RIP King Tut

On December 24th, 2011, I went to the animal shelter in Greenville, South Carolina with the express purpose of adopting a cat for the very first time. I’d always liked felines, enjoyed playing with them at other people’s houses, etc. But I’d never had one of my own. I was a dog person overall, and the couple times I’d broached the idea of acquiring a feline with my father during my younger years, I was promptly shut down.

Cats weren’t loyal, he’d tell me.  They’re liable to take-up with anyone. They don’t love like dogs do. For many years, while I still liked cats, I believed all those statements.

That’s no longer the case thanks to King Tut.

When I walked into the shelter, a young female volunteer told me that they were having a special on adoptions. I remember the price being $25 for cats and maybe $40 for dogs. After informing the young lass that I was only there to look at cats, she escorted me back to their area and told me to look around and see if any caught my eye. So, I walked around for awhile and looked at the various options.  A couple looked OK, a few hissed at me from their cage, and one Siamese cat stood tall and proud on top of the carpet treehouse. He was so beautiful. You could also tell he had become accustomed to getting most of the attention when people walked into the room. While he was nice to me and to everyone else, he also seemed to be a tad bit bored with us all.

Still, I figured he would be a good pick, so I asked another teen volunteer about his details. He was five years old, a pure Siamese, and he also cost $150, not the advertised $25 special price. Apparently, the purebreds weren’t included in the deal. They were still selling him cheaper than usual, just not at the bargain basement price.

Unfortunately (or so I thought at that moment), I only had $50 to spend. The Siamese was out of the question. I hung around for a minute and thought about my options. I didn’t want to settle and get just any cat. I needed one that would fit in with me and the two dogs I already had. At this point, I was beginning to think about leaving empty handed.

But all of a sudden, yet another teen brought out this little black kitten and put him in one of the empty cages. I figured he was worth a look before I left, so I went up and started playing with him a little. He was so friendly, not to mention adorable. And unlike any of the other cats, he seemed taken with me. For some reason, we clicked right away.

After a few minutes, I noticed something strange. The lil’ fella was missing his tail. My immediate thought was that some asshole had cut it off for sport, but after inquiring about this, one of the teeny-boppers informed me that he had been born without a tail. He was a Manx. King Tut the Manx, to be exact. I’d never even heard of cats born without a tail, so I thought this was cool as shit. I still resisted adopting him right away, though.

As the girl and I discussed King Tut’s history, he was released from his cage so he could play. According to her, he had been left abandoned in an apartment with several dogs for a few days before a neighbor finally called the shelter. Because of this, and his overall attitude, it was assumed that he would do fine with canines. That was big for me, of course. Almost as an aside, I was told that he had been kept in the back for the last couple of weeks because of a respiratory infection. He was now cleared, according to the vet.

Oh, and he was only $25.

After we finished our chat, I turned around in time to see young Tut take swipes at the Siamese cat’s tail as it swung, pendulum-like, from the top of the carpet treehouse. The Siamese barely took notice, but he made sure to move his tail at just the right time to allude Tut. It was pretty amusing. One thing that wasn’t amusing, was the young family that was laughing at the spectacle while eyeing Tut. I quickly grabbed one of the volunteers and told her that I’d made my decision. The King was coming home with me. I still remember that same girl asking me if I was going to change his name when we got home.

“Hell no,” I answered.  “It’s one of the best names for a cat that I’ve ever heard!”

Tut ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. He was loving, loyal, and extremely intelligent. He was not like your average cat. He didn’t scare easy, and he warmed up to anyone. Even as a kitten, he would roll around and play with Tug, my mixed-breed dog who was ten-times bigger than him. The little guy was fearless. And he never stopped swiping at tails, as Tug can certainly attest to.

He helped me through so many rough times in my life that I would be hard-pressed to recount them all here. A break-up, deaths, disappointments, disillusionment…you name it, and he was there to cheer me up. He seemed to sense when I needed him the most. The only other animal that I’ve ever felt that some bond with was my childhood dog, Sadie. Even though she died tragically, I had 15 years with her.

I only ended up having 5 and a half with Tut.

He passed away while curled up in the bathtub, where he liked to sleep when it was dry.  I’d left him with my mother, who was in rehab at the time after heart surgery.  The woman we hired to come by and feed the animals everyday found him. She said he looked peaceful and appeared to have slipped away in his sleep. The vet later told my Mom that his lungs and/or heart had probably just given out. He said that the respiratory infection he had when he was a kitten probably had something to do with this outcome. He also mentioned that Tut was a purebred Manx, something I had long suspected, but never knew for sure. As many of you know, mysterious ailments like this often claim the lives of purebreds. Of course, if that shelter in Greenville had known what they really had, he would have been priced in the Mr. Siamese range, and not the $25 my broke ass was able to get him for.

I’m eternally thankful for their mistake.

I will always miss the King. He was my cat like Sadie was my dog. I have and will have other cats and dogs, but there will never be another Tut, just like there will never be another Sadie. It’s impossible. He was the one to show me just how special a cat could be. He followed me around everywhere, slept under my feet or in my bed. We had so much fun playing together all those years. He would jump up over the side of my chair while I was in the middle of writing something so he could get some attention and give me a nuzzle. There was this adorable Manx-noise he would make that I had never heard before (Manx cats have a distinctive “trill.”) It was like a loud, audible purr, or something. Oh, and his silent meows must not be forgotten. Or how he would sit upright on his ass while grooming himself, since he had no tail cramping his style. Plus the shaky balance he sometimes had because of that same feature.

He was such a character.

The bond we had was unshakable. I didn’t think it was possible to have a cat like him, but he proved me wrong on so many counts. Every day I’ve looked at the picture of us I have up on my wall here and thought about how I would scoop him up when I finally got home and carry him around the house triumphantly. Unlike most cats, he loved that. Now, I will look at the same photo and think about all the priceless memories we shared. I thought we had more time. I never considered the final look you gave me as I walked out the door would be the last time I ever saw you alive.

I’m sorry I had to leave, little buddy. There’s no way for me to make it up to you now, but I hope you died knowing that I was coming back for you. I will always miss you and I’ll never forget the love and joy you brought to my life.

Rest in Peace, King Tut the Manx.