We first were introduced to Tygr (pronounced tigger, named after her great-great-grandmother Tygr-Lil) in Montreal when she was just a few days old, a little ball of bright red fluff. When the litter was brought to Ottawa for adoptions, Tygr chose us and we chose Tygr -- two huge ears and eyes that said “pick me, please”. It was love at first sight. Before meeting Tygr, we had researched short-hair breeds. Both of us have pet allergies and Abyssinians offered the best chance for us to find a compatible companion. Indeed, Tygr was that special gift.
Tygr came home in March, and immediately set about becoming mistress of our home and an integral part of our family life. Reflecting on those early days it’s amazing how small she was, easily fitting in one hand; how big and responsive those great Abby kitten ears were; how quickly she adapted to living with us, settling in, sorting out the feeding and water stations, claiming warm sun spot rights on our bed, and establishing her morning paw-washing routine. From the beginning, she was a grazer – properly served (and consumed) main meals supplemented by ever-available dry food.
Tygr adapted well to our two-house life. Right away we introduced Tygr to our one-room log cabin, Galumph. She took to it like …Tygr to adventure! As with our city home, she staked out her territory, and settled into two favourite spots – her sleeping basket in the loft, and the south window sill from which she could sunbathe while surveying her forest domain. She absolutely astounded us with her gymnastic abilities, both in charging up the ladder to our loft sleeping quarters, and in her graceful corkscrew descent. We have no idea how she devised her downward dance, but it ever-delighted us to watch her manoeuvre her way down the ladder. It was clear, Tygr loved to be high up. There was to be more than one tree rescue.
The cold outside was never a deterrent, easily offset by a special spot right in front of the ever-burning wood stove. Snow was another issue, she was not a fan of immersion in white, cold, stuff. But she took up snow shoeing that first winter, in her own way. She also became good at swatting snow balls, bird watching and incredibly, at less than 4 months age, treeing a porcupine (while keeping well out of quill range). In her, we had also acquired an early warning system, letting us know well in advance of our own hearing of any nearby intrusions by people or large animals. Deer, in particular, awakened the thrill of a chase in her and she never tired of announcing deer on the property.
In the city, she was an urban sophisticate house cat, moving from room to room following the sun and enjoying the outside world from the safety of a window sill in the screened arbour, supplemented on occasion by exercises on leash outside in our garden. She kept Dave company daily over the years as he worked from home, and Mary while she quilted or read. When the sun was out, and if we were quiet, she would come and sit on a chair nearby or on our desks. Of course she also announced meal times. Tygr enjoyed being part of our family circle. While she was not a lap sitter, she would pick a spot near us, wherever we were, and complete the circle. Her favourite toys were paper balls, corn husks, green onions, and dancing light spots. These were way more interesting than commercial toys. Christmas was always a big event – all the tissue paper, all over the floor, that any cat could want. It crinkled, it tore, it made balls to chase and play fetch, tunnels and castles to play in, and beds! And after all that, there was always a fire to curl up before.
On those occasions when we took canoeing trips without her, Tygr moved into rooms at the Cat’s Meow Inn and shared her time with her hosts, the Fordes, enjoying their wonderful country facilities and care.
In the woods and by the lake, Tygr was in her element outdoors, fully a child of nature. She kept the cabin, and later our cottage, free of mice. She also watched and tracked her friends, the chipmunks and red squirrels. It was by watching her that we were able to find the animal paths. She especially liked the lake shore, it provided endless exploration and hunting potential, up to elbow-knee depth, and exploring by boat in deeper water. We learned that Abbys wade only, they do not like their tummies immersed.
Some years later when we built our cottage, Tygr became a supervised, on-leash-only outdoors cat at the cottage. Foxes had moved into the territory and it was no longer wise to let her out on her own. It took Tygr several years to accept that the leash-thingy was essential to outdoors time, but it never seemed to reduce her enthusiasm for adventure.
Only in recent years did Tygr slow down. She maintained her graceful manners as she became more of an observer of the world around. She began once again to let us hold her on our laps or, if lying down, on our chests, an activity that she had abandoned many years ago as she grew independent. She meditated to her favourite song, ‘The Wedding Gift’ by Rawlins Cross. This past summer, while she was not particularly mobile outdoors, we made sure to take her back to her favourite old places – out to the deck and gazebo, down to the dock and shoreline, and up to the cabin. We generally carried her out, letting her enjoy the spot. She clearly enjoyed being close to wildlife, watching chipmunks play nearby. We encouraged her to make her way back in her own time, just picking her up when she tired on the return journey. We believe that she knew her time was limited and that she appreciated those final visits. Up at the cabin, she immediately settled on the back of the couch, just like old times. It was one of her ‘places’.
We valued the life-long care for Tygr by Dr. Little, beginning with the initial exam when we brought her home, continuing right through to the end. Tygr was a charter client at the Bytown Cat Hospital and continued over the years, appreciating the wonderful care she received from the staff.
The last couple of months have been tough. It was heart-wrenching to watch her decline physically. We tried to give her lots of attention, while allowing her space. Through it all, she was wonderful and caring – she always wanted to please us, and did please us. We benefitted greatly from her love, and miss her deeply.
Sweet dreams Miss T, we hope you have found youthful vigour again in cat heaven. Forever in our hearts.