To every warrior, their Valhalla.
September 19, 2019 8:46 AM   Subscribe

I have the sad duty to report that Grandpa Mason, the resident curmudgeon, hair stylist and kitten wrangler at TinyKittens HQ, will be leaving them and us very soon.

Mason (Previously) was one of many feral cats taken in by Shelly Roche's nonprofit TinyKittens project in Langley, British Columbia (Previously, Previously), as part of their Trap-Neuter/Spay-Release caretaking of local feral colonies and other cats in need.

Once trapped and examined, it became obvious that Mason was terminally ill with kidney disease and would require medical care for the remainder of his life. Accustomed to outdoor life and minimal contact with humans, his survival would depend upon his ability to adjust to being cooped up and poked, prodded and injected on a daily basis. He did pretty well at that, learning about toys and play and coexisting well with the other resident cats at TinyKittens HQ (though he did have something of an occasional rivalry with Cassidy the Miracle Kitten (Previously). Cassidy thinks he's in charge around there; Mason knows he is.)

A breakthrough came, however, when Shelly introduced Mason to some of the kittens from one of her feral foster litters. This was done cautiously, as many tomcats are not particularly fond of kittens that are not their own offspring. However, when young Scrammy performed The Hug Heard 'Round The World, the old warrior's defenses crumbled and he became Grandpa Mason in that instant.

Since then, he has taken up the role of teaching young kittens how to cat at TinyKittens, mentoring one litter after another in the fine arts of pouncing, grooming, napping, investigating crinkly paper, and being carried off to Grandpa's yurt when Grandpa wants company. He has never fully accepted humans, requiring the Trojan Kitten Method for petting (if he thinks it's a cat paw touching him, he's fine with it, but if he turns his head and realizes that it's a human hand petting him, he applies the Paw of Nope). Many believe, however, that this is simply Mason's dignity requiring such a response.

When brought in, the original estimate for Mason's survival was around four months. Instead, Mason has done very well in TK's care for nearly three years... but miracles, sadly, do not last forever. It was announced this morning that Mason's kidneys have failed, and that his trip over the Rainbow Bridge is imminent. He will spend this evening (barring immediate complications) in the company of his beloved kittens and then cross over in the morning under veterinary care.

Those fond of Grandpa Mason are encouraged to stop by one of the two current YouTube streams (Angela's kittens, hiding under a blue blanket dome at the moment with their Aunt Patty, and Titan, Eternity and Friends, which is showing clips of Mason's Greatest Hits at present) to pay respects and send good wishes.

He will be sorely missed.
posted by delfin (60 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
posted by wotsac at 8:49 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Dear Grandpa Mason:

If you hang around about a year, until the Perseids come by, keep your eyes out for a feisty tuxedo-clad boy who went off to chase them about ten years ago. He too had kidney trouble, and lived longer than anyone thought - and I bet you would get along well.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on September 19, 2019 [22 favorites]

Please give some kitty hugs to Poppy and Killy Willy for me, Grandpa.

posted by killy willy at 8:54 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by telophase at 8:54 AM on September 19, 2019

Thank you for putting together such a nice post.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:58 AM on September 19, 2019 [19 favorites]

posted by soren_lorensen at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by bilabial at 9:03 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by Pastor of Muppets at 9:04 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by wicked_sassy at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2019

Where it mentions he's going to be joining Angela, for the sake of a little explanation, since at least at the moment Angela-the-cat is not onscreen: Angela was a viewer who passed away recently. In her last days, Angela-the-cat was named after Angela-the-person, and Angela and her caregiver also named the kittens. Angela-the-cat and babies have, at least last I heard, been doing very well, which has been a relief, because it seems like a lot of recent litters have had some kind of health complication. The worst that these kittens have been through so far is their aunt's strange ideas about decorating and some rambunctious older siblings who got relocated. (Everyone was fine, but it did freak some viewers out.)

There's something about this where it's like... there's always some recent loss, and then there's always another, and another, and I'm so proud of the people who manage to spend their lives on this work even knowing it'll always be this way. There've been a lot of wins, too, for all of it, and this stream's helped me through a lot of rough stuff.
posted by Sequence at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2019 [13 favorites]

posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:12 AM on September 19, 2019

I just had to close my office door so I can cry without interruption at work. Watching Grandpa Mason always melted my heart and knowing he's passing today is just crushing.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:13 AM on September 19, 2019 [11 favorites]

That's cat rescue life, Sequence. I spent a year or so volunteering at a shelter. By the end, I decided to do something less heartwrenching, and adopted a barely tame indoor feral. I really appreciate Grampa Mason as a poster kitty for the feral cats.
posted by wotsac at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

An excellent clarification, thank you. Angela-the-cat and her kittens are thriving, accompanied by Aunt Patty, who is suspected to be Angela's sister and who spends considerable time tending to and playing with the litter. This sort of motherhood-by-committee approach is not at all uncommon in wild colonies.

