On Priorities


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.

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14 Responses to “On Priorities”

  1. Catherine says:

    My heart breaks for you and your kitty. I hope his young age will allow him to have a long life with you. My cat had kidney disease and she lived until she was 17, we had to give her special food and subq fluids. We were lucky. I hope Darwin is as lucky as her.

  2. Elisa says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this! I can never imagine *not* having a cat! But it is amazing how some of the kidney-formulated foods can help keep it under control.

    Lily the cat sends her love. She also says he is exceptionally handsome.
    Elisa recently posted..Fahzers

  3. Tabatha says:

    I understand. I have five cats, and two months before my son was born my very first cat passed away from cancer at 15 years old. They are magnificent creatures, and dealing with their failing health comes only second to dealing with you actual child’s failing health — and I know because I’ve done both.

    I hope your kitty starts to feel better with help from the vet, but please know that as long as you love him as ferociously as you always have, everything will be okay.
    Tabatha recently posted..Fourteen Weeks Of Summer- Week Four

  4. Jen says:

    Not crazy. I just adopted two cats a little over a week ago, and already feel like they are my family. They bring joy and happiness into my life, which is much needed for me right now.

    I hope that in the next coming weeks Darwin’s health improves. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way.
    Jen recently posted..Dreams

  5. ALittleBite says:

    I’m so sorry! I hope your kitty gets better soon. Thinking of you!
    ALittleBite recently posted..Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

  6. My cat Oz is my baby. I can’t imagine life without him and it makes me so sad to see you have to go through kidney disease with yours. I’m sorry you had to hear that news.

    Someone else mentioned it already, but hopefully a special diet and care will keep him around a long, long time.
    Ashley @ Pretty Clever recently posted..Summer Mixtape

  7. I’m so sorry! Here’s hoping you caught it early enough that he has a long, happy and healthy life!
    Cait @ Hernando House recently posted..Quiet Confidence

  8. I’ve always been a cat person and I loved the article you posted. This post just breaks my heart. I’m so sorry! Hopefully, since he’s still young and you guys caught this early on, you’ll be able to have him around for a long time.
    Kristen @ Popcorn on the Stove recently posted..Are the Kids Alright

  9. Eileen says:

    My heart goes out to you with what you and your family is dealing with. My first cat family was actually inherited with my husband. He brought his boyhood cat who was then 15 at the time. It was about a year later that we found out our cat also developed kidney disease. It was rarley a week that went by that I didn’t think about how long we would still have him around. With low protein wet food, it was still another 4 years. Although we have since added more cat family, I still miss him to this day. There’s just something about our furry little friends that is so special. I really love the way the article put it. I hope that your fighter is still young enough to keep it under control for a long time. All the best.

  10. Darling i’m always here if you want to talk! I’ve been through hell and back as well with roxys neverending battle with cancer, intestinal issues, and random surgeries for who knows what anymore! maddie has been getting so sick (she doesnt really eat those WIAW foods. just sniffs them) and threw up three times today. I dont even “do” cats but she has made me fall head over feet with her little whiskered self. bah. ok this isnt about my pets failure at an immune system — i’m sorry about darwin! He strikes me as a fighter though =) so I think he’s going to hold on and stay with his mommy <3
    jenn @ peas and crayons recently posted..Hard at Work

  11. Poor thing!! Glad to hear he is feeling a little better now!!

    Believe it or not, I used to be a cat person. I had a cat that lived to be 17….he had so much personality!! Hope there is a magic “answer” and you can hang out to him for many more years!!

    Can you imagine what it’s like to have human children?? I keep telling everyone that I don’t know if I can love a human child as much as I love my dog…people thing I’m nuts..but it might just be true. 😛

  12. Katharine says:

    I jumped over here from Young House Love and was met with a great photo of your cat. I read through this post and felt my heart breaking for you, as we just went through the same thing last year with our cat Skunk. He was much older and much farther along in his kidney disease, but I can tell you that subcu fluids and a prescription diet helped him hang on a lot longer than our vets expected.

    A great resource I found was http://www.felinecrf.org. It’s very detailed and covers everything you could ever want to know about CRF, including experiences of other cat owners and what did and didn’t work for them.

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this, but it looks like Darwin is well-loved and that’s the best medicine. 🙂

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