I know the end can’t be far away. She is seventeen years old and the signs of aging are there. Lately she has stopped jumping fences and her lizard kill count has dropped dramatically. She’s content now to simply lie in the garage with the door cracked so she can keep an eye on the neighborhood and occasionally patrol the perimeter at her leisure.
A few mornings ago I saw her have some sort of seizure. I have never seen a person have a seizure, much less a cat, but I guess I’ve watched enough television that I knew that’s what a feline seizure looked like. I burst into tears in an uncontrollable rush of emotion as I rushed to pet her after it was over. My dismay over the thought of her imminent demise sparked an impromptu memory replay of all the years we’ve spent together.
Kitty came to me in my senior year of college. My brand new, tiny kitten meewed all the way home as she clung to the top of my head in the car that night. I was instantly in love. She grew up too fast, living the college life, and wound up pregnant with her own litter of kittens 6 months later. Babies having babies! This was swiftly followed by a trip to the vet to get spayed. My parents still have two of her illegitimate daughters.
One time she saved my life… or at least she saved my floor. She woke me up by incessantly meowing in my face at 3 a.m. and wouldn’t leave me alone until I followed her down the hall to the living room where my roommate was sleeping with a carpet campfire starting just inches from her face. A lamp had tipped over causing the light bulb to burn a hole in the carpet. Thanks to Kitty’s persistence, no one was hurt and the only harm done was a black burn mark on our carpet, which was an orange monstrosity that looked to have been installed in the early 70’s. So actually, no harm done at all.
I thought I had lost her forever once before. Due to a hasty break-up with my live-in boyfriend, I opted to temporarily crash at my brother’s apartment while I looked for a new place. He and his wife had three cats of their own, so, realizing that an additional cat would be welcomed by theirs about as warmly as red ants at a picnic, I chose to leave Kitty at my former house until I found a new one. One day she just disappeared. I looked everywhere, even consulting with the slightly kooky lady across the street who claimed to be an animal psychic. I had little hope that someone would find and return her because I could never manage to keep a collar on her, she Houdini-ed right out of every one I had tried. Kitty was gone without a trace and I was heartbroken. But, miraculously, on the very day that I was moving in to my new place I got a call from the ex-boyfriend saying that Kitty had just sauntered up the driveway, at least he was pretty sure it was her, because she was much more plump than when she left. It was indeed her. I guess she just found a cushy place with an all-you-can-eat buffet to hang out at for a while until she knew I was able to keep her with me again. This cat has some serious intuition and survival skills, right?
Meanwhile, back in the present, I was kinda’ acting like a sobbing lunatic. Immediately after the seizure, she ate some food while I fussed over her and then headed back outside as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. But after she was gone for awhile, I became convinced that she had just quietly slipped off to die in a private place. Animals tend to do that when they’re sick or dying and I was destroyed by the thought that this last encounter might have been the final one.
I sadly obsessed over the idea that I would no longer have the pleasure of seeing her pop out of the bushes to welcome me home/demand to be fed every day. How much would I miss seeing her little face and paws peeking out from under the garage door? Or her look of resigned annoyance as my dog excitedly whacked her in the face with her tail when they greeted me at the door? I would miss that terribly. I would even miss her near-constant need to be let either in or out of the house. (My fiance would definitely not miss that.)
With those sad thoughts swimming around in my head I did about a hundred laps between the front door and the garage, sobbing the day away and hoping she was okay, only to finally find her standing in the garage in the late afternoon. I was incredibly relieved of course. At the same time I felt more than a little foolish for all of the unfounded, hysterical grieving I had done.
I am willing to admit that wandering around the house weeping all day without any actual proof of her death might have been a slight overreaction on my part. I wish there was a way I could take all of the unduly-felt emotions from that day and put them in a bank to be used at a future time when they are actually appropriate to the situation. That way I wouldn’t have to feel them all over again when the time comes.
But maybe I was just subconsciously preparing myself for the inevitable. Human or not, this cat has been my pal and roommate for longer than anyone else, and I truly do not look forward to the day that she’s not around anymore. Until that day comes, I will try to squeeze in and appreciate as many moments with her as I can while we still have time. Also, I will attempt to not freak out unnecessarily about her death, but I can’t make any promises.