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About a Cat: Part 4


Admittedly, I struggled with writing this final chapter (hence the lengthy time between posts).  Saying good-bye is never easy, and saying good-bye to Si has been particularly difficult for me.  Compounding that pain, is the insecurity that accompanies outward displays of emotion toward a beloved pet.  This is why I initially hesitated to write this story.  Would anyone understand?  Or would people think I’m just some crazy cat lady?  I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.  To those of you who have followed this story, and encouraged me to keeping going – thank you.  Read part one, two, and three of this story.  

Si in here typical regal pose (Photo Credit: Jane Chartrand)

Regal Si (Photo Credit: Jane Chartrand)

Si’s final years were bittersweet, and proved to be some of the most difficult and rewarding years with my feline companion.  Old age slowly came for Si.  Unhealthy habits also began to take a toll on her body.  Si was relatively healthy for most of her life, but her love for treats and kibble meant that she gradually became quite the fat (okay, obese) cat.  Admittedly, she was lazy too.  She preferred napping and bathing to playing and climbing.  She was meticulous about grooming herself.  She’d often stop mid cat-spat to clean her paws, then continue with ‘fur’tastic defeat of any feline daring to challenge her.  I’m pretty sure she had a touch of feline OCD.  So, it became rather disconcerting when Si began to have trouble accessing those hard to reach places when bathing.  Trust me, there is nothing more undignified for a cat (except forcing her to wear doll clothes) than having to have their bum wiped because they missed a spot.  If Si wasn’t clean, she wasn’t happy.  And by now you all know what happened when Si wasn’t happy.

After consulting a vet, Si was put on an all wet food diet.  Now I don’t think there was a happier cat than Si when she started her new diet because she loved wet food.  Admittedly, we were concerned this new diet would be expensive on the pocket book.  By this time, we had three cats and feeding time was somewhat of a circus.  All the cats had to be put on the same diet. Our vet at the time was an amazing young woman who had recently graduated.  She was enthusiastic and quite sincere about any concerns we had, including financial ones.  She assured us it wouldn’t be that much of an increase in financial commitment, but that it would have enormous benefits for all our cats.  She was right. The cats actually started eating less because the wet food was much more filling and nutritious than kibble. With relative ease, Si gradually shed five of her eighteen pounds.  Hubby and I also gained a wealth of knowledge that would have a positive impact on all the cats we cared for in the future.  That was another sacrifice Si had to unintentionally make.  As the first pet, she would also be the one to teach us how to be great pet caregivers.  Si may have been a cat, but she was also a bit of guinea pig.

Sooty Si

Sooty Si

In 2007, hubby and I bought our very first home.  This would be Si’s last time moving with me.  The new house was incredibly spacious compared to the two bedroom apartment we’d been living in for several years.  There were three levels which meant that technically each of our cats could lay claim to a floor.  Of course, that never happened.  Si simply expanded her dominion.  Like any good conqueror, Si familiarized herself with the new landscape, including the wood-burning fireplace.  Being curious and daring, Si decided to climb inside to investigate.  Neither hubby nor I noticed until she emerged covered from head to tail in soot.  She was dirty, and not impressed.  If you recall, Si was not overly fond of anyone bathing her – including me.  She had been dunked into a bathtub a few times in her life, but it always unleashed ‘cat’-ankerous fury.  It took days for her fur to return to its glistening white, and Si never went into that fireplace again. Come to think of it – none of the other cats ventured into that fireplace either.  That was just like Si – leading by example.  Or more appropriately: Do as I say, not as I do.

Si lived the first few years in our very first house filled with contentment unlike any I’d seen her have before.  The sheer size of the house was a welcome respite for Si.  If either of the other cats became too bothersome, she simply retreated to the comfort of another room.  She had already claimed as her own the comfiest spots in practically every room of the house.  Yep, she was living the good life.  She had a kingdom far greater than any before, an undefeated reign over her subjects, the best food money could buy, and a backyard big enough to grow a lifetime supply of catnip.  Stability, order, and security had finally been obtained.  Life was perfectly blissful. That’s when Si began to let go.

