Where to start?
I suppose it’s obvious, given the last post, that losing Lucien re-opened old grief. After David died and left a palpable absence in the house, I felt that adopting another cat or kitten would help me. The house was already shaken up and the feline hierarchy in shambles. It was the perfect time to add to the upheaval, while also helping me heal and offering a distraction from grief and loss. I had an opening, so to speak, and the Humane Society had filled cages.
Cats pretty much win the cat lottery when they come home with me. Good food, lots of toys, their own space (and sometimes rooms), and lots and lots of love and attention. I’ve always felt that as long as I can offer that and manage the care involved, then I should adopt cats/kittens seeking forever homes. I digress.
We met Lucien (then Lucian) at the Humane Society in a cage with his brother. David had also been at the Humane Society with his brother, Thomas. After David died and we realized what we had lost, we both wished we had adopted Thomas, as well. Lucien’s brother was pending adoption and Lucien caught my eye because he looked so much like David. I don’t recall that we looked at many other cats, if any. I was taken with him instantly, and, as it turned out after we adopted him, he was taken with me.
He was about 3 months old and insisted on perching on my shoulder and curling his arms around my neck. As a tiny little thing, this was adorable. When he weighed more than 16 pounds, it was something else. (laughs) He eventually graduated from my shoulder to just lumping his whole body over my head at night. He was an adorable kitten and fit in strangely fast.
David had bonded closely with Neko. He’d been an adult when we brought her home as an 8-week old baby and she’d glued herself to him. He was her new mommy. David loved her and she loved him. Lucien turned the tables. He tagged along behind her everywhere she’d go. It annoyed her at first, but he wormed his way into her heart. Twitch was NOT happy, at all, about the new arrival, but Lucien fit right in with our remaining cats, Lady Sakuya and Smokey Jones. I have so many baby pictures of him with all the cats (except Twitch). Like David, he became their kitty glue. I had my pack back.
But above all that, Lucien loved me. I was his. It took a while for me to see him as an alpha male, but it was increasingly more apparent as he grew up. He was always next to me or around my neck or on my head, pulling himself as close as possible. We started saying that he had to “become one” with you.
While Twitch was alive, there was strife between them. Lucien, being a young hothead, didn’t recognize the “deal” Twitch and David had, and refused to yield to Twitch as the king of the hierarchy. They fought a lot, which in turn caused issues between Twitch and the others. He was no longer left on his own, happy to be with us, and happy to have the interlopers off with the “prince.” Lucien wanted to be king.
But when he wasn’t fighting for the kingdom, he was a silly little guy. He loved to play with himself, like a child with an imaginary friend. We had a small cat tent that he’d go into and wrestle around, talking to himself. His jibberish was so adorable. (The tent didn’t live long.) He loved playing with spider rings and paper or crinkly balls. Like many of the others, he’d play fetch, which later turned into a version of cat tennis, because he learned he could lay down and just swat the balls back to us without moving. Did I mention that we eventually started calling him Fat Lu? Or Fat Lu-ey, (in addition to King Lu-ey). I think he got up to 18 pounds, which we got down to 16 pounds. He was a solid guy. Very stocky in the chest and shoulders.
As he grew, he resembled David less and less, but that was good. Lucien never lived in David’s shadow, although it may seem like it now. The way he died has made me realize patterns they shared. We’ll get there at some point.
We had to make a quality of life choice for Twitch when he was 16 because he’d gone senile. He’d only ever liked me and then Tim, but he barely knew us, and he had already hated the other cats, so that had degraded. The cats were strangers he didn’t know. He no longer knew to use the litter box, and was always hissing and scared or angry. He was a miserable old man who had no idea who any of us were or where he was. His life would have been reduced to confinement in a bathroom with little contact. It was a hard decision, but he had no quality of life. Shortly after, we also lost Smokey Jones following surgical complications. Smokey had had several run ins with life threatening bladder infections. He was 9. David had been 9. Neko was 9 when she passed. Only Twitch and Lady Sakuya (Saké for short) made it into seniorhood before passing at 16.
