July 2004 - December 1, 2007: Age 3
Bandit was the best cat. Everybody says their cat is the best, I guess, but Bandit really was the best, certainly the best of all the cats we've ever known. He was smart, affectionate, and a dangerous hunter of mice and birds. We had a game, where we would throw a hackysack back and forth with Bandit in the middle. Bandit would leap heroically three or four feet into the air, sometimes even catching it in midair (he always relinquished it immediately so that the game could continue — he seemed to understand that the chase is more fun than the kill). When a large rat got into our house he dueled it ferociously until it managed to slip out an open door, never to return.
Our decision to let Bandit be an outdoor cat was a calculated risk. We took it, feeling that his roaming, hunting ways were too much a part of his quality of life to confine him. Thus the whole neighbourhood knew him, knew him by name because he always wore an ID tag with name, address and phone number, plus two bells in order to give his small prey a chance to keep clear (although even with two bells he learned to stalk silently when he wanted to).
It was our neighbours who found Bandit crying between two houses across the road, and came to get us. He stopped crying when I arrived, but was holding his hindquarters awkwardly. We figured his leg was broken and, worried he would maul us if given a sharp pain (he was quite capable), simply presented him with an open-sided, open-topped basket. He pulled himself in with his front legs, dragging his hindquarters. His tail drooped over the edge.
The ride to the vet's was calm. He didn't cry once, just looked around with interest, and rested his head on my hands when I scritched him. I imagined he even purred a little. He was so calm, quiet, and affectionate that we were sure he'd be okay, which in retrospect was naive.
After a very long wait, the vet delivered the news: his pelvis was fractured in several places and, much worse, his spine was crushed. His hindquarters showed very little function when he arrived but had become completely unresponsive, even to strong pinching of his toes. There was some possibility of driving to Guelph (1 hour away) in hope of finding a neurological surgeon who might stabilize him enough to repair the broken bones, but life with his hindquarters in a cart and no control of his poo was not a realistic option, in our opinion, for our Great Hunter.
We couldn't be with him during the examination, and were shocked by his appearance when we saw him again. During the two hours since bringing him in, he had become shocky and unresponsive. He was sedated, of course. His gums, nose, and tongue were white, and his paws (including the front ones) were cold (his temperature had been 5 degrees Celsius below normal when we brought him in). He was in a large open cage at waist height, so we were able to stroke him, support his head with our hands, and scritch him under the jaw and chin. He knew we were there, responded very faintly to our caresses, but even as we stood with him debating the Guelph option, his energy/spirit palpably flickered and lowered. After a long and tearful goodbye, we asked the doctor to euthanize him. I rested my hand on his neck and side while the doctor inserted the needles into his IV. I felt a wave of energy move up my right arm, and he was dead.
I remember bringing him home from his litter at 12 weeks, three years ago. A friend and I drove him from Waterloo, 1.5 hours away, along with his two brothers whom she was adopting (and who now continue to rejoice in a full, happy, indoor-cat life). Bandit's two brothers cried loudly most of the way home. But Bandit simply assumed a Sphinx posture, crossed his front paws, and looked curiously around him for the whole trip. Much the same as he did during the last drive to the vet. His attitude, at rest, was always calm, alert, engaged. He was the best cat.