Nineteen is pretty old for a cat!

Years ago my business partner thought we should get Domino on the David Letterman show.  I didn’t watch Letterman, but his “Stupid Pet Tricks” segment sounded pretty self-explanatory and I agreed that Domino qualified.  She had suddenly developed this habit of sitting on the desk — doing her Egyptian cat statue imitation — and when you would put the corner of a piece of paper in her mouth, she would chomp down on it in one fast motion “stapling” it, so to speak.

She would pretty much do it indefinitely once she started (yes, obviously when we should have been attending to our business, not playing with the cat!) but she wouldn’t always do it. Some days she just looked at the proffered paper and looked at you with “are you crazy?!?” coming through loud and clear.  So we decided we probably shouldn’t pursue Letterman since we couldn’t rely on her willingness to perform on demand.  ;-)

Cat at work

Despite her lack of Letterman fame, she lived a pretty exciting life, for a cat.  She first came into our life with the intention of being the new “office cat” (our previous office cat having gone to the great kitty box in the sky) but the first day I took her in to work, she was SO tiny and helpless looking, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave her there alone overnight, so I took her back out to the car and she rode back home with me.  Thus began her two years of daily commuting.

She’s one of the only cats I’ve ever known who liked riding in the car.  She was never in a carrier, just rode in my lap or on my shoulders and then would sit on my shoulders as we walked up the three flights of stairs to the office, me holding on to her tail to help her balance (and provide a bit of “safety net” just in case it occurred to her to try to jump off my shoulder).  She apparently did feel unsteady up there one day and solved the problem by digging her claws into my shoulder for a better grip.  After that she traveled between car and office in a canvas shopping bag.

Cat in the InBox

Cat in the Scanner

She always loved office equipment — perhaps it was all those hours spent in the office during her formative years.  Many times she was to be found sitting in the printer, on the copier, nestled in my “In Box” trays, and in the pre-laptop days, on top of my computer monitor. (Actually she was perfectly happy to sit on my laptop as well, but I tried to discourage that particular habit.)  Although she seemed quite content with commuting, she seemed even happier all the years when I had my office at home since then she had all that wonderful equipment available to her around the clock.

Retired Domino, asleep in the window

But she wasn’t always an office cat.  Like me, she took early retirement and moved to Costa Rica in 2006. (Although I had to go “back to work” she continued to enjoy her retirement all these years.)  Like all cats, she enjoyed sleeping and spent her days finding odd places to nap.  She was also a great mouser, a quality we valued, living in the country as we did (both in Maine and Costa Rica) although we would have valued it more if she had left her prey outside rather than bringing them into the house.  Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose — we certainly preferred her mousing over any traps or poisons.

Where's Domino? Hint, look UP.

She only fell down on the job once, in Costa Rica, when our “skinny-tailed chipmunk” population exploded. She valiantly caught a couple of them, but the fact that they largely stayed in the space between our walls and roof (which in a large A-frame house like ours is practically the entire thing!) seemed to inure her to them eventually and we had to resort finally to a Rat-Zapper.  But everyone’s entitled to one failure during their career, right?

Domino enjoyed Costa Rica, although the “wildlife” in the area gave us concern, especially as she grew older (and older), and we worked hard to be sure she was safely in at night.  We were happy once we got to Utah to let her spend her final time primarily as an indoor cat, which seemed to suit her fine.  (She actually did go outside a few times, but seemed quite content to come back in pretty quickly and never strayed far from the house.)  She did develop one odd habit upon our return to the states — perhaps not all that odd in-and-of-itself, but odd to develop it suddenly at 17-1/2 years of age.

Cozy kitty

She started sleeping on my head.  Not just on my pillow, but literally draped over my head — a cat-hat, as it were.  It wasn’t too much of a problem, although when I would get up at night, the sudden absence of my head to mold herself around seemed to cause her to lose her structural integrity and “ooze” so that by the time I got back to bed — just a few moments later! — she pretty much filled up my entire pillow which is a pretty good feat for a 6 pound cat.  There’s something surprisingly comforting about a cat draped over your head.

Cat in the box

Don't tape this box up yet!

She loved sitting in boxes, baskets, bowls — most anything like that.  The box habit always made it challenging to pack whenever we were moving.  Many a time we went to put things into the box, only to discover it was already inhabited by a cat.  And should you go back later on to seal up the box, well, you’d better be sure you checked it well before taping it closed.

