Hunca Munca
May 2, 2011

You can't tell he's sick. Lying in a swath of light, his black fur warming and turning brunet in places, Hunca Munca looks just as he's always looked, like a very hearty cat with comically tiny ears. He's a big, solid bear of a cat with no neck. Weighing in at fifteen pounds, he is the embodiment of a boggerslosh from Edward Gorey's The Utter Zoo Alphabet.

But he's dying.

With surgery, we could hold off his lung cancer. We might get eight more months with him before it comes back and kills him. Might. Without it, we have no more than three months. We were supposed to have another 8-10 years.

Hunc has been a good big brother to Bug. "Kitty" was one of Bug's first words, second only to "light." Bug soon learned to imitate our kissing noises if he wanted Hunca Munca to come to him while he was eating. It's true that Hunc never really listened to him, but whenever he showed up, Bug cooed happily and reached to touch him.

As far as Bug is concerned, Hunca Munca is the only cat in the family. As the more skitterish of the two felines, Poppadum hides from the rampaging toddler and flattens her ears whenever he comes near. Hunca Munca is, has always been, calm and laid back. Chill. It doesn't take much to make him happy. Just food and a lap.

When Hunc was a kitten, his attention was so divided between his desire for food and his desire for love that we had to kneel next to his bowl and pet him continuously to get him to focus on eating.

He's never even freaked out at the vet's office. Quite the opposite, he loves the attention and purrs and charms the techs and vets, even when they're taking his temperature in a most undignified place. If he's in his carrier while Poppadum suffers through her exam, Hunc yowls out, demanding his fair share of vaccinations, gum analysis, and claw clipping.

Hunca Munca has managed to teach Bug about kindness and gentleness. Bug slows down when he approaches Hunca Munca. Such is his love for Hunca Munca that whenever Bug sees a cat on the street or a picture of one in a book, he tries to give it a hug. When he wants to hug Hunc, the page, or the neighbor's black cat, he keeps his head cocked at the appropriate angle for the entire approach. Then he carefully lays his cheek down. He hasn't added arms to his hugs yet. If Hunca Munca makes a move to follow Bug, Bug gallops away screeching, half-terrified, half-delighted at this wholly unexpected turn of events.

Cats repress a goodly amount of their symptoms, often until it's too late for their humans to do anything. Granted, it befits their independent "I don't need anything from anyone" nature, but it pisses me off. Because Hunca Munca does need us. He has always made that abundantly, loudly clear.

He used to yowl an unearthly, human-like noise for no reason at all. "Just because!" his eyes and tail would tell you when you went to investigate who was being murdered in the hallway.

He used to chew paper when he wanted to be fed because it made a lot of annoying noise, not because the bills, magazines, or calculus exams were an amuse-bouche.

He used knock books off tables to get attention and then look at you with wide, innocent, deer-caught-in-headlights eyes.

He doesn't do those things any more. I wish to god he did.

He still purrs when he eats.

He still purrs as soon as you touch him.

And, like a courtly gentleman who rises to his feet whenever a lady enters or leaves a room, he still stands up immediately when you pet him.

He's so unflinchingly friendly with everyone who walks in the door we used to joke that if we were ever burgled, Hunc would greet the burglars, his trotting gait and tail saying, "Welcome to my house! Let me show you my butt!"

If he could talk, we always thought he'd sound just like Wolfgang Puck.

In the end, he won't be in any pain. Breathing will be more difficult as the tumor invades all his lung tissue and he will be very, very tired.

He's already very tired, and we have a lot of decisions to make. Decisions we have to make without asking him what he wants.

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