Winky, My Special Kitty

Eric A. Meece

Why would people read a web page about my kitty? Everyone's kitty is special, right? But I've never known a cat like Winky. Maybe some people would like to read about a special pet. Not that she did anything remarkable like save my life or anything. She just added a lot to my life, and maybe to the lives of a few others who knew her.

My favorite kitty was my loving companion for over 17 years. She was born in April 1990 (April 20 or a few days earlier), and passed away on April 26, 2008, at about 6:45 pm.

I had moved into my own house early in 1989, and since I was alone then, I had decided that I was going to get my own cat for the first time. Growing up in the 1960s I and my Mom had two cats who lived to be 16, and several others who died young. One day I just felt guided that this was the day to go down to the Humane Society and find the cat that was waiting for me. I don't often get such definite feelings of that kind. So I went over on December 18, 1990. I resolved to let the cats there choose me by showing how affectionate they were. One male cat was very friendly, but I passed him up to look around at the others. The cat in the next cage, I noticed, had a strange, funny mustache, so I didn't think I wanted her. I continued walking around, but none of the other cats stood out for me. So I came back to where the male cat was; only this time another girl was visiting with him and decided to take him (it turned out he seemed unhappy to go). It was then that the kitty next door with the mustache jumped up, with a quick, friendly meow, and started caressing me with her whole body, very affectionately. I loved the sparkling, witty look in her eye too. It was almost as if she already knew me. And now the mustache seemed cute.

I knew with certainty that this was the one, so I went to the desk and applied. The clerk at the Humane Society seemed reluctant to give her to me. She even asked why I wanted to spay her, even though it was a requirement of theirs in order to adopt their cats. She asked if I would be around to take care of her. In fact, I worked at home and had lots of free time, so I told her pleadingly "I am home a lot." So she signed me up, I paid a small fee, and then I went back to the kitty's cage and smiled at her, saying "I'll be back soon." The application said her name was "Winky," although the sign on the cage had said "Winter." She perked up later when I called her by her real name. I think it helped to cement the bond between us, because I "knew who she was" and kept the continuity with her previous owner. This owner said she was friendly, even with another cat; but that they were "not able to keep" the cat.

Overnight, with my agreement, they spayed her, but I didn't get her vaccinated yet. She was very cooperative and seemed to know that people were taking care of her. The nurse said that she was quite a sweetheart. Yes she is, I replied. When I came back the next day, though, she said that Winky was unhappy about having been spayed. I later read in a handout that this was the effect of the anasthesia, and would wear off in a day or two. I brought her home in the small cardboard carrier they gave me, and opened it up in the middle of the living room floor. She was glad to climb out right away, but though she was curious about her new home, she right away hid under the leather chair next to the window. I coaxed her out, and within a couple of days she was happy again.

Soon, instead of caressing me with her whole body, she would just use her face (even sometimes pushing it into mine), and then lick me sweetly and energetically. She especially liked licking my nose. Sometimes at first I left the trap door to the basement open so she could go in and out when she wanted. In the morning she would love me like a long lost friend. Before too long though, "Sandy" the male cat next door attacked and injured her, and I had to take her to the vet in Campbell. The doctor was nice, but the clerk wasn't-- threatening to keep her for some reason I don't remember now-- so I never went back there. My friend Stephen Abbott had brought his iguana there for treatment. After Winky got hurt that time, I never left the basement door open again. Soon she bothered me a lot, asking to go out. Sometimes I had to lock her in the back room, where her litter box was, until she quieted down. In a year or so she was more patient. The doctor had commented that cats really enjoy going outdoors when they are allowed to, although it's dangerous. The Humane Society had recommended that cats should be kept indoors. I always thought, despite the dangers, that this would deprive my cat. Winky loved going out and communing with the plants. She even hunted a few times and brought in a few "trophies." She would also meow loudly when she saw a dead animal. One time she caught a bird in her mouth, and meowed desperately. She didn't know what to do. I took the injured bird away from Winky, and the bird flew away. I usually let her out everyday if she wanted to go. When I asked her, "do you want to go out," she knew exactly what I meant, and often after I asked her she ran to the door and put her arms up on it, leaving no doubt that yes, she wanted to go out!

