Mr. Tybs you were always a real piece of shit cat.
You pissed on things. You raped Talula. You swiped at Doris. You puked a lot. You were annoying. You had bad teeth. You ignored the litter box. You never caught things. You didn’t play. Your purr was almost inaudible. You never loved us and I certainly never loved you.
I got you in early 1997 at a time when all my friends who lived at an old apartment building called the “Mad Mansion” in Pensacola were getting cats. We were practicing for parenthood I suppose and the wise choice was to get a cat first because a cat is easier than a dog and a dog was easier than a baby so, fine, a cat.
So you arrived around the same time as Ashley’s black and white and badass outside cat Gish and her spoiled and bratty inside cat Jelly and Elaine’s calico Simone and Josh’s jet black Louis. You and your “twin brother” Nick arrived at our apartment on Gregory St. in Pensacola. Carmel got Nick and I got you. The only difference between you and Nick was a small patch of handsome white fur under the neck that resembled a pendent. That sophisticated mark was on Nick of course. You were just an utterly cheerless charcoal gray. The color of an encroaching thundercloud or something burned down. The only other physical difference between you and Nick was a subtler one. He having a more chiseled face and yours more undefined.
There were other differences though.
“He got folded up in a recliner,” Josh told me about you after he already made the choice to give Nick to his then girlfriend Carmel, whom he doted on. It was suggested that some sort of neurological damage had been done to you during the undetermined amount of time your kitten self spent folded up in the recliner. You certainly always appeared a little slow.
When you and Nick were kittens we would have people over and they all loved Nick. He would jump up on the furniture and arch his back and play with toys and run around on the hardwood floors all crazy. My friends would laugh and smile and cuddle Nick. You would just sleep a lot and if you moved at all it was just to go from one room to another. Sometimes you watched. I got you toys but you wouldn’t play with them. I wanted a real cool, loving, playful, cute cat and you just weren’t any of those things.
You didn’t DO stuff. You never sat in a window sill. You never curled up on my lap. You never chased a crumpled up piece of paper. Nick did but you didn’t.
I gave you a noble name at first. Tybalt was the hot-headed Prince of Cats from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the Reynard the Fox trickster tales before that. I was enthralled with John Leguizamo’s performance in the Baz Luhrman movie that was released around that time. I named you this in tribute to the performance and because at the time I had not yet learned humility and thought if you were going to be my cat, you were going to be the prince of cats.
You arrived at a time of transition for me. I was leaving the “little shit” stage I had been passionately entrenched in since 1985 and your acquisition was just the first in a series of decisions I made in which more responsibility and less recklessness would be required.
Josh, Carmel and I decided to move to New Orleans and Louis, Nick and you came along.
Gish caught a parasite and died shortly before. Everybody loved Gish. He liked to go for car rides. He ate hamburgers. He never lost a fight. The night he died, the comet Hale-Bop was in full view in the sunset horizon. I wanted a cat like Gish but I got you.
You spent your time at our house in New Orleans off General Pershing ignoring the litter box and pissing in my closet. I was embarking on a life of responsibility and had my first salaried position and was in over my head stressed out all the time. I was working 60+hour work weeks and you were urinating in my closet three times a day. You did it so much my roommates wrote magnet poetry about it on the fridge. We had a litter box. You could have used it but didn’t.
You would get out from time to time and I would responsibly try to find you but you would never let me catch you, instead sitting just out of my reach, not coming to me, then running off when I tried to grab you.
At my wit’s end with the job and desperately needing something completely new, I gave up on my plan to be a hospitality manager and moved out to California to get an education and be a writer. Josh and Carmel very nicely agreed to keep you until I could bring you out.
They had to leave in a year and you needed to be transferred over to my parents’ house. I remember the day we went to pick you up to take them there my dad was meeting us at Josh and Carmel’s to help catch you because you always ran away. When he arrived he was already there he said he had already caught you and that it was quite easy and you were a very nice cat. I wasn’t surprised when I saw the cat my dad caught was actually Nick.
It took three of us quite a bit to catch you. It wasn’t easy. On you or us.
You lived with my parents for another four years. My mother loved you. My father didn’t. I would rarely see you when I came to visit. You went out at night on the lagoon and slept under the bed during the day. You wisely never pissed in their house. You probably knew what would have happened to you if you did.
