Scooter the Siamese Cat: April 10,1982 – May 4, 2005

I can't believe he is gone. Scooter succumbed to kidney failure on Wednesday, May 4, after a long, tough fight. Ann and I were with him when he died.

Scooter's grave We buried Scooter in our back yard, wrapped in blue velvet, under a Dogwood tree that he used as a scratching post. His grave is marked by three large stones.

Throughout the final weeks of his decline, Ann was his guardian angel, making sure he was never alone, feeding him by dropper day and night, and injecting him with painkiller when he needed it.

Veterinarian Kimberly Stagmeier made numerous visits to our home. She had prescribed a number of homeopathic remedies for Scooter over the last several years, which helped him live to a ripe old age. (Scooter had his 23rd birthday on April 10.)

Now there's a huge void in our home. Scooter's mischief and antics were a great source of joy and laughter for us as well as our families and friends. We are having a hard time accepting that he's gone, on several levels. He had been with Ann for half of her life. I met Scooter on my first date with Ann – I had never liked cats and he changed my mind immediately. He created so many wonderful memories for us over the years that will stay with me as long as I live.

I feel very fortunate to have known him for 14 years.

Scooter the Siamese Cat Is 23 Years Old

Scootbirthday23 On April 10 we celebrated Scooter’s 23rd birthday. He dined on rotisserie chicken and was coddled all day.

At 23 in human years, Scooter is about 115 years old in cat years. His spirit and Siamese voice are still strong, but his body is wearing out. His legs have lost their spring, his balance is shaky, and his hearing and eyesight are fading. His vet says his kidneys are not working very well and he’s lost two pounds (he only weighed seven pounds before he lost the weight!). He’s dropped that Siamese royal attitude – when he doesn’t feel well, he’s cranky, but most of the time he’s very sweet and appreciative of the care he receives.

On this birthday, some vivid memories always come up. I’m thinking about 10 years ago when he used one of his nine lives.

One morning Scooter walked into my office and jumped into my lap, as was his habit (he can’t make that jump now). But something very strange happened: he peed in my lap. I dumped him on the floor and cursed. When Scooter hit the floor, he fell over on his side. I could see that he was breathing very fast. He couldn’t walk. I felt terrible when I realized that he had used all his energy to jump into my lap and he was very ill.

Scooter had received a nasty bite in a cat fight several weeks prior to that day. Scooter defended his territory diligently in those days , which means he fought weekly and was injured regularly. (His territorial boundaries are almost identical to our lot lines.) We hauled Scooter to the emergency vet often to get patched up. I hated going to the emergency vet’s office; waiting for an hour or two in a room with tense, upset people and seeing people bringing their pets in when the pets were often in terrible shape.

What we didn’t know is that Scooter had received a poisonous bite – the biting cat was a carrier of hemobartonella, a type of infectious anemia that prevents the red blood cells from holding oxygen.

We took Scooter to the emergency vet and they said he needed to go into the oxygen cage, which would help him breath. Ann and I went to see him that night and he was barely alive. We could see that the vet assistants didn’t think he would make it through the night. Ann held him and he was breathing very fast, trying to get enough oxygen. We were so sad driving home that we couldn’t talk.

Ann was commuting to mid-town for work at that time, so I went to the emergency vet’s office the next morning, expecting the worst. He was "doing better" after spending all night in the oxygen box, much to everyone’s surprise. I took him to the regular vet’s office where they put an IV port in his leg and kept him on an IV all day. I picked him up that evening and brought him home so he could spend the night with us. In the morning I took him back to the vet’s office. We repeated that routine for two weeks. As Scooter grew stronger, he used all his energy while he was home trying to get that IV port out of his leg.

Within a month, Scooter was back: fighting trespassing tom cats, hunting birds and lizards, and yowling as only a Siamese can.

Five years later Scooter would nearly lose the fight of his life again (link We All Need Nine Lives).

We All Need Nine Lives

MykeandscootinjuredMy most miserable Monday morning — ever. It’s 9 am and I’m still in bed. An ice pack chills the large swollen hump on the top of my right shoulder. I can barely move my right arm. Scooter the Siamese cat, leaning on my right arm, sleeps soundly for the first time in three days. He’s in far worse shape than I am. He wears a network of stainless steel rods in his right upper leg from his shoulder to his elbow. His shaved upper body reveals multiple deep lacerations on his left shoulder and two deep puncture wounds in his neck. One of his ears is shredded. We are wounded, beaten, sore, and depressed.

