Monday, April 11, 2016

Our Lady of Perpetual Cat Ownership

Every day now seems to be National Something Day. National Secretaries Day, National Cheeseburger Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Today would have been a major trigger for me. National Pet Day. Six weeks ago I took my little fur-monster, Herbie, to the vet.

 (This was when he was fat and happy)

He had been losing weight, and then just stopped eating altogether. The vet poked and prodded around, and said that he had a tumor, as well as issues with his kidneys. He was fourteen and a half, and the vet thought that was kind of "old age" for a cat anyway, but my last kitty cat had lived to be twenty-three. I had high hopes for all future pets. So optimistic, was I, that back in October I had ordered the 3-year rabies vaccine for Herb. It was not to be. So, armed with some prednilsone, and an appetite stimulant, Herb and I went back home. The vet had said the prednilsone might grant him an extra "couple of weeks". I was distraught. But, after starting the prednilsone, his appetite kind of came back on its own, and I didn't need the appetite stimulant.

I fed him deli turkey, tuna, whatever he wanted to eat, and he did put some weight back on. The vet called to check in on him the following Monday, and I was happy to report he was doing well. I had decided to just watch him carefully, and at the first sign of trauma or physical difficulty to call an in-home euthanasia vet. I did not want him to suffer at all. I got another four weeks of Healthy-ish Herbie, during which time his litter box habits were the best I'd ever seen from him. (He used to communicate in angry poops left around the house).

When I saw his hind legs start to wobble a bit when he went down steps, I knew his time was limited. No suffering for the baby! On a Friday, I called and scheduled the euthanasia appointment for the following Monday. I then made sure his last weekend was awesome. He got pork chops and lamb and junky Fancy Feast in gravy. I would lift him up onto the bed, and then down onto the floor, so he didn't have to try to jump. Sunday night, I didn't catch him in time before he tried to jump up onto the bed by himself. His claws caught the corner and he pulled himself up, and then his body started to convulse. I grabbed him and put him back on the floor, tucking his body in, because I felt like he might have stretched the organs or something. I didn't know - it was just an instinctive reaction, and the convulsions stopped. But seeing that was traumatizing, and I knew I had made the right decision for Monday. It was time to put him down. On Monday I took him outside and let him wander around and eat as much grass as he wanted, and then sat petting him until the vet arrived.

I was grateful for the four weeks of time to get used to the idea that he wouldn't be around. I cried at the first diagnosis, and one or two nights afterward, but then I would look at Herb, who wasn't suffering and just hanging out doing his kitty-thing, and I realized that I didn't really need to get upset until he actually died. What was the point of all the crying if he's right there next to me, pushing his whiskers against my shoulder and purring? He was still there. Once he was euthanized, though, I cried a lot. The Ugly Cry. Red-faced, puffy-eyed, numerous boxes of tissues destroyed crying.

The next day I drove about 40 minutes south to a cat rescue organization, and adopted a sweet little 4.5 year old longhaired girl named Minnie.

You can't do this with people, which is why losing a family member/friend is so much more devastating. But there are homeless animals everywhere, in need of care and love. You do need to make sure you connect with the animal, and I just knew Minnie was right. A furry, snuggly, purr-monster is something I have to have. She is the best: super affectionate, talks to me in her little mewly voice, and has the best litter box habits. When I'm reading, she shoves herself into the crook of my elbow and stretches her dainty paws out over my shoulder, then curls up and falls asleep. Without her, I'm sure I would have had further sobbing episodes as I drove past the vet clinic, where Herb used to go, or the pet food store, where I used to buy his fancy organic food (which apparently did not keep him from getting cancer), or when I looked at his scratching post and toys (which Minnie is enjoying), and definitely today, on National Pet Day.

I've had kitties since I was five years old. Mercy, I got as a kitten when I was five and named her all by myself, after my mom said "No" to naming her Cindy. Mercy had feline leukemia, and died my first year away at college. Kitty overlapped Mercy a little: I got her for my 13th birthday from two school friends. Kitty was the one who lived to be twenty-three. Then came Herb and his sister Laverne. I, sadly, had to surrender Laverne after a few years because I was afraid Herb was going to kill her - he was really Alpha and really possessive.

I am the Constant Cat Lady. I will, however, take solace in comparison. At the check-in counter at the Humane Society, the desk clerk asks you several questions, including, "How many pets do you currently have at home?" While I was sitting and waiting to see the cats, a woman came in and her answer to that question was, "Five cats, two dogs".

I patted myself on the back for not being a cat-hoarder. Oh, now wait. That sounds like I'm being judgemental. I am! Five cats is too many. Unless you have a farm.

I don't have a farm. And one cat is plenty for me.

My mom once said, "I can't picture you without a cat." And now she won't have to. R.I.P. to my little Herbie, and Happy National Pet Day to pet owners, everywhere!