Radar, Best Cat Ever

by R.J. Peters

Radar, comforting a new kitten at the shelter
     Cats like Radar don't come along very often. His extraordinary intelligence must account for his survival as a stray in a very small town in a rural area where strays are usually shot, not gathered up by animal control and impounded. So when neighbors called to tell me he was about to be shot, I knew I had to save him.

He had no future, with local authorities gunning for him. He would not be going to a shelter, unless it was mine.

No one knows how long he lived on the street, but he learned how to survive by convincing nice humans to look out for him, but inveterate cat haters kept him on his toes and on the move to avoid a final confrontation. But now his days were numbered.

He was extremely thin when I rescued him - almost emaciated - and his long fur was severely matted and had to be shaved off. He was so thin, we even had to wait until he was healthy enough to be neutered and vaccinated. The vet guessed he was at least 8, possibly 12, but most likely around 10 years old. I think he settled on an average, there.

What a pathetic picture he made until he recovered his beautiful coat and reached a healthy weight... around 17 pounds... after a year at the shelter. He dutifully accepted cage life, hopping out on request for morning and evening cleanings, and jumping back in when I told him, "Your room is ready, sir."

When I changed the environment from cages to an open shelter model, Radar went along with the new arrangement as if it had been his idea, often comforting or disciplining other cats who needed help getting used to it. He then took over the job of welcoming new arrivals and giving them their orientation tours.

It didn't take me long to realize just how smart he was, and I started taking him with me to events and speaking engagements where animals were allowed. Whenever he was on the agenda, our shelter always got the best donations. He knew how to "work a room," that's for sure.

He became so popular that adoption requests increased -- for him. But I never met just the right person for him and eventually took him off the list. I decided the best home for him was mine! He went home with me one day and became my personal cat. I still took him to public activities as the shelter "spokescat" and he continued to win hearts and open wallets every time. He seemed to enjoy public life and I appointed him the official public relations rep for the shelter. He put up with elderly people hugging him a little too hard at nursing homes, and children holding him awkwardly at the public library during children's story hours. He seemed to understand that it was his job to help people understand the needs of cats.

Then, when the shelter had to close, we moved to an old, remote farm and took all the "leftover" animals with us. Radar quickly assessed the new location and took charge of everyone's activities, including the dogs. No one messed with Radar, or he reminded them who was top cat. He could be tough when needed, but was mostly gentle and understanding.

I will always miss him sleeping next to me and purring. He began losing weight this past year, almost imperceptibly under his long fur, but in time, it was obvious whenever I picked him up. He was never sick... so there was nothing the vet had to say, other than to be sure he was eating well. And that was never a problem! He wasn't even choosy. But one day he just sniffed the dish and walked away. Then he darted out when I went outside and disappeared. He'd done this before, so I wasn't worried. He always came to me when I called, so I figured he was surveying his kingdom and would return. He did.

But he didn't come in when invited. I had to lift him off the dog's bed by the front door and bring him inside. Then I knew... I could feel it, sense it somehow, that he was saying good bye.

I set up a large basket with sheepskins in it for him to relax on, and he curled up in there, right where I put him.

I kept him with me all evening, and just after midnight, May 6, he lifted his head to look at me and let out a long sigh, settling down on his soft pads. I petted him and thanked him for being in my life and cried softly for a long time, lying on the floor beside him. He was 18.

Good bye Radar... I don't know when the heartache will end, but I will never forget ... the best cat, ever.

Visit Radar's Photo Album.

Copyright 2010 - Dr. RJ Peters 
The Problem Cat