Catfish, the Cat Born with Determination….

When August began, Jeanne and I had four companion animals. Our two dogs, Zora and Shyla, are both over twelve. Our cat, Scout, is seventeen with various health issues. Catfish was the youngest critter at eight. The last Tuesday in July he was lethargic and seemed not interested in eating and drinking. In the past, we have had cats bitten by a snake who showed similar symptoms and they recovered in a few days. On Thursday we were quite concerned and made an appointment at our vet for early Friday. Catfish died Saturday night, August 1, from “bobcat fever”! We buried him in a special part of our front garden on Monday morning.

Covid has brought many losses to many people. We all cope with our grief in a variety of ways. Collecting these photos, and writing about Catfish and his spot in our family has helped me accept his death. This montage is also for the women who knew Catfish, his antics and personality, from afar.

Living with losses, small losses and large losses, is a reality for each of us. Friends drift away, politics pushes people apart, disabilities create isolation. Hopefully other friends remain and new interests emerge. We humans are gregarious creatures seeking compatible community. This pandemic brings losses, challenges, and possibly new discoveries for each of us.

Catfish brought his strong personality to us after
we lost two favorite cats in 2011. I believe he had a good cat-life with us. We miss him, and his companion, Scout, seems lonesome too. I’ll write more about “bobcat fever” later.

In 2011 Jeanne and I lived with four dogs and three cats–all rescued or abandoned animals–some dumped in our “haller”. Late that year, Summer disappeared and Striper died as a result of a predator–probably coyotes. You can see Summer and Striper pictured sleeping together below left. Soon we decided to look for a kitten to be a companion to Scout who had been raised by Summer. Striper had grown up alongside Scout and all three cats would groom each other and sleep together at times.

We found a shelter with a feral adult female cat who had recently given birth to kittens. We visited with the kittens and chose the tiny gray tabby with white paws who had not opened his eyes yet. We waited while he grew. When he did join our household he needed to be fed by hand for awhile. Scout groomed him and played with him.

We had a difficult time choosing names–one we tried at first was Ajax. That name did not stick–we kept deliberating, finally settling on Catfish. This seemed a unique name for this determined feline. I’ve collected a variety of photos to let you see his personality for yourself.

Because Catfish was so young and small, we were concerned about predators scooping him up, so we closed the cat door and the dog door at night to keep him inside. He howled, he climbed screens, he was impossible. To get some sleep, we tried keeping both him and Scout in our second building at night. Scout cooperated, but Catfish did not. Eventually he found a way to push out one of the window screens and escape. We gave up. We could not protect him in this manner. Catfish was determined to be outside at night–perhaps this relates to his mother being feral.

The last night we had with Catfish at home, he crawled in bed with me for much of the night. It was his last gift to me. He felt lousy, but he wanted to be with me. When we hustled him off to the vet Friday morning, I felt pretty sure he’d recover and I’d see him again. But the infection caused by “bobcat fever” is virulent.

Bobcat fever’s scientific name is cytauxzoonosis. It’s an infectious disease caused by a protozoan parasite called Cytauxzoon felis. Bobcats are the natural hosts of C felis; it’s then transmitted to domestic cats through tick bites, especially from lone star ticks. We have lots of lone star ticks here. “Bobcat fever” does not affect dogs or humans.

Symptoms seen in your cat include lethargy, lack of appetite, and high fever.
Another prominent symptom is the third eyelid appears and partially covers both eyes. Early detection and swift action are key to surviving “bobcat fever”. You can learn more by following this link:

“It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch,” these words are inscribed on an 18th century New England headstone. I assume the sentiment was meant to comfort. I do find comfort in knowing we loved our feline companion despite the fact that his loss has been a “fearful thing”. Death will touch us all. Fear of loss cannot keep us from loving. We have today. Tomorrow the sun rises and probably so will we. Hope keeps us present and hope keeps us appreciating the cycles of living. Catfish lives on in our memories, and now in these words and photos taken over the eight years of his life.

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4 Responses to Catfish, the Cat Born with Determination….

  1. Lila says:

    That is a beautiful tribute, Paula.
    And not just to Catfish but to all the losses with which we struggle right now!

    • Paula says:

      I deeply appreciate your comment to my writing this week! Our memories of all the good things in our lives can fuel our hope for the future. At the same time, living in a state of longing won’t benefit us or those around us. It seems the ground beneath us is shifting, and we need to learn to adapt. And to adapt with grace…. What a challenge!

  2. Martha Payne says:

    What a great tribute!! Made me cry a lot. And the quote about a fearful thing to love what death can touch… more tears. I loved his story.
    Thanks for such an eloquent memorial. And 100 times thank you for all the pictures.

    • Paula says:

      In many ways I wrote this for you. When your adored cat Simon disappeared last year you were devastated. The uncertainty about what happened to him made it especially difficult. Our feline family members bring special additions to our lives. You were always Catfish’s champion when we were trying to cope with his unruly behaviors as a youngster. Often you would chuckle when I described his antics to you when we talked on the phone. Those photos are a reminded of most of his escapades. At times, it seemed he knew how photogenic he was, and that he waited for me to get the shot! Both Simon and Catfish live on in our memories–along with many other beloved dogs and cats we’ve raised over the last forty years!

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