"MARMALADE VS. BLACKIE" THE FINAL TOM-CAT BATTLE
This is the story of my beloved cat "Marmalade's" ( A believed to be around 13 year old orange & white Tabby) final, unexpected Tom-Cat Fight in Los Angeles, Ca. which ultimately lead to his decline from succumbing to an injury he suffered during the fight. I am putting this in writing to memorialize "Marmalade" and our journey together.
"Marmalade" (an orange & white tiger-striped tabby cat) crossed paths with me over 850 miles away in the high desert country of New Mexico, in a little town called "Bernalillo." Where they quite often shot the Cable TV series "Breaking Bad." I met "Marmalade" in 2015 (4.2 years ago) and formally adopted him in November of 2016 (2.6 years ago) and brought him with me back to Los Angeles, as the house I was renting in New Mexico was going to be renovated, due to flood damage, and I had to vacate it. (That is another story previously posted on this forum.)
"Marmalade" was the KING of a colony of stray & feral cats in New Mexico that I began to feed, upon moving into the house mentioned above. "Marmalade" was adored by the females in the colony, trusted with the kittens and feared and respected by the other males, although "Marmalade" was deaf, smaller than the other Tom-Cat's and chronically ill (he had an undiagnosed choking & gagging reflex, which I discovered required antibiotics every 5 or 6 months, amongst other health maladies), which was one of the main reasons why I felt I had to take him with me when I departed New Mexico. He had had a very tough kittenhood and youth on the ragged streets of Bernalillo, New Mexico.
The other cats in the colony could not make the trip back to L.A. with me for a variety of reasons. Including they were just too wild and would have run away at a moments notice. "Marmalade" and I motel hopped for 3 and 1/2 months on our way to Los Angeles, and he never, not once, tried to run away. We finally settled in a warehouse loft together in Southern California, where he lived with me his final 2 years.
Although I had planned on doing so, once we were settled, due to his health problems and advanced age (and the fact that he never "sprayed" indoors) I hadn't gotten him "fixed" yet. When I brought "Marmalade" to his first Vet visit in L.A. the Doctor exclaimed upon walking into the examination room: "OH! A TOM-CAT!" "He's INTACT!" And I asked her "How she could tell?" and she said: "There faces change. Their jowls are different. Once they are fixed."
Once we got settled at the warehouse (which was 60 ft. long) "Marmalade" became an indoor cat and got into the best health that I had ever seen him. He ate & ate (he was a foodie despite his health problems) and walked & walked our warehouse. He gained weight. His shoulders were pure muscle like a miniature tigers. I would take him into the rear alley when the neighborhood was quiet and walk him almost 400 ft. He did pull-ups onto our couch. He was handsome, proud & active. And seemed happy, content & blessed. We had so many good days and great evenings just hanging out together. My lad and I.
Next door to our warehouse was a neighboring compound where a female cat lived named "Star." A beautiful and enchanting, long-haired, grey tiger striped cat. Once "Star" had given "Marmalade" a nose kiss and he had been smitten with her ever since, although afterwards she was a bit aloof with him. You could tell it hurt his feelings somewhat, as "Marmalade" had been so revered by the female cats in New Mexico, and they seemed to enjoy his company and being with him. Since he was primarily an indoor cat (his deafness and coyotes in the neighborhood helped me in making that decision) he was not able to court "Star" the way he would have liked to have outside the gate of our warehouse. But she would come to our rear fenced gate at night on occasion and sit with "Marmalade" on the other side and keep him company. He would make these gentle meow sounds to her that I had never heard from him before.
One night I was sitting in the living area of the warehouse watching Television after a long day and "Marmalade" was making his nightly "rounds." He would slowly swagger to our rear gate and watch the World, and then walk around the warehouse interior, and then come to see me, be pet & brushed and then return to our gate again. But this time, he walked up towards me and just stared at me, unmoving, which he never, ever did. He just glared at me unmoving. I knew my boy. Something was wrong. I looked down at him, turned the sound down on the Television and asked him "What's wrong Doc?" ( a nickname I had for him) "What is it?" And then I could hear a cat screaming outside our gate. It was "Star." She was screaming bloody murder like I had never heard before from a cat.
As soon as I got up from my chair, "Marmalade" trotted towards the back gate of the warehouse quickly and I followed with purpose right after him. I could still hear "Star" screaming again and again. It was coming from inside the neighbors gated compound. Just as I opened the rear fenced gate of our warehouse, which opened out into the back alley, all of the sudden the perpetrator appeared. It was the local Tom-Cat bully cat "Blackie". A very large, all black Tom-Cat who had sired many litters of kitten's in the area and liked to torment "Marmalade" by spraying on our fenced in rear gate, when we were sleeping. "Blackie" ran past our gate at top speed away from his recent and obvious assault on "Star."