The house quieted without Twitch. Of course we mourned for him, but there was a sense of relief because he was no longer suffering. During this whole thing, which had gone on for a few years, we had a few stray cats show up in the yard. Both were black. In case I hadn’t mentioned it, all of my cats were/are black, or mostly black. My dad laughed because of course the stray black cats would show up at my house. I’d been diagnosed with MS and was having a hard time walking and with cognition, and got overwhelmed easily. I tried working with Animal Control, specifically with the stray that would go into the cornfield behind us and cry loudly. The other one was a plump female that I think belonged to a nearby house. Following AC’s advice, I earned the male’s trust so that they could come trap him, which turned in a debacle not worth going into it.
There’s a much cuter story hidden within. At that house, a 3 foot tall brick façade lined the front. Lucien was about 2 years old, was still jibber-jabbering to himself, and had taken control of the cats (except for Twitch). I have a photo of him sitting in the center of a Victorian sofa with two cats on either side behind him on a sofa table. He looks like the don of the cats with his right- and left-hand men. Kiss his ring and he’ll grant you a favor. Anyway, the stray male had started sitting on the brick façade to look inside, and Lucien had started sitting on the cat house in front of that window. You’d think this would be bad. Very bad. But no. Lucien and the male would “talk” through the screen.
That is how Jonny got his name. He is our only cat named after a character in my books. Lucien and Jonathan go together, so we had our own Lucien and Jonathan. And now I have two cats named “John” or “Jon” since Constantine is named after John Constantine. Again, I digress. I think I’ve had too many cats. Nah.
So, Lucien and Jonny would chat through the screen like the best of pals. That was fine and good as long as Jonny was outside. When Jonny came to live inside? Oh no. NO. NO. NO. Lucien wasn’t having any of that. (sigh) Jonny became like the new Twitch, but Lucien kept him under his paw. Jonny was a little older than Lucien, but they were close in age. Jonny had been fending for himself for at least 2 years. He wasn’t used to this whole cat hierarchy thing. At times, Lu and Jonny were the best of friends and, at others, the worst of enemies. They were best frenemies.
We wouldn’t have Jonny if not for Lu. Lucien saved him. Jonny was scared of the ceiling fans and cars on the tv, and he’d hide under the bed when it thundered. I’ve seen a cat so grateful to live inside or so in Heaven while kneading a soft pillow. Jonny very quickly adjusted to indoor life and all the soft things – blankets, pillows, laps, etc. I am happy that Lucien gave that to him.
Lucien knew that No meant No, and he’d get this hurt look on his face, even though he abided by the given No. That didn’t stop him from sneaky and trying to ninja his way onto a lap. He never quite understood that he was far too big to pull off the lap ninja thing. He used to take forever to get settled and would never tuck his tail in. You know, Lulu, I really love you and all, but I don’t want your butthole touching my arm. Sorry.
He learned “lay down” and would settle quickly, and he learned to tuck his tail. I had taught one of the cats to sit on command for treats, and Lucien saw this happening, so he came in and sat on command for treats, which in turn caught the attention of the others (the others, at this point, being Jonny, Vash, Atari, and Groucho, with the original sitter being Constantine). So the others would come in, sit on command, and get treats. Incidentally, I taught Groucho to “ask” for treats (and now he asks for everything). Jonny knows “kisses” and will present his head for kisses and sometimes try to give kisses. Jonny also knows “rawr!” and will stretch his arms out with his claws extended. Atari knows “stretch,” which is similar to “rawr!” except that she stretches out and even has that flattened ear, whole body shudder of a good stretch. And I swear that Constantine knows the word “vet” and his doctor’s name, because he will disappear before I can even dial the phone. If he was human, he’d the be the guy that shuts himself up in the basement wearing a tin foil cap while using his HAM radio to broadcast conspiracy theories.
