Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 9, 2018

The cat who thought he was a dog

Two litters of kittens were born a year before Mom and Dad left the farm. They nurtured them until they were old enough to give away, but kept males Oreo and Midnight and female Boots.

When they moved to Manhattan in fall 2000, the moving company transferred most things, but there were three other vehicles packed to the gills. Husband Art drove the S-10 pickup, brother Dave drove the folks and the two male cats in the Cadillac, and I followed with Boots in the Chevy Cavalier. Boots was NOT a happy camper. She yowled and scratched at the pet carrier during the entire 90-minute drive. In contrast, Dave said Oreo and Midnight slept all the way.

At some point, Mom and Dad decided three cats was a bit much. They gave Midnight to their next-door neighbor and Boots died shortly after.

That left Oreo, who was in some fashion more like a dog than a cat. While felines can be pretty aloof, Oreo practically begged for attention. He reached out with one, sometimes both, paws, wrapped them gently around a person�s hand, pulled it close to his face, and began licking.

He was also patient - especially with daughter Katie and niece Larisa when they were young. They loved to dress him in doll clothes and put him in a doll crib.

Katie, who now has two cats of her own, has special memories of Oreo:

Oreo was THE SWEETEST cat to have ever lived. He was the first cat I ever named ... We almost didn't take Oreo up to Manhattan when Grandma and Grandpa moved, since we could only take a certain number of cats, but I fought for him to be one of the three cats to make it.

Oreo was particularly good company for Dad. By the time they moved, he was experiencing some dementia and was weak from diabetes and back problems. While Mom �fussed� to make sure he got his medications on time and kept the household running smoothly, Dad became quieter and quieter. This was perfect for Oreo as he could sleep on the recliner with Dad without being disturbed. When Dad died in November 2002, Oreo was curled up at his feet at the end of the bed.

Oreo missed Dad for a while, but soon he was �glued� to Mom. When she was in her recliner, he�d get on Mom�s lap blanket or sometimes would lie across the top of the back of her chair. Sister Gaila recalls Mom putting her hand to his paw and talking to him. Mom let Oreo lick the wrapper after she�d eaten a piece of candy. When she was up and about, he followed her everywhere, yet, like many dogs, he knew not to get too close and trip her.

After Mom was in the hospital and then transferred to an assisted living facility, I stopped every day to check her house and visit with Oreo. Both Katie and daughter Mariya came by to visit him too. Many cats might meet you at the door, probably out of curiosity or the prospect of being fed. But Oreo wanted contact so badly, he would ignore his food to be with us. And he was bereft without his mistress. His mournful meowing when I left almost did me in.

Art�s attitude toward cats is more like the attitude most cats have for humans. So he was always surprised how Oreo would look at him when he�d stop over. Rather than rub against his legs, he�d stand at Art�s feet looking up at him much the way a dog looks at his master.

After Mom died, the girls and I kept the same routine while trying to figure out what to do. We thought about finding another good home. I considered taking him, but Art and I like to travel. We knew it wouldn�t be fair to a cat who so loved being with people to leave him for extended periods.

The perfect solution materialized when Katie decided to move into Mom�s house with future husband Matt. Then Larisa and her boyfriend Keenan decided to adopt Oreo. They slathered him with love and attention.

Larisa said:

When I called him for bedtime he would run up to me so I could carry him and then once we were in bed he would curl up by my side and rest his head and paw on my arm . Even though it got annoying, his obsessive licking was adorable!

He would follow me around until I picked him up and when I would finally stop working or walking, he would stand on his hind legs [and put his paws] on my thighs so I could love him. When I got home from school or work he would always run to the door and greet me!

Keenan was also a softie when it came to Oreo:

Any time you would pet Oreo for extended periods of time, when you would stop, he would lift his paw up and pull your arm or hand close so he could �pay you back� and lick you. He was always such a good snuggler; no matter what position you would nap in, he would find a way to be with you.

Oreo was already an old cat when he joined Larisa and Keenan�s household. He had trouble finding his food bowl and didn�t eat much. For a time, he was unsteady on his feet and then eventually, he couldn�t stand. Then, in mid-January - at almost 19 years old - he died. According to the �cat age calculator� on Purina�s website, that�s about 92 in human years.

It�s sad to lose him. Oreo was a good companion for three generations of our family. I hope we were as good companions for this special cat, who thought he was a dog.

Top-left: Dad with his buddy; bottom-left:Mom with Oreo on her chair back; top-center: Katie, left. and Larisa; bottom-center: sketch Mom made a few months before she went into the hospital; right: Larisa and Keenan with their "dog" Oreo.

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