Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Despite having little to do this summer, I haven't blogged very much with the exception of a bunch of posts sitting in a draft folder. One thing I wanted to write about was Friskey. He was my family's cat from 1993 until, sadly, 2014.

I received Friskey as a gift from my brother in mid December 1993. Our family, specifically Jeff, had a cat prior to that. He name was Charlie and he was a "passing gift" for Jeff successfully completing grade 2. Unfortunately Charlie vanished in November 1993. We eventually learned in spring of the following year that he had been hit by a car, ran under the neighbour's patio, and died. How did we learn that? Well, we received a phone call five months later from the neighbours, who had found a dead cat under their patio and remembered that we had lost ours as I was allowed to take a day off school to stuff Lost Cat flyers in numerous mailboxes.

In mid December I was still in a sad funk over Charlie's disappearance. According to the handy family video, I was moping in my room, and Jeff came in with an unnamed kitten and gave him to me. Apparently he had been in the house for a couple of days already but had been hidden from me.

Unnamed kitten eventually became Friskey, inspired by his high energy levels and love for running and jumping. Furthermore, he eventually was fully named Friskey J. R. Charlie Garfield MacPhail Jr., which is what happens when you let an indecisive 11 year old have the responsibility of naming anything.
Still tiny!
About a year after his arrival in the MacPhail, Friskey (and Jeff!) were responsible for the worst scar I have. Sitting at the bottom of the stairs I was attempting to snuggle a very independent and wild Friskey. Success level of snuggles was probably only 4 out of 10, which would be pretty good for Friskey at that age. However, Jeff decided to sneak up and scare us both and I still have a nice three-inch scar across my thigh. There was a smaller one below it, but it has mostly faded over time. Also, you know how band-aids are the cure all for some children? While perhaps band-aids did the trick when I was young, at some point in grade 6 I graduated onto an ankle wrap being used every time I "hurt" myself. Perhaps slightly attention seeking on my part? Feeling like I had somehow missed out by never actually breaking/spraining anything?

The second worst scar I have was also influenced by Friskey. I was sitting in my bedroom doing homework or something, (something = watching a combination of the Family Channel, i.e., shows I was likely too old for, and re-runs of 90210, a show I was likely too young for) and Friskey wandered into my room as he often did. My desk was below my bedroom window which hadn't been opened since the previous fall and it was likely April or May at that point. Remembering how cats enjoy sitting on window sills (a fact heavily supported by research I'm sure) I tried to open my window for Friskey. It wouldn't budge. Instead of pushing up on the frame of the glass, I pushed up on the glass, and then pushed my hand through the glass, leaving a nasty gash on my wrist. I remember screaming, and then wondering why my parents didn't come running, but I was probably just being loud and annoying that day and they thought, "Oh fantastic, she's being loud and running around with the cat again."

Fast forward 2-3 years and another desk incident takes place, this time with Friskey as the wounded. At some point during junior high candles became the go-to gift amoung girls. Having a slightly irrational fear of fire, I never really partook in the trend. I received one candle as a birthday gift and it was kind of neat: burgundy, sort of wrapped around itself wax, and stars wedged into it. Did I ever light it? Not for at least a few months. Then, one day we were sent home early from school because of the weather (hello, snow). I decided I would bravely light my candle. I don't remember how I actually lit it. It probably took 20 minutes of me sweating and trying to light a match, a task that, today, still causes me a great deal of stress. Anyway, somehow the candle was burning. I didn't hear Friskey come into my room, and then he jumped up onto my desk as he always did, but landed on top of the candle. I, of course, panicked, but acted responsibly and blew out the tiny flame on his fur and then tried to hug him a lot. For him, the hugging was probably more stressful than the fire, which was quite tiny and just left a few pieces of fur singed on the end.

Initially Friskey was going to be an indoor cat, particularly after the final incident with Charlie. However, Friskey wanted to go outside. Eventually we let him go outside on a long rope and harness, which was cute. The cute part was us thinking this would be adequate. Friskey would hold his breath while we were putting on the belly part of his harness and make himself as big as possible, to the point we could barely snap it shut. We would let him outside and about thirty seconds later, see him wandering down the driveway heading out on an adventure. You see, once he was outside he would exhale, instantly become smaller, and then back out of the harness and head down the street. In contrast, if Michu, current cat, gets off his harness he immediately comes to me. Oh, him.

