In Memoriam: Iniki the Cat

Our beloved friend Iniki passed away on 19 May 2013 from an acute attack of symptoms related to apparent congestive heart failure. She had been her normal self until the last few days, when she rapidly grew listless, stopped eating and drinking, and hardly moved around. A visit to an emergency veterinary office (it was a weekend) revealed major (but relatively clean) fluid buildup in the lungs and a shutting down of the digestive system. We ruled out a lot of ailments, including an initial suspicion of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), which has similar symptoms. Meanwhile she became so irrecoverably ill that we had to have her put down out of mercy, to stop the suffering.

The rest of this post isn’t about her much-premature death (she was only about 11), which might have been merciful in its speed of progress. Instead, let’s celebrate her life. And what a life it was! This beautiful, smart, majestic, regal, personable, comical and endearing kitty enriched our own human lives in so many little yet huge ways.

We got Iniki from a local cat-rescue and adoption outfit who had placed her in a display cage at PetSmart. She was a gorgeous, smaller than average, all-black mixed-breed with silky, medium-long hair and a pronounced mane. She also was a young adult of 1-2 years who already had produced a litter of kittens, and subsequently was spayed. I wasn’t there in the store; but she endeared herself to Elke and the kids on the spot, and that was all it took. Within days, once she learned the geography of our house, she wasted no time making it into her house!

Our second cat Emily (Emmy), also a former stray, didn’t come along until just a couple of years ago. They were slow to warm to one another, but within the last year or so of Iniki’s life, they were good pals, often playing chase games and sleeping near each other on Donna’s bed.

Iniki had a urinary imbalance that would cause crystals to form if not fed a specific kind of cat food, so we had to give her some rather expensive formulation that kept her healthy and well-nutrified, with a beautiful coat. She was well worth it.

Every day we’re without Iniki, all sorts of objects, places and trinkets around the house remind us of her. Cat owners often say this about their pets, but she truly had an outstanding and complex personality, all of it friendly, funny and memorable. She may have been named after a hurricane, but she was only a storm of affection, offering a delightfully vibrant personality, with countless endearing eccentricities and habits.

Quirks galore, she had! This is but a sampling…

  1. Her favorite place for the entire decade we had her was a wooden salad bowl on the kitchen island. That was her throne, bed, watch tower, and massage chair. Right after we brought her home, she just took it over–leaped right up there, curled up in that salad bowl to go to sleep, and did so almost every day since. No salads have been put there since. We were amazed that she could wind herself into a ball small enough to do that, but she could–and quite comfortably. If two or three of us were in the kitchen area, we could count on her either sitting or lying in that bowl, or begging for handouts nearby…

  2. This kitty was a world-class beggar. If Elke opened up a bag of raw fish, beef or shrimp for cooking, she would squeal and squawk with that squeaky voice of hers while following Elke around the kitchen, jumping from place to place and pacing all over the floor, island and sink area–sometimes pawing at whichever human was nearby. Yes, she most often received a little snack of said raw meat. Shrimp was her favorite, by far. She also was a skilled table-food beggar–sometimes even succeeding. Many dinners involved Iniki sitting on a shelf behind Elke, pawing Elke’s back and batting objects around to get attention.
  3. Iniki begged for (and received) dry cereal from me–but only in the office. I like to eat several varieties of dry cereal right from the box…and so did she.
  4. We didn’t dare leave paper towels, napkins or other such tissues out in the open, lest Iniki would shred them to tiny pieces scattered hither and yon. She learned quickly how to pull Kleenexes out of their boxes and rip them apart.
  5. Despite predictions otherwise, she became a lap kitty for me quickly. Many football games I watched from my recliner also had Iniki either sleeping on my lap or seemingly watching the game.
  6. Iniki could relax in almost any position. She learned quickly how warm and cozy a space heater could be in the wintertime…