The trap-neuter-release project is especially important because feral mothers are far more prone to having weaker or deformed offspring, due to inbreeding, malnutrition and other health issues. Some litters go quite well; some end up with a small survival rate. This is as it is in nature, and it remains heartbreaking. Once trapped cats have successfully received medical care and mothers have weaned their kittens, it is up to them what happens next; some remain suspicious of humans and return to the wild happily, while others cash in their feral cards and are adopted. The kittens are socialized and adopted out in either case.
posted by delfin at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

posted by spinifex23 at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2019

Ah, I hope Shelly gets the emotional support she needs. A while ago, she posted a very candid bit of text discussing worrying about compassion fatigue. This is probably going to hit her hard. Maybe the fact that he's an older cat and has outlived expectations will help.

I recently saw photos of his "hair styling" the kittens. He had a way of licking their heads that made their hair go in ridiculous directions.

I will miss knowing that he's out there. What an awesome cat.
posted by amtho at 9:25 AM on September 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

posted by Zumbador at 9:28 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by Faint of Butt at 9:31 AM on September 19, 2019

Shelly and her cohort have helped more cats, kittens, and wildlife than we will likely ever know. I’ve witnessed so many viewers express their changed opinions about not spay/neutering cats, the harmful “just one litter” attitude, “cats can take of themselves outdoors,” etc. This is the kind of education that spreads generationally and through communities.

I’ve learned, too. I was firmly in the camp that feral-their-whole-lives cats would never have quality of life indoors. Grandpa Mason and the many cats who’ve turned in their feral cards have shown me my error, and I’m making long-term arrangements for some local cats based on my new understanding.

So thanks, Grandpa and Shelly and TinyKittens folks generally, for helping me out in dark times, and helping me human better.

posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 9:33 AM on September 19, 2019 [18 favorites]

I'm sad but it's a good ending to what was undoubtedly a tough life. As good an ending as almost any cat could get.

I grew up in a family that was careless with its pets, didn't get them fixed, let them wander till they just didn't come back due to cars or other accidents. It wasn't till I was grown that I even thought about how stupid and wasteful that was. Nowadays I have one cat who is neutered and gets his outdoor fun via catio so he doesn't harm the local wildlife or get in fights, and it's pretty great. He is doing fine and I'm probably going to get another cat soon because I have more room now.

Travel well, Grandpa Mason. I hope all the love you got made you forget the hard times before.
posted by emjaybee at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

posted by jquinby at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2019

It's sad to learn that Mason will be passing soon, but I'm so happy to hear about his tenure as a kitten grandpa and that he outlived expectations by so much. I watched the "hug heard round the world" video and it made me so happy to see Mason and those kittens together. And I'm so pleased that his final months were full of kittens, food, and comfort. I'm so grateful to people who do that kind of work.

posted by jzb at 9:46 AM on September 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

posted by Silverstone at 9:54 AM on September 19, 2019


I had a beautiful FELV+ cat (brown tabby, like Mason) who cheerfully outlived the expiration date that the vet placed on her, by nearly four years. I have deep admiration for Mason's rescue family for helping him do the same. What a good boy.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:05 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

posted by Reverend John at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2019

You know, if one has to die, surrounded by kittens is probably not the worst way to go.
posted by amtho at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2019 [24 favorites]

Go in peace, Grandpa Mason.
posted by twilightlost at 10:26 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by caliche at 10:36 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by haapsane at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2019

posted by longdaysjourney at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2019

Dammit, and I'm still getting over the Kitten Academy losing Canine Cordiality Officer Elsie earlier this month.

Godspeed, Grandpa Mason.
posted by non canadian guy at 11:33 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

This hits me pretty hard for a cat I've never met.

We'd euthanized our cat Mingus, also of kidney failure, almost exactly a year before the world found out about Grandpa Mason. Mingus, like Grandpa Mason, loved kittens. Whenever we had rescues, he jumped right in to play with them and show them everything they needed to know about How to Be a Cat. It was a remarkable thing to see. His mom and brother were ours as well, and inexplicably his mother was never kind to him. From my human perspective it felt like he found it important to give kittens the love and affection he hadn't been given.

