In Memory of Jango (2002-2020)

Jango, 2014

I really didn’t want to write another memorial this year. It has only been eight months since we had to put our beloved Phaedra to sleep, and even though we knew Jango was declining as well, he seemed to be doing as well as an 18-year-old cat with stage 3 kidney disease and an abdominal tumour could be. He was diagnosed with the kidney disease on his annual visit in November 2018 – then, in stage 2, he showed no other signs other than drinking more water than usual, though he’s always been a cat who loved his water. On his annual visit last year, not only had the disease progressed to stage 3, the vet also noticed a firm, abnormal mass in his abdomen. This was about the time Phaedra started going blind after her stroke in August. My greatest fear was that I would lose my pets at the same time, but when Phaedra passed at the end of February Jango still seemed to be doing well. If it weren’t for the fact that he had kidney disease and cancer I think he probably would have lived until his twenties!

Jango, 2011

Jango came into our lives on June 6, 2002 when I picked him up as a two-month-old kitten from a coworker who had allergies. I had allergies myself, but I was worried that Phaedra – whom we had had for about 10 months at that point – was lonely in our apartment while we were both at work all day. Jango, originally called Teagen by my coworker, was re-named by Doran in honour of Jango Fett from Star Wars. He was so small I could scoop him up under his belly with one hand. We had to train him to use the litter box, and at first his play included biting my hand, so we had to train him on how to play properly, as well.

Right from the start he enjoyed being with us. We kept the two cats apart at first, with Jango in our bedroom while Phaedra had the run of the apartment. Whenever I went into our bedroom I would find him on top of my pillow, and if he wasn’t sleeping he would look at me and give me a charming “mew” while purring as if to encourage me to stay. His voice was so high-pitched that I nicknamed him “Squeaky” because as he grew bigger, he never outgrew his tiny voice. Doran nicknamed him “Butterscotch” because of the orange fur draping over his white body made him look like a butterscotch sundae. He was also my “little guy” and my “little buddy” because he was so small when we got him. And even though he grew to be a big cat, he was still littler than me!

Jango, 2012

Once Phaedra came to accept another cat in the apartment they got along just fine. He gave Doran and me a bad scare when Doran went home for lunch and found Jango had gotten out. We lived on the middle floor of a three-story apartment building off of Churchill at the time, and he had squeezed out between the window frame and the plastic accordion edge of the window air conditioning unit one summer’s day. Fortunately there was a large green garbage bin right beneath the window, so he would have been able to jump down onto it before jumping or sliding to the ground. Unfortunately, the backyard was our parking lot, and there were no fences to keep him in the area. After Doran called me at work we went looking for him, walking through the neighbourhood calling his name for a couple of hours. Having no luck finding him in the neighbourhood, we went to the Humane Society to see if he had been brought in. He had not, and they advised it was best to go out around dusk and make a familiar noise. So at dusk, I went out into the parking area with a bag of cat treats, shook it and called his name. I was so relieved when he came out from under the green garbage bin and took him back inside. It turns out my big boy was really a big fraidy-cat at heart.

This is the earliest picture I have of my little kitty monster. Doran had an old wooden ship in our apartment and Jango loved chewing on the string that made up the rigging. He looked like a giant sea monster devouring the ship, so Doran used his photoshop skills (this was likely in early 2003) to add the background.

Jango the sea monster

About a year after we moved to the house things changed. With us, his people, Jango was a real sweetheart, but with Phaedra he was different. He started bullying her when the neigbour’s cat started coming into the yard and onto our back deck. Worse, he started piddling around the house. About the same time I was seriously considering putting newspapers up on all the back windows the cat disappeared. Still, the friction between the two remained, and Jango’s litter box issues remained after that, even after adding additional litter boxes, and using Feliway to help reduce his stress.

Jango’s happy face, 2014

Unlike Phaedra, Jango didn’t like being picked up or snuggle very often. He had to come to you on his own terms. However, if the three of us were on the couch together watching a movie he would join us, and right up until the night before his death he joined Doran on the back of the couch. Sometimes when I had my legs up on the footrest of the recliner he would come up and stretch himself across my legs, but he never stayed very long. He also hated being picked up. Whenever I picked him up to hold him, he would lean back and turn his head to look away from me, as if he thought that making eye contact meant consent. Eventually he would start squirming, and rather than wait for me to put him down gently he would jump out of my arms. In his last two years he became noticeably lighter as he lost weight – it used to be a struggle for me to hold him for very long, but in these past few months he had become light as a feather.

