Posted by Rebecca, June 20th, 2011
Lately, we’ve been having a bit of a issue with Darwin and the litter box. I mentioned when we tore up our carpet upstairs that he has a neurological disorder and sometimes has accidents, but lately we haven’t been able to re-train him. After trying everything under the sun for over a month, we thought that maybe he had a urinary tract infection and made an appointment to see the vet on Saturday. The vet informed us that our youngest baby has kidney disease at just 3 years old.
To describe my feelings as anything less than heartbroken would be a lie. Anyone who has been reading for a while knows that we’ve been to hell and back with our cats, Mac and Sunny, but I never expected something like this to happen again. It is likely a genetic disease he has had his entire life.
I can say, without a doubt, that this is the first weekend I did not think about the house one single bit. Not knowing how long my little guy has left in this world consumed my thoughts all weekend.
We received a little relief tonight when we learned that Darwin’s blood results were not as bad as the vet expected. I had prepared myself to hear the words “kidney failure”, but hopefully some special food, vitamins and possibly subcutaneous fluids will help him stay with us longer.
There is a lot that I could say, and a lot that I want to say, but I’m not sure I have the energy or the right words. A few months ago, I read this piece in the NY Times written by Anna Holmes that really hit home with me. She put into words what I have a hard time saying. It’s a must read for anyone with cats.
One of my favorite parts:
Unlike dogs, whose wagging tails, endearing clumsiness and panting smiles are evolutionarily manipulative and endlessly entertaining, interpreting the narratives of a cat’s inner life takes extraordinary concentration, which makes the relationship all the more poignant. Mindfulness, I like to say, is what separates true cat lovers from the unenlightened. Without it, a cat is just a sleeping, eating, potential killing machine. With it, a cat is the most amazing of mammalian creations: A balletic, apex predator; a perfect package of physical economy and exquisite Darwinian design. (When someone tells me she doesn’t like cats, I assume she isn’t trying hard enough.)
But the focus they require and their intrinsic self-sufficiency is also what makes watching them die especially devastating: there is a heightened awareness not unlike the way the children of alcoholics or depressed people are said to monitor every move of a sick parent; every cough, every patch of dirty, matted fur and loss of balance is a shared indignity; to have to carry your friend to his food bowl or watch him pause to catch a breath before settling down into the soft nest of blankets you’ve lovingly constructed feels like a heartbreak like no other.
Any maybe my favorite part:
It frightens me too — not just the fantasy but the present-day reality, a heaving that begins low in my abdomen and thunders slowly upward every time I catch a glimpse of a well-worn paw or brush the back of my hand over a soft underbelly. I feel it when I see them sleeping, their beautifully composed tight, little spirals of fur and ears and legs and tails; I feel it when I hear them moving, softly clacking up and down the apartment hallway or ker-thumping from the bed to the floor and back up again.
It feels crazy.
They’re just cats, after all.
That pit of your stomach, nauseating feel? It doesn’t go away.
Maybe I am crazy, but I am proud to call my cats members of my family. And this family is full of fighters.