Whiskey Bearcat, Aggressive Cuddler and Feline Traveler Extraordinaire, Takes His Final Journey At (Nearly) 18
The Bearcat's low tolerance for canine fuckery became the stuff of legend, while behind the scenes he changed the cuddling game for humans and felines alike.
Content note: this post is about pet loss.
Whiskey Bearcat (2005-2023), an aggressively friendly gray, black, and brown tabby who once tipped the scales at 20-plus pounds of furry ridiculousness, passed away peacefully at home this week surrounded by his family.
Born in New Orleans, Whiskey Bearcat (née “Ray”) came by his adopted name honestly: he was small for a bear, big for a cat, and normal-sized for a Whiskey Bearcat. Along with hundreds of displaced Louisiana shelter animals, Whiskey found his fur-ever home after being transported to the Dallas SPCA during Hurricane Katrina. When the call went out for North Texans to assuage the impact of this influx on already overloaded animal welfare agencies, Andrea Grimes — then a rookie journalist working for the local alt-weekly newspaper — seized the opportunity. A lifelong cat lover who had felt acutely the absence of feline affection during her dorm-dwelling college years, Grimes spent but a few minutes amid a swarm of raucous shelter kittens before one unusually pudgy tabby clawed his way up her jeans and into her heart. From then and ever after, she would be: Mum.
Whiskey — named to honor Bourbon Street and his Mum’s booze of choice — quickly became the star of every gathering at Mum’s janky Central Dallas apartment, the management of which she proudly and successfully avoided paying a pet fee to. Sporting a jaunty yellow collar (which he would later passionately disavow), Whiskey entertained legions of fans by chasing a leopard-print ribbon toy and “cutting di-dos,” a Grimes family term for feline acrobatic antics. Thus exhausted, Whiskey learned to spend what would be his next nearly 18 years’ worth of nights curled up in the crook of his Mum’s torso as her “little spoon.”
As a youth, Whiskey had a brief dalliance with leash training that was cut short by an encounter with a local dog who took, in Whiskey’s view, a too-enthusiastic interest in sniffing his butthole. That interaction would plant the seeds for the initially contentious but ultimately tolerant relationship he developed in his senior years with a similarly anally fascinated Beagle/German Shepherd mix named Fizz T. Doge. But Whiskey’s skepticism of canines never extended to members of his own species, who he embraced with gusto, usually literally. Indeed it was Whiskey’s first cat friend, a stray Siamese kitten, who inspired him to embrace his role as mancat of the house. Sake Cat (2006-2014) was introduced to Whiskey’s household by Mum’s flighty human roommate, who later abandoned the cream-colored tortie-point beauty, much to the delight of the chunky tabby, who craved nothing more than the pleasure of absorbing tiny Sake’s outsized purrs through his prodigious tummy.
Whiskey and Sake shared many early adventures together, enduring a move to Austin with aplomb (a lot of yowling). Together the pair flew by airplane to New York City with the assistance of their beloved Auntie Merritt; there, Whiskey and Sake provided critical assistance to Mum while she conducted a summer of graduate research. While it cannot be said that he enjoyed air travel (a dislike passed down by his mother), Whiskey quickly made a shared East Village tenement his home, airing out his nethers in the absence of the Texas climate control apparatus to which he had become accustomed.
When Mum relocated again to Dallas, Whiskey and Sake welcomed a third feline friend, a bicolor tabby named Stella Kitten, after Mum was moved to embrace full catladyhood while reporting an investigative piece about the city’s troubled animal services department in 2010. The boozily named trio had their disagreements — chief among them the question of who would sleep upon Mum’s head — but benefited mightily from the arrival of the man who would become Pop (née “Patrick”), who in 2011 sacrificed his sinuses to adapt to a house full of felines. While Whiskey was notably a friend to all (except dogs, fuck off dogs), his immediate affinity for this particular man signaled to Mum that this dude, much like Whiskey Bearcat himself, was a keeper.
