‘Cuddle Bunny’ Bebe: 2005 – 2020

Our home was blessed with an affectionate animal that brought us love and joy for nearly 15 years. She was an adopted cat from the Mississauga Animal Shelter. Originally chosen as a pet for my son Nick, Bebe (pronounced like the French word for ‘baby’) was a kitten originally named ‘Roxy.’

Bebe was born on April 1, 2005, and lived until March 23, 2020.

Bebe was about ten weeks old when Bob saw her reaching out of her cage at the Mississauga Animal Shelter toward us. Her mother was named Belle. We adopted Bebe, who originally lived with Nick for a while. When Nick came to live with us between apartments, Bebe got to know our Mississauga home, and came to adore our cat Obi-Wan. She quickly grew to love the back yard, and to take delight in teasing Obi-Wan, who was twice her size and would wrestle her to the floor when he caught her. Always light on her feet and nimble, Bebe would occasionally vault herself up onto the banister railing on our second floor. Bob said she would outgrow it, and to just leave her, because to try and grab her off that precarious perch would be more hazardous than allowing her to come down on her own. As Bebe grew, she did, in fact, stop jumping onto the upstairs railing.

A very private animal

Bebe was a shy and private cat, who would vanish when visitors came over, unlike Obi-Wan, who wanted to listen in on the conversation. Bebe’s name originated from her love of being cradled like a human baby. With Bob and I, she was very affectionate. Strangers might be able stroke her, but were more likely to be hissed at until Bebe could get to know them. She richly deserved her nickname, the ‘cuddle bunny.’

Once we had settled into our Churchill Meadows home, and Bebe had come to live with us, there began a period that lasted nearly a decade, until Obi-Wan’s passing, in which we people came to know us in part by ‘the cats.’ Obi-Wan and Bebe began to appear together on our photo Christmas cards in 2008, and continued until their last Christmas card together in 2014. Bebe appeared alone in our card photo in 2015, and with Merlin in 2016 and 2017. We didn’t do photo Christmas cards after Bob left the Legislature in 2018.

When I began to work from home in 2009, Bebe and I grew especially close. Bob still had three elections in front of him at this point, and was often gone most of the day, and much of the weekend. Treating Obi-Wan’s diabetes from 2007 through his passing in 2015 meant a lot of our focus was on him, and how Obi-Wan learned to communicate with us. Bebe worked out her own routine, found her private spots in the house, and chose her moments to announce her presence. She loved to be cuddled. Bob often picked her up late at night before bed, and held her while she looked out the front door window to see which animals might come into view. With her keen cat night vision, Bob could feel her muscles tense before he himself could see the neighbourhood raccoons, skunks and possums making their own nocturnal rounds.

A home very much hers

Bebe was very protective of her personal territory, keeping watch at night during the good weather for intruders. We normally leave the back door open in the good weather. The screen door separates the indoors from the outdoors, and the cat port is blocked by a brick once dusk falls. Bebe – and Obi-Wan while he lived – kept watch by the screen door, and would screech if a raccoon, rabbit or other animal came onto their patio. Regularly, we’d hop up from the sofa at night to see what was causing the ruckus at the screen door, once finding a pair of curious baby raccoons peering into the house through the screen door, to Bebe’s vocal consternation.

In the good weather, the cats choose their own times to come and go. Obi-Wan and Merlin tended to go out and stay out for a while, or come in and nap for an extended period. Bebe’s routine was to make frequent and short patrols of her yard. She would stay out when her people were out, but otherwise defaulted to being a house cat who would go outside, rather than an outdoor cat who would come in for a nap.

Where Obi-Wan and Merlin both preferred to gazebo as a place to nap, Bebe found her outdoor spots among the bushes and trees outside where she could see a large portion of the yard from her concealed position. An indifferent hunter, Bebe bagged a few mice in her day. Bebe left the birds alone. Mostly, however, she thought the annual autumn mice were fun to play with, and sometimes brought them inside as living gifts for us. This usually meant the best mouser in the house was Bob, who had to trap the mice and dispose of them.

