I grew up with cats and have owned more cats than I care to divulge. Cats are my passion. Every one of them has made an impression on me, but none more deeply felt than Martin, a tuxedo cat with more grit than most living beings I have known.

“Nothing rattled Marty. He was the first cat the four grandchildren ever knew,” Anne Holliday Abbott writes. “He was gentle with them and he was their touchstone, often sleeping quietly in his cat bed near the piano in the sun.” Photo courtesy of Anne Holliday Abbott

Marty (as he came to be called) showed me what a good friend he could be when I first saw him 19 years ago at a local animal shelter. I was there with a grandson and my daughter-in-law, both of whom were in hopes of adopting a cat.

I paused in front of a cage and succumbed to the amber eyes staring at me. The shelter attendant asked me if I wanted to hold the cat. This cat was not my first rodeo. I knew what I was getting myself into, but when the feline was passed to me, I felt cat arms tightly clinging around my neck. The shelter sent us home with what they said was a year-old female named Marsha, and two days later let us know he was a male cat. Marty began his life at our home with an ambiguity that he fit his personality. Whatever life threw at him, he made it work.

Nothing rattled Marty. He was the first cat the four grandchildren ever knew. He was gentle with them and he was their touchstone, often sleeping quietly in his cat bed near the piano in the sun. In time two more cats joined the household, and Marty treated them like they were his charges. He groomed them copiously and even deigned to play with them.

Marty never showed any signs of aging, but we were painfully aware of how old he was becoming.

Last autumn my daughter and I took Marty out late every afternoon to play on the deck. For an indoor cat, this was a big treat. He walked the perimeter in the waning sun as if a captain on a ship. He lifted his head to smell the fall air and refused to come in when we wanted to get dinner started.

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Just before Thanksgiving, Marty developed a much huskier voice and started living under a futon in the basement. One Tuesday morning in October I went downstairs with magazines and the crossword puzzle page of the newspaper, intending to spend time with him. He came out from under the futon and, nestling on the crinkly newspaper page, spent hours letting me stroke his neck.

That was the last time I had quality time with Marty. The day after Thanksgiving, it was deemed that Marty’s ride through life was at an end. His ashes now reside in the glass china cabinet with all our most cherished belongings.

Marty had grit. He never complained. All food was acceptable to him. He was a hardy cat who only wanted to get along. He wasn’t sick a day in his life until the very end.

We’ll never have another Marty. He was a true gift.

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