Cat Nap

I came home tonight while the sun still shone through the windows, creating a pool of warm light on the dining room rug.  Right in the middle, and spilling out a bit at one end, was my cat.  They have a knack for finding the perfect place to recharge.  Her calico tabby coat felt almost hot, so I know she’d been there for a while.  She lifted her head just slightly, opened only one eye and let out a creaky little “miaow.”  I would have said it was her greeting to me, but as she laid her head back down, adjusted herself to turn her back fully to me and went back to sleep, I was left to believe it was more of a scolding for having disturbed her rest.

P/J was just 7 weeks old when we first met.  Her crazy, semi-long-hair coat tickled as she ran across my feet at the shelter.  She ran from toy to toy with such excitement, easily distracted by the other kittens in the playroom.  She kept coming back to attack my sandals.  I guess she picked me that day.  I filled out the paperwork, my friends paid the adoption fee (it was their gift to me), and we set a date for me to pick her up.  I had to wait an agonizing 6 days to bring her home, since she first had to be spayed.

When we picked her up, that delightful spark and inquisitive nature seemed to be gone from her.  They told me she was still recovering from her surgery the day before.  I gladly scooped up my little fur ball and took her home.  As the days went on, she still did not seem to “recover.”  She could not eat on her own, she didn’t know how to use a litter box, or bathe herself, and couldn’t even drink properly.  I had made an appointment with my vet for a couple of weeks after I got her.  I didn’t see a need to take her any sooner, as I was picking her up from a reputable shelter with veterinarians on staff.  After three days of not eating or drinking, I changed that appointment and took her right in!

They weighed her at only 1.21 pounds.  She was tragically uncoordinated and weak from malnourishment.  When I mentioned that she seems like a completely different cat than the one who chose me on that visit day, my vet stood quietly for a moment with a pondering look.  He told me it was possible she had suffered some brain damage as a result of the anesthesia when she was spayed.  My heart sank.

We determined a plan of action to get her well again. I bathed her in the sink for a couple of weeks until she started to learn how to clean herself.  I gently pushed her fuzzy little face into bowls of water several times a day until she learned to drink on her own.  I fed her through an eye dropper for two months until she put on enough weight and was strong enough to eat her food on her own.  She was getting bigger and stronger and more playful.  She continued to eat and grow, and went from a slight 1.2 pounds to a grand 12.8 pounds in about 18 months.  That weight, plus or minus two-tenths of a pound is where she has stayed until last fall.  But she was never again full of vigor like on that first day. 

As time when on, I noticed she would ask for water when her dish was full and she often seemed to lose her toys when we played.  Back at the vet, it was determined she had cataracts – at just over one year of age.  My heart sank again.  I immediately pictured life with a blind cat.  Oh, how I missed that frisky kitten that nibbled on my hands at the shelter.  No treatment for this, just new knowledge of my cat’s health.   

P/J was a gift from two friends.  I was in the process of a divorce and, due to financial struggles, had to leave my dog behind when I left my home.  He was truly my ‘baby’ and, to this day, is very much alive in my heart.  But at that time, without him and facing an uncertain future, I was lonely and sad.  So my fiends took me to pick out my new companion.  She was named for Paul & Jaime of Mad About You, my favorite show at the time.  As a kitten, she had many names – not different names, many – all in a row.  Her official title (you know, the name you use when you’re angry) was P/J Elizabeth Taco Sasquatch Evinrude.  It started out as P/J Elizabeth (I’ve always given my pets middle names).  But her mix of many colors in her coat made me think of a taco salad.  And her crazy fur (that she sheds everywhere) and thundering footsteps were like a Sasquatch in my apartment.  And she used to purr so loudly that she sounded like an outboard motor (Evinrude) and would keep me up at night.  So, her name grew and grew.

P/J will be 17 next month.  She’s been by my side a long time.  I eventually got my dog back and he and P/J were buddies.  He died of pancreatic cancer at age 8.  I was adopted by another cat, Brooks, the same day I brought P/J home.  Brooks developed cancerous growths in her neck and mouth and died in 2008.  When I remarried, I gained a step-dog.  He passed away last year, probably from injuries we never fully understood since he was a rescue dog who was previously abused.  P/J is the last one left.

She still has the cataracts.  She is on medication for hypothyroidism.  And now she has an infected paw that won’t heal.  I have medicine for her, but she licks it off.  I’ve tried wrapping her paw so she can’t lick it, but she chews through the bandages (scrappy little thing!).  She doesn’t walk on that paw anymore, so I know the pain continues to grow for her.  I have pain pills for her, but she spits them out (really scrappy!).  Her coat is thinning.  Her spine is showing.  Her eyes continue to cloud over. She walks on only 3 paws.  Yet, she still miaows like a kitten, that quiet high-pitched squeak.

My heart sinks.  I know her time is drawing short.  She used to sleep on my pillow, wrapped around the top of my head, purring louder than my alarm clock rang, and it drove me crazy.  How I wish she could jump up on my bed just one more time, now.  How I wish her purr would ring out again.  I am thankful that, when the time comes, I can help her die quietly, a gift we can’t give our human loved ones.  I just hope I know when that time is.

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