Catless

This morning, as every morning, I roll out of bed, slap on my slippers, hit the bathroom, start the coffee, wake up the computer. But this isn’t every morning.

This morning, for the first morning since 1976, I am catless.

This morning, I do not check, before rolling out of bed, for a cat between me and the edge of said bed. No: in all honesty, I do. I suspect I will continue to check for many mornings to come. Perhaps I should say, there is no longer any need to check, as there is no cat not to crush.

This morning, as I shuffle down the hall towards the bathroom, I do not check for black cat on dark wood floor in my path. And yes, again, I do. The next few weeks are going to be full of learning new behaviors and habits.

This morning, I do not (and this time, I truly do not) check the bathroom floor for tracked bits of cat litter as I sat on the toilet. I do not check the litter box for nocturnal deposits. Instead, I stare at the empty space where the litter box used to be.

This morning, I do not clean the food and water bowls on the kitchen floor while the coffee pot runs. Those bowls, I cleaned up for the final time yesterday. I did not discard them, however; they are lovely Mary Alice Hadley earthenware bowls from a complete dinnerware set my then-in-laws gave my then-husband and me when we married. I kept the cat-related parts (different cat, at the time) when we divorced. I let my ex keep the rest, out of some sense of fairness (his parents, his stuff). He is dead now, too, as are his parents. The bowls live in my china cabinet.

This morning, I do not split tiny thyroid pills into halves and then one half into quarters, nor crush one-half plus one-quarter pills into a tiny amount of Friskies Liver & Chicken Dinner Classic Paté (the Friskies label includes the accent aigu but not the circumflex, for some reason) and wait to be sure every fraction of a milligram was ingested; nor do I rinse and refill the bowl with Purina Fancy Feast with ocean fish & salmon and accents of garden greens. All feline medications, as well as Friskies and Purina products, were removed from my kitchen yesterday, for disposal or donation.

This morning – and this afternoon, and this evening – I will no doubt still listen for any rhythmic hacking sounds that might indicate reverse peristalsis occurring down the hall. I still marvel that, despite the legendary untrainability of cats, there exists a cat who learned to head for such easy-to-clean hard surfaces at such times. No: there existed.

This morning, afternoon, and evening, I will no doubt look around periodically to make sure everything is ok with the feline member of this household, only to remember there is no longer a feline member of this household. I will not need to push the laptop back or close it when I leave it unattended to forestall unpredictable cat-on-keyboard effects. I will not need to sweep up, pick off, or wipe down cat hair from any surface or fabric. I may even retire the giant green blanket that has covered the sofa that was so new six years ago I did not want it shed upon, the sofa whose beautiful warm grey-blue is only seen on special occasions. The sofa that, remarkably, bears not a single scratch mark. Because there exists – existed – a cat who was willing to live with that restriction, as long as other options were available.

This morning, afternoon, and evening, when I stretch out on that sofa to read, watch TV, do a crossword puzzle, or listen to a course lecture, I will no doubt anticipate a cat jumping up to lie on my hip/stomach/ribs, to purr in my ear. No such jump will occur. My coffee table no longer bears a slicker brush for such moments. I will not need to find a way to slither out from underneath to get coffee or tea or answer the phone, then attempt to recreate the cooperative positioning when I return.

This evening when I get into bed, I will not need to slip under the covers around a cat sleeping squarely in the middle of the bed, only to have said cat move to the space immediately to the left of my pillow as soon as I’ve negotiated that task. I will not have a warm purr machine at the ready, waiting only for a few strokes of the fur to engage. I will not scratch the underside of a chin, nor will I tangle my forearm amongst feline legs and tail. I may whisper, “Good girl,” but no one will hear me.

Or maybe someone will.

Purrrrr-fect

Lucy is Perfect! So says the vet.

9.8 pounds! That’s 2 pounds gained in the past year, and the vet says this weight is “perfect” for her. So almost 5 years of illness, and now she’s turned back the clock.

