JULIUS LEVINE CILLO, R.I.P. | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Published April 11, 2008 at 11:23 a.m.

Hey, all animal lovers, and anyone who's ever lost a beloved pet: Thought I'd share (with permission) this moving and beautifully written eulogy by Seven Days columnist Judith Levine to her kitty, Julius.

Condolences from all of us, Judith and Paul.

Julius Levine Cillo, Most Excellent Cat, Dies at 16

Anyone who met him knew that Julius was an extraordinary cat: sweet, intelligent, articulate, patient, funny, and of course, soft and orange. He was a cosmopolitan fellow, equally at home chasing critters in the fields of Vermont as he was batting a jingle ball up and down our Brooklyn apartment.

We met him in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he walked in off the street and adopted our friends the Whiteheads. He was crazy, leaping onto their screen door and hanging there stretched out like a hide on the side of a barn.

But as soon as he got to Vermont, he calmed right down and got to work managing the mouse herd, inside and out. His tactics were brilliant. In the house, he would bring his prey to the bathtub — a little Coliseum where the lion had the clear advantage over the tiny, trapped Christian — to complete the deed. Even when he was elderly and stiff, he caught a mouse in the kitchen and dragged it upstairs to our bedside — still attached to the mousetrap. Assisted mousing!

Though courageous in battle, Julius was kind and easygoing. He never scratched or bit (except to place his teeth gently on Judith's arm to wake her). He purred whenever he was petted, and often when he was not. And I have yet to meet another cat who loved a human head resting full weight on his belly.
Julius was a great conversationalist, with different meows signifying “Hi,” “Where have you been?” “I’m hungry,” and myriad other complex ideas and emotions.

In his 16 years, Julius faced numerous medical challenges. Diagnosed with diabetes at the age of seven, he cheerfully tolerated twice-daily insulin injections, and even purred during the procedure. Later on, he lived gracefully with irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis, both requiring stuff to be sprinkled into his food, which he ate daintily, although by that time he had only one incisor. His favorite food was tuna water.

Julius did get a little cranky at the end, expressing annoyance when approached. But then he’d settle right into purring. The guy whom the Hardwick vet called "the cleanest cat I've ever seen" became a slightly messy, too, tracking kitty litter onto our bed and occasionally missing the litter box. He was a curmudgeon with soup on his shirt, fierce for about 20 seconds a day. Nevertheless, he always smelled good.

With each new infirmity, Julius hewed his ambition to his abilities, then relaxed. His turf diminished from a 40-acre spread to the lawn and orchard, to the deck, and finally to a sofa and a bed in each of his homes, in addition, of course, to his bowl and litter box. He also spent a lot of time in the laundry basket. Julius wisely heeded Emerson's counsel: in old age, “contract thy firmament to compass of a tent” — or, in his case, a basket. 

On Monday, April 7, Julius stopped eating and drinking. He vomited for a while, then weakened dramatically and lay down, becoming glassy-eyed and distant. We knew he was going when a touch did not elicit his usual rusty-sounding purr.

Julius Levine Cillo died peacefully at home on April 9, 2008 at 2:25 p.m., surrounded by his family. His body will be cremated and his ashes sprinkled in the orchard. It is impossible to express how much we loved him and how dreadfully we will miss him. He was the best cat in the world.
— with love from Judith & Paul