As a young and adult cat, Bebe loved the laser pointer, and chased it along the hall runner upstairs nightly before we went to bed. Like all our cats, Bob taught Bebe to shake a paw. Bebe was, however, no fan of walking on a leash. She did love to go out on a tour of the neighbourhood, but comfortably in the arms of her people. Bob often tucked her inside his coat during the winter and cool weather. Bebe enjoyed a walk around the block with her head poking out of Bob’s coat, and one paw showing. And whether around the block, or just across the street to the mailbox, Bebe was glad to get home.

Guardian of tranquillity

Bebe, and Obi-Wan before her, did not like conflict among her people. Both cats would break up an argument by getting between us. Bebe shouted her disapproval. Obi-Wan, in his day, would whack somebody with a paw, or nip at a leg, to break it up. They were, one must admit, always successful in mediating a verbal dispute.

Bebe liked to disappear for hours at a stretch. For us, going out to an event during the good weather meant making sure both cats were safe and secure in the house. There were times when that due-diligence cat attendance check also meant running late while we looked for Bebe. Finally, Bob found a reliable and small cat tracker on the web, and bought it. That came after Bebe had disappeared for about 30 hours one October afternoon. We looked everywhere for her throughout the neighbourhood that day and the next. We had just taken in our wind chimes, so Bob put them all back out again, to better help Bebe find home with a familiar sound. We also left the yard gates open. As I was taking my evening shower before bed, Bebe reappeared on the back patio, coming in through the gate Bob had left open. He picked her up, saw she was none the worse for wear, gave her a grooming, and brought her up to see me. My baby was back home. Our best guess in retrospect was that she had hopped our fence and gone exploring, only to be accidentally locked into a neighbour’s garage.

For a brief time, in 2015-16, Bebe was also the ‘community cat,’ taking over the role after Obi-Wan passed away in July of 2015, and before Merlin came. She went with Bob to a couple of outdoor events in Streetsville: an outdoor antique car show, and a kids’ Halloween event. It seemed to be Bebe who was spooked by the kids in their costumes, however. She was the lone cat in our 2015 Christmas card photo, taken by the Credit River in Streetsville. Bebe rode with us in the 2015 Streetsville Santa Claus parade.

Cats are solitary animals by nature. While Obi-Wan and Bebe were not a ‘bonded’ pair, which usually means two cats either from the same litter, or who have grown up together as small kittens, the two co-existed comfortably. Obi-Wan was 5½ years older than Bebe. As an adult cat, Obi-Wan put up with a certain amount of kitten play from Bebe, but lost interest after that. In her turn, Bebe was not at all welcoming of Merlin, who came to live with us in 2016, some seven months after Obi-Wan passed away. Bebe did enjoy being the ‘only’ cat. Merlin was 13 when he came to live with us, and Bebe was then nearly 11 years old. Eventually, the two cats carved out a working relationship between them. Merlin stepped up to the ‘community cat’ role, replacing Obi-Wan in doing the public events Bebe never cared for. Bebe experienced those events vicariously through the scents Merlin brought home. Bebe would always check him out once he came back.

Spending one of her cat lives

Bebe’s 30-hour adventure and her maturity as a 10+ year-old cat settled her down somewhat. She subsequently only left the yard (to our knowledge) one more time. In 2017, Bob and our next door neighbour agreed to share the costs of repairing a broken fence post that the winter wind had snapped. On the first day of work, the handyman that our neighbour, Sal, had hired removed the old broken fence post, and by then darkness was approaching. He said he would return and finish the job the following day. That evening, Bob thought he had bent the two parts of the fence close enough that the gap was too narrow for Bebe to escape. Merlin was happy to have his yard and nap in the gazebo. He never showed an inclination to climb, jump or wander away.

The following day, in the middle of a hazy and warm summer afternoon while on vacation, Bob realized he had not seen Bebe in a few hours. Bebe was, at Bob’s insistence, wearing her collar with her cat tracker. Bob turned on the home unit, and wandered around the house without picking up a signal from Bebe’s collar. Finally, he went onto the patio, stood on the stone wall, held up the cat tracker, and got a signal in the direction of our neighbour’s yard. Off Bob went in pursuit of our wandering kitten. The cat tracker proved as good as its advertised claims, and led Bob straight to Bebe, huddled in the back of Sal’s yard amid his bushes. She had slipped through the gap left by the fence post being repaired, got lost and didn’t want to cross the neighbour’s back yard while the handyman was working. Bob was greeted with hissing and protests, but grabbed Bebe and brought her home, again with a thorough brushing of her fur after being off the property.

