Sugar turns twenty

This is a bulletin for Sugar’s distributed fan club, the hackers and sword geeks and other assorted riff-raff who have guested in our commodious basement. The rest of you can go about your business.

According to the vet’s paperwork, our cat Sugar turned 20 yesterday. (Actually, the vet thinks she may be 19, but that would have required her to be only 6 months old when we got her which we strongly doubt – she would have had to have been exceptionally large and physically mature for a kitten that age, which seems especially unlikely because her growth didn’t top out until a couple of years later.)

Even 19 would be an achievement for any cat – average lifespan for a neutered female is about 15, and five years longer is like a human hitting the century mark. It’s especially remarkable since this cat was supposed to be dead of acute nephritis sixteen months ago. Instead, she’s so healthy that we’ve been letting the interval between subcutaneous hydrations slip a little without seeing any recurrence of the symptoms we learned to associate with her kidney troubles (night yowling, disorientation, poor appetite).

We’re trying not to let our hopes about Sugar’s continued lifespan rise too high, but she’s making it difficult not to be optimistic. She does not look or act like a doddering relic. She is cheerful, active, and bright-eyed – more so than many cats half her age, if the truth be known. Some days her arthritis makes the basement stairs a little difficult, but not most days – and that’s still about the only obvious sign that she’s geriatric for a cat. Her amiable disposition, exceptional sociability and ability to charm humans have diminished not at all.

This is an occasion for quiet celebration. Go, I say to you, find a friendly cat and make nice at it. And hope with us that Sugar keeps beating the odds.


  1. That’s great!

    Our cat, Henry, died at the age of 19 1/2 from kidney failure around 8 years ago. I didn’t know about this rehydration technique then.

    I kept waiting and almost secretly hoping for a coyote to get Henry — he was an indoor/outdoor cat, and was quite deaf at that age, but it never happened. We finally let the vet put him out of his misery.

    1. >How about I come make nice at Sugar instead? It’s looking like I may be in your end of the world in a few weeks.

      Well, sure. When I said “distributed fan club” you were among those I had in mind.

  2. Boris has gotten extra pettings and ear-rubs on behalf of Sugar. Note that if Sugar is a Maine Coon, they do stop growing at about age 4-5, not age 2 like smaller breeds.

    1. >Note that if Sugar is a Maine Coon, they do stop growing at about age 4-5, not age 2 like smaller breeds.

      We know this. It’s one reason we’re pretty sure she’s a Coon mix. She’s small and short-haired for a pure Maine Coon, but has otherwise exhibited many of the breed characteristics, including the late maturation.

      Ken has met sugar FTF. For those of you haven’t, some of Sugar’s other Coon-like traits include (1) sweet, sociable disposition and good interaction with strangers, (2) thick silky fur with double undercoat, (2) fondness for water, (3) wide range of vocalizations including chirps, trills, and tribbling sounds, (4) large, cobby, thick-muscled in build (more obvious when she was younger; she’s lost some muscle mass as she has aged), (4) not ever much of a jumper.

      I have a general impression (no stats to back it up) that Coons are a relatively long-lived breed of cat; that would go with the late maturation is it does in other animals. So Sugar is not as exceptional among Coons as she is among cats in general.

  3. Rock on, Sugar.

    It wasn’t a planned thing on my part, but a new furball has #occupied my residence. Cute little all gray kitten. A friend found her in a parking lot in Oakland, some jackass apparently dumped her there. I’m guessing about three months old, not really at a place to have much of a personality yet, but exceptionally active, especially after having chicken. After taking her to the vet, we picked up some rope at the hardware store to make a scratching post out of a table leg, and she quickly discovered the joys of the vertical. Tentatively named Diazepam, Di for short.

  4. I think the first time I came across your work–Hacker Howto–was around ’96. So Sugar was approximately 3 years old at that time? My, my, my, time waits for no cat.
    Too bad she doesn’t have instant tissue regeneration like Lazarus…
    Hey? Wait a minute! You said Sugar, “does not look like or act like a doddering relic.”

  5. If she’s exceptional even among Coons, though, that’s pretty nifty.

    Are there statistics available anywhere online for how long various cats live, by breed? (I can’t imagine such data are easy to come by, other than from meticulous breeders. :-/ )

  6. Sugar is a lovely cat and I’m glad she’s in good spirits.

    I would make nice at one of the cats here, but they are not here at the moment, having accompanied my mother to Florida. :( Instead I shall try to remember to give greetings from Sugar to my stepmother’s cat Patches when next I see him. He’s a neutered male of the dizzying age of 21, with moderate arthritis but no conditions requiring more than regular pilling.

