Jul. 1998 - 11 Mar. 2015
Mithras started showing up at my house in the spring of 2007, hanging out in the back yard to watch birds and visiting my stray feeder. He was neutered and very friendly, so I figured he probably had a home in the area and was just visiting. However, once the weather started to turn cold in the autumn he started spending more and more time in my garage, often staying the night in the heated cat bed I kept out there for the strays. When we had a rainy spell he stayed in there for three days and nights, so I started thinking he might not have a home after all. Even when he was outside he was always nearby, and when I came home from work he would come running to be petted.
In the middle of one cold, wet night around the beginning of December, I was awakened by a cat calling "Maow? Maow? Maow?" At first I thought it was one of my gang, but when I got up and looked around I realized it was coming from outside the kitchen door, in the garage. I opened the door and he marched right in. It was cold, it was damp, and he didn't want to sleep in the garage any more.
So, I settled him in the quarantine room. I checked around the neighborhood daily for any "lost cat" fliers, watched ads, and looked in at the closest vet's office to see whether they'd had any reports, but after a week with no sign of anyone searching, I took him to my vet and got him tested and vaccinated. (Also scanned for a microchip, just in case. Nothing there, either.)
I named him Mithras and integrated him into the household gradually. He was pretty tense with my gang at first, but soon settled down to tolerance. He was very loving with me: sat in my lap, purred and drooled, and made biscuits.
One evening a couple of months later I got to chatting with the man who owned one of the houses across the street. He mentioned that he and his wife had a cat (a little grey tortie I'd seen in their yard a couple of times), and then added, "We lost another one recently. I don't know what happened to him; he just disappeared." I immediately had deep misgivings and asked him what his cat looked like. Sure enough, it was unmistakably Mithras.
I had a brief war with my conscience, but then gave in and told him I knew exactly what had happened to his cat. (After all, if one of mine just up and vanished, I'd sure want to know his fate.) I told him how Mithras had been camping in my garage ever since the weather got cold, how he'd meowed to be let in late one damp and chilly night, and how I'd looked around the neighborhood for any indication someone was searching for him. The guy was absolutely astonished, first that the cat was alive and well, and second that he was living peacefully in my house without howling to get outside or squabbling with my other cats. Evidently he'd never been content to stay inside with them -- he'd howl and door-dart until he got out. And when they adopted the tortie girl, he'd never really accepted or gotten along with her.
I invited the guy to come in and take a look, to be sure it was his cat (not that there was really any doubt -- he was able to describe Mithras right down to a few teeth he had missing.) Mithras was in the living room and came over with three or four of the others to check out the visitor. He displayed mild polite interest, accepted being petted and allowed himself to be picked up, but stared off at the horizon with an expression of stony indifference and refused to purr. (The poor man said, "He always used to purr when I picked him up...") Then, when he got down, Mithras proceeded to show off -- batting a toy around, getting up on a favorite shelf and writhing, batting at me when I reached up to him, and playing with Clovis a bit.
His erstwhile owner seemed rather at a loss and asked, "Would you want to keep him?" I said I would love to keep him; he'd settled in very nicely, and was just a wonderful cat, and I'd grown very attached to him. The guy thought it over and said he was afraid that if they took Mithras home, he'd just be right back over at my house the first time he got outside (which was probably true.) And it was pretty clear the cat had made his own decision and was happy where he was.
So, Mithras stayed with me. Interestingly, he never asked to go outside after he moved in with me; apparently he didn't mind being an indoor cat in the right environment. He was quite cheerful ever afterward and appeared to have no regrets.
Although he was already nine years old when he moved in with me, and hence a "senior", Mithras remained healthy and energetic for seven happy years. Finally, though, in early February of 2015, he suffered an attack of pancreatitis. While he showed some very gradual improvement during the following weeks, the condition didn't really resolve and his appetite remained very poor. A first round of tests showed a lot of inflammation, but no cancer cells, and it seemed possible that he had inflammatory bowel disease, which can usually be managed. However, in March he took a sudden turn for the worse, with a lot of fluid accumulating in his abdomen. He was hospitalized and a biopsy performed, but before the results came back he suffered a series of complications and his condition degenerated rapidly. I saw him at the hospital, and after consulting with the vet decided on euthanasia. While I was talking to the vet, Mithras went into respiratory arrest. He had hung on just long enough for me to see him one last time.
Mithras was, quite simply, one of the best cats I have ever known. Intelligent, playful, very loving, always ready to participate in whatever I was doing, or just curl up beside me or in my lap, he was a joy to have around. I wish I had known him for more of his life, but I'll always be grateful that he chose to come live with me.