He had a very long name. Most of my pets do, but that was the first time I gave one a long involved name. As a teen, my favourite book was Donna Gillespie’s The Light Bearer, and Marcus Arrius Julianus was the male lead. That was where I got the name from.
A big name for a very small cat, but he was a polydactyl; anyone with that many toes needed a big name.
As a kitten, Marcus was very tiny and in a house with many cats and dogs, so for the first few weeks he was kept in the bathroom and visited frequently, but that must’ve stunted his social development because he became a very awkward cat.
He lived with my mother for most of his life, and the cats were in the basement away from the dogs. After I moved to her town, he went missing one day–it turned out he had just gone next door to hang out under the neighbour’s porch…but he could not be caught. Because he would just sit there and stare at her, and would dart under and hide when she went to pick him up.
Worried for his safety, I offered to take him–at that point I only had one other cat, my dog, and my rabbit–and he settled in…still awkward. He slept at the end of the bed and I could pet him, but he wasn’t an affectionate lap cat by any stretch.
That did change over the years, however. One of my paranoid fears is not being able to evacuate my pets during a fire, so I was determined to get him used to being picked up in case of an emergency. He tolerated it after a lot of practice.
And the more I watched him, the more I found he wanted attention, he just wasn’t sure how to seek it out. He would sit a few feet away and stare at me throughout the day; if I sat on the floor and reached out, he wouldn’t run but let me pet him. Little by little, the gap got smaller and smaller until he reached a point of head-bopping me when he wanted to be pet.
When I got sick in 2014, I was pretty much in bed all the time for six months. And though all of the cats loved that particular turn of events, it was Marcus who became my constant companion. Though never a lap cat, I found he enjoyed curling up against me while I lay on my side, and it was during that time we really seemed to bond.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning: he was fastidious in grooming himself, resulting in large piles of fur all over the place and often stuck hanging from his mouth like a beard.
He was not a cat for pilling/medicating, but managed to do pretty well for the past year on a kidney diet with my other elderly cat. Besides his kidneys not being great, his liver was starting to struggle, and his heartbeat was all out of whack. He lost his vision about five weeks ago but continued to manage until it became too much for his kidneys and daily sub-q fluids wouldn’t go over well long-term.
Marcus Arrius Julianus, the small cat with the long name, passed peacefully with veterinary assistance yesterday.
The house isn’t much changed on the surface; he had a very quiet, subtle presence. But that silence had a weight and was a constant, and I feel its lack quite acutely.