When our Other Gray Kitty began a perceptible decline in health, we didn’t take any expensive and stressful (for the cat) steps to explore the cause of his gradual weight loss.
We have had many cats move in with us over the years, some by invitation, others just appeared at the back door looking for a handout and some love. None has ever been turned away unless they failed to peacefully share our space with the existing tribe. In exchange for room and board, each has sacrificed his/her right to procreation (in this totalitarian dictatorship, social programs are not generational). Veterinary care is unfairly distributed, not by right but by value to the tribe. Naturally, injuries are treated, vaccines administered, and nutritious food provided to all, but beyond that, my finite resources are allocated judiciously to provide the best care for the greatest number (nine at one point). This is an explanation of what follows.
From previous mountain bike adventure stories Xangans may remember how Gray Kitty and Other Gray Kitty were found frolicking in the brush, just off Highway 38, by our cycling group on a sunset ride. They were not named because we hoped to find permanent homes for the little rascals. They weren’t particularly good-looking cats and they were just past the oh-my-dog! adorable stage, so they never left us and their no-names stuck.
About 15 years later, Gray Kitty was getting a bit deaf or dim-witted and walked under the wheel of my SUV as I was creeping into the garage. Who knows, maybe he simply wanted to avoid a natural death. (some might argue that death by car IS a natural death for cats) The loss was mourned as he had been my best gopher henchman.
Other Gray Kitty, wasn’t as prescient and continued his cat life, but as he grew more senile, he flaunted his remaining 8 lives. I say 8 because I ran over him once when he was young but, miraculously, he was uninjured. More recently he liked to sit at the end of the driveway and call the coyotes from the field across street. Coyotes in these parts are well-fed (lots of stray cats and cheeky, small dogs) so they turned their noses up at the smell of this stringy, bag of bones.
So, to make a long story short, and a natural death is nothing if not a long story, over a period of a couple of years, Other grew increasingly feeble. Until at last, he was too weak to navigate, eat, use the litter box, and finally, he gave up purring when groomed. Believing that a peaceful death at home would be his choice, we made him comfortable in the middle of the kitchen floor (his favorite place) and waited for the final breath. The first night of his expected demise, he woke me every hour or two, plaintively asking for water. I would hold his head over the dish for him to lap a few drops and then he would calmly go back to sleep. By the second day we were certain he wouldn’t last the day, but by evening he still lay sprawled, head resting on chin, breathing regularly. Today is day three and his breathing is still regular and not labored. The ants are circling and I’m keeping them at bay with soapy water. At least I have a clean floor.
I’ve never been overly fond of Other; he’s a narcissistic tabby with few, if any, lovable qualities. So, his arrival at the end of the road isn’t a sad thing for me but it does bring to my consciousness of what lies ahead.
My mom, dementia plagued, lies peacefully in her bed or her recliner. Her appetite is good, her bowel movements regular, her breathing is not labored, though she rarely purrs. Unlike Other, she had redeeming qualities too numerous to mention…and she could catch gophers.
3 thoughts on “A Natural Death”
Your dying cat leads you to a certain philosophy, Judy. But the senile dementia of your mother is a frightful thing that you do not even have the consciousness to prepare to leave for the other world.
You’re right, Michel. I’m terrified of what is to come with my mother. It was difficult to watch my cat struggle through the end but I am not prepared to see my beloved mother suffer one bit. It gets harder every day to get her to drink enough water. My consolation is that others have done this and come out the stronger for having done it. I will never regret that I took care of her.
You are led to do to your mother what she was doing for you when you were a baby. This gives very mixed feelings.
It also makes me think of those parents who are dedicating all their lives to their disabled children
Life is a journey punctuated by hardships. I wish you good luck and courage , Judy
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