Columnist Amy Calder tries to amuse her cats Thurston, at left, and Bitsy at their Waterville home on Thursday. Photo by Phil Norvish

Bitsy wakes me up every morning now.

“Meow, meow, meow.”

I don’t need an alarm clock. It’s 7 a.m. and I am always in a deep sleep.


If I don’t respond right away, she paws my face. I open my eyes.

She is staring deeply into them. Intently. After several attempts to put her off, I relent.


“OK, Bitsy, you win,” I say, and throw the covers off.

She leads me down the hallway, through the dining room to the kitchen where I retrieve her food.

Bitsy is 17. She was born Oct. 1, 2006, my husband Phil reminds me. In her dotage, she has lost weight. She used to be 10 pounds; now she is 5. She is bony but you don’t know it until you pat her because she still has that lovely thick gray, black and white fur.

Last fall, our vet informed us that she has kidney disease and surmised she has a year or two left. He recommended we feed her a special diet of kidney care wet food. Before that she had always eaten dry food and we just filled her bowl, allowing her to eat when and how much she wanted.

The recommended diet change started a whole new dining regimen for her — and us. I now buy her food online. Pricey, but she’s worth it. We feed her three or four times a day.

Of course, it’s usually a trial, feeding her without interference by Thurston, our 6-year-old orange and white, short-haired cat who will be 7 in June.


They are an unlikely pair. He is big; she is little. He’s a scared-y cat who flees to the bedroom closet when the doorbell rings. She, on the other hand, looks expectantly at the door. She loves company and is very social.

Most of the time, we have to close Bitsy in another room so she can eat her special food. Thurston lies outside the door, waiting. When he knows (somehow) that she is done eating, he meows in anticipation of licking up the dregs on her plate.

Our felines operate on routines. Every morning as I have my dry cereal with sliced banana and milk, they sit at attention, waiting to consume any remaining drops. Bitsy, especially, has no patience.

She bats me on the cheek or arm with her paw, looking anxiously at me as if the world will end. In her old age, she has become very sticky, wanting to eat anything we are eating. Where she used to jump effortlessly onto stools by the kitchen island where we often dine, she now sits on the floor, staring up at us.

If we happen to be in the living room enjoying a snack such as yogurt, she reaches out for it, often with claw extended. It can be annoying, but we tolerate it because, well, she’s Bitsy.

In the morning, she leaps from the edge of the bathtub to the bathroom sink, imploring us to turn on the cold water so she can drink from the tap. This is a fairly new phenomenon, having started a few months ago.


Bitsy also insists on reclining in my lap on a soft blanket in the evening when I am reading or watching TV. She seems most content there as she gently kneads the blanket, purrs lightly and basks in the warmth of my lap and chin massages.

Which is all to say that Bitsy and Thurston are a huge part of our lives and we shudder to think of life without them. As Phil says, we are their whole world and they depend on us for everything. But it is we who reap the rewards of their presence.

We cherish them, daily, with the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. But instead of dwelling on that sad fact, we choose to live in the present and enjoy every minute.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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