It’s been a long while since I’ve posted any funny pictures of Atticus on Facebook, or even mentioned him. The truth is, Atticus hasn’t lived with us since November. Here is a look back at two years with Atticus, and what happened.
I got him from the SPCA in December 2014 at age five months. He was adorable, fluffy, funny . . . and nearly drove me insane. From the start he would attack us, “play-bite.” I realized early on that I was his mother, sibling, playmate, and prey.
It was a long road with this cat. He was into everything. Everything. And his moods were unreadable. Of course, you’re thinking; He’s a cat. Despite the fact we hadn’t had a kitten in 35 years, I’ve been around cats for 64 years. I know them pretty well.
As Atticus grew, his play-biting became serious. He would stalk us and attack unprovoked. Worse, he held a grudge. If he was about to attack, I’d walk away, or toss him a toy, or distract him with food. Hours later, he’d pounce anyway, when I least expected it. He had to have the last word.
Last summer, as I was getting ready to leave for Hollins, Atticus went beserk. He refused use his cat box. He tore up the rugs. He peed on the rugs. He knocked over dishes and other valuables. We had been through his wild kitten phase, but as a grown cat, he’d settled down from that behavior.
We took up all the rugs, put a litter box in the kitchen (the only place Atticus would tolerate), and I figured I would straighten out whatever was wrong when I got home. I came home to a different cat. He seemed the same funny, sometimes sweet Atticus, but something was different behind those round yellow-green eyes.
It took months to inch his litter box almost into the laundry room, where it belonged. Gradually we put the rugs back down. Meanwhile, he stepped up his attacks and biting.
I took him to the vet twice. Medication didn’t help. None of the behavioral therapy I’d read about helped. I became wary around him. You couldn’t pass him on the stairs, or pet him on his head, without him attacking.
On Halloween, he bit me so viciously, I nearly went to the ER. I knew in my heart that Atticus would have to go. The day after Thanksgiving, I went to the SPCA to discuss bringing Atticus back (it’s policy to return animals to them). The director believed that Atticus needed a “party house,” one with people coming and going and, most important, other animals that wouldn’t take his crap.
Our house was definitely not a party house. I made an appointment for the following Monday to bring him in for an evaluation. He would need to be put in a condo with other cats and learn some manners.
On Monday, Atticus was quiet on the drive over. But when we pulled up in front of the building, he began to shake. I started to cry. When I brought him in, the director took him into the intake room. I opened the door and saw Atticus on the table as she examined him. The look he gave me made me burst into tears. I sobbed in the hallway.
The director said they’d take him. Because he was young and part-Persian, he would go quickly once he’d learned to quit biting. She assured me I’d done everything and putting up with a biting cat for two years was more than most people would do. But I felt awful.
Since November, I’ve worried about Atticus. Finally I contacted the shelter to see if he’d been adopted and learned he had. Yet I still cry because I feel I failed him. Why wasn’t love enough? And if I couldn’t understand and manage a thirteen-pound cat, what makes me think I can understand and manage the changes coming as I turn 65?
I hope Atticus’s new family knows he loves boxes and sunny floors. Gives him pens to steal. Lets him play in the sink. I hope he’s happy. Though he’s probably forgotten me, I hope he knows I still love him, wherever he is.