Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A tale of two kitties

So I have two cats. Two crotchety old man cats, Tigger and Dodger. You know, the ones that travelled from Georgia to Michigan and back as part of a cat-custody agreement. The ones that trashed my first apartment when I was twenty. Their time in my care predates that of my husband or my children. They used to be great cats: affectionate, social, sometimes playful. Now, they are old, and in the way of elderly men cats everywhere, they are grumbley, opinionated, standoffish, and lazy. They don't contribute much to our family anymore, other than a layer of fur on my hardwood floors. But we tolerate them in honor of what they used to be, and what we have put them through subjecting them to half a dozen homes and 4 new children over the years. We figure they have earned the right to be crotchety in peace.

I noticed over the last year or two that they had been losing weight. However, since they have always been on the, well, morbidly obese, side of the cat weight spectrum I figured they had it to lose. I just attributed it to aging and the fact that I purchase the cheapest cat food on the planet. I don't take them to the vet regularly either. They are inside cats so unless something is ailing them, we have an agreement to generally ignore each other's weight problems.

But when I actually stopped to pet Dodger the other day, who ironically I used to refer to as Jabba the Hut, I realized he wasn't much more than skin and bones. After scrutinizing Tigger and discovering he was only marginally better, I started fearing they had some kind of parasite. Ewww.

So last week I shoved them into their crate and toted them off to the vet. $350 later we discovered that Dodger has intestinal cancer, and Tigger's kidneys are failing. My cats, my temperamental furry companions for the last 12 years are dying.

Bummer.

Now I am not going to pretend I was particularly attached to them. Over the years I have added a husband, four children and a dog to my inner circle and as far as my affections go, even the dog ranks higher. But what can I say? She's a great dog.

As for the cats, I am more inclined to grumble about them trying to get on the kitchen table or puking hairballs on my floor than I am to pet them. But still, the news made me sad. Time marching on. Mortality. Change. It's all somber stuff. And it's just weird to think of the cats walking around our home as ticking time bombs. That one day soon, I won't have them anymore. And I find myself snuggling them more, (which for the record, I don't think they actually like) and paying attention to them when I never did. I am glad they are just cats and they don't know that they are so sick. Oh for the peace that comes with a simple mind.

And I can't help but wonder if I will even miss them. Or if I will just miss the idea of them, their story. I love telling people about how they were mine before The Man, before the kids. How my college roommate and I got them when we moved in together when we were barely more than teenagers. The Man never has never really liked those cats and in a way that made them more special. They were a little piece of me from before. There are not many of those pieces left now. They have all been replaced by things we have built together. And that's good, it's as God intends it, I believe. But still there's a twinge sometimes at letting it go. At watching the stragglers of my brief independent youth become just one more story to share.

But, don't be sad for me, and for goodness sake, don't think I am looking for condolences on my old sick cats. I'm not too sad really, but maybe just flinching a bit at such an obvious reminder that nothing on earth is here to stay.

Castles or cats.

16 comments:

Don and Lynn said...

Oh, you'll miss those cats and you will be sad, probably more than you could ever realize now. Your post made me boo-hoo! I still miss Joey so very much! I'm trying so hard to get attached to Taylor's new kitty. He is cute and sweet. But, for instance, tonight when I was playing with him, I just started crying because I missed our Joey. I will never, ever, forget our first meeting. He was in a cage at Dr. Fish's office and reached his paws out of his cage, grabbed my cheeks, and meowed at me. It was, and still is, a surreal experience having to put him to sleep. I try to forget it, but the whole time while we were putting him down, I couldn't believe it was actually happening. I was hoping it was just some horrible dream. It's something I don't look forward to with our other pets. Especially Sassy. I've already warned Don I'll be a mess after she passes. They really do become a part of your family. How can you not become attached to something that lives with you day in and day out, even if they are annoying sometimes? I know y'all will see these old men out in a wonderful way! They were lucky to have a wonder"full" (full of play, getting dressed up in build-a-bear clothes, food-lol)life!

painted maypole said...

well, i was very sad when each of the 5 cats I MARRIED INTO and was highly allergic to, died. If you find any members of your family sad, may I recommend to you a fabulous book called Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

I dedicate this comment to the memories of Finnigan, Fred, Zachary, Penelope and Mickey. Fabulous cats, all.

