list headed “Great Things about Charlotte” as a way of reminding myself of her virtues when I was feeling especially peeved with her. The list had half a dozen points, starting with “She’s a perfect angel about having her claws trimmed.” I don’t remember what the other points were, and have long since lost the list, but I do recall much to love. There was her endearing and warmly comforting habit of draping herself over my right arm as I sat up in bed reading. It could make turning the pages of the newspaper and refolding them nearly impossible, but I’d suffer the inconvenience at length rather than dislodge her and lose her cozy, purring warmth. Or she’d climb up on my chest to get scratched and petted, often at inconvenient times. Eventually we had an agreed signal that it was time to dismount. All I had to do was touch my thumbs lightly to her front “armpits,” as if to lift her, and she’d instantly take the hint, climb down, and sprawl nearby.

And there was her wonderful sociability. How often she would simply stretch out at the far end of the dinner table while we ate, just wanting to be part of the experience. Usually, it wasn’t about begging for food—though she did some of that as well. And if she prowled the table, we had to watch that her tail didn’t get singed by a candle. But mostly, she’d just lie there quietly while we ate, content to be part of a nightly family ritual.

Allen has reminded me of a time when we returned from a trip and Charlotte went racing wildly around, streaking across the bed, zipping into closets and out again, and generally acting berserk. He says I called it her “welcome home dance.” I think that was self-flattery on my part, though. More often when we showed up it was more like “Oh, you again?”

Charlotte was laid low by unexplained illnesses on more than one occasion. One of the earliest was In July of ’02, when she was 4. She went off her food and began keeping to herself at the back of a closet. The vet found she had a fever and kept her overnight, giving her antibiotics, appetite stimulants, and feedings with a syringe. When she was released the next morning, she meowed loudly and continuously throughout the ride home and continued meowing nonstop for at least 30 minutes after she was back in the house. Grouching about the ordeal she’d been through? Or rejoicing at being home again? Whatever it was, she couldn’t have been more vocal about it.

At some point in her later years, her behavior patterns changed in very odd ways. In the mornings when I got up, she stopped running out to the feeding area with Emily. Emily would get her canned food, but Charlotte would simply wait on the bed for me to return with my coffee and newspaper, and then she’d drape herself on me. Was she eating? Had she filled up during the night on dry food (always available)? Whatever she was eating, she did it covertly now, and I couldn’t tell when or how much. The dry food bowl gradually emptied, but were Emily and Masetto partly responsible? Other odd behaviors: curling up for long periods next to her water dish, often with her head resting on the bowl, or lying next to the upstairs litter box, again for long periods. For perhaps a year before she died (maybe longer) she started peeing outside the box, especially upstairs, a habit which Allen handled with remarkable forbearance and patience. In the last weeks of her life she developed a sudden fondness for sleeping on my headboard, either on the side where I sleep, under the reading lamps (for the warmth?), or on the other side, atop the chest next to the armoire. In all her previous years, these had never been her preferred perches.

I recently came across the following account of an illness she went through in 2010:

Charlotte had a clean bill of health at the vet’s December 14, 2009. She seemed her normal self through Feb. 4, 2010. On Fri., Feb. 5 a furnace man comes to replace the old furnace. At some point in the morning, C. goes upstairs and crawls under Allen’s bed, presumably taking refuge from the strange voices and loud noises. By 6:30 pm she hasn’t emerged, and Allen verifies that she’s still under his bed. While we eat dinner, she comes out (around 7:15), accepts some petting, and possibly eats some of Masetto’s food. We go downstairs and watch a movie, but she doesn’t come down. I leave the back door ajar when I go to bed, but she stays upstairs all night—which she’s never done before.

Sat., Feb 6 She remains upstairs all day. Allen reports that she comes out to eat a little something and urinates (outside the box, as she does so often now). After we have dinner, I carry her downstairs and put her down next to her food bowls. She appears to eat a little. Later, I find she has gone back upstairs, as I had left the door open. We again watch a movie downstairs, and about 10:30 or so, Allen brings her back down and puts her on the bed, where she remains until early Sunday am.

Sun., Feb 7. When I get up at 4 to go to the bathroom, C. leaves the bed and goes to the food area where, I assume, she eats or drinks a little something (though I don’t monitor it). Later, she gets back on the bed, unaided. She is sluggish and largely unresponsive when petted. She lies on the bed all day, barely moving. In the past she has always climbed on me or flopped against me as I read the paper in bed, but nothing like that happens today. In the evening she gets off the bed and moves stiffly to the food area. I watch what she does this time. She may have drunk a little water, but she doesn’t eat anything. She gets back on the bed unaided. When Allen comes down to watch a movie, she moves closer to him and rests her head on his hand. She remains

on the bed all night, so far as I can tell, and her breathing is uncharacteristically shallow and inaudible. I fear I may find her dead in the morning.