So when Grandpa Mason gained his fame, it felt like having a surrogate Mingus, and as the years went by and he survived as long as he did, it felt like the victory we didn't really get with Mingus, who got five months after his diagnosis, though he was almost nineteen when he died.

They both catted well.
posted by jocelmeow at 11:36 AM on September 19, 2019 [13 favorites]

The video Shelly posted with the announcement was touching on several levels. It was obviously heartbreaking due to the subject, but what really set my tears off was listening to Shelly cry softly in the background. When loss happens at TK, she isn’t afraid to show her grief. It would be a futile effort to try to hide it, because her heart is so big and her love for her rescues so obvious. She’s fought the good fight with Mason, giving him medical care daily and patiently accepting where he was in regard to human affection, while sharing her joy and pride in how he loved and cared for his kittens (and the resident cats, even if they were a bit confused about why he kept leaning on them and snuggling up to them while they were trying to eat).

It seems especially poignant that his final video includes him not only getting affection from his last two kittens and his beloved apprentice Aura, but also accepting stroking from Shelly after being “untouchable” for so long. Though I suspect that may have something to do with whatever they gave him to make his last night pain free, I do believe that he knew how much she did for him, and deep down was expressing his gratitude by accepting her love.

Speaking of Aura, the look she gives Shelly, the paw cuddling Mason... she knows. And she of all cats knows how important he was. She’s grown from a tiny Miracle Kitten to a beautiful Miracle Cat since her birth at TK, and has taken on the mantle of nurturing kittens by showing them the care and tutelage that Mason gave her. Auntie Aura will carry the legacy of the grandpa she adored and who adored her.

Rest and run free with Bastet, brave gentleman, and enjoy cuddling with all the little ones who never got the chance to know your love here on Earth. It was our privilege to see your sunset months stretch into sunset years.
posted by Meghamora at 12:31 PM on September 19, 2019 [10 favorites]

posted by radwolf76 at 12:35 PM on September 19, 2019

No matter how tough and curmudgeonly you are a determined kitten will fuck you up. - ancient Vulcan proverb.
posted by srboisvert at 1:13 PM on September 19, 2019 [10 favorites]


At about 12:15 p.m. TK time today on the stream with Angela's kittens, Shelly borrowed two of them to take to meet Mason. When she returned them (at about 12:50), she mentioned that Mason enjoyed meeting them.
posted by metaquarry at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Rest well, old kitty. I'm glad to know that you were loved well and loved well yourself.
posted by briank at 1:41 PM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

oh I am so glad that Grandpa Mason was given another chance at life and had this time to find some love and solace teaching the tiny kittens how to cat.
posted by supermedusa at 1:42 PM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Does anybody else want an 'I heart Grandpa Mason' shirt? Cause for some reason I do.
posted by amtho at 3:02 PM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

I saw this on Instagram this morning and have been slowly digesting it all day. Like everyone, I knew he'd been living on borrowed time for years, but I still wasn't ready.

I did fostering, rescue, and TNR for years, and I am amazed at Shelly's reserves of emotional strength. I got through it by affecting a little detachment, but every one of them gets right into her heart.

There was a big tom in the feral colony I worked with who we called Uncle Sidney. He would bring kittens out of the woods to us so we could nab them, but somehow always eluded being nabbed himself. Mason always made me think of him. If there's a kitty heaven, they'll have a lot of stories to swap
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:47 PM on September 19, 2019 [7 favorites]

I've been following TK since Metafilter introduced me to the site a number of years ago and it has honestly gotten me through some pretty hard days. I think part of what has made Grandpa Mason's story so uniquely compelling is how easy it is for us, as cat fans, to see ourselves in him. He - like us - loves kittens and wants to care for and play with them. He's already gotten a piece of heaven on Earth for the last three years and I hope his time over the rainbow bridge is spent being pampered and, in turn, pampering all the kittens.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

posted by FallibleHuman at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2019

Well, I hadn't expected to cry just from reading the FPP, but here I am. No here YOU ARE! No, really, it's me.

Thanks for posting about this. It's "nice" to know the end of the whole story. And it was a happy story, too.

posted by hippybear at 6:51 PM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

And to all a good night.
posted by delfin at 7:40 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I should know better than to even open FPPs like this. I liked his style.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:51 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've watched and enjoyed some videos of Grandpa Mason, and knew he had a terminal diagnosis, but didn't realize he had exceeded his projected lifespan by literally years. He did a good job teaching those youngsters how to cat. Rest easy, little fella.