Perhaps those nights on the lagoon were your glory years. Perhaps it was then, among the beavers and the toads and ducks and the snakes and the alligators and great blue herons, that you were great. Because all the rest of the time you just weren’t much of anything. Just there enough to be there and require care.
I abandoned California and came back to New Orleans with Romy and our new cat, a female named Talula. My parents house had been wiped out by Hurricane Ivan and they dutifully took care of you during the evacuation, the relocation and the rebuilding of their home. But my father made it clear that with his new, spotless home being built and with my being back in New Orleans, you would be returning to my custodianship.
When Hurricane Dennis came, my parents evacuated to New Orleans and brought you with them. When they went back home after the storm they left you with us. You christened our house by climbing up on the back of our new fabric couch and pissing on it. Then as we tried various techniques to get the acrid smell of your piss out, you pissed on the cushions as well. We threw out the couch.
You began pissing on any garment left on the floor and seldom if ever using the litter box. We had to throw out the bath mats and many, many winter mornings our cold, wet feet touched the chilly tile floor. You peed on rugs so, fine, no rugs. I bought a plastic one thinking you only peed on fabric but you peed on it too. Sometimes we couln’t find where you peed, only knew it was somewhere.
The very few times you attempted to use the litter box, you mostly just sat in it and pissed or shit off the side onto the floor. You didn’t know how to use it.
I began to develop a deep aversion to the acrid pheremonal smell of your urine. I hated it like I hate the smell of radiator water. It is always associated with something bad.
Hurricane Katrina came and when we evacuated with you you seemed to understand that you were not to piss on the floors of any of the homes we were staying at and used the litter box instead. I think maybe this was a notion of respect or intelligence but then why was the home we lived in together not treated the same?
After we returned from evacuation, feral dogs began killing cats in the neighborhood. I was awakened one night to them chasing you around under the house. I called out for you and found you in a tree across the street. I had to get a ladder out and get you because you wouldn’t come down. I didn’t like you but didn’t want you to go out like that.
by this time, Josh’s jet black cat Louis wandered off, never to be seen or heard of again.
A urine soaked year or two later, we found Doris. She was a very cute, sweet, friendly, smart, loyal, affectionate dog whom you hated. You intimidated her as much as you could. You would trap her in bedrooms by swatting at her nose when she tried to push the door open. With your deep ashy coloring you hid yourself in shadows and, like a Moray eel emerged from hiding and swiped at her as she joyfully went by. You would stand in doorways daring her to pass and she wouldn’t. She could have killed you easily but you owned her.
You began raping Talula late at night. Even though I had your testicles removed in 1998 you still felt the need to impose your feline masculinity on Talula by simulating the terrible feline sex act on her. Always waiting until Romy and I were in bed, under the covers, before you began your approach to her with guttural, repetitive meows. Stalking her, oblivious to her cries, you would pounce on her, biting the back of her neck while she hissed, wrestling her. Night after night, year after year you did this. You would come in at night, eat your wet food, wait until we went to bed and rape Talula. We always knew it was about to begin because you would chant, “Wow-wowww…wow-wowww…wow-wowww.” Then, rape.
You didn’t like to be held. If we would pick you up and try to be affectionate with you, you would just stare off into space looking uncomfortable and seeming to wish it was all over. Then when we put you down you would make sure to physically shake it off.
On rare occasions, our affection would make you purr but it was always barely detectable. Almost not there at all.
As we learned to not put any fabric or garment on the floor, you took to just urinating in the kitchen by the garbage can. For years, any morning after a night you spent in the house would begin with a yellow puddle of your piss in the kitchen. Most of the time I was lucky enough to see it but sometimes I went to the sink to get water at night and would step right in a puddle of your piss and it would instantly soak into my white athletic sock.
On some occasions, a sport coat or casual jacket I placed on a hamper or couch would fall on to the floor and you would piss on it. It would dry and then, in my haste out the door the following day, I would grab the garment and head to work or to errands or to some social event. With luck I would begin to smell your piss in the car and have to turn around. A few times I was left without a jacket because the one I chose had the unmistakable odor of cat pee.
I began to say the phrase “cat pee” so much that I envisioned a hip hop artist whose name was “Cat P.” Yo! Yo! This is Cat P all up in your area!
I think around this time you ceased to be Tybalt and became Mr. Tybs. One was a regal name and the other sounded like an old son of a bitch.
