February 25, 2012

The Smell of Success!

As most of you know, my Nicholas passed away on February 20th from complications of a bacterial infection in his head. He gave a good fight, but in the end my new vet and I agreed he would not survive exploratory surgery.

I wrote the below post back on December 1, 2011 to celebrate Nick's 12th anniversary with me. I've shed enough tears over the past week. And so have my beloved friends who knew how much Nicholas meant to me.

My next post will be nothing but photos and fun memories. And laughs!

Today is Nick's 12th anniversary as a member of my family. He's approximately 14 years old, and was found on the property we bought in Kentucky. At the time he was big (#15) aggressive and stunk--the worst I've ever smelled any stray animal. I thought he’d rolled in something, but turns out it came from inside him. His diet of whatever rodent or garbage he could find caused his body odor to keep everyone, human and animal, at a distance.

Except me, of course. I took pity on him, even when my other cats were running in terror from him, and my husband suggested we ship him out of the neighborhood.

I saw something in Nick that wrenched my heart. A homeless soul who didn’t know how to love because no one had ever loved him. Turns out I was right.

On December 1, 1999 I made the decision to officially adopt Nick. Had to come up with a name, of course. I ignored my husband’s suggestions (you can imagine what they were) and finally came up with Nicholas…the Great! Nothing like a good name to start a lost soul on the road to self-worth.

His diet was next. I couldn’t stop him from eating what he hunted; we were living in the country after all. But I fed him quality canned and kibble to get him on the right road to health. He lived outdoors and wasn’t at all an indoor cat. That winter, our first in a snow climate after living in Florida for 18 years, was brutally cold. I set Nick up on our covered back porch with a dog house and blankets and a heat lamp. To this day I recall the night I had a fire going on the hearth, and my home was warm and cozy. And I thought about him outside, smelling to high heaven.

I had never brought him inside, but we had a pretty good relationship because I fussed over him, and loved on him (all the while holding my nose). I’d never picked him up, but that night I did. I brought him inside and we sat on the couch together. And I rubbed his frozen ears and told him how wonderful he was. He stayed that night only a few minutes. He was uncomfortable being indoors. But each night he stayed a little longer. And he loved having his ears rubbed.

It took more than a year for his body odor to wear off. I tried deodorant sprays for animals but they only made his eau de dead carcass aroma smell even worse. The improvement in his smell, however, did nothing to tame his anger. This was one angry cat! He picked fights with my sweet outdoor cats over absolutely nothing. All they had to do was look at him and he’d be ready to punch their lights out. He was big and formidable, and strong. And yet…he let me come between him and his “prey.” Numerous times I stepped in to break up a fight, and every time Nick pulled back, even though he clearly wanted to draw more blood.

One of my most cherished memories is when Nick brought me a live baby mouse…on Mother’s Day! My husband saw Nick enter the porch through the pet door with the mouse in his mouth. He called me, and as I stepped out, Nick placed the mouse on the tile, and then jumped into a chair to watch me appreciate his gift. Of course I fussed over him, while my indoor clueless cats, Buddy and Holly, sat on either side of the mouse looking at it with amazement. I eventually put it in a box, and asked Nick to come with me while I released it. I told him what a great gift he’d given me. I didn’t mean the mouse, of course. After I released it, we walked together back to the house, Nick strutting proudly, tail high in the air.

Now he’s 14 and winding down. He’s asthmatic, and has tiny topical tumor bumps throughout his body. He’s still Alpha though in semi-retirement. The things he used to get angry over now don’t bother him much. He wants his dinner when he’s hungry and will yowl like the Siamese-Tabby he is. And he wants the best seat in the house…usually in my lap. He’s up around 20# now, and yet considers himself a lap cat. He’s also made friends with Ray, though that took about 11 of the 12 years he’s been with us. I think Ray was more than intimidated by Nick’s size. He’s pretty impressive. And I think Nick thought Ray didn’t like him, so they had a mutual disinterest in each other until Ray started petting Nick and saying hello. This morning Nick walked across Ray’s lap (to get to me) but that’s something that wouldn’t have happened years ago. 

The only thing Nick won’t let me do is clip his nails. He tells me no by gently placing his teeth against my hand. He has never bitten me, scratched me, or turned on me, and so I respect his wishes and don’t clip his nails. I let my vet be the bad guy.

Nick and I mutually love and respect each other. He’s a prime example of what love can do: Literally tame a beast.


  1. Such a sweet story. I love successes like that. Nick is so lucky. My cat didn't like to be held at all when I first adopted her. But I'd give her a hug for a couple seconds, then put her down, and gradually she'd let me hold her a little bit longer each time. It took over a year, but now I can pick her up and carry her around, and she'll just sit contentedly in my arms. =)

  2. It takes patience and time, you did a great job. And even a good diet won't always break a cat of hunting inappropriate things, my black 'panther' goes after magpies, and needs regular worming. Fortunately it's only what he passes through that stinks to high heaven though. And the abscesses from taking on foxes! some boys are just alpha even when neutred....