|Such a pretty kitty.|
Jack and I had plans for moving to a modest acreage in Iowa when I finished my schooling so he could start on his, and with the owner’s permission, the three little kittens came to live with us. During our transition of moving, my parents took care of them, fed them from a bottle, scooped the litterbox, and my brother gave them their iconic names (I am truly horrible with naming animals for some reason)–that is the introduction of Hercules, RJ, and Snickers to our story.
|Seriously, the siblings have been the best cats ever.|
Most people think of cats as presumptuous and aloof, but having been fed from a bottle and handled at such a young age, the three siblings have always been the friendliest, social cats that I’ve ever known. Hercules got his name from his incredible size–he was the biggest of the three by far and when he reached his full stature, he was renowned as our resident big prey hunter. He specialized in keeping rabbits and rats from invading. Sometimes, he was a little too good at his job, like the time we rushed out the door for a house showing while getting ready to sell our Iowa home, and Hercules drug a rabbit in the cat door and proceeded to dismember it in the mudroom entrance. It was a little horrifying to come back home, realizing the potential buyers had been welcomed to our home with Hercules’ gift of a dead rabbit but it all turned out just fine. They’re the ones who bought the house anyway.
|Claire’s first love: cats.|
Despite Herc’s massive size, he’s always been extremely chill and tolerant. He has met each of our children and has willingly accepted the kind of love they all bestowed upon him. If he ever wanted to run, he never showed it. The only time he scratched was by accidental use of his claws in an effort to stay balanced.
|Cuddling with Kate.|
The only cat I had growing up was indoors and declawed. I think I never really saw the potential of a real cat until I had three outdoor cats of my own. We are very careful to keep them up-to-date on their shots, feed them in an inside area so I know they’re accounted for at night, but otherwise, give them free rein of our farms.
|Hanging with Henry.|
When Herc wasn’t hunting, climbing trees, sleeping, or eating to keep up his massive size, he was more than likely found chasing after whoever was outside. He’d follow me to the barn, join us when we went into the forest, or would watch the kids swinging from a treetop vantage point.
|Letting Zoey give him a scratch.|
He really seemed to enjoy his life as a farm cat and for a cat, seemed extremely social with other creatures (if he wasn’t hunting them, haha 😂). He loved to follow the chickens around to see what they were up to and could play for hours with Nova (and although Snickers is his biological sister, she never has been one to play much, maybe because Herc would inevitably win. Even then, she loved to curl up next to him).
Even as a farm cat, Herc was flexible to whatever environment he found himself in. Since he knew how to use a litterbox and loved to cuddle, he made an exceptional indoor cat when the situation warranted. He made a few moves with us and had brief stints inside though usually, he would just sneak inside and curl up with someone if he wanted a little extra attention.
After nearly twelve years of hard work as a farm cat, Herc’s eyesight suddenly and inexplicably failed him. It was heartbreaking to see him cautiously pad around, knowing he’d never recover but I also was quite impressed how infrequently he bumped into things. He knew where the stairs were, where the food and the litterbox were, and could still jump on and off the couch and beds and if he was feeling exceptionally adventurous, would climb onto the kitchen table to steal food when no one was looking.
|His favorite part of retirement.|
Though no one could ever figure out what was the cause of Herc’s failed vision, it was obvious it was connected to the rest of his health. Soon after his retirement to being a full-time indoor cat, he started losing weight, becoming disoriented and finding little interest in eating.
|Naping in the shower.|
Since we knew he was in declining health, we decided it was probably time to add some fresh blood to our farm cat pride to step up where Hercules had left a massive hole. A friend of a family member happened to have several adorable kittens on their farm in Nebraska and taking the most striking of the litter, Mortimer was introduced to our farm.
Mortimer was a great companion for Hercules (after he stopped hissing at him and realized it was only a little kitten meowing at him) and since moving to being a full-time outside cat, has stepped in and filled Hercules’ shoes by tormenting Snickers, wrestling with Nova, and learning how to hunt all kinds of pests.
By November, Hercules’ overall health was poor. One of the telltale signs of animal health is their coat and Herc had stopped grooming himself. He was a skeleton of his former self and it was hard not to get teary-eyed looking at him. It wasn’t just seeing him suffer but also what his passing would represent–he was a tie to our life over a decade ago and had been with us from the very beginning of our family. One of the hardest parts of pet ownership for me is seeing them through all the stages of life, including knowing that eventually, I’ll have to say goodbye.
The night before Thanksgiving, Herc curled up with Raven in her kennel and fell asleep. I wasn’t surprised that I woke up on Thanksgiving morning to find that he’d passed away. I let myself cry, then Jack buried him out under our crabapple tree.
|Raven was such a good companion for Herc.|
RJ was the first to go and way too young, and now Snickers is the last of the three siblings who are left. Herc was one of those cats that was an all-around gem. We’re going to miss him greatly but believe all cats go to Heaven, too.
|What a good kitty.|