My Frodo is the best buddy a guy could have

Frodo was just a few weeks old when he joined the family. He was the runt of his litter, a tiny tuxedo cat. My mother-in-law gifted him to us, for our son, even though I insisted no surprise pets. I pretended to be outraged. I wasn’t. Even today, I’ll still offer some mock outrage about it.

Everyone knows it’s silly. I love him so much.

Frodo liked to bite when he was young. He especially liked to bite my son. There didn’t seem to be much reason for it. We think he just didn’t like the competition for love. Once, my son was standing at the toilet doing what you do. Frodo strolled in, jumped up, and bit him on the ass. We all laughed.

That phase didn’t last long. He settled down and became our pal. He didn’t like to be confined and hated when I’d hold him, but I held him all the same. He got used to it, even if he never came to love it. But I like to think he did.

Frodo preferred cuddles on his own terms. When he was young and I’d lay on the bed to read, he’s crawl up and nestle in my armpit, enjoying the warmth. I’d nod off like that, a book laying on my chest, the cat curled up tight against me. It became one of his save havens. It was one of mine, too. I don’t like to think about never being able to do that again.

At one point he had a problem with urine crystals and after a traumatic vet experience, he stopped curling up with me like that. He’d still join me on the bed, but instead he’d lay at my side. He knew the sound of the lamp in the bedroom. When he heard it click, he assumed I was going to lay down to read. Most times, he’d stop whatever he was doing and come in, patiently waiting for me to situate himself so he could lay with me.

In his last years, he developed a weird love. I have a throw blanket I’ll often have over me when I read. Once, he started nosing at it and pawing at the blanket edge. I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Then he nosed himself under it, planted himself between my knees, and went to sleep. He started doing that whenever he could. He’d jump up onto the bed, enjoy some pets for a few minutes, then paw at the edge of the blanket to tell me it was time to let him under.

I always did.

I started working from home in 2014. He seemed to love that. I do most of my work from a small cozy chair in the living room. That’s where I am writing this. All day he’d come bug me. He’d jump up onto the arm of the chair and sit there with me, sometimes nudging me for pets, sometimes switching sides over and over for no reason, but most of the time just sitting there with me.

For the last six years, he was my daily companion in this way. And for 16 years, he has been my buddy. My little friend.

He sat with me a little bit today while I worked, for just a short while, before retreating back under the bed, where he has been for days. I don’t know if it will be the last time he does it. I’m crying.

He was tolerant of our attentions. He could be a very patient cat. Sometimes we’d cover him in his own toys. He just chilled out and rolled with it.

He loved my wife dearly. When she came home from work, he’d greet her at the door, then follow her around the house. He had to be in the bathroom with her when she showered. He was underfoot in the kitchen when she cooked, and once we softened on the “not allowed on the couch” rule, he’d snuggle with her as he watched TV. she called him “my precious little guy.”

He was a creature of routine. When I went in for my evening read and nap, he’d come in and join me. Then he’d get up and join my wife on the couch for TV. When she went to bed, he’d go in with her. He snuggled with her while she read, then go to sleep when she did. When I went to bed several hours later, I’d let him stay for a short bit. He’d purr and get pet. Then he’d be retired to the living room, where he had his own Ottoman (though he just as often chose to sleep in my work chair). Sometimes I let him stay. He liked that.

In more recent years, his habits shifted slightly. He wouldn’t go in with the Mrs. right away when she went to bed. Instead he’d sit out in the living room with me. She would read for a while, then when she got up to go to the bathroom – last thing she did before lights outs – he’d dash in as soon as he heard the door open.

Frodo was a vocal cat. He purred generously. He made this hard to describe creaking sound when stirred from a slumber, like a “what are you doing?” groan. He meowed when he wanted food, when he wanted to be let outside (even though he was an indoor cat), and just for attention. At times, it appeared to be nothing more than a hello. Sometimes he’d go to the top of the stairs leading to the attic and loudly meow up there, the acoustics of the space making it echo throughout the house. We never did learn what that was all about. I think he just liked that it would inevitably cause he to pay attention to him. It was so annoying.

I loved it and will miss hearing it.

He drooled, too. When he was really loving those pets, he drooled. It was gross.

In the last few years, he also grew to love fidget spinners. I keep them around to fidget with, and their curves fit perfectly along his head and spine. He loved being stroked with them. If I wanted him to come over to me, I only needed to pick one up and show it to him. He’d jump up on the chair, ready to be stroked.

Other times, he’d just walk along the side of the chair with his back towards me, arched a bit. This was him telling me he wanted his back scratched a bit. I usually did. Sometimes I didn’t.

My son had a fuzzy throw blanket on his bed. Frodo would go in there, take the blanket in his mouth, and knead it. A few times he dragged it off the bed into the other room. I think it was some instinctual mating thing. I don’t know. It was weird. He stopped doing it as he got older.

I sang jingles about him. There was “Frodoriffic” and “He’s The Cat of the World.” It was silly.

