monsAt the beginning of this year, Stacy and I started arguing about who would get Mons, our cat. He was very attached to Stacy and Fig (other cat), and both of them to him. We knew that separating the cats would be a bad idea – they’d been together, kicking each other’s ass for about 9 years. I have been planning a move out west, and will be leaving before winter. Fig will be coming with me, so I just assumed that Mons would come along to. Well, just like usual, neither Stacy or I had a say. Mons would decide . . .

Sometimes when it comes up in conversation that I have cats, instead of inquiring about my pets, the immediate response is “I’m a dog person”. Okay dick, I didn’t ask but I guess I’ll keep mum about my animals. I get annoyed but then have to remember that I used to be that person. I grew up with dogs that I was crazy about. And then we got a cat when I was in high school . . . I didn’t have feelings for it one way or the other because, at that point, I was in love with Twinkie. My parent’s had a couple of cats after I got out of college, so I started to warm up to them.

But in the spring of 1997, when Tanya called up to see if Stacy and I wanted a stray cat, I had to think about it. Did I really want a cat? Tanya was going to school in Rockford, IL and this cat had been hanging around outside her house for about a week, homeless. Sure, we’ll take him.

He stayed with Tanya in a spare room until she could bring him to Chicago. In that short time, he managed to find a way up to the ceiling panels and fell through on the other side of the house into Tanya’s room. His sparkling, dominant personality was shinning through – think Judd Nelson in the Breakfast Club when he crawled through a ceiling vent and then crashed through into the library. Mons was a stubborn shit and not meant to be caged, just like Judd.

When Tanya showed up with him, he was a beautiful silver tabby, long and lean, with silver and black tiger stripes. A gorgeous cat with little sores all over his body. I brought him into Dr. Jane for about 3 months, until finally we found a food that he wasn’t allergic to. She guessed he was probably a couple of years old.

Mons was a pig in a cat’s body . . . he had gotten used to eating anything and everything on the street. A pickle, piece of lettuce or potato chip that fell on the floor would be cleaned up immediately. He found that the kibbles we gave him were not as tasty as the crap in the garbage so while we were sleeping, he would tip over the plastic garbage can. We didn’t have a closet to lock it away in, so we got smart and bought an industrial garbage can with a metal flap. He couldn’t tip that over but it didn’t put an end to our little garbage eater. Late last year, Stacy walked into the kitchen and noticed a silver and gray striped butt sticking out of the garbage. He hung there, foraging at the garbage before him. He never gave up.

He would circle the coffee table as Stacy and I would eat dinner in front of the TV. There were a few occasions when a gray paw would come up from underneath the coffee table and scrape the food from our plates. He would do anything for a piece of salmon. Mons! We’d scream.

One time, when we were living in Wicker Park, our friend Ann Marie came over and we grilled burgers on the back porch. I put the left over burgers on the counter inside and we sat outside to eat. When I came in I noticed that one of the burgers was missing so I asked the girls if they ate another burger. Then I looked down on the floor and there were crumbs. I wandered into the bathroom and there was Mons, sitting on the toilet, cleaning his paws, then rubbing his face and belching! It was like he had swallowed a canary and feathers were flying out of his mouth with each burp. I had never heard a cat belch like that. Awwwwwrrrr, I growled as he stared at me innocently. I was more concerned about his food allergies than anything and I could tell by petting him when he had gotten into the garbage because he would get sores.

In the spring of 1999, I brought a pal home for Mons – Fig a brown seal-point Siamese who was only a pound. She bounded out of the box that I brought her home in, towards Mons and he took one look, hissed and then left the room. He was pissed but it slowly wore off and he grew to love her in a few months. They became great friends. Fig would chase and nip at Mons’ heels, so he would turn around and put one paw hard down on her and she would scream and fall on her back. They had there cozy moments, too, where they would lick each other’s heads.

In the winter, they would hang out in the bathroom where it was warm. We put a little cushion for Mons right in front of the heater and Fig would sit on the ledge above him at the foot of the bathtub. Last winter, Stacy heard Fig barf but figured it was okay because she was in the bathroom with the tiled floor and not on the rug. Easy clean up. But then Mons dashed out of the bathroom shaking his head. Fig barfed on his head! Poor Mons, he couldn’t eat that one up, like he normally did when she would puke.