If anyone is interested in seeing some other formerly feral cats now living happily with a human, you might enjoy The Lucky Ferals.

Momcat Stella and her now-grown sons Simba and Splash have been indoors for at least a couple of years now, while Boo (who may be Simba & Splash's dad, it's unclear) came in from the cold a bit more recently.

There's also Hydrox, who's still an outside cat but comes around regularly for meals and may be considering the idea of allowing human contact at some point. Some of the videos also feature cameos from Ditto, another outdoor cat, as well as assorted raccoons, possums and the occasional skunk.

Their human spends a lot of time talking about the specifics of their diet, but if you're not interested in that, you can just turn down the sound and watch the cats.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:06 PM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Saw this at work, had to close the window because: crying at work. Re-opened on the bus ride home. Still too much crying. Am now home, can now cry, and can raise a glass to the singular force of beauty that is Grandpa Mason. And after that, it'll be time to play with my own little former-feral tabby.

Cats, everyone. Just... cats. <3
posted by halation at 8:32 PM on September 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

Aww, I had a tuxie called Hydrox once.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:38 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hey, The Underpants Monster - With the name Hydrox, I suppose this is not a big surprise, but the Lucky Ferals' Hydrox also is a tuxedo cat (though it is unknown whether they are male or female).

My childhood cat Mittens was a tuxie, too, so I have an especially soft spot for them.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:20 PM on September 19, 2019

Grandpa Mason was so expressive. In the first video, when the kittens show up, it's like he's got a speech bubble over his head:

Are these..babies??
They are babies!
My babies now. *sleeps in cat pile*

I've never seen someone so clearly delighted to be climbed on.
posted by Ahniya at 10:34 PM on September 19, 2019 [15 favorites]

Or this video, where he's clearly thinking "I love you muppets enough to let you wrestle on me, but if either of you bite my leg you're going to get kicked with it."
posted by Ahniya at 10:39 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


Farewell, Grandpa Mason. Please say hello to my Nana kitty at the Bridge.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:20 PM on September 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love the more recent video where Grandpa Mason picks up little PigPen with his remaining teeth and carries him off into the kitty yurt for a proper baff.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:52 AM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite videos of him: When it's naptime and you don't listen

Using a senior *feral* cat to socialize kittens isn't the most obvious idea. Grandpa Mason will inspire more fosterers to do the same.
Improving the prospects and bettering the lives of senior ferals - that's a legacy Mason and Shelly - can be proud of.
posted by cheshyre at 5:02 AM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

One of the other prominent kitty-cammers -- Foster Dad John of the Critter Room, working with Purrfect Pals in Washington state, currently on hiatus while remodeling his home but showing highlight reels in the meantime -- does something similar with his own adopted cats.

He'll bring in one or two of what he refers to as "non-reactive" cats and slowly introduce them to new litters, giving them the idea that (a) there are other cats that aren't them or Mama and (b) they're not so scary. By "non-reactive," he means that they won't respond to puffing-up, fear reactions or hissing with a similar response; instead, they'll basically go "yeah, whatever" and remain calm. If they go too far over the line with youthful exuberance, a Flattening Paw will be applied to teach them what happens when etiquette is violated, but nothing more violent than that. The late Kougra was his favorite cat for that; Dorian is the current senior interactor, and he is hopeful that Beatrice (a young cat adopted from TinyKittens!) has the right mindset to act similarly.

Similarly, Shelly has several adopted cats that interact with her fostered when appropriate. The Teens (Pantsaroo, Bartlett and Bunny) are generally nonreactive and are good socializers. Cassidy is a bit more of a juvenile delinquent, but in an adorable way. Aura, as has been noted upthread, is young but an amazingly fast learner and took many lessons from her Grandpa. And Grandpa himself... well, "domesticated" was never even close to being on his resume. But the key was that when they watched his behavior with the other cats, it became clear that he was both calm around unfamiliar cats (he could handle himself in a scrap if he had to) and very receptive to kittens, far more so than the others. So they tested the arrangement out and expanded it over time, and the comfort he took from kitten interaction certainly went a long way towards improving his senior years.
posted by delfin at 6:09 AM on September 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

posted by but no cigar at 4:13 PM on September 20, 2019

posted by Deoridhe at 6:27 PM on September 20, 2019

posted by Recliner of Rage at 6:32 PM on September 20, 2019

posted by wiskunde at 6:35 PM on September 21, 2019

posted by humbug at 6:00 PM on September 22, 2019

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