About the only thing sweet you did was greet us when we came home. But this was usually in the evening and you may have just been doing it as a way of saying, “Hooray, the people that feed me are here to feed me.”
You were often insistent about your food. Following Romy around or meowing until you were fed. Bothering me while I attempted to work. You were always sure that if I got up from my chair it must be to feed you and you marched into the kitchen. Then you became confused when I went to the bathroom and then returned.
Like a dolt, you would constantly eat your food too fast and then throw up. You threw up other times too. Many times I would be eating dinner and hear the thumping sound of your stomach contracting and then the liquidy release.
During these years, Elaine called to tell me she had her calico cat Simone put to sleep.
I tried to respect you and treat you like the elder of our tribe that you were. Not chronologically the oldest, true, but if lifespans were factored in, you were the oldest. I tried to respect that in spite of all the piss you showered onto our floors.
I heard around this time your twin brother, the mercurial Nick jumped out of a parked car window and ran off into a neighborhood. Maybe he is living with some nice old lady, maybe he was eaten by something. He was never heard from again. So barring the unlikely survival of Ashley’s cat Jelly, who was a few years older than you, you became the sole survivor of the cats of the Mad Mansion. You wore them all down you old, dumb fucker.
The last straw was the night you pissed on the electric outlet in the dining room. I was in the kitchen and heard the unmistakable sound of something shorting out. I followed the sound to the electrical outlet and as I got close, I stepped in a puddle of your acrid piss and it soaked my athletic sock. With a flashlight I examined the outlet and saw your piss all over the baseboard and inside the socket. I wondered why you weren’t electrocuted. I wished secretly that you had.
I must contrast this incident with one that happened around the same time. I was sleeping on the couch and a burglar was attempting to break in the next room. As he tried to remove the glass from a window, Doris instantly sprang to action and began barking loudly at the window. This scared the man and he fell off the ladder he was on and staggered off. See, one pet protected the home while the other put it in jeopardy. One pet is loving and sweet and requires little care and the other pet was you.
So it came time to put you out permanently. The electrical outlet incident and the years of piss were too much. I needed a piss-free environment for my sanity. You had plenty of chances to straighten up. Earlier this year, when the weather began to warm, you became a permanent outside cat. We had a fence built to keep you safe. You could stay on the front porch.
Your age was beginning to show by this time. Your teeth were bad. You had lost weight. Your muscles seemed weak. But of course, instead of shitting in the yard or in the bushes, you liked to shit right on the walkway we used every day. It of course attracted flies and smelled terrible. You could have shit somewhere else but instead you shit right where we always walked.
So we moved you to the back and you shit and pissed all over the concrete back there and it attracted flies also.
You developed some sort of jaw ailment that made noise each time you chewed.
You grew batty. You meowed a lot. Your meow became this raspy, incessant repeating meow. “Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr.” You always needed to be fed. You would escape the yard and wander around the neighbor’s yards. You would find wherever we were in the house and sit under the floorboards where we were and… “Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr. Rawr.”
Your hair began falling out.
People began to recoil at the sight of you.
Friends began telling me I needed to put you down and that you were obviously suffering. You were still eating so that was good. And how did they know if you were suffering?
And then last week you didn’t come to dinner and we assumed you went off to die. But the smell that showed up on Saturday night proved there was no wandering off at all. Romy found you and cried. I didn’t.
I had to crawl under the house and get you. I brought an old cotton sheet and just grabbed you hrough it and rolled you up in it like a joint.
We buried you in the backyard. Romy insisted on digging the hole. We planted a century plant on top of you. Lit a candle out by your grave and it stayed lit all night in spite of a cold, damp mist in the air.
You raped. You pissed. You shit. You puked. You harassed. You slept. You scratched. You didn’t love me and I didn’t love you back.
And you lived for 17 years.
Romy believes that pets are our charge and that above all we must always do what we can to care for them. I believe that they are there to bring us joy and love and comfort and they should never cease to do so. You were certainly the former and I think you knew it or were too dumb to know otherwise. You were not the latter for damn sure.
The most significant thing about you was you were indeed a living link to a person I no longer am. I was 23 when I got you and am 40 now. You represented a span of my life that perhaps rivals even my childhood in the amount of change and growth I went through. You were the first attempt at responsibility I really undertook all on my own and I saw it through despite just how ambivalent I was toward you. With a lot of help from friends and family we saw it through for you.
You little fuck.