22 June 1994: 6-week-old Tabitha
22 Apr 1995: Tabitha with her first litter of kittens
Tabitha was only 11 months old when she had her first litter of kittens. About 6 months later she had a second litter. We kept a couple of her babies from those litters, but Tabitha outlived them all. We had her spayed after two litters, and she settled in as our resident hunter.
We often found her offerings of mice and birds displayed just outside the front door. One time I nudged a dead mouse with my toe, only to find he was very much alive as he sprang up and raced past me into the house. There was much noice and confusion as we excitedly urged him back toward the front door. Eventually he returned to the great outdoors.
26 Aug 1998: 8-year-old Sarah with Tabitha (age 4)
Tabitha was also a beloved pet. She was quiet and calm and patient with her human kids. She was cuddled and cossetted and well loved over the 16 years of her life.
In 2004 we got a new puppy, a Jack Russell terrier we named Astro. On his first day with us, Astro immediately cornered Tabitha and got his face mauled for his hyperactive efforts. Tabitha fled the house and took up residence on our roof, refusing to come inside the house for the next 5 years, even though Astro moved to Mesa in 2006 to live with the kids' great grandma Helen.
23 Nov 2008: Tabitha the Roof Cat, still hale and hearty at age 14
Last winter Tabitha finally deigned to come indoors for a couple of months. The bitter cold weather was getting to be too much for her old bones. Once the weather warmed up, though, she went right back to the roof.
When Ed joined our family this summer, he was horrified by Tabitha's rooftop living conditions and insisted that she must come down. Sarah coaxed her into a small shed on our property, and Tabitha found she enjoyed being on the ground again. Soon she forged a truce with our 3-year-old dog, Diego, and claimed her own corner of the front porch. (In truth, Tabitha was the boss, and Diego knew it.)
Tabitha this morning, at peace and ready to go home
Over the past year, old age was beginning to settle in. Tabitha's appetite diminished and she no longer kept her coat clean and glossy. She lost weight and became downright bony. Even so, she seemed to feel well and was still able to climb trees and run free.
Yesterday, though, she took a turn for the worse. She could no longer eat, her legs were weak and wobbly, and she seemed disoriented. Sarah, our budding vet tech, knew Tabitha had reached the end of her long journey, so she brought her into the house to spend her last hours surrounded by warmth and love. Tabitha rested all night on Sarah's bedroom floor, peaceful and breathing comfortably.
Today: Dylan at Tabitha's resting place in the backyard
Sarah couldn't bear to see Tabitha like this, but she also couldn't bring herself to take her to be put to sleep. Ed and Jacob bundled Tabitha up warmly and drove her to the veterinarian early this morning, and they were with her when she drew her last breath. She was surrounded by her loved ones until the end. That's as it should be.
We will miss our Tabitha kitty, the roof cat. But we know her spirit is young and free again, and I suspect we will meet again one day. Rest in peace, Tabby girl.