AmandaD said...

I felt as if you were speaking my own thoughts in reference to the way a family grows and where it can lead the cats.

Sweet post. I missed you, sweet Joy.

Joy, of course said...

Oh Maypole. I was hope I didn't offend in anyway. I am sure I will be sad when they die. I'm sure I'll cry.

My daughter Allie is having a hard time with this. She's the animal lover here. She started crying when I told her. Thank you for your book recommendation.

JustMe said...

I, too, got cats when I was in college (two of them). They were sweet for a while, but had to be passed along to a younger sibling when my family began to grow. (My hubby: NOT a pet lover). Plus, it didn't help that I had a nightmare from Stephen King's Cats Eyes (involving my own cats) that I couldn't quite shake from the back of my mind. There are days that I miss the "idea" of a cat -- but I don't so much miss the cats themselves. The kids keep me busy enough. Can't imagine cleaning up after cats, too. Glad you're back!!

Beck said...

It's still so poignant, this time thing passing. My cats are big annoying hairy old crabby creeps, and I still hate the idea of them aging so quickly, poor little things.

Kyla said...

The connection, the piece of you, that is what makes it so poignant. Poor sick kitties.

erin k said...

Cats are funny like that. They worm (cat?) their way into your heart even when you are trying not to let them...

thirtysomething said...

Oh, sad and sweet. I am sure you will miss them more than you know. At least the hairball issue will come to an end...

slouching mom said...

And I find myself snuggling them more, (which for the record, I don't think they actually like).

I loved this sentence. I'd do the exact same thing and feel a bit silly about it.

Lori said...

Not being anything even close to a cat lover, I'm not going to go there. But, I do completely understand how the loss of a pet can stir thoughts of mortality, and impermanence. We are all merely living things, with a finite timeline on this earth. It's hard to think about, isn't it?

I am sorry about your cats declining health though. And poor Allie... that's a hard age to lose something you love.

Christy said...

This past weekend our family dog of 16 years had to be put down. He was my 10th birthday present. Is it sad, of course. But I have yet to shed a tear, and I don't think I will. He lived a long full life and is no longer suffering

Scott Gibson said...

Just a suggestion, have them put down at the first sign of perpetual pain. I can't imagine how horrible it will be on Allie to come home from school every day wondering if today is the day her beloved cats died. Then there is also the possibility of them having a long and painful death. I know it's easier to put off the inevitable but it will be easier in the end to let them die with dignity (If there is such a thing for a cat).
I know the meaning of the story went right over my head but I'm a guy, what do you expect!

Joy, of course said...

You're so funny Scott. I have been accused of trying to find meaning in a pile of dirt. :)

I had a lengthy discussion with the vet on how to know it was time to make that decision. Dodger is on medicine that should temporarily put his cancer into remission but the vet suspects it should be a matter of months before he starts deteriorating again. And Tigger might troop along in his same condition for another year.

I made sure I had the vet explain to me how I would know if they were suffering though, because I certainly didn't want that.

Her Grace said...

I think I could have nearly written this post! I have three cats, two which predate my marriage and family days. Separately, they aren't horrible, but together they have some pretty bad habits. The oldest was mine when I was 20 and she's moved from the top rung of the later to nearly the bottom, poor thing. I don't think we'll be replacing them when they go :).

TINA said...

OH JOY, ITS SO SAD. I AM ONE OF THOSE ABSOLUTE ANIMAL LOVERS AND ITS HARD TO DEAL WITH THE LOSS OF AN ANIMAL. BANDITT WAS MINE AND RAYS 1ST PET TOGETHER. HE LASTED THRU SEVERAL NIEGHBORHOODS, A BREAK UP WITH ME AND RAY WHERE WE GAVE HIM AWAY AND THEN AFTER MARRIAGE FOUND HIM AGAIN AND GOT HIM BACK. I JUST ALWAYS FIGURED THAT CAT WOULD BE AROUND FOR A LONG TIME WHICH HE WAS AROUND FOR 14 YRS. NEVER DID I THINK HE WOULD BE KILLED BY A PIT BULL. IT BROKE MY HEART. MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH U AND WHEN THE TIME COMES FOR THEM TO GO I BET U WILL BE MORE SAD THAN U THOUGHT U WOULD BE. LOVE YA