Last updated on Monday, 11 October, 2010 19:19
August, 1996 - March, 2010
In case it isn't clear, that's her picture on the site's banner. Pretty little thing, don't you think. It doesn't show in the photo, but she was also beautiful on the inside. There were many unique things to her personality but I'll start this biography with her birth.
It reads at the top "August, 1996", but that's as close as we could ascertain it. The thing is, we have no idea of the exact day she was born, and even the month might be wrong. Maybe it was July, maybe it was September, but anyway, it doesn't really matter.
We met her on a cloudy day in early October. Actually, our mom did so first. At the time, we were living in the island of São Miguel, Azores. Our father had been relocated there and, after some troubles, we had moved to a rented house in Ponta Delgada.
It was just another day. Our mother drove me and my brother to school that morning and when we got home we had a big surprise waiting for us.
There she was, on the couch. So tiny... We never had any pets, so we didn't really know what to expect. Certainly, it wasn't a sure thing that she would stay with us, specially because we were (and always have been) a lower-middle class family. But fate arranges things in an unavoidable way. It seems that after our mom came home, tiny baby Nini must have found her way into our car's engine bay. She was probably cold, and couldn't resist the warm car. When our mom went back to pick us up from school, she heard a meowing coming from under the hood. It's a great fortune that she didn't ignore it and start the car, or she would have most likely died. But no, our mom popped the hood and discovered what must have been a very frightened Nini looking back at her. Since she had to go pick us up, she left Nini with our dad back home, and got on her way.
Come to think of it, a few days later, we saw a similar looking adult cat, roaming the street. We think it was her mom, probably looking for her. She must have dropped her from the low ceiling that borders the street (or Nini ran away and fell) because it was on the side of the street where our car was parked. Anyway, Nini was safe with us, and we were going to provide her with the best life that we could. Hopefully, it turned out better than being a stray, but we can never know.
So, we took her into the family. After those first few days of adjustment (which consisted mainly of teaching Nini not to go to the toilet under the living room table) she seemed to have accepted us. She was incredibly smart. Looking back, we could have probably taught her to open door knobs, or to go to the toilet like humans do, but she would only learn what she wanted to. Unfortunately, this would later involve copying some of our bad habits, but hey, at least she was well adjusted.
When it came to naming her we first thought of "Tigresa" or Tigress, because of her tiger-like stripes. There was no way that was going to work, since it was just too long and complex. Next we tried calling her "Linda" (which translates to beautiful), and that came close, but there was still something off. Calling her by that name would get hit and miss results. So, we just got lazy and called her by a simpler name. Nina. Quite unimaginative, if you think about it. It just means "girl". But she liked it, so I guess it was just right.
At the time, we were living in a small two story house, wall to wall with the other houses on the street. Two bedrooms, one for my parents, another for me and my brother (and Nini, of course). Pretty small, but it had something all cats love: a tiny garden. A little fiefdom for her to rule. A couple of times she would stay out during the night, making me worry and eventually going next door because she couldn't get back up from our neighbors backyard. Me and my brother would follow her up the walls during the weekend, and she was mostly very well behaved. Sometimes she would do those things of bringing a dead bird or mouse home, kind of going "Look at me! Look at this! I caught something!".
Creepy side note: sometimes she would just decapitate the mice and leave them on the backyard. Wouldn't eat any bit of them. Terrible habit. Though, in a short time, there were no more mice altogether, so she did her patrol duty efficiently. Even though I believe the mice had as much of a right to live as I did, good luck trying to teach that to a cat.
Well, the days went on, and after some months, guess what? She had her first heat. Even though she went out to the backyard every day, and met many other cats, she would simply not let any of the male cats get anywhere near her. One even went across the roof and landed on the small balcony on my room in an attempt to get to her, but none of them had their way with her. We later came to discover that she multiple cysts in her abdomen, including her ovaries and womb.
That was her first medical problem. She went to the vet for a consult at a time when we were pondering whether or not to have her neutered. It wasn't really an option because she had those cysts and removing them implied an hysterectomy. We got ready for it.
I was learning piano at the time, and I had a Casio keyboard that I used to practice at home (against my teachers request of a real piano). But Nini didn't care as she loved hearing me or my brother playing it. Actually, she loved music altogether.
When she came back from her surgery, anesthetized, we played "Bist du bei mir", from Anna Magdalena Bach's notebook, quietly, and stayed by her side as she slowly recovered.
She always dealt badly with anesthesia, and even two days after she had been submitted to surgery she was a bit off. We had a scary moment when she somehow made her way down the stairs, tumbling and all, reached the living room, having urinated half of the way, and acting like she had awoken suddenly from a bad dream.
Note to the reader: If your pet has been anesthetized, make sure they are close to their usual toilet spot when they wake up. They'll probably want to go, and they're willing to do so, even with great effort.
Anyway, her stitches were O.K., and after using that "satellite dish" thingy for a couple of weeks, she was back to her old self. She did however begin to put on some weight, which is pretty normal for anyone who had an hysterectomy.
A couple of years later, our father had a work accident and we had to move back to the mainland, where we had lived before we went to Azores. She was very good on the airplane trips and even met the head of a political party at the time (ghastly thing, politics). Episodical things aside, she adapted very well to her new home, even though I guess she missed her garden. We live in an apartment in the suburbs of the capital (quite far away, actually), and being confined to a flat isn't the ideal situation for anyone, let alone a cat. She did try to balance herself on the windows, nearly giving me a heart attack, but she adapted to just looking out through them.