She loved being with me; almost all the time if she could get away with it. In 1991 she sat on my desk behind my typewriter while I typed up my book The Horoscope of Humanity. When it was published in 1997 as Horoscope for the New Millennium, I mentioned this in the acknowledgements. Later when I used the computer to write, she would jump on the table and sit on my lap, but I quickly found out I could not write efficiently with her on my lap, so I put her back up on the table. Soon she learned to stay there and out of my way. Often, even when 17 years old, she would run to me while I sat on the leather chair in the living room (the one she originally hid under), and spread her arms and paws on my shoulders between my head. My girlfriend Carol thought that was real sweet. Winky trusted me.

Winky was a healer, sent specially for me. I thought it was amazing that when she sat on me, she knew exactly where to sit that would ease my stress. When I laid on my back, she would sit on the small of my lower back at just the right place. No cat I knew ever did that. Even once when she was weak, a couple of weeks before she died, she did this. She would stay there until I pushed her off.

In February 1994, soon after Carol and I started a romance, she came over and met Winky. Before the next time she came, she asked if she "could come over and see me and Winky." She loved me partly because she was attracted to my relationship with my cat. Carol loved animals, and was strongly affected by Winky's personality. Winky loved her too. When we were making out, or just lying together, Winky would come over and join in. She said Winky was such a good kitty because I was such a good owner. I liked that, but I gave her a somewhat skeptical look. "Winky loves you very, very much," she would say. She asked me if "Winky and I had always been like this." "It was love at first sight" I told her.

Carol moved in with me in late 1994. She tolerated the litter box in the back room where she had her futon and stereo. But she moved out in 1996. Even later though, she said that Winky had an incredible effect on her, and always asked about her. From Carol I got the title for Winky of "my tiny little sweetie." Carol also noted that I would say her name 4 times, with the accent on the second time, "Winky WINKY Winky Winky." And I would say that second Y very high.

When Carol lived here she also brought her own cat named Kali, whom she had recently rescued in a park near Walnut Creek. At first Winky resented Kali, but soon they became friends. They hung out together and played together wildly, until Kali's play got too rough. They knew that their owners were friends too. Later in 1996, though, Carol didn't like that Winky scratched her when she was trying to comb out her fleas. Winky was a wonderful, special kitty, but she was not perfect. Neither was her owner. But we shared lots of love. After Carol left, I asked Winky to always stay with me. She said yes by licking me 4 times.

In about 1998 a girl named Ann from the Green Party came over for a meeting and commented on what great shape my kitty was in; that she seemed well taken care of.

Winky was so special because she was like another person. Winky was an appropriate name, not only because she sometimes winked, but because when she talked it was like a person giving you a wink of recognition. I will so miss her peppy greetings and loving sensitivity. Those eyes were so soulful too. She always knew just what she wanted; or if she wasn't sure, she would stop and consider a bit. She was just very present. I called her "my bright spirit kitty," and she seemed like a "new age" kitty, sent to me by the angels. She so appreciated being petted and talked to. She had so many ways to nurture me and express her love. There was no kitty I knew who was as tender with her touch and her glance. She purred loudly; Carol said she had "a big motor." In her early years when I left the house, Winky would look at me sadly. So I said "bye" and assured her I'd be back soon. Maybe like the experts say, as her owner I was her surrogate Dad. But it was just as true to say that she was my surrogate Mom and that I was the kitten she never had.

For many years at a time she would sleep with me. I never rolled over on her, though Carol almost did once before I stopped her. Sometimes though, she would prefer to sleep or sit by the living room window on the leather chair, or some other place, for weeks or months at a time. I would miss her then. We were very close, but sometimes closer than at other times. Even when she wouldn't sleep with me (perhaps because the bed was too hot), she loved to sit on my lap in the computer room as I meditated, sitting in my rocking chair. Up until the very last few months of her life, she would listen and run immediately from wherever she was to sit on me when she heard me sit on that chair. I had to keep the door open, because otherwise she would cry and demand to be let in. That was true about my bedroom door too, and sometimes even the bathroom door. While I sat on the toilet, she would ask to come in, and then would sit in my underpants. Often she loved to bury her head in my elbow while sitting on my lap. Another virtue Winky cultivated was to help dry me off by licking me after I finished my shower. In later years though I wouldn't let her come back to the shower because she sometimes peed on the bath mat. She also jumped on the organ while I practiced, sometimes walking on the keys. She wasn't a good organist, not having much awareness of music. But she seemed to notice the bell-like sounds of Klaus Schulze's piece "Crystal Lake" when I played my tape of it.