I’ve noticed she’s seemed much better this year. She frisks again – runs through the hallway and jumps on the couch and over the desk to the window, plays with me, snuggles up at night. She’s a different kitty from the one who curled up and barely moved. And that awful summer of 2009, when I was in such pain and so sick, and she was throwing up a couple of times a day. I really had thoughts of just letting her out, maybe someone would take her in, maybe she’d end up back at the shelter where I got her from fourteen years ago, maybe she’d get hit by a car but at least it’d be over quickly for her, because I couldn’t handle it, I could hardly bend over and here I had to clean up the floor twice a day, and changing the litter took me half an hour, it was awful. Then I was in the hospital for a week, and Lucy was abandoned until blessed Sally came by and rescued her – and that’s been a turning point for both of us. We both got better, though last year she was still at 7.9 pounds.

Now she’s the healthiest and happiest she’s been in 5 years, and they’re amazed she’s 16 – “I can’t believe she’s a 16 year old hyperthyroid” said the vet. Wow. My Lucy is back. I may not have her for much longer – most of my cats left me when they were 16, Gilda made it to 18 – but I’m glad she’s so much better.

Introducing Lucy

I haven’t said anything about Lucy yet. Which is a Good Thing. She’s doing great. She’s the best she’s been since 5 years ago.

Back then, she suddenly stopped eating and laid on the floor all day looking sad and sick. My vet had sold her practice and the new kid on the block was not, to me, a cat person, he was a test person. Maybe he couldn’t get into medical school and he loved science so vet school was almost as good. Whereas Megan would know, almost intuitively, what was wrong, and ran a test or two to confirm it, he had no idea. Pancreatitis. Bowel obstruction. Thyroid tumor. In fact, she did have a thyroid tumor, but it was tiny and her thyroid levels were still in the normal range. After a couple hundred dollars in tests, he still didn’t know, and wanted to spend another couple hundred dollars on more tests. I couldn’t do it. It broke my heart, but I couldn’t go into debt on tests when I’d have to go into more debt for treatment and I’d still end up, most likely, with a dead cat. So after a couple of weeks, I made the appointment to have her put down right after Memorial Day. And that weekend, she started eating.

She didn’t get back to her normal self, really, but she wasn’t so sickly for about a year. Then she started vomitting meals. The vet(another one) found her thyroid was now hyperactive so we had to fool around with that for a while, and then there was bad tooth decay and calcification which required surgery that she couldn’t have because she weighed 6 pounds… it was very difficult there for a couple of years, but she came out of it, and last year at the time I got sick, she was still throwing up every day, but only in the morning and she was eating enough to keep her weight in the 7 pound range. They told me 8 pounds would be ideal, but for her age (now 14) she was doing ok.

Now she’s doing great. As long as I don’t put down large amounts of food in the morning, she keeps it down, bringing up a hairball once a week or so but that’s pretty much like a lot of cats. She feels chubby. I think she’s well over 8 pounds, but that’s probably delusion on my part. They told me a year ago she’d need her teeth cleaned again, but hopefully it won’t be the major thing like last time when she had to have 5 teeth removed.

Sally and I were talking about cats. She’s been catless for a year now, since Cleo died and the two guest cats went back to their mama. I told her she can borrow Lucy for a weekend any time she feels the need, and she laughed. She gets why I’m not getting another cat. Now would be the time, but I’m not up to it. I don’t feel like I can actually take proper care of Lucy if she gets sick again. With Callisto, Cassandra Bazoo, and Gilda, I did everything to keep them alive and happy as long as possible, but if Lucy gets sick again, it’s likely to be the last time since I can’t afford not only vet bills but trips to the vet (I’m unable to carry the carrier very far with my neck and arm problems) and the physical requirements of medications and cleaning up after her. I will do the teeth cleaning next month, assuming they recommend it. I will do my best to keep her on her thyroid meds. But if anything else goes wrong, I’m afraid that will be the end of my beautiful little baby Lucy. So I’m not going to take on another responsibility. It’s all I can do to take care of myself.

For now, she’s healthy (as healthy as a 15-year-old hyperthyroid can be) and happy, and I love her and enjoy her while she’s here with me.