Frodo used to be fat. Very fat. He was a 20-pounder at one point. As lovably cute as he looked, we couldn’t let him remain fat, though, so we helped him lose weight. I’ll always remember Fat Frodo, he looked so goofy and cute, but healthy Frodo is the one we wanted.

When he was fat, he used to have a funny way of sitting. I don’t even know how to describe it. He’d be leaned back on his butt, his legs splayed out, his girth tumbled out. It looked so ridiculous. I probably took a hundred pictures of him sitting like that. Or sometimes he’d lay flat on his back, his gut all sprawled out. I’d poke his belly. He hated that. Part of me always missed the chonker version of Frodo, but I’m glad we got him healthy so he could live a longer life with us.

My mother-in-law’s house was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, so for a time we took her two cats in. Frodo did not like this. This was HIS house, and now he suddenly had two invaders living in it. It was a triangle of torment. Frodo dominated one of the cats. That cat dominated the other. And the other dominated Frodo. It was a cycle of animosity. We were glad to shelter them for a time, but Frodo was miserable. One of the cats kept pissing all over the bed Frodo had since he was a kitten, so we had to get rid of it. That sucked.

He was miserable when he was chubby, too. He was a grumpy cat. His demeanor changed a lot after we slimmed him down. He became much friendlier, more sociable and happier.

Frodo used to be allowed on the back deck with us. We’d sit out there on a summer day, and he’d bask in the sun with us. When he was younger, he liked being on the railing of the deck. As he got older, he didn’t like that as much. He was good. You could leave him alone out there and he’d stay put, just relaxing in one of the chairs.

As he got older, though, Frodo wanted to wander. He’d sit at the top of the deck stairs, and if you didn’t pay close attention he’d quietly go down, one step at a time, inching towards freedom, hoping you wouldn’t notice. Then he’d go into the yard to sniff around and eat grass. He started doing this often enough that we revoked his deck privileges.

Now I just wish I could have one last day out on the deck with him and sonofabitch typing that is making me cry again.

I’ve been crying on and off for days. Frodo has been my good buddy for 16 years.

As I write this, he’s not gone yet. He’s in the next room, under the bed, unwilling to come out. I write in the past tense because I have to. He doesn’t have much time left.

Frodo’s liver is failing. We don’t know how much longer he has. He has been in bad shape and the vet tells us the prognosis is not good. He stumbles when he walks. He looks haggard. I cry when I see him. I’m crying now. Again. Goddammit.

He’s such a good boy.

I don’t want to lose him, but this is what life is. I guess 16 years is a good run. I wanted him to get to 20, though.

I had pets growing up. I lost pets. But I’ve never had to make that terrible choice, you know? I’ve never had to make the call. I don’t know how you do it. He’s been with us most of my adult life. He grew up alongside my son. Every day we have lived in this house, our family home, he has been here. Always with us. My wife said she always kind of hoped we’d just find him one day, already passed on. She spoke my mind. That’s the easy way, I know. But to know I’ll be sitting there with him as he goes …

And this damn pandemic, we should be wearing masks when the vets are here to do it, but I don’t want that to be the last image of my face he sees. Strangers around him, and us with masks on our faces. I don’t want that to be the last thing he experiences.

I hate this so much.

I got Frodo to sit with me for a short bit this morning while I worked. He only lasted about 15 minutes before going back under the bed. I don’t know how many more times he’ll do this. I treat each as if it’s the last (and yes, that means I cry every time). I just want a little more time with him.

He slept with us in the bed all night. I did not sleep. I just laid there with my hand on him.

He looks so rough now. It’s hard to see him looking like this. It’s like he got ancient overnight.

My son is on his way home from college to spend some time with him before he goes. Despite biting him on the ass, Frodo has been his pal since he was a little boy. Virtually his entire life.

Frodo is eating and holding it down, which is good, but his rapid deterioration is stark. His walk is unsteady. I worry when he jumps off the couch. When he shakes his head as cats do, he staggers sideways. And he spends so much time under the bed. So much time. That’s his instinct telling him his time is coming. You can pet him under there. He gratefully purrs when you do. But he’s staying under there because his instinct is telling him it’s time.

I’m at that stage where I’m second guessing everything. Could I have spotted the signs sooner? Could he have been treated if I did? What if we had acted a little faster?

It’s foolish, I know. I’m just hurting myself, I know. Liver failure is common in geriatric cats, and my buddy is 16 years old. What’s happening to him is natural.

But it’s hard not to think such things.

I still can’t grasp how you make the decision when to end his suffering. I don’t know how much he’s suffering — he purrs with love when he’s with us and still loves our affection — but there is the selfish part of me that just doesn’t want it to end. I did some searching last night to see if he’s in pain and what I read suggested he isn’t, but we’ll be going over it with the vet to be sure. I’m not going to allow him to suffer in that way.

I’d rather he pass in the night, with us, cuddled up. As tough as that will be, I think of him having strangers all around, everyone in masks, as he’s put to sleep. It seems even more horrible for those to be his last moments.

If it’s the humane choice, though, that’s what we will do. I don’t want him hurting.

I love him so much.