Sometimes I preferred to put Winky outside while I meditated, so I could practice more efficiently. In November 2003 this turned out badly. The black cat from the neighborhood attacked her and she had to got to the vet, Dr. Grewal. It cost me $233. It may also have cost me a relationship with a Scorpio girl who was upset that I didn't call her. I was busy writing an astrology article which I thought would pay the vet bill. I thought of finding the cat's owner and suing, but never did. After that I was even more watchful of her when she went outside. The first couple of times Winky had fought off this cat. As Carol used to say, Winky was tough. She was depressed when the black cat finally got even and hurt her, and I had to cheer her up as well has take her to the vet.

My roommates who rented the back rooms from me starting in 1998 didn't usually pay too much attention to Winky. In chronological order, there was Todd, Josh, Tim, Margaret, Jim, Jon, Derrick, and Mr. Matthews (using their most common names). Todd and Tim noticed how much Winky missed me when I was away. They said she looked frantically through the rooms for me, wondering where I had gone. "Don't worry, it's cool" Tim said to Winky. In 1997 I went to Denver promoting my book and left her alone for a few days. She had plenty of food and water, but she seemed weak and didn't walk or meow easily when I returned. She recovered very soon, but after that year I was glad to have a housemate there to look after her when I was gone.

In 2000 Margaret brought her own cat to live here, a brown male named Patrick. They didn't hit it off because Winky seemed to resent him. Patrick was always nice and patient and wanted to make friends, and eventually Winky mellowed to him a bit. Josh and Jim mostly ignored Winky, but Jon noticed that she had fleas and bought me a flea collar. It worked, and so did the medicine I got from the vet in 2003 (Advantage solution). Jon was also concerned that she might pee on his expensive carpet, especially when he was moving out and I had left the door open. But she was mostly good in those days, using the litter box near the dining room or going outdoors. Derrick liked Winky and often said "Good Morning Winky" to her. It was Winky's last roommate, Mr. Matthews, who loved her, and was happy when she slept with him a few times. She would come and sit with him, in spite of his manic personality. But his destructive behavior was too much for me, and I had to evict him in July 2007. He even threatened to take her away from me on June 26. After that, while he was still here, I had to keep Winky with me in my room all the time, but she didn't complain. Another person who stayed here for a while in 2002 was my brother Gordon, who loves cats too and appreciated Winky.

In the early years Winky was good, and would keep using the litter box even though I hadn't changed it for a while. She went outdoors too, much to the chagrin of my aggressive and bad-tempered neighbor David. One day round about the year 2000, about 2 years after he moved next door, he came over to ask me help pay for the new fence along our border-- and then added, "if I catch her pooping in my yard again, you can kiss your kitty goodbye." Not exactly an effective way to persuade me to help pay for a fence. I called the police and they talked to him. In 2006 I told this story to Mr. Matthews, and he confronted David about this. Matthews was proud of doing this. He would frequently remark to me things like, "That CAT-- that CAT, is special..." and he said that Winky "adored me."

I didn't vaccinate her until the late 1990s, when I took her in the small cardboard carrier to the mobile clinic. That time she was scared and restless, and they asked if Winky was a wild cat. Later I took charge of my brother Gordon's larger metal carrier, which calmed Winky down a bit when I took her somewhere; such as to the Divine Science Center where Rev. Christine put on a special service in honor of St. Francis of Assisi called "blessing the animals." This was reported in the newspaper, including a picture of me, Christine, Hilde, and Lowell with his dog. The reporter noted that during the service "a man (me) leaned over to say "bless you" to the "black and white cat inside (the carrier)" (Winky). The service was held in early October because St. Francis' day is Oct.4 (mine is Oct.5).

Problems came in late 2003, when Winky was 13; at the same time that she got depressed after being attacked by the black cat. Perhaps because the litter box was originally located in the back room, she sometimes had the habit of going back there, usually in the hall on the carpet. But this wasn't cool, now that I had people living back there. I thought if I hit her gently a bit and yelled at her, it would make her afraid to go back there. Winky was very smart, and I know she knew what the word "no" meant. After all, in her first year I had trained her not to go into the street, and to stay in the yard when she wanted to follow me as I walked somewhere. I lived on a busy street, and not all cats survive who live there. I also trained her not to go over to David's yard, and once after I went over the fence and retrieved her, she never went there again. Winky learned, and after a while she learned to go to the litter box again too.