Jango was very vocal. If I was upstairs he would cry at me from downstairs if he thought it was time to be fed. He would cry outside my bedroom door or at the foot of my bed when he thought it was time for me to get up. He would chirp a little if you started petting him while he was dozing. Sometimes we had conversations – we would look at each other and meow back and forth, until he started making silent meows – opening his mouth with no sound coming out. I don’t know what the point of these silent meows were, but in the photo above he looks as if he is just about to give one!

He had a unique way of stretching….first he would push himself backwards, lowering his chest and his chin to the ground while pushing his rear end up into the air. Then he would lower his bum, and raise his legs so his head came up – but he would always push his head into my hand when he did this, looking for me to scratch him between his ears.

Jango investigating my bird bath, 2011

Both of my cats loved watching the wildlife outside. While Phaedra ran out into the backyard any time she could, Jango was much more cautious. He liked going outside, but it took him a while between my opening the door to him committing his full body to leaving the house. He liked sniffing around, walking around the perimeter of our yard, occasionally eating grass or watching squirrels run across the back fence, but if a large vehicle roared by he would rush back into the house. I always had to leave the back door open when we went out, as he would change his mind at any time about going back in. Once he got out on his own accord (thankfully for the last time) without us noticing. Doran was working from home and noticed at one point he wasn’t in the house. Knowing that he was much more timid outside than he was inside, I told Doran to keep an ear out while he worked; if he heard the squirrels chattering away, go out and look as the squirrels would get agitated if a predator was in their territory. Sure enough, Doran heard the squirrels going crazy and found Jango under a shrub in the yard behind ours.

When inside, he would often sit on the dining room table with his front paws resting on the top of the pushed-in chair while looking outside. I’ve never seen another cat sit this way. Then, if a squirrel or chipmunk came up onto the back deck he would jump down and crawl up to the glass door, wiggling his bum and twitching his tail as if he wanted to pounce.

Jango investigating my bird bath, 2020

Jango loved water. Ever since he jumped into the toilet while he was a kitten we’ve had to make sure the toilet seat lids were down. He would jump onto the bathroom counter while I was in the shower and wait for me, and when I got out he would paw at the sink to make the water come out. I turned on the tap for him, and he lapped up the water once it started filling the sink. When he was much younger, he would jump up onto the rim of the bathtub in between the shower curtain and shower liner and paw at the water as it ran down the other side of the transparent liner. In his later years, it wasn’t enough to give him fresh water with ice cubes twice a day – he would drink a bit, then use his huge paw to scoop the water up and lick it with his tongue. We got him a water dish with a motorized fountain that he loved, though he outlasted the motor.

He was always interested in what we were eating – we always had to let him sniff our food – and he also liked to mooch like a puppy. While we were eating dinner, if we had chicken or fish or something else that smelled good to him he would sit next to our chair and raise his paw and scratch at the air, meowing so that we knew he was interested. When he saw us looking at him he would tilt his head from side to side just like a dog. If we ignored him he remembered he was a cat and jumped up onto the table to sniff at our plates. Of course we would always give him some meat if we had any plain chicken or fish safe for him to eat.

Jango’s long hair meant that he often threw up hairballs. As he aged, he was also prone to getting knots. The vet would often have to shave them off, and once when I brought him home Doran was horrified to see that they had shaved half his tail, his back legs, and half of his back. Doran said it looked like he was wearing no pants. His fur always grew out, but as he hated being brushed, the knots always came back.

Jango, 2014

Jango’s favourite game involved him sitting on a chair or the back of the couch while we tossed his toys at him. Whether they were furry mice or bouncy balls, he would bat them away and wait for me to throw it again. I don’t know if he was trying to catch them or hit a home run, but I could throw the toy at him 20 times in quick succession and he would never tire of batting them away. He also loved it when we threw the bouncy balls at him from down the hall – he would chase after them as they bounced off the walls until they went under something, then he’d wait for me to throw another. We also used to move our hands beneath a blanket to get him to attack, but he liked to bite on the “mice” underneath too hard for us to play that game for very long. One of his favourite toys as a younger cat was this long, white fuzzy animal with two black eyes and a pink tongue – it had no legs or feet, so it looked like a fuzzy cylinder. He would toss it up into the air, then sit down on it and look away. Then he would look down and pretend to find it, and pounce on it and throw it up into the air again. I forgot that he used to play this game until I found the stuffed toy in a cabinet with his harnesses and old dishes.