Any open vessel was fair game

As you might have guessed — perhaps cleverly noting my use of past tense verbs — Domino decided that being 19 was quite old enough, thank you very much.  We had thought that perhaps she was trying to match the 20-year lifespan of her predecessor, the original gray tabby “Domino” that I had grown up with, but either she can’t count as well as one might like, or she just decided that was a foolish competition.

We will miss her terribly, but are also grateful that she never seemed to be ill, didn’t suffer, but rather simply chose to celebrate her 19th birthday by rejoining the rest of our departed 2- and 4-legged family on the other side.

(Okay, a small disclaimer, we don’t really know the exact date of her birth, so I’ve taken a little poetic license, but if it wasn’t literally on her birthday, it was damn close, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Nineteen is pretty old for a cat, and we were blessed to have that long with her.

I miss my cat-hat, though.

And it just goes to prove that you’re never too old to cry yourself to sleep.

Domino and the Nutcracker. Notice the crown molding — she's nearly up at ceiling level!

Hot-headed cat!

Former enemies, now friends

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12 Responses to Nineteen is pretty old for a cat!

  1. Julie Rea says:

    What a nice “eulogy” for a special cat. Yes, as soon as I saw the title I figured she had gone. She was a character all right. She sure did love to talk! You have our sympathy. J&J

  2. Deanna Allen says:

    What a loving way to remember your special member! Sorry for your loss but you have so many wonderful memories. Hugs

    • arden says:

      Thanks, Deanna. Yes although writing this was sad, I also had a great time looking through old pictures, remembering funny things she’d done, so that was nice.

      hugs back,

  3. Martha B. Higgins says:

    Arden, so sorry to hear of Domino’s passing. You were so lucky to have had her for 19 years. Losing so many family members in such a short time is difficult, but I hope you will find a new ‘cat-hat’ when you’re ready to love and take care of.
    From raising many kittens I’ve found that if you drive them around regularly when they are young, as you did with Domino, they will be just fine in the car. I used to take them and their mama in a box from when they were just a week old, load them in the car, and take them all on critter patrol (looking for deer, fox, rabbits, and beavers) through Acadia. All of the cats I’ve raised from kittens have been fine car travelers.
    Love and hugs to you and Domino.

    • arden says:

      Thanks, Martha. You know, Domino’s “car riding” started without any real thought or planning, but now that you say that, I realize that we should, indeed, make a point to make the next kitties in our life be good car travelers too. (Sure makes things easier on the occasions when they *need* to go in the car!) Yes, I think I’ll give it just a little time, but then will for sure get a new cat-hat, maybe even a pair of kittens. Domino has had kitty-mates most of her life, but when we lost the last one down in Costa Rica (some years ago now) it seemed she was too old to make her adjust to any more new kitties. So… in time.

      hugs back,

  4. Sheryl McGlamery says:

    Arden, I’m so sorry to hear about Domino. I was just thinking about her the other day and was going to inquire. I’m glad I got to meet her. A long and happy life, that’s all we can ask for. My thoughts are with you. XO, S. (Miss you guys!)

    • arden says:

      Hi, Sheryl,

      Yes, I was recently thinking that you’d be interested to know that she was *still* with us! I know you have a special place in your heart for kitties, too. Thanks for your kind words. (And we miss you guys too!)


  5. Vikki Riggle says:

    Arden, we know all about having a slew of kitties and doggies waiting for us on the other side. It’s always heart-wrenching when they leave us. But I know that when I reach the Rainbow Bridge, I will have a HUGE family waiting there to love me and lick me to joyful tears. Hugs.

    • arden says:

      Hi, Vikki,

      Yes, we too feel like there’s gonna be a BIG welcoming committee there — between our 2-legged family and a large group of our 4-legged family, it actually pretty-much removes any fear of death (other than obviously wishing to see as much as possible of our wonderful grandchild/ren grow up!) since there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s some good stuff waiting for us there. ;-) But for us still here on earth, it is indeed heart-wrenching! Thanks for your kind comments.

      Love to you all (you, André, and the critters!),

  6. Hi Arden,
    This was probably my favorite post of yours. Domino was a sweet kitty and much loved. I know you will miss her.

    • arden says:

      Hi, Gloria,

      I remember so well when you were newly arrived in Costa Rica and faced the loss of your treasured Cleo. I know you knew and loved Domino too, and we will, indeed, miss her. As I’ve said before, there is a totally bizarre (and obviously “counter-intuitive”) THING that happens when a kitty lives to be so old (comparatively speaking) — instead of expecting them to “go” at any time, you go the other way and start thinking they’ll live forever. ;-) OBVIOUSLY not true, but still there’s this shock when they’re suddenly (!) gone. Thanks for your kind words. We miss you guys!


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