by Mike Rozen
“Mike, we are getting a cat.” I dreaded those words my mother said that day. I never liked cats. I always liked dogs better and my mom promised we would get a dog after my 13th birthday. I was strongly looking forward to it. But of course, she always had to change her mind. I was very disappointed.
We were getting a cat from my sister’s friend. My mom told me this way we could save money since the cat was free and they are cheaper to take care of than dogs.
One night, after coming home from my friend Chris’s house, I opened the door to the laundry room. I saw this cute little creature, about the size of a football, with fur a swirl of chocolate brown and white.
“Make sure to keep the laundry room door closed. We don’t want him running around,” cautioned my mother.
“What’s his name?”
“Kiwi?” I didn’t like the name at first. I thought it was cheesy, but my sister chose it. This would be mostly her cat.
The first time I laid eyes on Kiwi, my perception of cats took a 180 degree turn. I thought Kiwi was so cute. So small and furry with big pouty eyes. I didn’t want to admit this to my family since I told them I don’t like cats.
Kiwi was like a wild animal since he was very aggressive and loved to be outdoors. He was very fit, barely having an ounce of fat on his body. He wasn’t a big cat, but acted twice as big as he was. He was not afraid to take on cats bigger than him and other animals. He would even stare down dogs in the neighborhood.
We would let him roam outside for hours at a time and leave a bowl of food and water outside. He would only return home when he wanted food or to go to sleep. Oh, so you only care to come and see me when you are hungry or have to go to the bathroom! At first, I thought he didn’t like me since that’s all he seemed to care about. After a week or so, I finally admitted to my family that I thought Kiwi was cute. I started to want to play with him. My sister, 9 at the time, would get jealous. “That’s my cat! You can’t play with him!” She even called her girlfriend to get her to threaten to beat me up. “Like I cared!” At first, I was a little hesitant to pick Kiwi up, since he would try to nip at me. After a while though, my fear went away since the bites didn’t hurt as much. I also learned how to pick him up correctly.
At first, Kiwi and I didn’t have the best relationship. I was rough with him, he would lose his temper, biting and scratching and letting out a big hiss! I would put his arms behind his head and make him do sit-ups. Boy, he didn’t like that! Also, my brother and I would roll him into a ball like a cinnamon bun. After a few years though, I started to mature and treat Kiwi with more respect. As I showed him more respect, he showed me more respect. He would actually come and jump on me when I was sitting on the couch, instead of me always having to go to him. He would purr as I pet the back of his neck. He loved that. His fur was so soft. Sometimes, he would lick me. Although, his breath was horrible. Kiwi, what did you eat?
Kiwi was not the smartest cat though. You know how they say cats have 9 lives, this really applied to Kiwi. He would sometimes run in the street and not look. He would climb the house, run on the roof, and jump off it. He was usually able to do that. One time though, as he was jumping off the roof, his neck got caught in the tree. He just hung there, helpless. If it wasn’t for my mom seeing this, he would have choked to death. Kiwi used to go from the house to the garage through a little hole we made for him. He would then hide under my mom’s van, and as soon as the garage door opened, would quickly bolt outside. One time, as the garage door was closing, Kiwi was waiting under the van. He suddenly tried to leap out before the door hit the ground. This time he wasn’t fast enough. The door crushed him like a pancake. He lay there, helpless. I was studying in my room, and suddenly I heard, “Oh my god. Kiwi got stuck under the garage door!” I ran out of my room, and raced downstairs. By that time, my mom had opened the garage door. Luckily, she could hear a little meow as she was walking near the garage door. Kiwi was lying there, injured. We thought for sure he would die. We rushed him to the vet. We were shaking, worried. Amazingly, the vet said Kiwi would survive. He was barely injured! Boy, he was tough! That put a big scare into us.
My brother liked to tease him and call him “Stupid Cat.” One of my favorite Kiwi moments was when my brother was at the top of the stairs, looking over the railing, and yelled, “Hey Stupid Cat!” Kiwi ran as fast as he could up the stairs, wrapped his leg around my brother, and bit him! Amazing. Don’t insult Kiwi.
On Labor Day of 2000, the day before my first day of college, something was wrong with Kiwi. He seemed to be limping, so I thought he hurt his leg. I tried picking him up, then putting him down so he could walk. He couldn’t. He kept collapsing to the floor like Jell-o. Now I started to worry. This was not Kiwi. Kiwi could always walk. I had to go to work in about 15 minutes. My mom was out. I didn’t want to leave Kiwi alone. I called my mom to come over. At work, I worried about Kiwi the entire time. When I came home, I anxiously asked my mom how Kiwi was doing. The stone face of my mom told it all.
“We had to put him to sleep.”
I was so sad, but I couldn’t cry, especially not in front of my mom. I was shocked. How could Kiwi die so young? He was only 4 years old. What happened? I didn’t think his injury was serious.
What happened was he had a heart failure. All the years of surviving death after death caught up with him. The garage door crushing him. The tree choking him. The outdoor lifestyle. I wanted to cry a few days later, but couldn’t.
I quickly got over it, and realized it wasn’t as bad as losing a human being. I wanted to get another cat, but we couldn’t because of my brother’s allergies. I still miss Kiwi; miss wrestling with him, petting his soft fir, holding him, watching him chase birds and spiders. Out of all the cats I met, he remains my favorite.
I still plan to have a pet in the future. This time though, I’d prefer to have a dog.
Mike Rozen is the VP Education at Richmond Toastmasters. He did a great job combining humor and emotion in this speech, which we think is from the Storytelling manual. It’s not an easy combination to master. Thanks for sharing this moving, hilarious speech with our club!