Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Transitions are hard for some, and one who takes them roughly is my eldest son. I am afraid to tell either of my boys the recent transition they will have to face. . .the loss of our cat.

Now, it wasn’t that they were especially in love with this particular kitty. No, it was just that she was a fixture they had known for all of their young lives. They didn't play with her much and she usually hid from them when they trained their attention on her. And now she is gone. Quietly, as a mouse.

She came into my life, in fact, even before I met my soon-to-be-(officially)-ex-wife. I saved the cat from possible homelessness, if not death, when she was bequeathed to me by the previous resident of the apartment I was taking. No matter. I was single, and having a cat was no great burden even if she wasn’t the soft, fuzzy, friendly type of feline. She was pretty though: a dark-colored tortoise-shell and she came with the name Maude. My wife Angela had almost a visceral hatred of her, and I repeatedly served as protector, arguing against getting rid of her---a kind of umpire in an unequal catfight, so to say. She was an indoor cat, with the claws from her front paws removed (not by me) and luckily she was fixed (not by me). She grudgingly gave her new master affection, though she did like to sit nearby him when he was home and she often occupied the corner of his bed at night. She liked getting scratched, especially right at the corners of her mouth and on the back edges of her ears. She hated getting her feet touched, abhored baths, and scorned playthings (though, woe to any bug that got into the apartment). I was nipped regularly when she decided she simply had had enough attention. Some petting and grooming was ok, but only for a fixed amount of time. Then she would amble off. For the most part she was little trouble, only once having any sickness---a short-lived urinary infection.

But recently she rapidly lost weight. It wasn’t unusual in my experience with cats, though at 11 she seemed still a bit young for that. She started using the whole apartment as her bathroom, despite having a fresh litter box, but it was occasional at first. Then it got more frequent, and she started peeing everywhere too. And drank and drank. But she never appeared to be in any pain. Then, over the past month, she got more listless, she had trouble with her back legs, and she seemed lost in her mind. I thought it was just age. Cat senility or Alzheimers? I started keeping her in the bathroom when I was gone. I won’t describe the worsening condition of that room, which I had to clean when I would come home from work in order to have it available acceptable human access. But what do you do when you have an aging cat, that does not seem to be in pain? You simply live with it.

Sadly, I could take it no more. Especially since I have to keep the place generally respectable for the boys. I decided that it might be time to put her down (even brewed a concoction of sleeping pills to do the job, but I chickened out). I mentioned it to friends, one of whom was horrified by my potential role as executioner. He stepped in and said he wanted to take her to the vet. It turned out that she has cat diabetes. How does that occur? I never varied her diet; always fed her the dry, urinary-infection protecting food; and she certainly wasn’t partaking in sweets. But the wobbly walk (similar to that of old lions you see in nature programs) and odd rear legs apparently is a classic sign of such affliction, not neurological damage due to age. She will have to have insulin shots daily (rather expensive, way beyond my means). Luckily, Phil decided to adopt her (because I was inclined to put her down), hence the disappearance from our home. I will miss Maude, but I think in the future I will have only outside cats. I hope she flourishes in her new home. Luckily I do not have to tell the boys she died.

[Update: I heard that she is doing better, is adjusting to her new digs (though she hides near the exercise machine), and is drinking normally.

Update 2: January 2012: Maude is still thriving, though she still deals with occasional bouts of peeing, so I hear. She has fit in well at Phil's and he seems quiet fond of her, despite her contrarian personality.]

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