When Matthews moved in, though, she started peeing and pooping on the carpet again. This time I not only told her "no" at the offending place, I immediately brought her to the litter box, pet her and said "this is where you go." I did this over and over. After a while it worked again for some months. Soon after Matthews left, however, the problem returned. This time (if not before) I also rewarded her by feeding her wet food when she went in the litter box. I also closed off the back hall, but then she went potty on the other parts of the hall and in the living room. Mom told me that older kitties get kidney problems, and that's why they can't make it to the litter box. But Winky often went over and peed and pooped in places further away than the litter box, so this didn't make much sense to me. It upset me when she did this, in spite of all my pleas and efforts, because I hated yelling at her. Finally one day in November 2007 I was so frustrated that I decided to throw her outside for the night. I brought her in a few times just to remind her of what she did, and threw her out again. A few times I called her a "bad kitty" too. This time she seemed to get it that I was unhappy with her. When she came in, she groaned, and then wouldn't eat for another day. She was depressed. I got her to eat again by feeding her wet food, and gave her lots of love and petting. She did the right thing again for about a week after that. But she was never the same old Winky. This happened the same week that I was frustrated over problems at the radio station. I didn't deal with those in just the right way either.

The month before, in the midst of these problems with Winky, she gave me an incredibly affectionate licking while sitting on me in my bed. Soon I thought that this might be the last time she ever kissed me, as it proved to be. Maybe she was saying goodbye; maybe she was saying "I'm sorry." But I will always remember it. After the overnight episode she only licked me again once, and never in the same old way; though later she did caress me again. I tried to bring back the old Winky with lots of love, but at the same time she had stopped licking me, she also stopped licking and washing herself. Meanwhile I could never get her to stop peeing and pooping on the carpet for more than a couple of days. So sometimes I put her in the bathroom, complete with food, water, a second litter box, and a sheet to sit on; but she complained painfully. So I stopped punishing her.

Like most kitties Winky was athletic. Early in her life I coached her as she learned to climb the big cherry tree in the front yard. Later she would climb up on the roof (I was not always sure how she did it), and then when I called her she jumped down onto Gordon's old car and down to the ground. She always came when I called her, unless she was away on a little jaunt. But she never went away too far, or too long. My Mom says that female cats like Winky tend to stay close to home, while male cats like to roam. She also loved to jump up on the kitchen counter, and even preferred to drink the water up there instead of from the cup on the floor. But later in life, when Winky failed at something, she often gave up immediately. Two or three years before her death, she fell down while trying to jump up on the kitchen counter, and never even tried to jump up there again in spite of my encouragement.

In the last 5 months, after her depression, she still loved to sit with me on my bed, and also when I wasn't there; but she had to pull herself up. For the first time she also sat in the fancy yellow chair in the living room, and she had to pull herself up to sit there too. For a treat I put her back up on the kitchen counter where she loved to drink. Soon, with fond and pleading eyes, she begged me to go up there every day, and it became a reward when she was good. On March 31, though, disaster struck. She fell off the bed trying to pull herself up, and also fell trying to get up on the fancy yellow chair. She got very depressed again, and suddenly had trouble walking. This was when I took her to the vet for the first time.

Dr. Grewal is quite excitable. He told me Winky was very sick. She stayed there for many hours, got tested, and got insulin treatment for diabetes, all of which cost me $300. The test showed all kinds of problems and very high blood sugar. They brought it down, but Winky was still very sick when I brought her home. I held her on my bed and told her how much I loved her, how sorry I was, etc. Even though it seemed she might die that night, and was very weak, she finally acknowledged me with a little smile and faint meow. She did survive, and the next day Dr. Grewal told me she should go to the hospital, referring me to South Bay Veterinary Associates, who said it would cost $4000 to treat her. I didn't want to pay this, so instead I took home fluids to give her. Starting April 1, I gave Winky fluids under the skin twice a day for a week, until they ran out and South Bay Vets refused to give me a refill. On their recommendation, I also brought her back to Dr. Grewal for insulin therapy, but after one day he again said he couldn't treat her, and they referred us to VMS on Dell Avenue on April 4. Because Dr. Grewal said Winky was cold, I got a heating pad for her to keep warm while sitting in her carrier.