Thus began Whiskey’s heyday, with the be-striped patriarch growing into his role through a series of trials and, occasionally, triumphs. The big, big Bearcat managed operations through two more moves, first to Austin and then again in-town to a house with an entire room dedicated to the litter box, the luxury of which Whiskey and Company had never before known. He supervised weeks of home remodeling that entailed entirely too much thwap-and-smash, two flea infestations, and the spirited shredding of a $300 armchair with vintage upholstery. Tragically, he also shepherded his family through the sudden and untimely loss of Sake Cat to lung disease, sweetly supporting his oldest feline friend through her final days.
When Mum and Pop brought home an 8-pound puppy on Valentine’s Day 2014, a then-nine-year-old Whiskey who weighed well more than twice as much as the dog, did not hesitate to declare: You absolute fucking assholes.
But Whiskey’s greatest challenge was still yet to come: a cross-country move to California in 2016. He made the journey inside a rented RV with Stella Kitten and his canine nemesis, the dog named Fizz who grew tall of leg and big of ears and fierce of teeth but who nevertheless deferred to the eminent mancat, first and forever. Much to Whiskey’s dismay, Fizz did not succeed in her ill-considered attempt to nearly launch herself into the Grand Canyon along the way, despite the fact that she learned the concept of jumping blindly onto narrow ledges from none other than the Bearcat himself. In the Golden State, Whiskey lived on a little island in the bay where he enjoyed the view from a cat tree positioned in a corner window, and then in a wee studio in the big city of San Francisco, making new friends all the while. He particularly enjoyed his city dwelling, chirping incessantly at the pigeons and tech bros who nested vocally near a convenient airshaft abutting his favorite perch.
When it was time for Mum and Pop to return to Texas in 2019, Whiskey steeled himself once again for the three-day drive back across the Continental Divide, this time in Mum’s two-door Volkswagen Rabbit. Ever the team leader, Whiskey gamely showed Stella how to pee in a makeshift floorboard litter box and how to remain appropriately quiet while being shuffled through the back entrances of a series of La Quinta motels.
Whiskey spent his elder years in the state he’d called home since that first relocation from Louisiana in 2005, enjoying periodic sojourns with Mum, Pop, Stella, and Fizz at his Nana and Pappy Grimes’s East Texas lake house. There, he could curl up in front of a real-life fireplace, tear up some new furniture, and take in the general ambience a place where everything always smells a little bit like catfish. (Especially after the dog rolled in a bed of catfish bones on the lakeshore.) When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Whiskey relished the opportunity to become the key presenter on any and every Zoom meeting, heaving his aging body across Mum and Pop’s keyboards to ensure that viewers across the nation, and sometimes the world, recognized his feline primacy. But his last, most favorite place to be was in Mum’s lap when she had her office space heater running during Austin’s unseasonably cold recent winters. Whiskey would paw at Mum’s chair until she lifted him up and helped him settle in his desired position: hind legs in lap, body draped across Mum’s arm on the desk — finish your work, Mum! — while periodically waking from a snooze to eyeball the mouse cursor dancing across the computer screen.
Throughout it all, Whiskey was nothing if not a fierce self-advocate: he would swat a full hamburger or pizza slice out of the hand of an unsuspecting human, and woe unto the holder of an unprotected French fry. He loved to play hide-and-seek, could seek out a delicious bit of plastic to chew on from the deepest of trash cans, and would cheekily nip at anyone who dared cease to administer the butt-pats that so often sent him into a frenzy of feline froth. He feared neither veterinarian nor dog, charming the former and intimidating the latter. He was a mancat of his own mind, joyful and judgmental and entirely too handsome for his own good.
In his nearly 18 years, Whiskey traveled almost 10,000 miles from Louisiana to Texas, between cities in Texas, from Texas to New York City and back, and from Texas to California and home again. The mileage of his journey to the otherworld is unknowable, but his loved ones are confident of one thing: wherever he is now, he is the boss.
Whiskey Bearcat is survived by his Mum Andrea, his Pop Patrick, his cuddle buddy Stella Kitten, his object of swat Fizz T. Doge, and his extensive network of family members, friends, caretakers, and admirers who so deeply enriched his long and happy life. A six-year survivor of hyperthyroidism and kidney disease, Whiskey’s unused food and medicines will be donated to Austin Pets Alive, a no-kill shelter supporting pets and pet owners in the Austin area.