It’s fascinating to me that cats have such distinct personalities – I don’t understand how people can judge an animal because of one situation. They’re all so different. Mons was a dominant, stubborn, silent, loving alpha male and Fig, the passive, playful, noisy girl who could be a bratty princess. Any time any animal came over, Mons let them know that he was in charge. Mr. Pig, Ingrid’s dog, came over last winter and slowly backed away when he noticed Mons in the bathroom but he barked and tried to get at Fig (he wanted to play, but she was freaked). We took care of Lynda’s cats last winter and Mons took down each cat to let them know that he was in charge. When he first saw the two boys, he stealthily walked into the kitchen, one paw in front of the other with his shoulders rolling back with each step like a tiger in the woods. They hissed and cowered, he remained calm and intent.

I learned a lot from Mons. There would be periods of time when I felt that all I was doing was yelling at him. “Get out of the garbage!” “Get off the counter!” “Stop scratching the couch!” “Don’t eat Fig’s puke!” I would go on reprimanding him and his behavior would only get worse. I swear he would do things that he knew would annoy me. When I would walk to the kitchen, he would walk on one side of me, steering me to his food bowl. So I decided to give him a ton love and attention and stopped yelling at him. I embraced him and told him he was good and you know what . . . he stopped his bad behavior. That was a life lesson. The more you fight against something, the worse the behavior gets. He taught me patience, too. He was so dang smart!

He had a few tactics in trying to get me up in the morning to feed him . . . things like tipping over water glasses, poking me in the face with his paw, scratching the couch, ripping at the material under my bed, getting on my dresser and knocking all the papers and stuff onto the floor and my favorite, turning on the radio. One morning, I awoke to music and at first thought it was my alarm clock but then realized it was coming from the living room. I got up, confused, and saw Mons sitting on the stereo. It was on. He had pushed the button on. What? He jumped down and directed me to the kitchen. That happened a couple more mornings once he realized that it got me out of bed, but then I got smarter than him. I unplugged the stereo!

Mons would jump into the tub and stand by the faucet, so I would turn it on. His little tongue would come out and he would lap at the stream of water. Then he would jump out, so I would turn it off. Then he would jump back in and look at me – I would turn it on. He would drink and jump back out. I would turn off the water. Then he would jump back in. Mons! I swear he was smiling.

Mons loved everyone. When people would come over, they would say “he looks like a stoner cat”. He had cool-looking, glazed over eyes and would purr once anyone reached down to pet him. Most nights he would curl up in Stacy’s arms. On a few rare occasions he would sleep with me, directing me to flip sides when he wanted throughout the night. He would really snuggle in! When I had a friend in from out of town, I had her sleep in my bed. He snuggled into her arms. The next morning she laughed and said that had never known a cat like Mons!

mons and figOnce on a visit to the vet for his annual exam, he pushed his way through the door of the exam room and started to wander into the back room just to check it out, visit the vet techs. I was about to grab him, but then Dr. Jane walked in. She smiled and said that she hadn’t seen a cat do that. They usually hide in the room, as Fig did, refusing to come out of the cat carrier that she refused to get into in the first place. Mons was fearless . . . and he wanted to get to know everyone. The little guy had been on heart medication for almost five years and then in the past couple of years his kidneys started to fail. We did everything we could to prolong his life with food and medication and with the best care from Dr. Jane. I feel that we were very lucky to get her as a doctor.

In January, when I was on a trip to Arizona, Stacy called, crying on the phone. Mons was at the vet – he woke up that morning and couldn’t walk. It was his kidneys. I came home from my trip early and was able to spend some time with him. He little body was so weak but his mind was still clear. He was so tough but then finally resigned. We put him to sleep on January 24th and it was one of the toughest things I’ve had to go through.

We have his ashes and will scatter them in the yard this summer – his favorite place to hang out. In the end, Mons decided when he would move on.Β  I don’t know where he came from or where he’s going, but I am so grateful that I got to spend some time with him.