Louis of Louisville, summer 2006-Jan. 31, 2019


Autumn 2006, a few weeks after we found each other

On a Friday in the fall of 2006 I was driving up State Road 37 to interview Philip and Phyllis Kennedy about their interest in Hoosier cabinets when my eye was caught by a small animal on the shoulder of the road. An emaciated baby squirrel, it was headed for the slow lane, where it would undoubtedly get squashed. Knowing full well that the wild animal wasn’t likely to let me near, I pulled over anyway. When I stepped out of the truck, I realized it was a kitten. I expected it to run away, but it allowed me to pick it up and put it in the truck, whereupon it began yowling.

I stopped at the next gas station and bought a bag of cat food, along with a bag of litter. The kitten showed no interest in the food and cried most of the way to my meeting. I didn’t want to leave him in the truck–it was still too hot to leave an animal in a vehicle–so I asked if I might bring him in. The Kennedys kindly said yes and gave me a box for the kitten, who yowled throughout the interview.

On the way home I took him to the vet for a quick check in case he had an i.d. chip. There was no chip; I noted that they called him “37” on the bill for the brief exam. I took him home and named him Louis after my great-grandfather Louis Adler, who had a yellow suit.


Winnie adored Louis. Here they are together on the chair that caused him to become a shop cat.

Louis immediately became part of the family, asserting his authority over William and Winnie, our dogs. He was well behaved on the whole, but after defiling a special chair that had been given to me by a friend, he became the shop cat, going in and out through the dog door. With freedom to roam outdoors and a warm, safe shop, he had the best of both worlds.

Over his 12 years he met many dogs, some of whom lived here. He lorded it over them all. He’d crouch around a corner in wait, then leap out with a startling cry. Every day at 5 he’d jump through the dog door and run into the room where I fed him; if it was too cold or rainy, he’d wait in the shop instead, toying with Joey to keep himself entertained.


“What, you think I want to play with you, dog breath? Get outta my face.”

He flirted with women visitors. Whenever someone arrived in a car, he leapt onto the hood to soak up its warmth. I’d find him in the strangest places: curled up in a flower pot, keeping watch on the arm of the radial arm saw, lying in gravel drive on a 95-degree day. (OK, to me this seems strange.)


Often found in surprising places

He loved the garden,surveying his kingdom every morning and marking all the important plants. He loved to roll in the catmint patch. (See a video here.)


I caught this video of Lou cavorting in the catmint this fall

As attentive as he was to his property’s borders, he was surprisingly non-confrontational toward other cats–provided that they weren’t aggressive toward him. One morning several years ago I arrived to find him sleeping on a moving pad I’d slung over a trash can to dry it out after a delivery in light rain. But it wasn’t Louis on the blanket; it was another orange cat who had presumably come through the dog door. Louis tolerated him for several days, until some friends took the interloper to live in their barn.


With one of his best friends, Polaris (Photo by Kristen Clement, a.k.a. mother of Polaris)


His favorite place to sleep was under the joiner in a bed of chips.

Occasionally I would find him perched on the edge of the birdbath, taking a drink, though this summer (perhaps because he had gained some weight, or maybe just due to his age) he took to drinking on his tiptoes.


Louis had many human friends, among them those who rented my house. He was especially fond of Lauren, Kristen, and Jeffrey. He attempted (sometimes successfully) to wheedle his way into the house and had Jeffrey trained to give him treats.


Lauren gave me this sweet portrait of Lou in the zinnia garden from when he was still a young cat.


Last night, when I fed him, he showed no interest in his food. I opened a different can, thinking he might be tired of the first kind (and knowing that he sometimes just left food until later in the night). When I went to work this morning, I found him curled up in his bed of wood chips, as usual, but the food was still there. He’d pressed it down with his nose, as he did when he didn’t really like something. I gave him some affection and went to work.

We’ve been keeping the dog door closed at night the past few months, for Lou’s safety. Coyotes have been coming closer and closer to the shop. I’d forgotten to remove the barricades before I started to work. While applying finish to a current job, I saw him go over to the dog door. Finding it closed, he wandered over to the space beneath the sawbench, where I kept a bit of sawdust for him to use as litter. As soon as I was done with the brush, I opened the dog door and called him. No answer. I went to look for him under the sawbench and found him lying on the floor. Not normal. When I got close enough to see his head, I realized he appeared motionless. He had no expression. His body was limp and still warm.

