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I hate stories with sad endings, any kind of stories, but most of all stories about animals. Just when you get all emotionally involved something terrible happens and you feel miserable the whole rest of the day. So, this is a disclaimer up front: some of you may find this story to have a sad ending. 

I don’t, and I lived through it. Our beloved companions’ lives are all too short, and that’s just the way it is. There is no one who has ever loved a cat, dog, horse, bird or whatever other creature who has not experienced the pain of the loss, but if we didn’t feel the benefits outweighed that pain we’d never have another. 

Oh, that I could have another like Aladdin. I won’t, but I am so privileged to have known him. We knew Aladdin would be special before we ever met him – the breeder sent us pictures of some kittens she had available. My wife and I knew exactly what we wanted, and Aladdin wasn’t it. We were looking for a Silver Maine Coon cat, just like the one in one of the books on Maine Coons we had purchased. That was why we went to this particular breeder, as she specialized in the Silver line. 

So she sent us pictures of a couple of her cats, like a beautiful girl we called Jasmine, along with a picture of a cameo male. One look at Aladdin and we fell in love. The picture showed him poised atop a Stephen King paperback, which was an omen as my wife loves his books. For me, the clincher was the way he stood – alert, confident, ready to take on the world and do it all. He was the king, the center of the universe, and the cutest thing I had ever seen. 

We drove about 500 miles to pick up Aladdin and his sister, Jasmine. Like most cats, Aladdin didn’t like car travel and was pretty miserable during the ride home. When we finally got back he came out of the carrier, glanced around as if to say "okay, this is a pretty nice place I own", and took over. 

Aladdin never did anything half way. He threw himself into play with an abandon I have never seen before or since. Most kittens play – Aladdin lived! He always went at complete full pace, never slowing down until he could not move. He would run and jump and tumble and play until he was absolutely exhausted. Then he would lay there, completely worn out, until his strength came back and off he’d go again. 

Where his sister was shy and not that affectionate, Aladdin was outgoing and loved strangers. No matter what he was doing, when some stranger came into the house Aladdin had to come over and show off. The house was his, after all, and anyone new had to see just how wonderful he was. 

Like a lot of Maine Coons, Aladdin loved water. One of his favorite things was to get into the tub when there were about three or four inches of water in it and slosh back and forth from one end to the other. I’d never seen a cat before that did anything like this, so it was a source of constant amusement. 

Aladdin loved to watch television, all television including bad soap opera, but particularly basketball. He would sit in front of the TV for hours when there was a game on, and from time to him he would put his paw up and try to catch the ball. When the players went off screen on one side or the other he would get up and walk around the TV, trying to figure out where they had gone. 

He grew to be huge – 17 pounds while still a kitten – and the most gentle cat I have ever had. No matter how hard you wrestled with him, tickled his tummy, played "tremors" under the bedclothes, he never used his claws. He was also completely trusting. I never remember him struggling, no matter who picked him up, no matter how long you held him, he just seemed happy to be with people. 

And he loved me. All cats love my wife, and love cuddling with her (I don’t blame them – she’s naturally cuddly) but I’ve never had a cat who loved to be next to me the way Aladdin did. When he was young and I was on the computer he used to sit on my lap while I typed. As he got older (and much larger) I needed to hold him on my lap with one arm while I hunt and pecked with the other hand. Whenever I would lay on the bed (usually after a long day’s work) he would jump up on my chest, his massive body completely covering mine and crushing the breath from me, and he would lay each front paw gently on either side of my head. Then he would put his face as close as he could get to mine and purr away, content to be close and loved. He would also drool, which I never had a cat do before. My wife would hand me some kleenex and I would wipe his mouth while he purred and drooled on my chest. He would stay that way as long as I would let him, which nearly always far longer than I should have been on the bed. But it was never wasted time to be loved by Aladdin. 

We knew early on he had some kind of health problem. When he was only a few months old his heart began to race and pound so rapidly that we could not count the heartbeats. It was at night, and we had to drive 30 miles to the only vet open that late and, naturally, by the time we arrived his heartbeat was back to normal. The vet could not believe me when I said I thought the heartbeat was around 300 per minute (although we later found out that it was exactly that). We spent a small fortune and no vet could find anything wrong, and he seemed fine again for nearly a year. 

In the middle of his second year he had another episode, this time during the day when our regular vet could see him. A cat scan (well, what else?) revealed the terrible news: Aladdin’s heart was not fully formed. Our vet could not believe Aladdin was even alive, let along as huge and as healthy seeming as he normally was. He had so tiny a portion of working heart that the vet said any other animal would never have even survived a few weeks. Aladdin seemed to know how to pace himself. 

There was nothing that could be done short of a heart transplant, and veterinary science hasn’t gotten that far. Aladdin wasn’t in any pain, but as he grew even larger the demands his body placed on his heart left him less and less able to move. Eventually he could not make it up the stairs to be with us, so we sat downstairs with him until it was evident that there was no more quality in his life. He was a little over a year and a half when he died. 

The breeder was very nice about it. She offered us any other cat she had, free. Of course, I didn’t want any other cat, I wanted Aladdin. But Jasmine was pining away for her brother, refusing to eat, and my wife and I knew we had to have another kitten. Our breeder was going to have some new kittens in about six months, but we knew Jasmine couldn’t wait that long. We took a trip to a couple of breeders in Northern California, and fell in love with a little red haired boy we named Danny K. He, unfortunately, was too young to take for another month, so on the way back we picked up Timon, another cameo male. Eventually the breeder had the best kitten she had ever produced, a kitten she really didn’t want to give up but graciously said was ours if we wanted. He was a silver cat who resembled his father, who had also been Aladdin’s father. So we went and picked Max up. 

It took three cats to replace Aladdin – Timon, who is colored like him, Max, who has the same build and facial structure, and Danny K, who has Aladdin’s mischievous love of life. They are wonderful company, and if it weren’t for Aladdin, I never would have met them and had them own us. Jasmine loved the boys, they gave her spirit to live, and she has become much more affectionate to us to boot. In the mornings she lays on my chest, so light I scarcely know she’s there, and purrs and drools for a few minutes before she’s off. 

The vet was wrong about Aladdin – he had more heart than a dozen cats put together, and while he was on the earth, and in our lives, so very briefly, he seems so alive, even today, that I cherish his memory. It was almost as if he knew how very little time he had that he seized a hold of life with all four paws and just lived in a way that should be a lesson to us all. 

Today I would give all my worldly possessions for one more day with him. If you think that’s foolish… well, you didn’t know Aladdin. 


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