  7. She was a playful kitty, right into her almost-old age. Until a few days before she got fatally sick, she played full-speed run-and-chase games with Emmy. Before we got a bigger couch, she would chase a toy, tied to a fishing pole, around and around the couch with zest and determination.
  8. Perhaps her favorite toys were anything ring-shaped and 1-4 inches across. We had to hide rubber bands and women’s hair bands because she would grab them from any surface, or out of an open drawer, and carry them all over the house. Unfortunately, sometimes she would eat them (usually resulting in a pukefest). Her favorite toys were simple milk-jug rings, which she harmlessly swatted and carried all over the house, before depositing them in her food dish. Every day, we had to clear multiple milk-jug rings out of her food bowl. Sometimes she would drop such a toy in her water bowl, fish it out, then toss it in there again for more splashy fun.
  9. We all love frozen custard from Rusty Rasmussen’s “Custard Factory” shop, and that included Iniki. I once fed her a few drops of melted custard out of a spoon to see if she liked it. Needless to say, she absolutely loved the stuff. This started years of vociferous pleading on her part when I would arrive home with some in a cup.
  10. Iniki had a bedtime tuck-in routine for her people. She visited Elke and me in bed almost daily, no matter when we were there. She would leap into the bed with considerable force for a small cat, lying down on me for several minutes of petting, rubbing and scratching with her characteristically very loud purr. Still purring like a chain saw, she then would walk over to Elke and head-butt her, getting more attention before lying down next to us (sometimes for hours). She spent a great deal of time sleeping with (or on) the kids in their beds too.
  11. She also had a shower-time routine for us–me in particular. After many showers, she would come into the bathroom and walk all around the floor, bathrub edge and a wooden chair, looking at me and squeaking for attention. Once dressed, I would sit in that chair and put her on my lap, where she crouched contentedly for 2-20 minutes of petting, scratching and rubbing–sometimes purring so intensely that spray flew from her nose.
  12. Often, with Elke in the office and trying to concentrate on her work, Iniki and Emmy would sit on either side of her, awaiting a snack of hair-ball ointment. After a few minutes of this scene, Elke would give in and hold out the tube in one hand and a finger on the other, each with a gob of the stuff for their simultaneous consumption. While Emmy tentatively and delicately licked her dose, Iniki ravenously wolfed it down and begged for more, sometimes swatting Elke with her paw to get her attention. She was a very insistent and bossy kitty when she wanted to be–but always in a cute and amusing way.
  13. It wasn’t just the salad bowl. She would curl up into almost any similarly sized, circular or ring-shaped object, such as a Halloween wreath (top photo) or basket.

  14. Iniki was the “lickiest” cat I ever had, by far. She considered people to be lollipops or popsicles, frequently kissing us on our hands, arms or even faces with that rough, wet little tongue. She was a very affectionate kitty this way, and gave us all many wet kisses on a daily basis.
  15. A subset of this “licky” habit was a strong fascination with the taste of female human feet–not male, but female. Whether Elke, Donna or visitors, she quite often licked a woman’s feet and even gently chewed her toes–much to the surprise and ticklish amazement of the subjects. Told you this cat had some eccentricities!
  16. If anything got Iniki excited as much as someone opening a package of shrimp, it was bringing in green grass for her to eat. She would wait by the back door, meowing inaudibly but quite visibly through the glass, then going into ecstatic hysterics when one of us would show her grass we were picking for her consumption. Upon one of us walking back in with the grass in hand, she would follow back and forth, squealing and begging, sometimes even leaping toward that hand, before wolfing down the offering a blade at a time.
  17. Being in rural Oklahoma, scorpions sometimes get inside. She was a fairly effective scorpion-control agent. She knew how to pound them to death without getting stung through her fur. When we found a beaten-up, dead scorpion in the house, we knew who did it. Her work likely spared our bare feet a few painful stings.
  18. Unlike most kitties, Iniki didn’t mind lying around on her back. She didn’t want to be held that way, but she often could be found sprawled out on the carpet, feet in the air, body turned this way or that.

  19. Iniki had all her claws and enjoyed spontaneous sprints through the house. Those earned her the nickname “Velcro kitty” for the sound of her clawed feet racing across the carpet.
  20. Like some dogs, Iniki could be trained. My favorite trick was to make her stand on two feet and stretch the full length of her body vertically, reaching way up high for treats, which I would drop in her gaping mouth while she grasped my hand. I regret not getting a higher-resolution photo of her doing this, and not teaching her more tricks while she still was young. She was a very alert and intelligent cat.

    Photo by Donna Edwards

And now, friends, everything above is simply…gone, just like that. This house seems so empty, quiet and starkly different just by the absence of an 11-pound ball of black fur. We people are grieving a lot. Even Emmy, always somewhat aloof toward Iniki, acted clingy and confused for a few days, and still seeks attention more than usual.

From Elke:

    Iniki was for the last 10 years my constant home companion, just about always within arm’s reach. She was creature comfort for me through the loss of both my parents, my buddy when no one else was home. I miss her great big personality, her regal grace, the nightly purr fests, a tap on the shoulder when she wanted a taste. I think she had a good life with us.

We all miss Iniki enormously. That’s because Iniki wasn’t just a cat…she was a loyal friend, warm and furry comforter, entertainer extraordinaire, and above all, an unconditionally loving companion. “Niki”–you blessed us so much with your presence in this home. We were honored to love and spoil you the past decade, and to give you the good life that all pets deserve. Eat all the raw shrimp, frozen custard, green grass, and Special K you want in heaven. We’ll see you again there someday.

R.I.P. Iniki the Cat


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