He also liked playing tug-of-war. At first Doran played with him using his socks. When Jango won, he carried the socks away proudly (and left them in the middle of the floor). When I bought a new fuzzy bathrobe, he took a liking to the belt so he and I would play with that. I’d make it wiggle or drag it around, and he would try to carry it away. When I let him have it, he often meowed mournfully as he carried it in his mouth, sounding a lot like Phaedra when she used to carry her toy mice around.

Jango often got the “zoomies”, tearing around like a mad-cat, up and down the stairs for no reason. These bursts of lasted only a few minutes, but they were entertaining. When he used the upstairs litter box, he often came tearing down the stairs right after using it as though the ghosts of his own turds were chasing him.

Jango used to sleep in the bed with us, usually curled against the back of my knees or my stomach, then moved to the doorway leading to the en-suite bathroom. I would often awaken in the morning to hear his soft meow from the bathroom door letting us know we should get up and feed him. From there he moved to the dining room chairs (usually as they were pushed in beneath the table so we couldn’t see him), though occasionally he would sleep in the bedroom with us, and after Phaedra died he moved to in front of the refrigerator. These last few months he started sleeping in Phaedra’s spot in front of the back door where the afternoon sun would keep him warm.

Jango in front of the fridge, March 2020

Although Jango was put on a special diet to help with his kidney disease, he didn’t like it very much. In fact, in the last six months it’s been difficult getting him to eat. He grew thinner and thinner, and after giving him food that he refused, he would let me know he was still hungry by walking over to the cabinet where we keep his food and sitting in front of it. So I would open a second can of food and hope that he would eat that – sometimes he did, sometimes he didn’t. No matter which brands I bought, he would only eat the Friskies or Whiskas wet food, although only some of the time.

When we went to Las Vegas in early February we were more worried about Phaedra eating, which was why we had Doran’s foster brother cat-sit for us, but when we rented a cottage two weeks ago in Merrickville just for a change of scenery (all our vacation travel plans after Las Vegas were cancelled due to Covid-19) we decided to take Jango with us. He was unusually silent in his cat carrier during the 30 minutes it took to drive there, but he was not happy when we got there. He hid under the bed most of the day, and as soon as we went to bed he would start howling just outside the bedroom door like he was in pain. So one of us would sit with him for a bit and quiet him down, but when we tried to go back to bed he would start crying all over again. Rinse and repeat several times, and it’s no wonder we barely slept during that trip. We ended up leaving a day early, not only because Jango was clearly so unhappy, but because the weather on our last day was going to be rainy. We got home, and of course the horrible crying stopped.

Jango, July 2020

The end came much quicker than we expected. Last week he was still doing the occasional zoomie, investigating boxes I’d left for him, and sitting with Doran on the couch. He always woke up before or shortly after I did, and while he’d stopped coming upstairs sometime in the summer, he would wait for me and meow from the bottom of the stairs. When I woke up yesterday morning he wasn’t on the stairs or sleeping by the back door. I found him lying down on the carpet of our storage room where he never used to go. I tried to coax him upstairs but he kept moving away from me. I brought him food and water, and he wouldn’t even drink.

I called the vet and was able to get an appointment to “assess the quality of life” but in my heart I knew he wasn’t coming back. We had to do the appointment over the phone due to Covid, and the vet said he wasn’t good – he was emaciated, dehydrated, and the tumour had grown. Worse, it was causing issues with his eyes and blood in his nose. We made the difficult decision to return home without him as he was clearly suffering and no longer wanted to be around.

Of the two cats, Jango was my little baby, my sweetheart, my shadow. He used to follow me around to see what I was up to. I loved his thick fuzzy tail, his lion’s mane of fur, the cute little mad face he would make if he were annoyed, his eyes-almost-closed face when he was content. He had many moods, did Mr. Jango, and although we were blessed to have him for 18.5 years, it just doesn’t seem enough.

Jango (April 2002 – October 24, 2020)


6 thoughts on “In Memory of Jango (2002-2020)

    • Thank you for your kind words. It’s been a tough year. I had to write these posts so I wouldn’t forget all the little quirks of their personalities…while I’ll never forget them, some of the details are already beginning to fade. 😦

  1. I’m really sorry to hear about your poor Jango. He looks so much like my old cat Bill who made it to 22. From your writing he was obviously a much loved cat and quite a character. It’s hard to deal with when your fur friends have been around so long (1/2 your life?) but the memories will always be there.

    • Thanks Chris. Yes, he and Phaedra were both loved very much and very loving themselves. It’s really hard to come home now and not have my kitties greet me at the door. Jango would often trot out of the kitchen and look at me with a little meow. The days I brought food home for him were the best, he’d sit next to me and sniff the tins while I put it all away in the cupboard.

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