Her original name was Delilah because this precious little cat came along with her bigger, bull-in-the-china-shop brother Sampson as a package deal: two gray kittens with such different personalities. Our neighbor bottle fed them from birth, because their mother rejected her babies. And though we kept Sampson’s name, Delilah became Yahtzee, named after the hand-held game we often played that summer of ’97.
Yahtzee was shy and skittish, especially when she was younger. For several years, when we set up our Christmas tree, Yahtzee was afraid to venture into the house from the cats’ nighttime dwelling in the attached garage. She was totally freaked out by this giant, light-blinking anomaly. Yet her desire to be with Sampson and my daughter, son and husband made it worth conquering her fear, and within three days she would enter without slinking. It took her about four years until she remembered that for whatever reason her crazy people were putting up that darn green monstrosity again, and it became a friend not an enemy. Yahtzee was soon enjoying drinks from the bucket of water or snoozing on the skirt beneath the boughs.
For most of her life, Yahtzee was the secondary cat. Sampson grew into a twenty-three pounder, while Yahtzee was a good eleven to thirteen pounds lighter. My daughter, Jana, summed it up best by saying that Sampson was like an abusive partner to his sister. And it was true for the most part, because he would chase her around the house and get into cat wrestling fights where he was the dominant winner. At night, however, the two of them slept nestled snugly together. To be clear, Sampson never hurt Yahtzee, but he was definitely king of his people’s castle, and to that, Yahtzee took a back seat. I believe because of her second class status and as a bullying victim, Yahtzee startled easily. After a few claws daggering into my thighs because the phone or doorbell scared her, I reluctantly banned her from my lap.
Sadly, Sampson, who was quite the comical cat in his own right passed away from kidney disease in December of 2008. Yahtzee then had the honor of being sole cat. It took her a little while to realize that her big brother wasn’t lurking, ready to pounce and attack. Yet she missed him a lot and insisted on going to the outer workspace area off the family room to look for him.
Eventually, I let Yahtzee back up on my lap, not only because I felt sorry for her, but because she had thyroid disease. I feared that at eleven and a half years of age, she was living on borrowed time. It was a pleasure to discover that Yahtzee wasn’t so skittish anymore, and I never did have any more claw digging incidents.
She was so sweet about taking her medicine. I wrapped her up in a lightweight blanket, gently pried open her jaw, and pushed the pill to the back of her throat. Yahtzee purred up until the jaw part. Sometimes she’d clench her jaw tightly while I waited her out for the moment they’d slacken. And if I didn’t get the pill far enough to the back of her tongue, out it would pop. For three and a half years she took the medicine like a trooper though, and I couldn’t have asked for a better kitty cat.
Jana and I were the lucky recipients of her loyal, endearing company. She felt most comfortable with females. Often times, she would follow Jana down the hall into her room and settle right in the middle of her textbooks. After Jana moved out, when she came home to go into her room for something, Yahtzee joined in like old times. And there she would stay after Jana left, keeping a quiet vigil for a few hours.
I greatly miss this little animal. On December 9th, I had to let her go because she had fluid in her lungs, and they were collapsing. She also had a kidney stone and a possible tumor. It was very hard to say goodbye. Yahtzee had been my steady companion as I’ve been off work due to chronic migraines. I still look for her in the mornings. I loved her special way of saying hello to us when she first came in – rolling and flipping and pulling herself along the carpet, but only if you paid attention and told her how cute she was. Every star has her price, afterall. At night when my husband said goodnight to me, Yahtzee came to expect him to pet her and say, “goodnight to Yahtzee”. This routine was only started a few months ago. I’m glad they had that little bond. And she had a place in her heart for Tim, who cat sat for us when we were out of town. She was always a welcoming committee of one, rushing to the front door whenever he came for a visit.
It’s quite a gift that such a little gray cat could fill hearts with so much love, but Yahtzee surely did just that with us.