Much of that is dependent on their individual make up and smarts (or lack of smarts, sorry Atari), but Lucien started it. He was a good king. He kept the ranks in line. He also had a routine. He ate breakfast and then came back to bed, taking over Tim’s side with his head on the pillow and his body stretched out like a person. I’d reach over every morning when I woke up and stroke his belly and he’d mumble his greetings and purr happily. Then we’d get up and do treats, and he’d settle in for a day of lounging with his queen (Atari). Then he’d eat dinner and come downstairs for “after dinner Lu love.” Before I had cancer, this consisted of him sitting on my lap, curled up toward my shoulder, to grab my boobs. He was a pervert. Lu was a boob man, and any other woman who entered this house can attest to that, and some guys, too. After cancer, Lu learned he couldn’t do that anymore, so if he needed to “become one,” he’d go to Tim, and if not, he’d come lay down next to me and tell me how much he loved me. He supervised every bathroom trip and was my life guard for bathing. I could talk to him using his vocalizations and had been working on starting conversations with him prior to his death. My husband said it was creepy, but it was cute. The vocalizations aren’t words like ours, but rather expressions of emotion or feeling. So, basically, we just told each other “I love you” repeatedly.
After my second cancer surgery, Lucien snuck in a boob grab for the first time since the diagnosis and I could have died laughing, the poor guy. I opted for a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using the “gummy bear” inserts. Lu did not like the gummy bear boobs. He got one grab in and visibly wilted before me as he sank into a depressed kitty puddle across my belly. L (Laughing) It was adorable. And it was the last time he tried to grab my boobs. Robin and Meredith would let him get his fix when they came to visit or take care of me. Having a boob man for a cat gave my medical team and I plenty to laugh about during all of the cancer tests and biopsies and whatnot, though. I don’t how it’s translating via blog, but it’s really pretty funny. Some cats like to knead on soft stomachs. Lu just liked to a bit higher.
Also prior to cancer, Lucien slept with me – usually on my head. After cancer, my physical dynamics with all the cats changed, but mostly with him, so he snuggled in with Tim at night. Previously, this had been Jonny’s territory, so there was a bit of fighting. I used a stuffed giraffe to break it up. It actually worked. I’ve used the giraffe to break up fights between Groucho and Vash, too. Usually, Lucien would stretch out between us so he could touch us both. Lucien liked to touch us and to hold hands. He was so affectionate and very sweet.
In addition to running a tight ship with the underlings, Lu used them all as pillows. He was a cuddle buddy, but more than anything, he wanted something soft for his head. He didn’t really know what to do with Atari when she came home, but then again, no one knew what to do with Atari. She was a little hot-tempered alien cat. Fearless. She had our 95-pound German Shepherd walking on eggshells. She’s a bit lost now, but we’re getting through it. I didn’t realize how much she mimicked Lu until I saw her looking for him at treat time because she would only go for her treats when he went for his, or at dinner, when she’d look at the spot where his bowl was because she would wait for him to begin eating before she began eating. She goes into my bathroom and stares at the rug where he loved sleep and then leaves because he’s not there and she’s not sure what to do. For the first time, she’s on her own, making her own decisions, and figuring “it” out. She may be a tough little thing, but she’s so fragile and vulnerable, too. But don’t tell her that or she’ll prove you wrong and go into “Atari’s going to be a sh!t” mode. She didn’t just earn her nickname “The Destroyer,” she wears it proudly.
You might have noticed that for every story about Lu, there’s a story about another cat or two or three. He was a true alpha male and was involved with every cat in the pride. At any given moment, I’d have all 6 of them around me, “protecting me” in a circle as Robin used to say. My guard cats. If I was on the laptop at my desk, Lu and Atari would be on my left, cuddled in the chair, Groucho would be at my feet, Jonny and Vash would be on my right at the top of the stairs, and Constantine would be stretched out behind me. Circle. If I was visiting with Robin in the great room, Lu and Atari would be entertaining her, Vash would be guarding me, sitting up right at my feet (and looking terribly bored), and Jonny would be sitting on the arm of the couch beside me like a gargoyle. Constantine and Groucho are stranger danger cats, but they’d come out for her and guard me from a distance. They were watching. She loved it.