Her guard duty didn't end though, as she would growl every time the door rang, or there were unknown people in the building, unless of course if it was someone in the family. She always knew it was us, and she would stand at the door waiting for us. I would never go far away, on my own will, so I would not leave her alone, and she would let me know she missed me when I did.
In the winter, she would crawl under the covers and curl herself between my legs, or my brother's, in order to stay warm. Only very rarely, would she sleep by our side, like a person. In the summer, she would go to the feet of the bed and use the feet guard as an improvised pillow (which doesn't make sense because cats haver very narrow shoulders). I guess it was something she copied from us. Unfortunately, she also copied the snoring. I guess it was because she had gotten a bit chubby. Sometimes, late at night, we would go to bed and she would go to the living room and would start "caterwauling" and that was my queue to get up and go play with her. She liked playing with small balls made from candy wrapper, and had the most insane reflexes. We used to call her "Preud'homme", like the Benfica keeper. She kept on playing like that nearly up until the day she died.
In the late spring of 2009, we decided that since she was getting on in years, we would do a thorough blood panel to check her pancreatic, liver and kidney function. We were hesitantly expecting her to be prone to diabetes, because she was overeating, but it turned out that her glycemic values were fine, though she had developed chronic renal insufficiency. Mild at the time, but it would certainly imply changing her diet. How ironic it was that a few days later we noticed she had a tiny pea-like lump in her scruff, right in between the shoulder blades. We didn't take her back immediately because we had no idea it might be a tumor and just thought it was a sebaceous cyst or something.
Note to the reader: Don't chance it. Unusual lumps and bumps that aren't obvious side effects of trauma are medical emergencies. You'll wish you were safe, because if you're not, you'll most definitely be sorry.
Her doctor suspected it might be something like a fibrosarcoma and in July, she was submitted to surgery in order to extract it,whatever it was. No biopsy, just trying to get the whole thing out. It did turn out to be a low grade fibrosarcoma (with some neurofibroma stuff associated), but we hoped we had removed all of it. We would later find out we hadn't.
During the time she was recovering, we didn't put the neck guard on her. Instead, my mom tailored a kind of "baby suit" so she could go about her life while the stitches healed. She just looked so annoyed at us, like she was saying "this is so undignified...". She did manage to get out of it and after a few days had passed, since she wasn't trying to scratch or lick the wound, the doctor said we should take it off, along with the bandage, and let it heal like that. She was bothered by the new growing hair, always trying to make it flow with the rest of the fur, but after a few weeks she was totally restored. Couldn't even see the scar. But even then we could feel another tumor growing underneath it. Her doctor told us that while chemotherapy was an option, it was from his personal experience that it did not result in a cure the overwhelming majority of the times.
Advised to cherish our time the best we could (he gave her 6 months), we kept things going normally for her and she went with it. It wasn't until several months later that the fluid draining from the dying tumor started to make a swell on her back, which one day, while she was comfortably looking at the window, ruptured. She was in startled by the fluid running down her back, but it seemed she wasn't even aware of the huge lump it was coming from.
My mom panicked at the sight, and I was holding a towel to the ulcer, in order to absorb the fluid. After a few hours, it was pretty much drained, and it did not fill up again for several days. Until she died, this went on and off, speeding up the cycle with time. By the end, every night she would ooze, and me and my brother would take shifts looking after her. Even at this time she would do her normal life, playing and all.
Closer towards the end, she would still go to the living room to play, but she wouldn't run after the ball anymore, just wanted to cuddle. Two weeks before she passed away she had a really bad day where she didn't eat or do anything. She perked up the day after, but that was her last wind. It wasn't the tumor hurting her directly, but the necrotized tissue was overdosing her body with potassium and she was slowly getting paralyzed.
The second to last day, she couldn't really walk or jump, and going to the toilet was difficult, as she would stay put a long time, recovering her strengths. She was on the sofa that night, and I stayed up all night by her side, trying to make her feel more comfortable. She was no longer eating, and getting weaker by the hour. The following day, she tried to go to the toilet but when she jumped out of the sofa, she just stood there. I foolishly tried to get her back on the sofa after she had been on the floor for a while, and after I had placed her on her kitty litter, but she ended up urinating on the sofa, visibly upset at having to do so.
We tried a last resort to make her comfortable. We took her back to our room, where she always passed most of her time, and took her litter there. At first, she was against it, but then we put her on her litter and she was relieved. After that, me and my brother stayed with her, and that last night, even though she was incredibly weak, she managed to sleep on my brother's arm.
That last morning, she was hanging by a thread, her eyes trembled, you could feel her heart going into arrhythmia, she had nausea and minor seizures, and after eight months of relative normality, we came to the decision that we couldn't let her suffer like that.
We went to the vet and we made that hardest of calls, of making it end swiftly. As she was slipping away, I was holding her head, looking into her eyes, crying ten times more than I am right now, but trying to smile. I didn't want her last sight of me to be of pain. I wanted to offer her a smile. If I have nothing else to give her, at least I can show her what she has given me. Happiness.
It was over. We took her back, and I held her the way home. She stayed on my bed as we conducted a little service the rest of the day and night. Put on the same music she liked and said our good byes.
The next day, we took her to one of the most beautiful places around here, in the hills of Sintra, and found a magnificent place to lay her to rest. I try not to visit it too frequently because I know she's not really there anymore, but I like to think she would have liked it there.
I know I'll see her again. I want to. But I also want this world to be better that it was both the day she came into it, and the day she left it, and this site is a small step towards that.
See you someday, my sister.