In Loving Memory of My Kitty, Osbornne Horace Pilbinson

August 10, 1997- November 9, 2013

Also known as Oz; Ozzie; Ozbo; Osbornnacus; Killer; Li’l Buddy; Beavis; Mister Kitty-boo; Fuzzbutt; Captain Caramel; UT Kitty; Jerk Sandwich; The Fabulous O.Z.B.; Greentooth; The Russian Clawfia; and His Royal Highness, Sir Ozbus Q.Winklestaff of Furbottom (and similar pompous-sounding variants).

He is survived by his “sister” Sophronia Strong Hall (14); His “nieces and nephews”: Tallulah Racquelle Valentine, Blixa, and Merlin (all 12); and the adopted orange “brother” that he so kindly mentored, Thaddeus “Rusty” Jones Shackelford (6ish).  Also feeling his loss will be his canine companion of the last 9 years, Rosencrantz Ann Guildenstern (11ish).  Most of all he will be missed by his human family, we Walkers, as well as my parents and my sister– he especially impacted us, as he was the first cat we all got to know and really love.

It is assumed that he will be joining his runaway “nephew” Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate; and most definitely his two best friends and roommates Pye and Manouche; his step-brother Zeus; as well as his true sister Ripley in the big, fluffy, sunny, bay window seat in the sky.  (Give ’em headbumps for me, Buddy.)


I know that our pets are family, and to our hearts around the world they are all very special, so to distinguish him from the crowd, I’m going to attempt to qualify the following statement with some oddball evidence to illustrate to you just how great this particular kitty really was– Osbornne was one really, really special cat.

You see, I was raised a “dog person,” always with a canine companion or two, even extended family owned dogs if they had any pets at all.  Sometimes a bird, tank of fish, or bunny would enter or exit our life, but the one thing we never had was a cat.  I remember in high school, my best friend Emily’s cat inexplicably took a shine to me, and it filled me with great confusion.  I mean, even then I wanted to consider myself just an “animal person” with no real preference, but this was based on hypotheticals and had really never been tested by the presence of a kitty of any sort.  Em’s cat was a drooler, and I was so unfamiliar with the whole feline experience, I had NO IDEA if this was a typical ‘cat’ thing, or if it was strange…  (Sophi has become a drooler in her later age.)  My recollection is that I *tried* to love on her, (hence maybe her affection for me), but that I never understood her body language, so I didn’t know if she cared for my efforts.

Fast forward a few years through college, and I was positively craving a fuzzy companion.  Remember, I’m an “animal person” and not having *any* sort of local critter to interact with began to feel like a real deficit.  It’s 1997 and my roommate Misty and I move into this teensy little crackerbox house in South Knoxville.  At some point, we began discussing whether or  not we could cheat on the lease’s terms a little when it came to the pets.  We had a nosy elderly shut-in neighbor that would rat us out if we were regularly seen walking a dog, but a cat could be completely hidden from her view by keeping two sets of blinds closed.  Ah, and you didn’t realize that there was a “plus” to litterboxes!  When Misty’s parents’ barn cats had two litters of kittens a couple of weeks apart, we decided to take one from each litter.

Little Baby Ozzie, 9/97

Little Baby Ozzie, 9/97

On the way up to her parent’s place a few hours away from campus, I was told that one of the cats from the second litter was already spoken for, but that there would be still four to choose from.  I was picking one for myself, as well as a second sibling for my friend Rob.  I had repeatedly thought over the proceeding years that if I’d ever had a cat, I wanted an orange one.  I’m sure that has to do with both an early love for Morris the cat, and me being a redhead myself.  In the first grade– the age my son is now– I had a favorite tee shirt my mom had thrifted with an enormous image of Morris on it, and I recall my hair matching his exactly.  (It’s funny is that we have an ideal Morris now, in the form of Rusty.)  Anyway, at some point I vocalized that if there was an orange one, I wanted ‘dibs.’

We get to Misty’s home, and are lead to the garage, where we find a cardboard box filled with tiny squeakies… so adorable.  Misty’s mom says something to the effect of, “The only one that’s taken is the orange one.”  Dangit, really?  I try to tell myself that I’m being silly, any kitten would be just as great, and I plop down on the floor to get to know them.  I’m bonding a little bit with an adorable little female I’ve chosen (later to become Ripley, Rob and Margo’s kitty), but this little orange and white guy keeps popping out of the box and running straight to me– over and over and over again.  I can still completely see that casual, loping run in my head.  I’m not gonna lie to ya’ll, I fell in love with him right then.  There is something about being *chosen.*  It took me beyond the “awww- cute kitties!” excitement into the reality that this would be a little critter that I would keep alive and well, and for an unknown years into the future.  And it seemed that he wanted me just as badly as I wanted him.  My roommate’s mom saw it, too, and went upstairs to make a hopeful phone call… moments later, she returned with the news– we were meant to be.

Our First Week Together-- 9/97

Our First Week Together– 9/97


Over the years he grew to be a big, healthy, hefty kitty, maxing out at 17 pounds– never an ounce of flab!  Fixed before a year old, and never really allowed outside (he reeeally lacked street smarts, in the very real sense of the words), he was still quite relaxed and friendly.  If I had a party, he would make the rounds– headbumping the dudes, getting his tail pulled by his old friends, flirting with a low purr with all the pretty girls.  He always, always came and greeted guests.  He was social.

