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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal


Requiem for William

William was a replacement cat.

I grew up with an Abyssinian cat named Amos and a Welsh Corgi dog named Punkin. A few months after I went away to college, Amos passed away. He was 17 years old, so it's not like we didn't expect it. I'm not sure whether it was my mother or my sister who wanted a new cat, but they went off to the pound and found William, a cute tabby kitten. He was nominally my sister Katy's cat; she was in high school at the time. I came home for vacation a few weeks later, and I guess they'd decided William needed company. So we all went back and picked out Jennyanydots, with her double front paws and tabby/calico colorings.

Jenny was a bit of a trauma for William, who had gotten used to being the Big Cat Around the House in his few weeks there. Jenny was full of piss and vinegar. She was also a bit smarter than William. Being a bit bigger, he tried to boss her around. I remember once he started chasing her, and off they ran. Jenny suddenly jumped up onto the rocking chair, and William ran straight through underneath, coming to an abrupt stop and looking around, startled.

That was how he looked most of his life: startled.

He was a cutie, though. He had friendly eyes, and a little pink nose. He eventually became quite large - fat, actually. So he was this hulking cat with a little pink nose who got bossed around by his tiny step-sister, Jenny.

In fact, they became great friends. They slept together, ate together, played together. But I think William was always timid, for whatever reason. Jenny was the bold one, coming out to see who had arrived. William would go and hide, and only come out after several hours to see if it was safe.

My Mom's kitchen has a space between the top of the cupboards and the ceiling, and William seized the space up there right above the light over the sink as his own. It's warm there, of course. He also enjoyed the usual array of soft spaces, and he loved to be petted. He had the deepest, loudest purr you're ever likely to hear from a domestic cat. He put his all into showing his appreciation.

(William is the one on the right in all the photos.)

He had very thick fur, which combined with his weight to make hot days very uncomfortable for him. One summer, his fur started matting, clumping together uncomfortably. I came home for a visit that summer, and spent several hours over a couple of days carefully calming him down as I cut away the matting, and brushed out the remaining clumped fur. He was left looking rather ragged, with these nearly-shaven spots around his fur.

But he was ecstatic. Cool and comfortable. I made a friend for life. I'm convinced to this day that he remembered that gesture ever after, and memory of it helped him warm up to me whenever I came home for a visit.


William passed away today. He was 12 or maybe 13 years old. He'd had health problems for much of the last five years, including a urinary tract infection and liver problems. He'd lost a lot of weight, and recently had trouble eating and got so thin Mom said he wobbled on his feet. He had surgery twice. Through it all, it sounds like he kept his friendly kitten attitude. He's been fine the last few times I've seen him.

William never meowed much. He had this silent meow he'd make sometimes, and he'd let out the occasional hiss if you stepped on his tail. But his absolute favorite thing to do in the world was to be carried outside to the deck to sit on someone's lap and watch the world go by. Jenny loved it too, of course, but to William it was heaven. If someone was sitting outside without him, he'd go to the back door and let out a little meow, startling everyone. It was adorable. It was also effective; we almost always brought him outside when he did this. He had us well-trained, and he responded by not trying to escape from our laps.

One summer, when William's weight was near its peak, he was sitting on Mom's lap outside, and I came out and sat in the other chair. William, after a while, got up, sized up the situation, and eventually made a four-foot leap between us to my lap, a mighty effort which impressed both of us. I was flattered; I guess I have a good lap.

Mom wrote me that yesterday she took William outside - in 35 degree weather - and let him sit on her lap for about five minutes.

I guess the liver damage had caught up to him, and his appetite was going again. Today he was put to sleep. It was probably the best thing for him.


I got my cats, Newton and Jefferson, in 1994. In many ways, they're very similar to William and Jenny. Jefferson is also a large, brown tabby, albeit without the pink nose, and with a loud, urgent meow. And he's not quite as dominated by Newton as William was by Jenny.

I came home tonight and gave Jefferson a big hug and some attention. I'm sure he doesn't know that his look-a-like back east is chasing the mice angelic, but it comforted me.

William was never my cat, but I miss him all the same. He had a good life. I hope he enjoyed it. I think he did. You couldn't really ask for anything more in a cat than what you got in William.

Take care, little guy.

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