Termiaw, My Tuxedo Cat
The Animal Lovers series is a humble avenue to promote kindness and compassion towards animals, and to inspire others with the stories of the bond and love between a human and their animal.By Karen Chin @karenevachin
A FEW YEARS BACK, my ex-husband and I came home to find one of our cats, quietly curled up in a pail, had given birth. Sticking out like a sore thumb was a little kitten who came into this world ceremoniously and well-dressed, wearing a tuxedo.
Here are some tuxedo cat facts:
1. They are called tuxedo cats because of their fur markings; mainly composed of a black coat in a shape of a tuxedo and some white around the face, neck, belly and paws (giving the appearance of wearing socks).
2. Research says that tuxedo cats can be 200% smarter than other cats.
3. Tuxedo cats are supposedly able to get along with other pets in your household; the dogs might even be scared of them.
4. It is believed that tuxedo cats are capable of being more affectionate than other cats.
Termiaw was my first and only tuxedo cat. Previously, I had a lot of cats living in my house as a child. It all started when an ashy grey stray came to our house and never left, and the feline family tree grew from there until my parents turned pro-neutering (they breed so fast that at one point we were shocked to do a head-count of 11!).
So my family had many cats for many years, mostly calico (tri-coloured) cats, a handful of white bobtails (which come to think of it now are actually quite rare), some ginger tabbies and occasionally some black ones.
Termiaw was named so because my ex-husband used to call him ‘little meow’ being the ‘youngest’ addition to the family. He was a very happy, boisterous and confident kitten and often fearlessly climbed onto the larger animals uninvited, but none of them seemed to mind and enjoyed his mischief anyway.
Termiaw was a wonderful hunter. All the rats packed up and left when Termiaw was around. One night, when I was quietly watching television, in came Termiaw. All I could see was his upright tail moving past the coffee table shielding the rest of him from my view. Suddenly he stopped and without warning, he flung a dead rat onto the coffee table where it landed with a ‘plop’. I screamed!
You know how cats are with their prey, they will bring it to your doorstep as a ‘gift’. Well, Termiaw loves the attention.
Years later, when he was living with my parents, he would bring an array of kills to their doorstep many mornings. Often, he would pose and display himself, puffed up, next to his kill – waiting to be seen when my parents woke up in the morning. He often looked content and ready to be praised and often, sat still next to his kill while being photographed for social media sharing.
There were many times I thought he was a goner. But after all those scares, I actually thought that this cat would live a long time. The first scare was an incident with my ex-husband’s mother, a scorpion and a cleaver. This happened when I was at work and when I got home and found Termiaw bleeding through his nose and his forehead fractured. I wailed in agony and rushed him to the clinic. The vet told me that they weren’t sure of his prognosis. They prescribed him some anti-inflammatory medication and told us to see how he did in 24 hours.
When the vet tells you something like that, you are somewhat prepared for the worst.
Termiaw recovered as if nothing happened. He was a trooper. But after that incident, his behavior changed. He became a little bit more feral and wild. For a while, my ex-husband’s parents brought him to their village house where he was free to do whatever he wanted outdoors, which including chicken-fighting. They used to bring him back and forth on the 2-hour long road trips, and eventually after a year, he returned to us and started being a house cat again with loads of scratches and scars on his body. I called the year he was gone his rehabilitation year.
At home, he started being affectionate and connected with me quickly, frequently peeking into the bedroom to check if I was in, then curling up in bed with me and sitting in my lap when I am watching television.
One day, I noticed that he was warmer than usual and his meow croaky. I picked him up to inspect him and found a huge open wound at the base of his tail. It looked like his tail was almost coming off. Again, I rushed him to the vet and while he was there overnight to wash and treat in the infected wound, they spayed him.
He came back a new cat, less of a man, and started getting fatter. The act of spaying him could help him fight less, the vet said, as cats with high testosterone levels will go out trying to fend his territory and mate with other cats.
Termiaw was there when I went through my divorce. I brought him with me when I moved back to my parents’ house. This was the start of a beautiful life for him. My dad got really attached to him, and vice versa. My mother however, was a little bit terrified of Termiaw – a big, scary-looking cat who looked like he might jump up at you and shred your face to pieces if you rubbed him the wrong way.
Our neighbours started ‘filing’ complaints about having seen a scary black cat sitting on their gate and staring at them (I’m guessing he was plotting their deaths). I am not sure why, but as an adult, Termiaw loved to sit in high places and observe the world below. The higher, the better.
One day, he came home soaking wet. My dad was shocked and he found out from a neighbour that Termiaw had fallen into a koi pond trying to catch fish. Security was tightened and Termiaw started spending more time in his spacy cage (we call it his apartment) at nights to avoid him getting into more trouble.
My family loved him because he was affectionate and had many antics. Termiaw would have these ‘full-moon’ moments where he would sprint through the house, take a huge leap anywhere and end up somewhere really high and get stuck there for a while.
During his first and only Christmas with my parents, he got really attached to the Christmas tree my dad had set up, especially this particular Christmas ornament. For some reason, he became really obsessed with the ornament and spent his days licking it. Anyway, long after Christmas was over, Termiaw got to keep his Christmas ornament.
That Christmas ornament was one of the objects my dad placed into his box to be incarcerated when Termiaw died.
One night, Termiaw came back looking sick. All the vets were closed although there was one just nearby. My dad told Termiaw to “hold on and wait a few hours until the morning”. The next morning, they went for Sunday mass at 6am, came back at 7am, Termiaw had gone. The vet haven’t even opened yet, and wouldn’t for another two hours.
It was devastating. Termiaw’s body looked healthy. Big, solid and his fur shiny. His face looked peaceful, like he was in a deep sleep. My dad placed him in a box with all his favourite toys and favourite things.
There is a picture of Termiaw on the fridge in my parents’ house, and a poem in his memory that my dad printed out. I don’t believe he’s ever really left us.