Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's only a cat

Today was tough.  I don't know why, but there were lots of tears and general depression.  Some of it is money and some is just that there is so much to cope with.

Today also was one of the days that I had to look face-first into what is happening with my cat, Anna. Anna will soon be 17.  My mom and sister saved her and her brother when a rat killed their mother.  They were teeny then and had to be bottlefed and assisted in stimulating their bowels, kept warm, etc.  I was at camp when they were tiny but they were about 6 weeks old when I came home.  Anna gravitated to me immediately and that never changed.  It was very clear she was my cat.  So when I moved off campus in grad school Anna came to live with me.  She was 2 or 3 at that time.

Anna rapidly was part of everything in my life.  For the earliest part of her time with me she'd wake me wanting to eat at random early morning hours.  So I started feeding her at bedtime.  Then she'd wake me and want to snuggle, but not in my bed, but on the love seat where she did get snuggled daily.  So I'd cram myself into the loveseat and sleep.  When she was comfortable in her new home this stopped.  She continued to scare me with her explorations though; for a while I couldn't figure out what that scary noise was when I showered.  It turned out that she was able to climb underneat the tub in the part that is molded up and was  scratching it.

Anna became rather famous in my trailer court.  It's hard to describe but the design of the kitchen cabinets was a bit flawed so that there was  an area to the left of the sink that went back into the corner and was impossible to really use because you couldn't reach it.  There was a window in that corner that looked out to my parking space.  Anna spent every day that I wasn't home in that corner and whenever a car drove up the street she would stand, check it out, and if it wasn't me go back to sleep.

Anna rapidly was just always there.  I wrote most of my thesis with her on my lap.  She traveled back and forth to my mom's when I went to visit.  She actually grew to love traveling as long as the radio never stopped.

When we moved back to Ohio she was about 7 or 8.  I decided to increase the feline population so that I wouldn't face losing her someday without another cat in the house.  She was skeptical but grew to like the other cats.  I felt so goofy thought as the same cat I was thinking of as "senior" jumped out of my window when I failed to put the screen back in (bipolar moment) and that day I was extremely grateful I'd trained her to come to the sound of treats being rattled.  When the kittens went to the vet she needed some shots and went too. This "senior" cat was all over the exam room, including under the sink, on bookshelves, in the window, everywhere.  They had to give her a toy to stop the wandering while the others were checked out.

But as time has passed she inevitably has aged.  She was diagnosed with kidney failure and cataracts about 2 years ago and I chose to not treat her because of her age and because a restricted diet would make her miserable.  So instead she eats and eats and has kept her weight up pretty well (the vet said the longer the weight was up the longer I'd have her).  But now we have some new problems.  I've written about her licking and pulling hair out of her abdomen.  Originally this was called anxiety combined with her confusion.   Now it is become clearly it was pain.

She has arthritis.  In the last year she's gone from jumping everywhere and constantly exploring/watching out windows/following me everywhere to not wanting to leave her heated bed.  Until maybe spring of last year she always came into bed during the period where you are sleeping and waking, and she cuddled and purred and it was a nice way to wake up.  For a long time she couldn't even get into the bed without help.  She is very sleepy much of the time and while she'll ask for food in the middle of the night the days when she wanted fed every 3 hours seem to have passed.  She no longer follows me around, something she did just a few months ago.

Today I saw that she has her belly all red and possibly blistered again.  I'm giving her a maximum dose of glucosamine and it does help enough to let her move around a bit and she seems less stiff  but clearly it's not taking the pain away enough.  It's her back legs and spine that are so bad, especially the legs.  You can easily see pain when she is walking.

I spent a while crying and praying for wisdom.  With the renal failure I had come up with a mental list of what I thought were signs that Anna was ready to move on from her suffereing.  The things that are actually happening-arthritis, dementia-I have not thought through.  I will not let her live in pain.  We just started a med and so I'm giving her another week on it and then we'll call the vet if we have to.  I need the pain to be controlled.  So does she.

So I had one of those moments when the truth you do not want to see becomes all too clear:  my time with my girl is limited.  This combination of issues and her age is not good.  I had never thought that pain from arthritis could be a deciding factor in the quality of life scale but it is.  I actually told her today that she has to tell me when, that I'll listen.  It's the best promise I've got right now.

My once-upon a time so-called friend once told me when my kitten died out of the blue that my grief was "ridiculous" because it "was only a cat".

I hope Anna knows that this part of her life, just like the rest of it, will never include a consideration that she is "just a cat".  She let me know tonight that we've got time; about the time I pulled this up she climbed into my bed and cuddled for almost an hour and purred throughout.  She's telling me she's ok.  And that she is not "only a cat".


Michal Ann said...

Anna is definitely NOT "just a cat!" You and I have shared "The Rainbow Bridge" in the past but I'm sending it again. I know it's special to you and your vet. What a wonderful resource you have in your long-time vet. This week my girlfriend lost a special "tri-pod" dog that had become her prescribed therapy animal. I brought flowers and a sympathy card to her and a reminder of this poem. I hope it helps you, too.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown

Jean Grey said...

It is never "just a cat" to anyone who has had them and loved them. My heart broke at 13 when my first cat died. I used to think of the "Happy Hunting Lands" that they talked about in Laura Ingall's books. I am sure you will do the right thing, at the right time.

Just Me said...

She's definetely not "just a cat". She is, however, probably sicker than I'd like. i'll know more tomorrow.

Jean, it's funny you mention the Little house books; i have been re-reading them slowly since I came home from the hospital. They're simple enough I can follow but not so simple that they were boring. Somehow i have a combined version of both Rainbow bridge and the happy hunting grounds in my head. I'm going to need it I'm afraid. My virus has flared again today so more tomorrow, when labs will be back anyway.