Lounging Si

Lounging Si

It started when she no longer came upstairs to bed with us.  Instead of an ordeal involving many stairs and a tall bed, Si opted for the comfort of her own bed on the more reasonably located main floor.  That was our first sign that she was succumbing to the symptoms of arthritis.  She also began to get sick more often, and had to periodically take medication for various ailments.  The vets suspected that she was in the first stages of kidney failure.  We often found ourselves having to clean up after accidents because stairs were becoming a difficult task, leading Si to periodically fail to make it down to the basement litter box in time.  Each accident would inflict incredible indignation on Si.  It is, after all, most undignified for royalty to be caught by her subjects in such an embarrassing happenstance.  Eventually, we accommodated her needs by ensuring she didn’t have to make the trek if she didn’t feel up to it.

It wasn’t easy and at times I found myself questioning why I was keeping her alive, but she seemed happy.  She still came for her treats every night and ate well.  Her eyes were bright and her fur glistening, so I figured if she was going to put up with the pain of arthritis and still be happy – then I’d put up with the occasional accident and cost of medication.  I did, after all, commit to her ‘for-life’.  I also figured I’d know when it was time and it didn’t feel right just giving up on her.  I’m not going to lie –  those last years were tough.  There were many burdens – emotionally and financially, but there were also many rewards.

We knew something was seriously wrong when Si began to walk away from treats offered to her.  I had never, in over seventeen years, seen that cat reject a treat.  From there, Si quickly deteriorated.  She’d often sit and wait to be carried up or down stairs.  Within a few short weeks, Si stopped leaving the basement.  Then one morning we noticed Si in a state of distress, panting and urinating blood.  Normally, this would result in an emergency trip to the vet, but we had been through this several times before.  Si’s kidneys were slowly shutting down.  One day they would just stop working, but with each ‘scare’ we couldn’t help but wonder if it was time.  We called our vet and requested a house call, and then prepared to say good-bye.  This time was different.  It felt ominous.

Si ended up being with us for almost two weeks after that house call. She hadn’t quite been ready to go.  So, Si came home and was lavished with adoration fitting of royalty. In that time, Si was made as comfortable as possible to live out her life (whether that be mere days, weeks, or months was anyone’s guess).  Si bounced back like a champ and was her normal treat-devouring self for several days.  Kali spent time simply lying at a comfortable distance next to Si.  Hubby and I also spent much time on the floor with Si peacefully purring on one of our laps.  Then one day, Si just stopped getting up.  When she tried, she would simply stumble and fall.

We took Si to the vet who remarked on her incredibly low blood pressure, particularly for a cat in an unfamiliar vet clinic.  She also noted the change in disposition to the cat that she had met two weeks earlier.  As the vet was performing her examination (including copious amounts of poking and prodding), Si curled up on the table and went to sleep.  I’d never seen my Devil Cat be so mellow – so at peace.  I reached over, gave Si’s head a scratch and asked, “Are you trying to tell us something?”  Si continued to sleep softly.  That was really the only sign I needed to know that Si would not be coming home.

Peaceful Si

Peaceful Si

I’m not going to lie, when it happened I bawled like a baby.  I tear up now just thinking about it.  The following day I woke up and numbed my pain by scrubbing the basement from top to bottom.  The day after that I broke down completely and stayed in bed all day, even missing work.  Our other cats also grieved in their own curious ways.  Kali began sleeping in Si’s spots and taking over duties formally performed by Si (such as the nightly harassment of hubby for treats).  Bijoux spent an entire day wandering the house, stopping to periodically vomit.

I had always known that it wasn’t going to be easy to say good-bye to Si, but I never realized just how much it was going to effect me.  Although, I’d had other cats come and go – Si was different.  She had been a faithful companion for almost eighteen years.  She had moved with me when I left my parents’ home to begin my life.  She had been with me as I experienced the awkward journey of becoming an adult.  She was there for the very best and very worst of my memories.  Si and I had been together longer than hubby and I. Although it sounds clichéd, it really did feel like losing a part of my self.

Many months later I still feel an emptiness and, on occasion, I see a streak of grey and white fur pass by my peripheral vision.  Some days I wake up and expect to hear tiny tippy-toes and puss-patties pacing impatiently for food, or the unexpectedly dainty mew trilling from a beast of a cat.  Then, there are days like today – days where the bitterness of loss is triumphed by the sweetness of memory.

A girl and her cat...

A girl and her cat…

M. xo

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