After taking him to the vet for shots, I learned that he had FIV, the feline version of HIV. This essentially meant that he couldn't be an outdoor cat. He also couldn't be around my other two guys until I knew how they'd react to him. The vet explained that while it had been common practice to immediately euthanize cats with FIV, that practice was waning. He talked about FIV cats he came across that lived into their teens, but Willie was so skinny and beat up, I figured I'd be lucky if I had him for two years. In any case, I couldn't see putting down such a friendly cat, and while I did try to find a home for him, ended up with him myself. That ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.
For the first couple of months, until he was neutered, Willie lived in a room by himself (I'm pretty sure Sepp, my alpha male cat, would have ripped him apart otherwise). As rough as that time was, it was very clear I was making the right decision, as it quickly became apparent that Willie was the sweetest cat on the planet. All I had to do was open the door to his room and he'd start purring so loudly it sounded like someone was driving by on a large truck. All he wanted to do was be around people, something that continued for as long as I owned him.
|My nephew Logan with Willie,|
who was his favorite cat.
After Willie was fixed, Sepp calmed down a little, and, although he was never a fan of Willie, they eventually reached a point of civility. It's a good thing, too, because about a year after Willie first came around, it was time to move back to Chicago. I couldn't imagine not bringing him home. After he and the other boys got their pet passports (yes, those are things), and we were off.
Traveling was rough for him - he did not do well cooped up in a carrier for 20+ hours. Once we got here we was fine though. His foster home for the first month he was in the US was with a family that had a little boy named Stephen who was about 10 years old at the time. Willie slept with Stephen every night, and I'm sure Stephen missed him once he was gone.
Willie has made that kind of impression with everyone he's met ever since, often changing the feelings of people who tell me they really don't like cats. I used to joke that I didn't matter who came over, if someone sat down on my couch, Willie was in his or her lap within about 30 seconds. He'd jump up, sit down, and start purring. All he wanted was love.
|Willie "hunting" Siggy...|
I often got questions about Willie's FIV and whether or not I had to give him medication or do other things for him. I actually found that the trick to keeping him healthy was getting regular dental cleanings. He ended up only needing 3 of them though - by the last one all of his teeth had been pulled. That was in August of 2009, and for the next 4 1/2 years, he was healthier than he ever had been.
|...and the boys curling up together.|
Earlier this year it became apparent that Willie had been losing weight, and blood tests confirmed that he was in renal failure (Siggy who turns 13 in two weeks is also in renal failure, but in a much earlier stage). He also had a heart murmur. Not being one to subject my pets to major medical procedures that they don't understand, I knew that I had to make the most of the time I had left with him. It's been another 5 months, which amazes me.
|Watching chipmunks run|
around the patio was a
favorite kitty pastime.
This little eulogy doesn't do him justice - he's been the best, most loving friend anyone could have asked for, for well over 10 years. While I have a knack for picking good cats, I daresay I don't think I'll ever find another quite like him. Anyone who had the chance to meet him and be loved by him is incredibly lucky, and I'm the luckiest of all.
|One of my favorite pictures of him...Merry Christmas Cat!|