1996? - 07 Dec. 2006
Claudius started visiting the stray feeder in my garage sometime during late summer or early autumn, 1999. As soon as I got a good look at him, I could see that he had a paralyzed tail and a lame hind leg, probably relics of a close encounter with a car. He was shy with me at first but after a while he relaxed and let me pet him, and eventually he became quite friendly. He spent most cold nights during the winter in my garage, usually sleeping on the doormat outside my kitchen door. (I put some soft, furry fabric in a box to make a nest for him, but he preferred the doormat. So, I moved the fabric pad to the doormat, and he liked that just fine.)
At first, his tail had looked fairly healthy, though a bit bedraggled, since he couldn't keep it from getting dirty. By late summer of 2000, though, it had atrophied and deteriorated considerably. It lost most of its hair and the skin was looking inflamed. I was afraid he'd develop an infection or something, so I finally captured him and hauled him off to the vet.
Rather to my surprise, he was completely cooperative during the exam (he even purred and kneaded on the table); he may have been a pet at some point and learned some trust for humans. He tested negative for nasty viruses, so I had him vaccinated, neutered, and the dead tail amputated.
I wasn't sure he'd adapt to being a housecat, and the vet suspected he might be fecally incontinent because of the nerve damage. While confined during his convalescence he used the litter box like a pro, however, so I thought I'd give him a try indoors. At first, he didn't care for that at all -- he kept making attempts to escape any time I opened a door. After a week of that, he finally succeeded one night, slipping past me and disappearing into the field across the street from my house. As it happened, this was on the day when our first real cold front of the season had come through, with rain and a 40-degree drop in temperature. Poor Claudius got out there and found it was cold, wet, muddy, and windy, and not nearly as much fun as he remembered. In less than an hour he was back at the kitchen door, wanting to come in. He never showed any interest in going back outside after that, and became quite the quintessential housecat, lounging about on the sofa with a lordly air and a smug expression. He got along well with the other cats, played with toys, purred loudly when I petted him, and ate voraciously. (He quickly became quite fat, and I had to put him on a diet.)
The vet X-rayed his gimpy leg; we expected to find an old break that had healed crooked, but it turned out he had a broken femur that never healed at all. He actually used the leg fairly normally, apparently by bracing the broken end of the bone against his pelvis to make a false joint. It made me cringe to think about it, but never appeared to cause him any discomfort. Because it was an old break, the vets thought it unlikely they'd be able to mend the bone, so we just left it alone.
Claudius spent six very happy years as a housecat. He loved to sit in my lap (though his large size made it a little tricky), purring and often crawling up my chest to nuzzle my face. And he slept on the bed, usually against my right side, sometimes with his head on my shoulder. During the day he spent a lot of time in the windowsill nappers, often watching the birds and squirrels outside.
The end came quickly and unexpectedly. At the beginning of December, 2006, Claudius seemed a bit under the weather. He'd had a minor upper respiratory infection, but while he had gotten over that, his appetite was poor and he was quieter than usual and just didn't look right. A visit to the vet confirmed my worst fears: there was a mass in his abdomen, and an ultrasound established that it was a large intestinal tumor, and there were several enlarged lymph nodes indicating that the cancer had already spread. My vet consulted a veterinary oncologist, who told us that this type of cancer was generally very aggressive and did not respond well to any kind of treatment. Meanwhile, Claudius' condition was deteriorating rapidly; by Dec. 7 he was clearly uncomfortable even with pain medication, and it was clear there was nothing more I could do for him except have him put to sleep.
His death was very hard to take, coming so soon after Red's (also from cancer, only ten weeks before), and with Claudius not being an elderly cat. I had him for too short a time, but I'm glad he came to live with me and that he spent his later years in comfort after his difficult early life. He was a wonderful fellow, and a good friend.