Thursday, April 27,2000, was a beautiful spring day in Atlanta. I told Ann how sleek and healthy Scooter looked — he had overcome some minor ailments and seemed to be completely well. At about 2 pm, Scooter came to the kitchen door and yowled to go out. I let him out even though I had some misgivings — we had seen a gray striped tomcat slinking around in the woods. Scooter went out just like he did every day.

I went upstairs to work. About 30 minutes later, I came down to see if Scooter had climbed the tree and jumped onto our deck — his usual routine. He wasn’t on the deck. Ann had not seen him. I went out onto the deck to look into the backyard. I thought I heard an angry cat yowl, but then silence. I went upstairs to work but I couldn’t let go of a feeling that something was wrong. I decided to walk over to look on our neighbor’s front porch, where Scooter sometimes hangs out.

As I was walking past our vegetable garden in our side yard, I heard what sounded like a brief cat fight. It seemed to come from neighbor’s back yard, so I ran along the edge of her yard into woods behind her house. I called Scooter and didn’t hear a sound. I walked through the woods, calling him, listening, with a growing feeling that something was wrong. My adrenaline was spiking as my uneasiness heightened. All my senses were extremely sharp as I tried to decipher the strange feelings I was experiencing and sounds I was hearing.

I trotted from the woods into our backyard, straining to hear a sound, hoping to see that little black face with blue eyes trotting towards home. I walked into our side yard again and heard a cat snarl. I ran into our backyard and listened. I heard the cat snarl again and got a direction for it. I plunged into the woods and saw Scooter, in a small depression with his back against a pile of old bricks in heavy underbrush.

As I got closer, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Scooter had a hole in his neck and blood covered his chest. The bricks behind him were splashed with blood. One of his ears was almost severed. He was panting like he had just run a long distance. Flies were buzzing around him — the flies of death — and about every 30 seconds he would hiss, snap, and snarl at the flies. Ironically, it was that occasional snarl that led me to find him. But he didn’t recognize me!

When I tried to pet him, he hissed and snapped at me. I backed off, yelled as loud as I could for Ann, and shouted directions for her to find us. He didn’t recognize Ann either. He just panted, hissed, snapped, and snarled at the flies buzzing around him, in a repeating cycle. Ann tried to touch his back to see how badly he was injured, and he bit her! We couldn’t get through to him. He was still fighting the demon that had almost killed him.

We were able to pet his head occasionally but his state of arousal had not changed. I called an emergency veterinary clinic — they said to put on heavy gloves, put him in a box, and rush him in. I brought Ann my leather gardening gloves and a parka. As I approached he tried to run but his front leg collapsed and he rolled into a heap in some brush. Ann put on the gloves and parka, picked him up, and put him in the box we use to haul him to the vet. I carried him out of the woods to our driveway. I opened the box and was glad to see that he had calmed down — at last I was able to pet him and he seemed to realize that he was safe from his attacker. Ann drove him to the vet and I tried to work.

Two hours later Ann called to say that Scooter had a severely broken leg, among other injuries. We’ll never know how it happened, but apparently early in the fight Scooter broke his right leg. It was a complete break at a 45-degree angle, between his shoulder and knee. After Scooter’s leg was broken, the stalker had obviously tried to kill Scooter. (He may have still been mauling Scooter when I ran by in my neighbor’s yard — I like to think that I scared him off.)

When we visited Scooter late Thursday night, he was truly a pitiful sight: they had shaved about half his body exposing some terrible wounds. In addition to two puncture wounds in his neck, his left shoulder had dozens of terrible lacerations, his broken leg had been bitten badly, and his right ear was almost cut in half. He hardly acknowledged us – he just sat miserably in the cage in severe pain. I felt terrible about letting him out that afternoon.

Scooter survived the night and underwent surgery on Friday. Surgeons put a stainless steel pin in his leg to stabilize the bone, with three wire loops to hold it in place. At each end of the steel pin, they bolted two short pins that exited from Scooter’s leg at the shoulder and knee, connected by an external steel pin. He survived surgery and was doing well for a cat that had just turned eighteen years old.Scooter_injury1

We picked Scooter up on Saturday morning. He was glad to be home but he was in such pain that he couldn’t rest or sleep. He moved by hopping and dragging his broken leg. Demonstrating the unbreakable spirit that makes him an inspiration to anyone who knows him, he insisted on sleeping in the bed with us. We were very concerned about him getting hurt jumping down from the bed in the middle of the night. Consequently, neither of us slept well — every time Scooter moved, we woke up.