My Pretty Kitty Oz

My Pretty Kitty Oz

And this wasn’t just with humans.  Over the years he’s lived with countless other pets of mine, pets of my parents’, pets of roommates… he’s always been chill.  If charged, he’d hold his own (swatting at my sister’s dog Fontaine’s muzzle without claws, making a hollow thwunking sound we found hilarious), but generally his attitude was “No probs here, bro.”  When Pan and I got engaged, I had Oz and Sophi, Pan had a gorgeous grey fluff monster named Zeus.  Zeus was two years older than Oz, so both were established males, and they could have been a real problem.  They never were, more often than not they completely ignored each other.

"Helping" Me Sew

“Helping” Me Sew Last Month

He was sort of dog-like, at times.  I don’t know if that’s me sort of ‘training’ him that way, never having lived with a cat before, or if maybe it was who he was and a good reason for us to bond a little bit harder…  either way, it made him sort of awesomely odd.  He would stick with me like dogs are prone to do, always nearby if I’m working at home.  (My other cats could care less where I am and what I’m doing.)  He wanted to be with me, and how can you not adore something that wants to be with you all the time?

Oz liked to fetch, especially drinking straws and particular chosen items.  When he was younger, you had to watch him if you got a fast food cup, something about the sound of the straw squeaking against that cross-shaped hole in the lid’s center he found *fascinating.*  He’d steal your straw out of your cup in a heartbeat.  Once he got older, the fetching quit, but that sound would still draw him from another room.

He was toilet-trained for several years, squatting on the seat and going straight in the john.   People always have trouble believing that one, but there are too many eyes that witnessed it.  Awesomest.  Party trick.  Ever.  (I eventually had to pet-sit 2 months for a friend that was doing summer stock,  the re-introduction of litterboxes to his life was his toilet training’s undoing.)

He was nicknamed “Killer” as a kitten by my friend Dan, and at first, it was a joke.   But over the years, he proved that was apt.  He brought me (and then Fox, as Oz became in love with my boy) countless mice, lizards, and bugs over the years, as well as a (live) bird, and the most GINORMOUS rat I have ever seen in person.  It was 2/3 the size of him.  I totally lived up to “being a girl” on that one, and screamed my bloody head off…  He was so proud!

Oz was an excellent jumper.  For five years as a single woman, I lived in a second-story apartment in an old converted bungalow, and it had these two 5′ high windows that hinged open into the main room.  They had no screens, they were just open holes, three stories above our narrow driveway.  I adorned the inside of them with these strips of beaded gems and gewgaws that my mother had made, and they hung slightly lower than the windows.  I got into the habit of opening the windows for circulation, and he would easily and adeptly bounce into their narrow opening. He never missed, never struggled to hit that tiny mark, never looked like he could fall.  I dropped my worry that it might be a problem.  (It never was.)  He would happily sit on that 4″ ledge, looking out over downtown Knoxville, dragging the tip of his tail along the bottom of those panes and chiming the beaded ornaments in a musical jangle.  It was his favorite place.

His tail was a funny thing– very expressive.  He loved to have it pulled (not kidding) and if you did it slowly and evenly enough, you could lift him off of his hind legs with your pulls– and every time you’d ease him to the ground let him go, he’d ask for more.   He would also play games with me at bedtime, placing the tip of his tail in my open palm, me squeezing it and opening back out my hand, him flicking it and putting it right, smack-dab, back in the middle of my palm.  We played that game his whole life, up to the night before his passing.  It is one of the things I will miss most….


Fox and Oz, Melted Together

Fox and Oz, Melted Together

Fox and Ozzie had a very special relationship.  We’d heard things about older cats (as Oz was already 10 when our son was born) not easily accepting the introduction of children to their world, but Oz was unperturbed.  Over the years, they became more and more aware of how to interact with each other, and they certainly did.  Ozzie has been Fox’s favorite pet, so much so that when he wrote his project on his favorite animal this year, he talked about his Oz.  I suspect that in dealing with his loss, this will be one of the hardest parts.

Oz invites you in.


This last Friday, Osbornne’s recent health failures came to a head, and we made the nearly impossible decision to quietly end his pain.  I know he had a long, happy life for his 16 years on this earth.  Rationally I realized that he was not going to ever recover and be the kitty I remember, but my heart is broken.  He is the first thing, other than myself, that only I was wholly responsible….   For whatever reason, the Saturday where his little life came to an end, I could not get this Better Than Ezra song out of my head.  It’s completely appropriate, and from our era together, so I will add it as the completion of his tribute–
Thank you Ozzie kitty, for choosing me, and teaching me how wonderful pet cats can be.  I don’t care that you coated my nice sweaters with fuzz or made me allergic over the years, I would do it again for you all over, Buddy.  You kept me from being alone; you forced me to get up and move around when I felt down; and you cracked me up regularly. I will love and miss your smiling face always.

Nov 12, 2013 | Category: Just A Thought | Comments: 2 | Tags: , ,


2 Responses to “In Loving Memory of My Kitty, Osbornne Horace Pilbinson”

  1. This is a lovely memorial for one of the BEST cats I’ve ever, ever, ever met. It was an honor to know him, and he will be missed. </3

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