Our lovable tuxedo cat, Panda Bear, one of the original “Furry Bambinos”, passed away a year ago today on January 21, 2018. It hit us so hard that it has taken a year to write this entry.
In Panda Bear’s last few months he had been valiantly fighting both heart disease and kidney disease. On the evening of January 20, 2018, heart disease began to win. On the morning of January 21 we found him too weak to move, and so we made that difficult decision every pet owner wants to avoid.
Now, even a year later, sadness still lingers with us, as we lost one of our best cats ever.
Panda Bear was born in May of 2007, under a porch in a Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhood with seven siblings. Shortly thereafter, they were taken in by a local rescue group. Unfortunately, the calici virus passed through the litter and Panda Bear had to have his right eye removed. One of his siblings had both eyes removed, and one of his sisters had some retinal scarring.
Panda Bear came into our lives in October of 2007. We had lost our cat Clyde to lung cancer in February 2007, and were finally ready to look for a new cat. We saw Panda Bear and his sister with the retinal scarring at Petsmart. Panda Bear jumped into Sue’s arms, and we knew he was going to be ours. We adopted him, his sister and another older cat who reminded us of Clyde. We named the sister “Meerkat”, and the older cat “Padre”. We affectionately labeled them “The Furry Bambinos”, and that’s when we started this blog.
In the beginning, the three Bambinos hung out together frequently, and most of their early life is well documented here on the blog.
When we captured this photo, it became the header for the blog for several years.
Over the years, we also took to shortening Panda Bear to “P.B.”, so in shorthand, “P.B.” was an “O.G.” (original gangsta) Bambino. Here he is working on a new blog post with Sue.
Panda Bear was impish and could get himself into trouble, but he would lovingly climb into your lap to apologize. He would follow us from room to room, and camp out and keep us company. He made friends with every human that walked in our house, and almost every foster kitten we brought through the door, too. In short, Panda Bear was the kind of cat everyone would love to have, and we were the luckiest guardians on Earth.
Panda Bear would willingly pose with toys. In this early photo of him, notice the blue nail caps. We used to use those before simply just getting better at trimming his nails.
Panda Bear loved to “help” get work done, but he would easily get distracted and start playing.
And he was the reason we stopped putting up a Christmas tree every year.
We tried to do a Halloween card one year in which we dressed all the cats up in costumes. This was the year Panda Bear was a clown.
Even as a one-eyed cat, he could catch flies, mice, and feather toys without any trouble.
He loved to jump and play. In fact, we had just finished a rousing game of “chase the feather on a string”, and he was breathing heavily when we captured this photo of him.
Panda Bear was rambunctious and impish, but he was also the most calm and chill cat we’ve ever had in our lives. He was able to get along with just about every cat and human being that came through our house.
If you know us personally and had ever visited our home, you met and came to know Panda Bear. He was one of our resident “greeter cats” when anyone came to visit.
He was always calm for his vet visits with his vets Dr. Amy and Dr. Jo at Village Veterinary Clinic, and would confidently walk around the room and allow them to poke and prod him.
When the “Coventry Cats” cat store in Cleveland Heights celebrated its 20th anniversary in May of 2008, Panda Bear went to the party. He seemed to enjoy the car ride immensely.
At the store, he had fun browsing through all the toys …
And the store owner, Sheila Blecman, gave him lots of love!
Panda Bear purchased a new Catnip Banana at the store.
In 2011, we attended a blogging conference in Virginia, and Sue attended a workshop where people could create a “flat” version of their pets. Basically, it involved taking a good photo of your pet and pasting it onto some thick foam board. The idea being you could then take your flat pet with you everywhere that real animals aren’t allowed! So, Sue made “Flat Panda Bear”.
Dr. Amy at Village Vet even played along and once gave Flat Panda Bear an exam.
He passed with flying colors!
Flat Panda travelled with us frequently, and ended up going as far west as Columbia, Missouri.
Over time, we became involved with the rescue group that saved the Bambinos. The first two fosters we took in were named Cookie and Caramel. Panda Bear loved them, and so did we, so we adopted them!
Here’s Panda Bear teaching a very young Cookie how to drink from a human’s glass:
And he would frequently wash her head.
Here he poses with a very young Cookie showing her how to sun herself in the patio door.
With the addition of Cookie and Caramel, The Furry Bambinos were now at total of five!
And everyone got along great!
Panda Bear was the explorer (escape artist). Even in winter.
This was his favorite Gizzy Quilt
We have been involved in animal rescue since 2008, and just about every foster kitten that came through our household had a chance to meet him, too. Invariably, they would warm up to Panda Bear almost immediately. We labeled our foster room the “Furry Bambino Foster Academy”, and Panda Bear was the “Guidance Counselor”.
He was the one to meet them and help them socialize as they went through the foster program. All told, Panda Bear was a Rockstar Guidance Counselor to over 150 kittens during his life. That’s how easy going and lovable he was.
He was a lap kitty, too, and he regularly would sleep next to us or near us on the bed and on sofas. When David worked at his computer or sat watching TV, Panda Bear would regularly curl up in David’s lap for scritches and snuggles. If Sue was reclining on the sofa, Panda Bear would knead her chest for almost exactly 15 minutes every night like clockwork. None of the other cats have loved us so equally and affectionately.
P.B. was talkative, too. All we had to do was exclaim “Panda Bear!“, and he would bleat out a short happy response to acknowledge his presence. Then he would flick his tail a couple of times in short, staccato movements like an orchestra conductor waving a baton. Even as he slowly lost weight and his ailments took their toll, his bleat was music to our ears.
Within our own household Panda Bear will be most missed by our other cats Sunny and Sky. They latched onto Panda Bear as shy fosters, and never let go. They followed him almost everywhere and would regularly cuddle up with him, walk beside him, and brush up against him.
Sunny was especially close to Panda Bear, often sleeping with him in the front window.
Panda Bear even made friends with the very shy, skittish, and semi-feral Samoa, who we lost back in 2015.
We can’t say it enough: we’ve lost one of our best cats ever, and we are grieving hard.
Panda Bear is survived by his sister Meerkat, his best friends Sunny, Sky, and Padre, and his step-sisters Cookie, Caramel, and Farrah Fluff.
“Panda Bear!” … we were honored to be your guardians. We loved you dearly, and miss you terribly. Rest well, dear friend. We’re so happy you’re no longer in pain and now able to run freely. We look forward to calling your name at the Rainbow Bridge someday and hearing that lovely bleat in response!