  7. Boris is also a Maine Coon “accidental kitty.” He’s clearly a cat that had a Maine Coon for one of his parents (32″ long from nose to base of tail, about 41″ long to tip of tail) and built like a barrel, thick undercoat, and a reasonably mellow and friendly disposition…and 23.25 lbs.

    When he was younger and more kitten-faced, he was also more inquisitive. He learned to open my pocket-knife. This got him the “If you become a tool-user, you cease being a fuzzy pet and start becoming a roommate and liable for a share of the rent.” talk.

  8. Both of our cats died while I was in Australia. One on the trip across, and one…last year about this time.

    Three days ago as I was unpacking my household goods I came across their collar tags from the RFID chipping they got.

    I occasionally still see the little one out of the corner of my eye. It’s rather disconcerting, especially since he’d never been in this house.

    It’s amazing how these things take root in your heart.

  9. As a heretofore unofficial member of the Sugar fan club I am happy for you.

    My cat is happy too, except he is happy for himself.

    — Foo Quuxman

  10. I’m happy that Sugar does not seem to be headed for the Eternal Catnip Fields anytime soon. I will make sure and give Penny (full name: Her Serene Highness, Princess Penelope Ponderosa Pollyanna Peachfuzz) some extra hold time in her honor. And I will encourage my ex-wife in Finland to do the same for her pair, including our “expatriate cat” Maui.

  11. @Jay There was a disconcerting *look* and I took to storing my pocket knife in the drawer. Fortunately, he’s a cat, and long term memory storage of “things out of site” appears to be limited to the cupboard the kibble is stored in.

    He’s gotten much less inquisitive as he’s gotten older and is turning into a (very large) lapwarmerbeastie.

  12. Before you make nice to your cats to celebrate Sugarus Long’s storied longevity, please do remember that there is a proper way to go about it.

  13. Are we allowed to fall for Sugar and be a fan without actually meeting? Go Sugar, keep on being you.

    I was claimed and tamed by a Maine Coon once. Most remarkable cat I ever met. Huge, powerful and the smartest, friendliest and least socially inhibited cat I’ve ever encountered. A 20+ pound tube of claw, fur and muscle that would climb into your arms and HUG you. Oh, and suckle on your earlobes and occasionally eyelids.

  14. @ Greg It’s interesting what you have to say about Maine Coons.

    A friend of Eric’s and mine has an elderly mother and a brother who live on a street with other, similarly situated folk. There is a Maine Coon cat named Chloe, who technically belongs to someone else on the block, but has claimed my friend’s mother’s home as one of 3 or 4 houses on the block that she clearly considers hers. The one time we visited the place, Chloe met us calmly in the driveway and led us to the house, for all the world like a professional hostess.

    I’ve seen Sugar perform the same kind of greeting routine for our guests.

    And by the way, Sugar will sometimes take my arm between her two front paws and hug it, and she has been known to lick my face and even my eyelids.

  15. Cathy Raymond,

    Watch what happens when Sparta (no relation to the Mean Kitty kitty) is about to give birth to her kittens. She meows at her human family and leads them upstairs to the room where her bed lies. She needed her humans there for the birth, as sure as a human wife needs her husband.

    The only leading my cats ever did was to the food dish. Ashley would wake me up at 6 AM sharp and insist I follow her, just to be handy on the off chance that her dish was empty.

  16. One more impressive detail about the excellent Sugar, especially considering that she’s “not much of a jumper”. At age 20, I saw her get up on the day bed by herself.

  17. Congratulations Eric.

    After rereading many of the old posts on here I stumbled across a link you gave to the pdf of The Machinery of Freedom as proceeded to read it; Between your arguments and that I have now *almost* changed from a sort of minGov libertarian to a Anarcho Capitalist.

    Your plan for world domination is one step closer :).

    — Foo Quuxman

    p.s. Though if you know of (or wrote and I’ve forgotten it) a better (and thoroughly explained) theory for the implementation of national defence than in the book I would be most grateful for a pointer.

  18. Had one of those myself. She almost made 22. I did learn one thing though, I am incredibly slow to train. It took her almost 15 tears to properly train me to cater to her every whim

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