Mon, Feb 8. She’s still with us when I get up, but barely responsive. When I come out of the bathroom from shaving, she’s lying on the kitchen floor and gives a few hoarse meows. I open a can of tuna and give her a small amount, and she stands and eats most of it. She is moving stiffly around the room when I leave for our morning walk. On my return at 8:15 or so, she’s back on the bed, dozing. She’s still there when I leave for Felines, Inc. at 12:15, and still in the same spot when I return around 3:00, and still there when we leave for Carmen at 5:30, and still there when we return at 10pm. She leaves the bed then and comes to the kitchen, accepts a few morsels of tuna, and returns to the bed (I help her up).

Tues, Feb 9 As I’m fixing Emily’s breakfast, Charlotte comes to the kitchen. I give her some tuna, which she accepts. Then she returns to the bed. I call Dr. Rahn, who says to bring her right in. Dr. R. finds she has a very high fever and keeps her to give her IV fluids and antibiotics and to get blood and urine samples. She recovers.

Allen says that after this episode I remarked “I don’t know why I gave up on Charlotte.” I was shocked to hear him say this, but on reflection, I realize that I had given up on her. I thought this was going to be her final illness, and more than once thought it would be merciful if she were simply to pass away quietly in her sleep. I didn’t call the vet sooner, as I thought nothing would be served by having her hauled around and subjected to poking and prodding. In fact, I think I had given up on the vet as well.

A year later, on 1/3/2011, when she had her annual exam and rabies shot, her weight was 16 ½ lbs. and she received a clean bill of health.

10/17/2011 We discovered an unexplained wound in her side, very nasty looking. Dr. Hagedorn immediately said “that’s a bite,” but we felt sure it wasn’t. Neither Emily nor Masetto was ever a biter, and their occasional spats never amounted to much more than hissing and some batting of paws. We gave her antibiotics twice a day for several days, sponged the area with hydrogen peroxide to keep it clean, and and it healed up nicely--but we never had an explanation of its cause. Note: Dr. H. didn’t weigh her at this visit. If he had, we might have had some warning of what was coming, though we couldn’t have changed it.

About ten weeks later, on 1/4/2012 she went for her annual exam and rabies shot. Weight 10 lbs! She had lost 40% of her body weight in the course of a single a year. Dr. Rahn determined that her kidneys were failing, and told us there was no way to reverse the process.

After this, her decline was swift. By the time we decided we should end her suffering, she was practically a walking corpse—and smelled like one, too. I could tell if she was in a room the minute I entered, simply by the smell. She had discharge all over her nose and mouth, left black stuff in the bottom of the water bowl, and was generally withdrawn, and yet—despite taking no nourishment--she still mustered the will to get herself up the stairs and up on the bed without help (though sometimes it took more than one attempt). She plugged on. As Allen said, “She had heart.” She did, indeed.

Plainly, though, her condition was wretched, and she wasn’t going to rally. On Friday, Feb 17, I asked Allen to help me dig a grave for her, as the weather was mild and the ground wasn’t frozen. I wanted to have a place prepared, lest a sudden cold snap should make digging impossible when a grave was needed. He made a place for her under our hawthorn tree, near the spot where Musetta was buried fourteen years ago.

Next day, we decided the time had probably come. At a few minutes past 1 pm I called the vet’s office to make arrangements for her final visit, only to find that on Saturdays they closed at 1 pm. That meant waiting till Monday, and even then perhaps finding no immediate slot available. So we turned to BluePearl, the 24-hour vet in Northbrook. I called them and made inquiries, but didn’t yet make an appointment.

Her last morning, Sunday, Feb 19. When I wake, she’s hunched over her water dish, and some of the black stuff she produces is at the bottom of the dish. Offered tuna, she shows no interest. She finds the determination to go upstairs, but again rejects tuna when Allen offers it. I call BluePearl again, and they take my information and tell us to come any time. A little before 10, we set out for the their offices. It’s a clear, bright, sunny day, about 32 degrees. Charlotte is calm, and I stroke her the whole way.

At the vet, she seems alert and curious to look around. She is taken from us briefly and fitted with an IV cuff. Also, they offer to make an impression of her paw, which we accept, so they prepare that behind scenes as well. Then they bring her back and she lies in my lap, wrapped in a T-shirt that I slept in and brought along as a wrap so that something of me would go into the grave with her. Around the T-shirt, they have wrapped a fuzzy Humane Society blanket that they’ve provided. The vet explains the 3 shots she’ll receive: first a saline solution to clear the line, then a sedative, and finally the one that will stop her heart. Almost the moment the second shot begins, she lays down her head in sleep. Soon, it’s all over.

She’s still warm when we get her home. We discard the corrugated coffin box in which they returned her to us, I replace the fuzzy blanket with some blue checked cloth I had laid out beforehand, and we put her to rest in the grave that Allen dug on Friday. By 11 o’clock we’ve covered her over and said our final goodbyes. Our 13 ½ years with Charlotte have wound to an end.