I didn't even have the time to process seeing "Blackie" run past the now open gate, when all of the sudden, in the middle of the street that ran alongside our warehouse "Blackie" was suddenly in a Tom-Cat fight, seemingly to the death, with an orange & white spinning ball of fur, claws and teeth. I was so shocked by this sight that I didn't even realize yet that "Marmalade" had shot out of the rear gate past my legs and attacked "Blackie" in the center of the street! And that it was "MARMALADE" that was the orange & white spinning ball of fur, claws and teeth!
It was the most vicious Tom-Cat cat fight I had ever witnessed. I knew one or both of the cats was going to be mortally wounded in the fight at any moment, so I tried to intervene. Not knowing if I would be slashed to ribbons during the fray. I could not believe my eyes as I stood over them trying to figure out how to separate them. They were in a death embrace. To make matters worse, a car could have ran them over at any time, had I not blocked any oncoming traffic. Finally "Blackie" sprung up-and ran away into the night and "Marmalade" chased right after him.
I called "Marmalade" with the high-pitched "clicking" sound that I used to make, which although he was almost completely deaf, "Marmalade" could evidently still hear. He had never run away from me before, nor out of our warehouse gate and was more like a dog. So much so that our neighbors even commented on how obedient he was. Marveling at how I could take him for walks outdoors and he would stay close to me, follow and return to the warehouse when it was time to go back inside. "Marmalade" even had his own friends in the neighborhood that would visit him at the back gate. People I did not even know. I once heard a little girl talking with him as I was working in the warehouse. Strangers would ask me where he was? if he was not at the rear gate.
"Marmalade" stood at the end of the street that night, as "Blackie" disappeared into the distance. "Marmalade's" hair was standing out on end, his tail double the size, and his chest puffed in and out like The Lion King. "Marmalade" was so, so proud of himself. Having had a genuine Tom-Cat fight in Los Angeles, after not having had one in some time. Then he trotted back to our warehouse (without me having to go after him) victorious.
Once back inside the warehouse, I gently petted him and looked him over for wounds. Even though I was angry at him I did not admonish him for the fight in any way. He was just so pleased with himself, how could I? I was so concerned about him being wounded. I thought for sure he must have had one of his eyes scratched or bitten, but they both looked fine. I felt him to see if he had been bitten anywhere or if he would cry out from an internal injury. I didn't see any blood on him. Then I noticed a trickle of blood coming from "Marmalade's" left ear, I cleaned it and it seemed that it would heal. It never did. I brought him to the Vet's and yet still the bleeding ear did not heal right.
I took "Marmalade" back to the Vet and they said it was either "a bleeding polyp or tumor" in his ear canal and would need to be removed by a surgeon. As I researched the procedure, eventually blood from "Marmalade's" ear continued and I would clean his left ear several times a day and night. He was so good and cooperative about my doing so. He would turn his head and hold it in position. Allowing me to gently clean it with a baby wipe-it. And then sadly the bleeding increased in quantity. I was worried he could have a hemorrhage at any point. One day blood splashed on to a wall, than onto our TV screen and then onto my reading glasses. The surgeon Vet that was recommended by our primary Vet turned out to have horrible on-line reviews, but fortunately (or so I thought at the time) an Animal Hospital opened up just 7 to 8 blocks away from our warehouse that was a large, impressive facility. So I took Marmalade there and got his blood taken and outsourced to a speciality lab, they took an Ultrasound and 2 X-Rays.
I arranged for "Marmalade" ear canal surgery at that Animal Hospital, and it happened. And as it turned out, it was neither a polyp nor a tumor. Just a bunch of unexplained "gunk" (that the Vet did not take a sample of for a biopsy, for some stupid unknown reason.) The Vet could not tell me what the bleeding was. But he was able to successfully cauterize "Marmalade's" inner ear canal and the fortunately the bleeding stopped. But sadly during the operation, "Marmalade" had an apparent stroke or never damage. His left eye was left in a permanent squint, his left set of whiskers were lifeless and almost laying against the side of his head, and his balance was severely damaged. I learned later after much research, that he could have had another stroke at any moment and could have "thrown" another blood-clot and gone blind, become paralyzed, brain damaged or catatonic or, if it was nerve damage, the right side of his face could have also been maimed in the same way as his left side.
The entire left side of "Marmalade's" head and the side of his face had been shaved for the surgery. The surgical cut from the injury was very large and long and the stitches were visible. The cut ran from the interior of his ear all the way down the left side of his face. It broke my heart to see my handsome boy like that. Wounded and now maimed. I kept thinking of that scene in the Godfather when Marlon Brando looks over the bullet-ridden body of his son and says forlornly: "Look how they massacred my boy."