There was much contrast between the first tens years of Friskey's life versus the last ten. While the shift was not immediate, it was evident. He used to torment my younger cousins by conveniently blocking doorways they wanted to go through; he knew they were all scared of him. He wasn't much for snuggles, although I tried (thus annoying him and probably making him hate people even more). I would try to lock him in my room overnight so that he would be forced to sleep with me. He would sleep for a little bit (under the bed, or on the bed but as far from me as possible), but eventually wake me up by knocking many things off my dresser: earrings, hair elastics, and then heavier things, like my alarm clock.

Friskey was rather fiesty. We had him declawed at a very young age because he scratched excessively. Maybe we should had just left him alone more, but I was a teenager and needed my cat to love me and hug me or something else he clearly hated. When we went to visit him at the Vet College after his operation, he had a sign on his cage: Danger, Attack Cat. I thought it was hilarious, but in retrospect he probably had a few issues and hated people. He hissed frequently and wouldn't let any other cats ever visit our yard, with one exception being his cat friend next door (had many years to get used to the idea of having a friend, so it was eventually okay for Felix to visit). To go along with his unfriendly attitude he also liked to play rough and enjoyed chasing Jeff and I through the house.
Picture time with Friskey
He mellowed out a lot in decade two. Eventually he would purr and let you hold him for awhile when you came home. He would sometimes sleep in bed with you. Although he was becoming nicer, he still enjoyed his rough play and chasing.

There were, of course, signs that he was getting older, but it really wasn't overly evident until the past few years. The eyes became glassy, he became even nicer (whaaat?), and he lost his hearing. He would usually know when you were around though, even if he was asleep, like he could feel your steps through the floor. I always felt bad waking him up if he was in a deep sleep as he would be quite startled, but instantly content for some company.

Eventually he stopped grooming himself very much. It took a lot of energy and the bumps on his tongue were gone, so he probably couldn't actually groom himself. He was still sharp, but started to look old with his changed eyes and unkempt fur. Eventually his hind legs and hips seemed to get weaker and weaker. He would still go outside and enjoy himself, but slept more often.

Last  year we celebrated his 20th birthday. We didn't typically celebrate Friskey's birthday, but we invited all the people he tolerated (i.e., us), and let Friskey eat some cake, knowing it would likely be his last birthday. Also, who knew that cats adore carrot cake?!

Cake?! Gimmie!
Friskey continued to be pretty good until April, when he hurt his back legs jumping off my parents' bed. It really put in perspective how lucky we were that Friskey had been in pretty good health for so long. He did get a bit better after that incident, but it was apparent that it was the beginning of the end. My parents went away shortly after that incident and one day I was at their house sitting with Friskey outside. He was walking up a step and I reached out to pat him. He wasn't ready for the 'force' of the pat and tipped over off the side of the step into the garden mulch below. I felt terrible and burst into tears. He looked up at me with pieces of dirt on him slightly flabbergasted. It was like he realized he was getting old and would have to be more careful. Except he wasn't more careful and continued to try and do everything he used to do. He was often successful, but would still sometimes tip over. It was so sad seeing him get worse. And of course, the dilemma, how bad can we let him get before we take him to the vet for his final moment? That sad day was June 30th, also etched in history as my last day of work. I didn't go on that trip to the vet with him, and perhaps I should have. But he had my mum and dad there, and I would had been bawling and probably struggling to breath properly in and out of a brown paper bag, like they inexplicably do on television.

I still miss Friskey. Three months later it still feels strange going to my parents house and not having him come greet me at the door. He used to sit by the front window by our door so you could see him sleeping or watching when arriving or leaving. I still feel like he's going to try and sneak out the door when I leave, still expect his purrs to greet me.

When I see families with older pets I always get a little sad. It reminds me of Friskey and how much we loved him and how sad we all were when it was time to say good bye. I also feel sad for the pet's human family members, knowing that they will have to say good bye someday, maybe soon. But although there is always sadness at the end, Friskey was our little baby for so many years and gave me so much happiness. And although he wasn't always very loving, I know he was happy too.

Your food... I need it.