Back in 1994, Susan and I were eating at our favorite restaurant, Salsa, and talking to our favorite waitress, Wendy, who mentioned that her cat had recently had kittens on Halloween. We told her we were looking for a couple of kittens and went to see them. They were all brown-grey tabbies, and we picked out a boy and girl and named them Nick and Nora after the Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Today, September 17th, we had to put Nora to sleep – she was six weeks shy of her 17th birthday. It was a hard decision to make this morning because Nick and Nora are my all-time favorite pets. Susan and I have been married for 33 years, and for the first half we had Yin and Yang, two sister cats. We loved Yin and Yang, but they weren’t very affectionate. Before Yin died we got Nick and Nora. So we’ve had cats most of our marriage. We never had children – cats were our substitutes.
Nick and Nora loved us, slept with us, and if we were sitting down, slept on our laps. Nora was more skittish than Nick, and would retreat to the bedroom when company came, but when it was just Susan and I, Nick and Nora always hung out with us. They were like dogs. The photo above is me, Nora and Nick in my reading chair.
Nora became mysteriously ill a few months ago when we noticed she had lost a lot of weight. We never found out what was wrong with her, but we eventually noticed she wouldn’t use her tongue to lap water. Nick and Nora loved to drink water from the faucet. They would stand in the sink and turn their heads and lap water from the stream. When Nora started losing weight we noticed that she didn’t do this, but stuck her head under the water and let it roll down the front of her face.
For her last months, Nora became very close to me and would often sleep on my chest at night, sometimes even wrapped around my neck. Because Nick had fought off an illness last year after shrinking down to nothing and returning to health and becoming a giant fat cat again, we kept hoping Nora would do the same thing. We eventually realized it was more than weight loss, but pain. We think she might have had a tumor in her neck or throat, but we never knew. I’d wake up with her restlessly walking up and down on me. I’d get up and give her some pain medicine and she’d settle down for a couple hours.
We kept hoping it was a temporary kind of pain, but today when they weighed her at the vet and she’d lost .8 pounds in a week, down from 5 pounds last week to 4.2, we knew it was something more. She once weighed 12 pounds. We have been spending a lot of time visiting Green Animal Hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with Nora. Dr. Kahn tried so hard to save Nora, but it wasn’t meant to be. Debra, Amy and Jo Beth were so nice to us that I feel bad that I won’t be seeing them again unless we can teach Nick to be a hypochondriac.
Even though the people at the clinic are wonderful, our cats have always hated being at the vet, but today Nora just laid on the table not showing any signs of wanting to go home, so I took that as her way of saying it was time to say goodbye. We had been trying all kinds of treatments for weeks. I was giving her water with a syringe five times a day against her will. But she was still eating, but not gaining weight. It’s hard to decide when a creature should die, especially one you’ve been living with for seventeen years. But I realized we were prolonging her life only to avoid making the decision, and it was obvious she wasn’t feeling good and never would again.
I wish I had more photos of Nora. I have a lot, but they are mostly of her curled up asleep. Here’s one of her reading my magazines.
What I really wish I had were videos of Nick and Nora playing fetch. They both loved fetching paper balls. We could get them to sit on a footstool, throw a paper ball over their heads, and Nick and Nora would leap up into the air to catch the balls and make wonderful backflips before they landed – and then bring us back the ball.
They would even bring us paper balls when they wanted to play this game. Susan and I would be watching television or reading and look down to see a cat and a bunch of paper balls they had stacked by our chairs. Sadly, they quit playing this game when they got old.
I’ve decided that when Nick goes we won’t have any more pets. I don’t know if I could outlive another pair of cats, and I definitely don’t want to outlive them.
11 thoughts on “Nora (1994-2011)”
This is a great post, Jim. But I’m sorry to hear you lost your pet. And yes, I wish you’d taken videos of them playing fetch. I’d never heard of cats doing such a thing.
But cats seem to vary a lot more than dogs. When you get a puppy, especially a certain breed, you pretty well know what to expect, I think. But not when you get a kitten. That seems to be a complete gamble.
My dog has been dead for close to 30 years, but I still miss him. I didn’t want to get another pet, so I understand how you feel. But you might change your mind later. You could get an older cat from the animal shelter, if you were worried about outliving it. (But really, 15-20 years isn’t that long, not for people.)
Bill you must really miss you dog because you often talk about him. I wonder how often I’ll think of Nora 30 years from now.
So sorry for your loss, Jim. She sounded like a wonderful cat. I think a tumor is probably the culprit; our dog had very similar symptoms, having lost 15 pounds between six month visits to the vet even though he was eating and drinking normally. Then all of a sudden he stopped eating all together, couldn’t even get him to eat people food (which he never turned his nose up at.). X-rays found a large mass down by his kidneys, and by the next morning he couldn’t even walk anymore. We had to carry him to the car to take him to the vet to put him down. It was a tough day for all of us; he’d been a wedding present and we always thought of him as our first kid.
I keep thinking that once the dogs and cats that we have now are gone, that I don’t want anymore, for it was hard enough just thinking about what happened to Jake, and to think I’m going to have to go through it 4 more times…our oldest cat is now 12 while the other one is only 3, so I do worry about how he’ll adjust to being an only cat once she’s gone.
Thanks Traci. I wish we could communicate with our animals. Nick didn’t like Nora, but now that’s she’s gone I’ll wonder if he will miss her. He might be overjoyed to get all the attention. I do think he was jealous for the past few months because I was giving her so much attention.
Your house sounds very full with all those kids and animals.
I am so sorry for your and Susan’s loss, and Nick’s too. They were both lovely looking cats. I’m sure you know what the proper term is for their coloring, but those kind have always been among my favorites.
It is so hard to lose a pet, especially after they have been with us a long time. They become such an integral part of life and their love at the very least seems unconditional…or at least when there are conditions (I want some food!) they come from the right place.
The Thin Man films (and the book) are long time favorites and it is very cool that you have had pets named for Powell and Loy. I never tire of watching their chemistry and banter on screen. From this point on I’ll also equate them with your lovely and loving pets.
You and Susan have all my best.
Thanks Carl. I wished our Nick and Nora had that movie couple chemistry. Nick always hissed and growled at Nora.
Awhile back Susan got me the complete Thin Man films as a box set. Maybe I’ll get them out and watch them again.
I have that set as well. Watch it frequently, except the final film which is not a favorite.
I cry more when pets die than when people die….Connell
I do too. But why is that?
So sorry for your loss Jim. As you know we have two cats, one of which we’ve had for as long as my wife and I have been together.
But we had another cat who had a juvenile disease and died after we only had her for a week. And yet I cried so hard when we had to put her to sleep. I feel very responsible for my pets. I’m the human I’m supposed to take good care of them.
I think as hard as it will be when Spock or Stella goes, I think I’ll want another. They’ll never be replaced but I’ll get to fall in love with a new pet.