On Sunday I decided to follow my usual routine – a 21-mile bike ride through East Cobb County on low-traffic streets in quiet neighborhoods connected by sidewalks along busy roads. Even though I felt bad due to lack of sleep, I was hoping that the exercise would rejuvenate me. Early in the ride I discovered that I had forgotten to put on my sunglasses, a telling indication of my mental sharpness.

About four miles into the ride, I was cruising down a sidewalk along a busy road when I spotted a walker ahead. I slowed my bike as I approached a chunky middle-aged man with a headset, listening to music. As I passed him he yelled at me "Get off the sidewalk!" I slammed on my brakes and stopped. "What’s your problem?" I said, not feeling very friendly. He yelled "Riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal!"

I replied, "I know it’s illegal but the traffic here is too dangerous for riding on the road. You’ve never done anything illegal?" We continued to throw comments back and forth about riding bikes on sidewalks, endangering walkers, and consciously breaking laws. Suddenly the mood changed and he said "I wouldn’t ride a bike on this road either; I don’t blame you." He stuck his hand out, smiled, and we shook hands. I was elated, feeling that we had turned a potentially hostile situation into a peaceful agreement. I kept replaying the exchange in my mind as I coasted down the sidewalk.

Suddenly I realized that I was almost in a busy intersection. Rather than slamming on the brakes, I looked up and saw that the traffic light was green in my favor. I glanced around and started into the intersection. Next, I was rolling on the pavement in the road! I jumped up, grabbed my bike, and got out of the intersection. As I stood there trying to get my bearings, a boy on a bike across the street yelled to ask if I was OK. I said yes. A woman in a minivan pulled up and asked if I needed help. I said no. She asked if I needed a ride home. I said no. Then she turned right and pulled off the road. She got out and yelled for me to come up to her car — she wanted to talk to me.

I felt strange. My knees and elbows were scraped, and I noticed a burning sensation in my right shoulder. A large bump was rising on the top of my right shoulder. I pushed my bike up to her vehicle. She was looking at me very closely as she asked some simple questions. She asked if I was sure I could ride home. I was starting to have doubts because I felt somewhat sick. She insisted that she drive me home — I didn’t have the energy to argue, so I said OK. She opened the tailgate door on her minivan. I was going to pick my bike up and put it in her minivan, but I didn’t have the strength to pick up my bike! I started sweating profusely and had to lean against her vehicle to keep from blacking out. She picked my bike up and put it in her minivan.

I crawled into the front passenger seat. Her baby and young son watched from the back seat. She stopped by a Jewish Community Center nearby to tell her husband what she was doing (he was coaching a Little League baseball game). I was sweating and trying to stay coherent, while she drove me home. Ann was in working the garden when we arrived. She was most surprised to see a strange minivan pulling into our driveway with me riding in the passenger seat. We thanked the Good Samaritan for bringing me home – I never knew her name.

Ann was horrified by the hump on my right shoulder. Getting my wet shirt off took both of us — raising my right arm above my head was very uncomfortable. For the second time in three days, Ann drove to an emergency room. After the x-rays the attending physician diagnosed my injury as a third-degree shoulder separation. He said that physical therapy would restore the functionality and that he only recommends surgery for professional athletes and models.

I have reviewed the few seconds before the accident many times. I made several mistakes in quick succession. I was listening to the replay of the conversation in my head and ignoring my surroundings, while my bike was accelerating. I continued into the intersection rather than stopping. I was going too fast. The actual accident was triggered by the design of the sidewalk – it veered to the right just as it sloped down to the street. It was designed to connect to the sidewalk across the street to my right, rather than the sidewalk straight ahead. I was watching traffic and looking at the sidewalk straight across the street when I was bounced off my bike.

Scooter and I are still affected by our mishaps. My shoulder works well enough, it’s just ugly. I’m more cautious on my bike. When I am sleep deprived and stressed, I try to be more careful. Scooter has not climbed the tree to jump onto the deck behind our house since the day of the fight. We don’t let him out of the house alone now – an escort is always with him when he is outside. He’s quit hunting – I’ve seen chipmunks try to tempt him and he ignores them. Scooter has retired from active cat life. As of today (April 10, 2003), he is 21 in human years, 105 cat years old. He has lived long and used many of his nine lives. May we all be so fortunate.

Outsmarting a Cat

Scootershadow3 Once upon a time Scooter the Siamese Cat had a small problem (constipation). So we contacted the council of cat sages and were told that we should get Scooter  to eat vaseline. So Ann put some vaseline on her finger and Scooter licked it off. We were pleased.