Bebe was never keen on visits to the vet, hissing cat protests at her vet on each occasion. Unlike Obi-Wan, who survived half his life with high-maintenance diabetes because he learned how to tell us when his blood sugar was high or low, and we learned to interpret his signals, Bebe kept her problems inside.

Life settled into a different routine after Bob’s time as an MPP was over, and he was home more. Bebe spent a great deal of time with me in the study as I went about my immigration consulting business. She would alternate between sitting with me at the desk, napping in a cubbyhole intended for a printer on the desk, visiting her food station and litter box, or doing a patrol around the house or the yard in the good weather. While Merlin has always been very attached to Bob, Bebe grew very close to me, and craved the affection which she returned generously. A lot of clients have got good work from me at my desk amid the soothing purring from Bebe on my lap.

Bebe’s final chapter

In the summer of 2019, Bebe began to have outside-the-litter-box incidents. It was very out-of-character for her, as she was always a fastidious cat. We found little blood spots on the carpet around the house, and she took to using newspaper at the foot of the basement stairs instead of her always-clean litter boxes. One day, we saw her doing it. So what, we asked ourselves, is this kitten trying to tell us? The procession of vet visits began, and the vet did blood, urine, manual exams and everything else we or they could think of. They treated Bebe for a urinary tract infection, which was part of the problem, but wasn’t the whole problem. Finally, in January of 2020, we went back for an ultrasound for Bebe. Bob was present with Bebe to calm her when they were doing the procedure. It showed nothing abnormal. We thought we had a healthy little cat who needed to continue to be treated for a urinary tract infection.

While the world began to worry about what became the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw Bebe begin alarming behaviour that often signals the end-of-life process for a cat: finding an uncharacteristic isolated place to go and wait for the end. She stopped coming to sit with me at my desk. Back to the vet again. Finally, in March of 2020, Bebe began to lose wight very suddenly. Her respiration rate was too high. She found a corner in the sewing room underneath a plant, or lay on the bare floor beneath the console table in the hall, on in a corner of the kitchen on the tile. Clearly, something was hurting, and it seemed serious. Then we felt the cancerous lump very suddenly, and back to the vet we went. By this time, the pandemic lockdown was in force, and we had to left her with the vet for her examination. The news was what we dreaded, but expected. Bebe had a very aggressive cancer that had wrapped itself around her bladder, and she was dying.

Bob informed the vet that we would not allow Bebe to continue suffering, and that we would both be personally present at Bebe’s passing. The vet agreed that these were special circumstances, and we went into the office. We spent a final tearful period with Bebe, cuddling and reassuring her, and putting her gently on the cushion on which she had spent so many comforting hours with me in the study. Bebe died peacefully, quietly and painlessly at 4:15 p.m. on Monday March 23, 2020 in the arms of her Mummy, with her Daddy present. It was a day when so many other human lives ended tragically and alone, in a fight for the last gasp of air, and hooked up to a machine fighting COVID-19.

Bebe’s legacy

Almost always in the shadow of a more charismatic male cat, Bebe found her niche in life by bringing us both love, happiness, laughter and joy. Bebe knew when her people, especially her Mummy, needed affection, and spent time by the hour with me. Bob teased me that I was the only woman to give birth to a kitten, and Bebe resolutely believed the assertion that I was her mother to be true. She was a cat with a human mother, and as such a kitten from start to finish.

The deep sorrow and emptiness at losing a beloved animal is testimony to the strength and intensity of the personal bond and continuous devotion between us and the animal. And of course, the many years of feeling more complete with a devoted cat (or dog) is well worth the pain of parting. Bebe was an animal who hit the jackpot at the Mississauga Animal Shelter, and devoted the nearly 15 years of her life to enriching the lives of her people. She has richly earned her tribute on this family web site. We will always remember our Bebe, the ‘cuddle bunny.’.

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