Unlike Dr. Grewal, VMS let me administer the insulin myself, which I thought was great. I got the insulin and gave it to her under the skin twice a day from then on. I hoped I could save her, and I did my best. I'm not sure that paying $4000 or more would have helped her any more at this point anyway. On April 15 I brought her to VMS for another expensive test, and the doctor there called the next day and said she was better. She told me to double the insulin dose. I got more fluids and special food from them too.

She seemed to be getting better, indeed. She was walking OK and eating the diabetic food the doctors gave me. Whenever I put her up on the kitchen counter, she jumped down by herself, just like usual. But on April 23 she got too weak to even poop. This was another blow to Winky. She got depressed and had trouble walking again, but she pepped up when I gave her some fluids. She went to the door and asked to go out, something she had rarely done for 5 months. She walked around better than the last time, and went over to sit in the ivy outside my window. She loved the outdoors, and this time she didn't want to come in. She seemed to know it would be the last time. After I brought her in, I took her to VMS. They tested her and told me the "keytones" were high again, and home treatment would not work anymore. They cleaned out her poop. The doctor gave me an estimate of over $1500 to treat her for a couple of days, but said even then she might not be treatable. So I gave up, brought her home, and hoped for a miracle. She responded with her peppy little meow each morning when I petted her in her carrier.

But she never got better, and she stopped eating. She died 3 days later on Saturday evening April 26, a date I celebrate in my book as the birthday of today's humanity in 1892. I was glad that she had at least made it to age 18. Two hours before she died I gave her fluids which stopped her head from twitching. To my amazement, she had just given out one final poop. As I sat by her carrier, I was watching "Cold Case" on TV, and a favorite song of Carol's, "Your Song" by Elton John, was playing. Then I noticed that she was dead. I cried the next morning. Life was beautiful, while Winky was in the world, I thought.

That afternoon before she died, I went to a members' retreat at Divine Science, and among the little activities we did, we wrote the good qualities of other members on the petals of colorful artificial flowers. The next day the church president came over and gave me a white flower left over from the retreat, and this became Winky's grave marker. I wrote things on it about Winky, just like we did about other church members at the retreat on the day Winky died. I used black ink, so the flower matched Winky's colors. She also gave me some living purple flowers to plant in her memory. The practitioner Pat also came over at the same time and read a very appropriate prayer, based on one which the minister found online. She said that Winky had done what she had come here to do, and that I would see her again some day. The prayer also said "Mother Earth, we return to you the body of one of your children. Her spirit will return to her ancestors... God, we give you back your child. Noble, regal, honorable cat. Watch over her and guide her on her way..." A psychic once told me that I had known Winky in a past life when I was an herbalist, and that she helped me pick out the right herbs. Perhaps then, I may see her again.

So people knew how special Winky was to me. Even in her last month the doctors all said that "Winky was a sweetheart." Friend Tony came over the next day (Monday), and he and his son joined me for a little ceremony he put together. We burned incense and drawings we made, said a prayer, and put down some rocks next to Winky's grave.

I waited several days to actually bury her though. Winky's face still spoke powerfully to me whenever I looked at it and petted her. At first I kept her by the door where she had last asked to go out, right by the leather chair she hid under on her first day with me. Then I put her in a bin with potpourri. Finally I buried her in the hole, which I had already dug right near where Winky sat in the ivy for the last time, with the white flower marker; and a few feet away I planted the purple flowers too.

I feel guilty that I punished her, and that I noticed the signs of diabetes too late (like her not washing herself, and drinking too much). She was already losing weight during her last year. She might not have survived much longer anyway. But I sure would have liked her to stick around even another year. Tony told me he got a good feeling after he learned of Winky's passing; that she is loved where she is. Maybe Tony's cat has met her in heaven, he said. People told me I might see Winky in my dreams. I have had no visitations yet. I got something of a sign, though. When I was meditating three days later, on Tuesday, I was watching the clouds outside, and just then a cloud seemed to form into the shape of a kitty cat. I looked at my watch, and it was 6:40 PM; just about the time she had died 3 days before. That week I got a CD at the radio station to review for possible airplay. Most of what we get these days is not worth playing. But Friday, before my weekly program (Mystic Music), I reviewed this record, and I noticed that one of the tracks was entitled "Cats Sleeping on Clouds." So I played it, and it was good, and so was the entire CD ("Auracle" by Maneki Neko). I dedicated the whole show to Winky and played appropriate music, including that track.

Bye Winky. I miss you so much, as I knew I would.