"Marmalade" fought as hard as he could to recover. He was a real trooper. I ordered a special, padded Lion themed protected cone collar (it was silly looking but he liked it for some reason) that he wore with no complaints for over 5 weeks. He would fall again and again as if he was drunk when walking and the collar offered some padding. I would reach down to pet him and he would fall to the ground. He fell off the arm of our couch (his favorite perch) once straight onto his back and knocked the wind out of himself. Afterwards he looked up at me with his expression like "What is happening to me?" I bought a large, long, pillow like, stuffed bear and dubbed it "Safety Bear" so that if he fell off the couch again, the bear could break his fall.
When "Marmalade" tried to clean his face while sitting on my lap, I would hold him by both sides from behind to help him to balance. But he seemed like he was doing better. He was in good spirits. The big surgical cut healed beautifully. I was so, so relieved looking forward to a relaxing Summer with "Marmalade" watching movies and binge watching Television shows etc. Eating together. You know...the simple things in life. Just he and I in our secret mutual admiration society.
Just as we thought things were getting back on an even keel, his surgery all healed-up, "Marmalade" while he was sleeping in front of my chest one night moaned for 8 straight hours as he breathed. I thought he was having nightmares, so I would reach out to pet him to try and calm him and he would awaken and stop. But then the moaning would start again as soon as he was asleep. He was deaf so he was not aware how loud he was. It was clearly distress. I knew my boy. He was in pain & suffering and as they say "he was hiding it well" during the day.
The next morning "Marmalade" choked, gagged and growled while trying to eat his breakfast and a blood-stained tooth fell out onto his plate. I called the Animal Hospital and scheduled dental surgery as we had discussed together. I scheduled him for dental extractions, as his teeth and gums were so bad, from him having been on the street for his kittenhood and youth and being malnourished (from all we knew.) 5 different Vet's had said "Marmalade's" teeth and gums were the cause of his choking and gagging and I finally had the money needed to address it. We were running out of time, as he was aging, so we went forward with the extractions. He had 4 teeth removed and seemed like he was going to be okay post surgery.
"Marmalade" hung in there like a champ, but the next two weeks he began to deteriorate even worse. To the point of growling again, gasping and shrieking at even the sound of a can of cat food being opened in the next room. And worse of all he could no longer drink. In the past we could always count on chicken broth, or lactose free milk, to help pull him through while antibiotics did their work. He received 10 different types of medications in his final two weeks, but in the end he was done with more medical treatment. He was fighting back against the Vet's to the point where there was blood on his paws. They could not even remove a lead they had put around his neck to try and control him. I felt he should have a say in whether he continued to receive treatment or not and read up on the controversial subject. And he wasn't really responding to medical treatment anymore it seemed. If I got him re-hydrated they would have to knock him out to do so and shave his leg again and if he got a steroid shot that could lead to diabetes, and he already had a high liver count.
"Marmalade" had stopped walking for the most part. He would "daze out", staring off into space. His head would twitch at random. He struck odd poses as if he was in pain. His inner-eye lid would drop down it was so sensitive to either touch above it when being pet or to sunlight (which he had adored.) He would lay his head in my hands as if he was weary. He kissed me on my temple for the first time 3 times, as if he was saying "Goodbye" when I gently leaned into him on one of his last days. He was becoming a shadow of his former self. A once proud Alpha-Male Tom Cat. I could not allow that to happen. To continue to watch him deteriorate. I wanted him to go out while he was still "him." So 10 weeks ago this week, I pet him while they injected my boy with that lethal medication and "Thanked him for saving my life", "For being my best friend and companion" "For being so good, true, loyal, loving, courageous & brave" and I told him "How much I loved him and how much I would miss him."
I had surrendered my heart to Marmalade and he took it with him when he departed.
So in the end, that Tom-Cat fight escalated "Marmalade's" chronic health problems and resulted in his eminent decline, because "Marmalade" decided to defend his girlfriend "Star" from an assault by another Tom-Cat. Like Native American's or Samurai's used to call it, I think "Marmalade" would have considered that "A Good Death" in Tom-Cat terms. He was my "Samurai Cat." My little warrior. My very brave lad. I miss him so.
I searched on-line for an image of an orange & white Samurai Cat and the following is what I found shown below. It features "Marmalade's" orange & white fur coloring, his pink nose and remarkably an eye-patch over his left eye! The same eye that was maimed during his surgery from the Tom-Cat fight.
This is a photo-image shown below of my Marmalade taken in January of 2017, right before we hit the road to Los Angeles from New Mexico, which took us 3 1/2 months. This photo was taken around 2 months after I formally adopted him. He was on his way towards better health. It had taken me many months prior to even get him this clean-looking, after a very tough youth on the streets. Check out how chipped and frayed his ears are from cat fights. He was tender, kind, loving & true but one hell of a tough Tom-Cat!