The next day Scooter licked less of the vaseline. And the following day he barely ate any at all. The next day, he just turned his head away from the offering.

So we contacted the council of cat sages about Scooter’s reluctance to eat vaseline. We were told that we have to outsmart our cat. Put a glob of vaseline on his front leg and he will be forced to lick it off!

We were stunned at the elegance of the solution and our stupidity in not devising this obvious fix. So we put a big glob of vaseline on Scooter’s front leg and watched with great anticipation to see his response to superior human intelligence.

Almost faster than we could see, Scooter flicked his front leg and threw the glob of vaseline about four feet, splattering on the wall, leaving a big greasy spot.

(Vaseline doesn’t clean up well — the wall had a shiny spot until we repainted the room.)

Sixteen and Wise?

Scoot_earsOn Friday, April 10, 1998, we celebrated the sixteenth birthday of Scooter the Siamese Cat (he’s 80 in cat years). After a rough start (at 6:30am Scooter was escorted to the garage after throwing up), the day was a great success. Scooter got his favorite food — thin-sliced deli turkey — for every meal and received much petting and adulation. In light of achieving his advanced age in such fine form, I thought it might be fun to share some of Scooter’s secrets, based on my observations.

Scooter’s Secrets for Living Long and Looking Good

Be born with great looks.

Trust as few humans as possible.

Humans have a weakness for cuteness. Exploit it.

Humans are impressed with great athletic ability. Impress them.

Only sleep with humans you trust. Transfer all your parasitic insects (ticks, fleas, and chiggers) to your bedmates.

Make a sound like a 300-pound mountain lion to intimidate your enemies. Then attack. (Make sure you have someone to cover your medical bills when this ploy fails.)

Eat grass and throw up to cleanse your digestive system.

If a human bedmate has facial hair, snuggle up as tightly as possible to his facial hair in cold weather.

Eat salmon daily.

Eat a baby rabbit every spring.

Sprint 50 yards after a bowel movement.

Climb a tree every day.

If you want to get someone out of bed, lick his face. If that doesn’t work, walk on him.

Nap several times a day, preferably in a lap.

Stretch your muscles and spine 24 times a day.

Stay in bed on cloudy, rainy days. When the weather is sunny, have an adventure.

Get a massage at every opportunity.

Moving vehicles are dangerous, watch them diligently. Never turn your back on a human or a dog, especially large, foul-smelling males.

If an unknown something larger than you is coming your way — run. If something smaller than you runs away — chase it.

Hide and seek and ambush games are fun at any age.

A chunk bitten out of your ear looks cool (Scooter had it before Evander). 

Not Understanding

This morning Scooter the Siamese Cat came into my office, yowling at top volume. After I scratched him thoroughly he went to Ann’s office and yowled continuously. She took him outside for a walk. Soon, Scooter was back in my office; I let him sit in my lap for 15 minutes while I worked. Then he went back to Ann’s office; she put him on the deck. Soon he wanted off the deck. He still bounced between our offices, yowling irritably.

After about two hours of the squeaky wheel needing grease, we were getting weary and angry with Scooter’s harassment. I rationalized that the bad weather heading our way had him upset. Ann always worries that he is tired of his food.

Ann went into our bedroom and happened to glance at Scooter’s bed. She discovered that he had barfed in his bed and had been trying to tell us about it. As soon as his bed was cleaned up, he took a long nap.

Anyone have a recipe for crow?

Scoot Over

Scootersramp Scooter the Siamese Cat pulled off one of his most surprising stunts ever to disturb our much-needed sleep. To understand what happened, you’ll need some background.

Last year I built Scooter a ramp so he wouldn’t have to jump up onto our bed, where he sleeps night and day. Since he turned 20, his hind legs have lost much of their spring and power. He needs the ramp because sometimes his leap didn’t make it over the edge of the bed, which meant he’d have to grab some cover or sheet with his front claws. Occasionally, he’d fall back to the floor, scratching for balance. Not only did he risk hurting himself, it was a most unpleasant way for us to wake up in the middle of the night — and he always spit out some curse words in yowlese when it happened.

Scoot really likes his ramp (click here for video).

On Tuesday night, we were awakened by a flurry of rustling and scratching. Ann turned on a light and I got out of bed. Scooter was stuck, hanging from the end of the ramp by his front paws — like a rock climber hanging from a cliff! His claws were hooked firmly in the fabric.

I grabbed him, unhooked his claws, and put him on the floor. Ann and I were stunned at his predicament.

Scooter’s mischief sometimes backfires on him.