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We can get a new cat, but Granny won't ever be replaced

As we had hoped when the end came, Granny died peacefully in her sleep.

She wasn't in pain, although she meowed softly a couple of times as the final curtain closed. She died with her gray head resting gently on an old sweater she loved, one once owned by my father-in-law.

But, reflecting her big-hearted nature to the end, she didn't bite any of her loved ones gathered around. She didn't even hiss.

I like to think she let out a little sigh, and padded softly off to that place where all cats purr away for eternity.

The old cat we inherited five years ago from my wife's father slipped slowly away with grace and dignity, the way she had lived. We estimate she was at least 23 years old, possibly a bit older.

As felines go, that is getting up there, although it doesn't come near to scratching the record. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world's oldest known cat lived to be 38. By most accounts, a domesticated feline's average longevity is 12 to 15 years old.

Granny was the Methuselah of our cats, a furry antique weighing barely 2 pounds who will be missed by everyone in the household.

But I was worried about the reaction from my wife, a lover of all creatures, great and small.

"She was a kindly old soul who died peacefully," Maureen observed. "We just have to look at it philosophically and appreciate the time we had with her. She was always so pleasant to be around."

"That's a great attitude," I said as I started to relax. "Yep, she will be sorely missed."

That's when the other hair-covered shoe fell, causing me to choke as though I was coughing up a hair ball the size of a tennis ball.

"I think she went on out of the goodness of her heart so we would have room for one more cat," my wife concluded.

"Uh, we still have a houseful of eight cats, for crimony's sakes," I sputtered. "You know that bumper sticker that says 'Cat hair is a condiment in our house?' I've been thinking about getting one that says, 'Cat hair is my main meal.' I think Granny left so I could eat without flossing with hair of cat."

You see, Granny's departure, sad as it was, left us with eight cats, none of whom show any sign of following in her tracks anytime soon.

Incidentally, I prefer long-haired tabby hair to, say, a short-haired turtle shell. The latter tends to get caught in your teeth.

Don't get me wrong: I love cats as much as the next person. But the next person doesn't live with eight of the mischievous creatures who make it a contest to see how many can pile into my lap when I innocently settle down to read a good book.

Hey, it's hard to concentrate when a hairy paw occasionally reaches up to swat the book just to be ornery.

If each cat lives only a dozen years, that means we have roughly 100 years crammed into a few decades of furry meals ahead. And that doesn't even go into the nine-lives thing, albeit the behavior by some of them may have shaved off a couple of lives here and there because of bad behavior.

Granny was the slowest creature I've ever seen. In a 10-foot race, my money would be on a three-toed sloth who got off the blocks slow.

If you held a door for her, that cup of coffee in your hand would grow cold. You would sprout a stubble on your chin.

Just how old she was compared to a humanoid is difficult to ascertain. Unlike the easy 7-to-1 dog-to-human age ratio, the math for biped to cat requires a lot of guesswork.

Suffice it to say Granny was a senior citizen who had grown long of tooth.

Her purr sounded a bit like an old car whose engine continues to turn over after you've turned it off. There were a few backfires, but we won't go there.

At the risk of anthropomorphizing, it seemed obvious that she enjoyed her life with us. After all, her hairy companions gave her the respect an elder stateswoman deserved.

Even Harpo and Waldo, our 200 pounds of mutt, were her buddies. Although Maureen rightly observes they often act like silly barbarians, the canine clowns kowtowed to Granny every time she approached. She would slowly walk up to them and rub her head under their muzzles.

The pooches would sit there, prim and proper. They could have been finalists as top dogs in obedience at the Westminster Dog Show.

Of course, the moment she was done nuzzling, the pooches were off to the buffoon races.

"Yep, we are going to get another cat in Granny's honor," Maureen concluded as she patted my hand. "Don't worry. It'll be a small one."

Fine, but I plan to slide the magnet on the refrigerator down to about a foot above the floor.

That would be the one reading, "Cat — the other white meat."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.