This spring, I have been going through the last days of my cat, Zeus’ life. He’s lived longer than any of my other cats to the amazing age of 19. I thought it would be great to have a cat that lived that long especially when my outdoor cats only made it to age 10 if they were lucky. It has been great, and also harder to say goodbye to such a beloved pet.
Born in Hollister, California, Jim and I adopted Zeus, and his brother, Apollo from a friend whose cat had a litter. When we came to see the kittens, Jim noticed a small gray kitten hiding under a bush. He literally had to drag him out from under that bush. That was Zeus. His brother, Apollo was a striped white cat, looking like an Egyptian Mau. Zeus looked more like a long and lean British shorthair. Both cats were domestic cats with no fancy breeding papers. Though, they did look like they came from more exotic places than Hollister.
Zeus lived with his brother, Apollo the first 4 years of his life in the San Francisco Bay area, and then moved three hours northeast to the Sierra Nevada foothills in Grass Valley, CA where he lived for 10 years. That’s where Zeus and his brother went from being indoor cats to semi-outdoor cats. They first ventured out on our 15 foot high deck which gave them a bird’s eye view of the trees, and the yard below. Then, they both learned at age 10 how to walk on a leash, and had semi-weekly walks around the yard, and my neighbor’s yard. This was their first taste of the outdoor cat life.
When it came time to leave CA, that’s where the incredible life for Zeus really began. It turned out that Zeus really enjoyed traveling, sometimes more than me. We drove cross-country back to Cape Cod, MA, staying in hotels along the way. Zeus just went with the flow, getting out at rest areas and walking around with all the other pets who mainly happened to be dogs. Zeus didn’t see anything wrong with being the only cat. But that trip was only the beginning of his adventures. (In the Excerpt below from my RV book, I write more about Zeus’ RV adventures.)
I’m not sure what moment I realized that Zeus was not your normal cat. He never seemed to care for hunting, leaving that sport up to his crafty brother, Apollo who was only too happy to catch a bird on our deck, or even a small gecko. Zeus was more content to observe and watch life while Apollo engaged life, sometimes recklessly. Zeus was more mellow with a calm presence. Only after Apollo passed away at age 12 did Zeus come out from under the shadow of his bolder brother.
Zeus seemed to miss his brother at first, but then he adjusted to being the only cat. He almost seemed more content to be by himself. Of course, once we stated moving around with our RV, Zeus was never really alone for long. He was our constant companion on the road.
Even this winter of 2019, Jim and I traveled the southern states with Zeus in our Bighorn RV. Zeus was right there exploring the campgrounds. He didn’t always walk as far as he had in the past, and was more content to stay in the RV and sleep away an afternoon. I sensed he was slowing down. He was beginning to show some signs of aging. When we arrived back home in April, I started to notice more signs. It was hard to face that Zeus might be nearing the end of his life. He celebrated his 19th birthday on April 28th.
I wanted to write this tribute to Zeus while he is still with us. I wanted to remember all the joy and companionship that he’s given me. I know there won’t be another cat like him. All cats have their unique personalities and special traits. Right now, I don’t know if there is another cat in my future. I am going to take a break from pet ownership. For almost 37 years, Jim and I have had pets – from fish to cats, but never a dog. Zeus is number 8 in a long line of great cats which included Sylvester, Thomasina, Angelica, Romeo, Juliet, Black Diamond, and Apollo. Someday, I look forward to seeing them all again. I know I am the lucky one who got to experience the special relationship that you can have with a cat. Blessings on Zeus’ journey home when he’s ready.
The excerpt below is from Chapter 7: Traveling with your Pets in my book, Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road which is a combination of practical advice on RV living as well as personal stories from life on the road, giving you an idea of what it’s really like to live the Full-time RV life.
Pet Adventures – Traveling with My Cat, Zeus, the Road Warrior
Like John Steinbeck with his dog, Charley, Jim and I were fortunate to have a traveling cat – not just a cat who tolerated traveling, but who seemed to even love it, more than me at times. In California, I never took my cats with me on vacations, or even on road trips. I always called up a friend, and later a pet sitter to keep an eye on my cats while I was away. I didn’t think of bringing them with me because I usually stayed in hotels or resorts that didn’t allow pets. I didn’t realize that that was why many people traveled in RVs so that they could bring along their pets on summer vacations and week-end getaways.
When we finally sold our home in California in June 2014, we decided to drive back to Massachusetts, and take Zeus on his first major road trip. We had taken him away for a long week-end once, and he did well. But traveling cross-country was the big test. Zeus did better than I could have ever imagined. Most of the time, he quietly sat on my lap, or on the back seat, only getting antsy when he needed to eat or take a bathroom break. I even got out his leash, and walked him at rest areas if he wanted to go outside. At most campsites, Zeus couldn’t wait to get out and sniff around just like all the dogs we saw at the campgrounds.
Eventually, we did see other cats. But most of the time, they stayed in their RVs, and slept in the big front windows of the Class A Mobile homes, or peeked out of windows in the Airstreams. Zeus also claimed his favorite spots in our RV – sitting atop his scratching post next to the dining room table, or on the back of the recliners, and even in the cubbyholes of the RV. He liked to try new spots so that he could have different views of the outdoors.
At first, Zeus didn’t mind moving around every week, or two. But by the end of our first grand circle of the country, he started to grow tired of the constant moving. I could usually tell when he was sleeping on the bed, and opened one eye in the morning, and gave me a look on moving day. “Like you gotta be kidding! We’re moving again. Didn’t we just get here?” Okay, maybe, that was me speaking through Zeus.
I think Zeus was as happy as me to arrive on Cape Cod, and stay in my sister’s driveway for a couple of months. Now, we’ve been staying in more places longer which gives him a chance to really get to know the campground even if the neighbors and their pets keep changing. At each campground where he’s stayed longer, Zeus has created his walking routine which varies slightly, but most of the time, he checks out the same spots, usually ending up on the picnic table, waiting for a brushing. I guess cats are also creatures of habit. Right now, as I write about Zeus, he’s waiting for his nightly walk. Morning and night, and sometimes mid-day, he ventures out, ready to see the new arrivals at the campground, and to check out the local birds.
Zeus’ presence on this journey around the country has been a calming influence at times, and comforting when I’ve been moving around so much. His constant loving attention has been reassuring especially when I left behind many of those creature comforts that make up a home. Living more simply was one thing, but living without Zeus was never an option. He’s made the trip more entertaining even with his challenging moments. Zeus began this trip at age 14, and is still going strong at 17. I’m hopeful that Zeus will be with us into his 20’s. Traveling wouldn’t be the same without him.
By Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A. © 2019
Donna Fisher-Jackson, M.A., CHT is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Western Astrologer and Author who counsels clients through her business of Iris Holistic Counseling Services at http://www.DonnaFisherJackson.com. She has published the self-help book, The Healing Path of the Romantic: Type Four of the Enneagram Personality Type System and a novel, Clara & Irving: A Love Story of Past Lives, based on the true story of a Romantic. And now her latest book, a travel adventure book, Living the RV Lifestyle: Practical Advice and Personal Tales from Life on the Road. All of her books are available in a print and Kindle edition on Amazon.