Our cat Elaine is 16 (and a half) years old. She’s on thyroid medication which prevents the starvation that follows hyperthyroidism. She’s got severe arthritis, and she’s in the beginning stages of kidney failure. There’s the lethargy, the bits of feline senility (although, let’s face it, the line between senility and sanity in a cat is a dotted one), the occasional pasley in her head. There’s the unattractive butt scrunching along the floor.
I’ve had a lot of angst over Elaine because there’s also been the limping onto my lap in the evenings, the occasional pat at my ankle as I pass by her special spot in the hall. She’s not in pain, even with the the hobbling up the stairs or occasional buckling of her leg when she leans on it. There’s been angst and, yes, a few tabs of klonipin and ambien. Finally, though, I took a breath, called the vet. The receptionist was well trained, or, you know, truly kind and compassionate when she made the appointment for last Monday.
My husband, who has a big, soft, squishy heart, and to whom, I might add, this cat has never shown one ounce of affection, insisted on coming with me. He really thought she was only a little dead (remember the Princess Bride?), wanted to make sure I didn’t do anything precipitous but was too nice to come right out and tell me I was murdering my cat I pointed out that we were going to be gone for 12 days, 12 days when she would have no company (she likes to lie near us in the evenings or steal Steve’s chair on the porch when he’s about to sit down). Once a day, the neighbor kids will over to slop food in her bowl, and she’ll probably hide from them. I pointed out that kidney failure does not get better.
A major symptom of feline kidney failure is urinating outside the litter box. Now, to be fair to Elaine, she has so far been fastidious in her non-compliant litter behavior. Poop is always buried in the litter, and pee is, well peed just outside the box. I put an aluminum cookie tin half under the box with folded newspaper on it (no, not puppy pads, thanks for the suggestion, folks: she needs to be able to scratch). She goes on the paper, and I replace it every morning. I know, I know, too much information. The litter box issue greatly contributed to Elaine’s appointment.
Three thirty, Monday afternoon was the vet’s last appointment of the day. I didn’t have time for emotional upheaval on Tuesday, and Steve was right, that we shouldn’t do this on the fly Wednesday before we took off on vacation. Monday it was. Besides, I harbored this tiny spark of hope that Dr. Voell (pronounced Vole. Heck of a name for a vet, right? But he’s REALLY caring, and, this not being a J.K. Rowling novel, not at all vole-like). I harbored a hope that he would have some magic medicine (not a pill, though, because Elaine WILL NOT take them, and don’t get me started on that – it’s not a pretty picture.) that would, duh, what? Heal kidneys? Well, something.
I was edgy all day, and Elaine picked up on my anxiety and paced through the house and on and off the porch. Neither of us could settle down. The veterinary office is only 10 minutes away from our house, but a 3:30 appointment means I have to being stuffing Elaine into her carrier at 3:00 which can take more or less time depending on the accuracy of my first attempt at loading. If I miss with the first aim of struggling, spitting cat, we’re doomed.
At 2:45 Monday, Steve called his sister. At 2:50, while I was listening to the arrangements for our up-coming visit. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as Elaine strolled out of the house onto the screened-in porch toward the pet door. A thought flashed through my mind that a smart person would have closed the pet door, and apparently I was not a smart person. I wasn’t overly concerned, though, because she only stretches out on the deck or, at most, on the moss at the bottom of the steps. At 3:00, Steve hung up, and I went to collect the cat.
She was nowhere. Not on the porch, not on the deck, not UNDER the deck. Not in the yard. Not in the strip of woods behind the house. Not on the driveway. I looked on the pink chair in the living room. I looked in her special hidey-hole behind the suitcases in the storage room. Nope. Not under the beds. Not under the dining room table.
I walked through the house, calling, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” I walked around the house, calling, “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” It’s 3:45 and the cat has vanished.
I call and cancel the appointment.
Fifteen minutes later, 3:30 on the dot, Elaine strolls into the house, giving me the sassiest look a furry face can manage. She turns back to the porch, climbs up the arced footstool and curls up in Steve’s Adirondack chair.
I call the office again (we’re practically on a first name basis by now), explain what happened. The receptionist checks with the doctor who hasn’t left yet. He agrees to wait, and we pack Elaine up and take off. We’re shown right into an exam room and are asked if we want to pay for the euthanasia up front (nicely – this wasn’t as crass as it sounds – more along the lines of, you may be really upset afterwards.) But I say, no, let’s let the doctor look at her first.
In walks Dr. Voell, so sweetly concerned. He examines her. Now, I mean this in the nicest possible way, but this was just like my mother. I mean, except for this one, okay, two horrible things wrong with her, Elaine was in great shape. Her knees are wobbly, but she gets around. Her eyes are bright. The thyroid meds have allowed her to gain weight. Let’s just say an extraordinary amount of weight. She’s curious and alert. The doctor is just as ambivalent as we are. His conclusion is, hey, let’s see how she does with 12 days of the kids next door feeding her. If she’s at death’s door when you get back, well, we’ll know what to do. Meanwhile, here’s some really strong pain medicine for her, we’ll do some blood tests. She goes peacefully into the carrier for him.
We bring Elaine back home. In the past two days, she’s been walking better, sleeping better and been much calmer. She hasn’t peed outside the box once. Maybe she’s just more comfortable because the weather’s cooled down, that and the kitty narcotics. All I know for sure is that damned cat is laughing at me.
(There may be a picture of Elaine here at some point. Right now, blogger won't let me import one. Why? Why, I ask you? What have I ever done to it?)