But again, that was Lu. Like David, he was the glue that held my merry band of misfits together. Now, without him, I’m once again finding myself alone in a room with no cats when I used to have all 6 circled around me. As I type this now, Atari is wandering around the library, listlessly. I don’t know where the others are. The only thing that has stayed true is their locations when I wake up (because they want their treats). No Lucien beside me, but two others on the bed, Atari in the dog’s blankets near the door, and another just outside the door, all eager for the second I move. And Vash is downstairs with the dog. I still reach over to pet Lucien, expecting to hear his morning mumbles. He’s not there.
I’ve said Lucien was a great pretender. In hindsight, with David, we could look back and see a plethora of warning signs that we missed. He was my first loss and my first gravely ill cat. I didn’t know. In hindsight with Lucien, I can pick out less than a handful of things that mean something now, but even clumped together wouldn’t have raised my alarm. And during that time, I’d been watching Jonny’s weight and had added canned senior food to his diet, while also watching Constantine and Vash, who both have chronic illnesses that require prescription diets. Constantine was born with chronic bladder inflammation, which is rare in kittens, and Vash has pancreatitis. Either one could fall ill and die within 24-hours if I don’t catch it – Vash’s being the harder of the two to manage. I care for them and I meet their needs. But I failed Lucien. I know I couldn’t have known. I didn’t miss any red flags. He didn’t throw any up. Even two days beforehand, he’d launched himself into the tub to play with a balled up piece of paper. If he hadn’t had the brain aneurysm, he would have degraded like David until it was too late – and with David, we never knew why he’d gotten so ill, and that has always bothered us. Thanks to Lucien, now we have an idea. But for Lu, it was also already was too late. He was gravely ill before the aneurysm – severely anemic with a failing liver. I can only take assurances that he was greatly loved and he knew it. Lucien had a great life, probably even better than David’s (which is hard to imagine). And even in the process of dying while neurologically blind (as we later found out), in that little room at the emergency clinic, when I called out to Lu in my sing-songy voice, he looked up at me like he was so happy and smiling. That so very brief moment lives long in my memories. I had no idea he was blind or that he was crying because he didn’t know where he was and he was scared. In that moment, he knew I was there and he was happy for it. And here’s where I lose it. Excuse me.
I miss him so much. The others don’t talk to me or look at me like he did. I am thankful for that singular moment. It’s begun erasing the last images I had of him in a state I wish he’d never have to be in. In a state we’ve never let any other cat suffer. I wish I could have let him go in peace before those last few seconds happened. I can only hope that he knew we were there and that we let him go as soon as we could before he had to suffer any more.
Even though he was blind, after he got the injection, I was talking to him, petting him, and watching his eyes. I saw his light go dim and disappear. That’s when I knew he was my light of love. It’s his epitaph. I miss him everyday. His absence is huge. And there will be no “distraction” or grief kitten. I take care of my cats, but it has gotten really hard. I can’t take on another one right now. I have a good home and the love, but a body that just can’t do it. Lulu was my routine, my best friend, my light of love. I miss him dearly.
Rest in peace my friend. I love you so much.
(Please forgive typos and whatnot. I did not proofread this.)
Looking back, this photo was taken the first day I recall him acting strangely. Since he's always buried in a pile of cats or hugging someone, I don't have many candid shots of just him like this.
Baby Lu shortly after coming home.
He pwned me from day one.
Lucien had weirdly round pupils. He was like an alien.
This was his LU-boat attack.
He couldn't cuddle with me, so he snuggled with my Charmin bear.
Boob man and Robin. Na na na na na na . . .
Mr. Kent, I found your cat.
He never stopped sleeping on my head. Pwned.