I called Mark, who listened for a heartbeat. There was none. Do cats have heart attacks? I have no idea what caused his death. He’d been the picture of health. We are desolated.


Sleep well, my little orange friend.

30 responses to “Louis of Louisville, summer 2006-Jan. 31, 2019

  1. It is hard, oh so hard. You are in my thoughts. We lost our oldest dog two weeks ago and wife was with her when she passed, I came in a minute later. It hurts…….

  2. Janet Stavropoulos

    So sorry, Nancy. Our furry friends quickly burrow into our hearts. May your memories and your wonderful photos be a comfort.

    Janet & Michael

    Janet C. Stavropoulos 218 Kenler Drive Bloomington IN 47408

    812.320.3765 cell 812.334.7838 home jstavrop@comcast.net

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. I am a cat person; always have been and always will be. They worm their way into our hearts very differently than dogs, but it makes losing one no less difficult.

    Sorry for your loss, Nancy. 😦 Thinking of you and my lost cats right now. And of the fuzzy chirpy living one who is likely sitting on the living room chair, staring out the front window while I’m away at work.

  4. Hey Nancy, you don’t know me from Adam but I too have a ‘little shit’ that found his way into my family. I’m sorry for the loss of your companion, but thankful you shared his story with us all. I’ll dedicate my next pile of shavings to Luis!

  5. I’m so sorry, Nancy. He was just lovely and I always liked spotting him in your pictures. I am thankful that he died near you, inside, and safe instead of wandering off. I am thankful, too, that you saved him and gave him a wonderful life.
    (And yes, feline heart disease– along with feline heartworm– is the most common cause of sudden death in an otherwise healthy cat. They can throw a blood clot or simply have an incident of arrhythmia that can kill them without warning. He may have not been feeling well last night because of one of these reasons and here we are. Poor guy. Poor you and Mark!)

    • Holly, thank you for this information. You have no idea how much it helps. It has occurred to me that having him still locked inside was a blessing, at least for me. (So selfish…) Had he gone out and died, we would have had no idea what had happened or whether he’d fallen prey to our neighbors the coyotes. Poor little man, though.

  6. So sorry. Louis had a wonderful life with you.

  7. So sorry to hear this, it’s especially tough when you’ve had a pet from a kitten,
    if it’s any consolation, on reading the article, your pet had a wonderful, fantastic life,with freedom to roam, lots of company and safe home,
    he’s left you with some treasured memories,
    Steve B, London, 🇬🇧

    • Thanks, Steve. Yes, we’re so glad that we got to spend those years with him and that he didn’t end up being a midnight snack for coyotes. (Not that I have anything against coyotes, but that would have been a terrible death to endure.)

  8. Hard to lose a pet even if they are a “Little Shit”. But at least LS had a good life while he was with you and left you with fond memories. And maybe the urge to get another?

    • No urge to get another cat! We still have our elderly house cat, who is more than a handful. Our animals usually just appear, whether by the side of the road or at the shop door (literally).

  9. So sorry for your loss.

  10. So sorry for your loss, Nancy.

  11. Hi Nancy,
    I’m so sorry to hear of the sad loss of your ‘puddy tat’ but you were a wonderful cat mum to him and you made him a very happy cat man – what more could he have asked for. He has died a very peaseful death in the arms of your comfortable workshop – his beloved home. He is now at peace, out of suffering, having had a blessed life with the two of you. My thoughts are with you, you wonderful lady ❤️😇😽😽😊❤️

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss. We’ve been through it a number of times over the years, and it’s very hard. The pain eventually passes (or changes), and you come to remember the silly and kind things they did.

  13. Nancy,
    Sorry for your loss. Our pets become just another member of our families and losing them is difficult. I like to think that they will be there to greet us in the afterlife.

  14. my heart goes ot to yo, for your loss….

  15. Nancy, I just discovered your blog and I’m heart-broken to read this. I have a cat… well, I’ve adopted a feral cat who prefers to stay outside and have me feed her than chance it inside with our dogs. My greatest fear is the day (or several) when she never shows up and I’ll never know what happened. Louis was incredibly lucky to have you stop that day and luckier still to have you care for him. And we’re lucky that you gave us such an affectionate portrait of him.

  16. Both Louis and you were lucky to have found each other. What a wonderful time spent together, and a peaceful passing to the next life.

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