Coping

Dame Jackie

I should be posting about how I’m excited about a short Jezebel story that will be in the CARNIEPUNK anthology in August 2013. I should be posting about how page proof review went for BREATH and how the book will be coming out in April 2013. I should be posting about a whole bunch of things, like how my current project of rewriting a middle-grade story into a YA tale is going. But I’m not doing that. Instead, I’m going to post about coping.

My cat is 19 years old. She’s a beautiful shorthaired tortoiseshell, with what one co-worker once described as “moneycat” coloring along her front — all browns and blacks and whites. She’s been my constant companion for nearly 20 years. I’ve been living with her longer than I’ve been living with my loving husband. It actually took her about seven years to finally accept that she had to share the bed not only with me but with Loving Husband, and then another three before she allowed him to actually pet her. She’s been my lap cat for most of her 19 years. She fought her sister for the title of “alphakitty.” She’s been a scaredycat for most of her life, so she has perfected her hiss to prove that she really wasn’t scared at all. She was declawed at 2 years, the same time she was fixed, because at the time it was a choice of either her claws going or the cat going. She forgave me quickly (unlike her sister, who was rightfully pissed off for a long time). She spent her first night in our new house in the garage, when she followed me into it and I didn’t realize, so I shut the door behind me. She’s smashed crickets and chased bees. She’s the best damn lap cat ever. She used to “knock” on the covers to let me know that I should raise them up to let her get comfortable under the blankets in the winter. She used to snooze on my belly when I was younger, and she got annoyed with me when I was pregnant and no longer had a belly suitable for her to snooze upon. Her purr is a thing of magic.

My cat is dying.

She’s got a host of things that are whittling away at her — her hyperthyroidism is so high that it’s pegged off the charts, and her feline Alzheimer’s has gotten to the point where I can’t keep a door open without her wandering out. But the worst is her arthritis. She’s been walking stiff-legged for a long time now, but in the past few months, it’s gotten worse. She’s been on a pain reliever for a while, but just yesterday she was prescribed an opiate to help her cope.

Because the thing is, up until now, she’s been able to cope. The amazing thing about cats (and I guess dogs, but I’m a cat person) is they can roll with almost anything. If they’re upset (say, their primary food source gets married and now they have to share the house with another human), they let you know they’re upset (watch out where you step), but then they deal with it. If they’re in pain, they handle it.

But sometimes, they hide it. My cat has been hiding her pain. It was Loving Husband who saw how the cat was acting differently when she noticed I was there — actually bounding down the stairs, jumping up onto the table (and getting yelled at for it), being insistent when she was hungry. But without me there, she’s been dragging her back legs. She’s been dazed. And now, even I can see how uncomfortable she is.

I love my cat. I love her more than I can say. And I hate like hell that I’m preparing myself to say goodbye.

I don’t know how long the opiate will help her with her pain. I do know that the vet has promised to be loving and gentle when the time comes, and will give my cat the dignity she deserves. I do know that my Loving Husband will be right there with me when it’s time. I know that my sons will get a chance to say goodbye.

I don’t know if she knows how much I love her, and how I wish to God that I could take her pain away.

She’s coping. And for the moment, so am I.

So I’m not posting about writing today.

If you have an animal companion, please give him or her an extra hug for me.

About Jackie

Jackie Kessler used to run around in Wonder Woman Underoos and watch Challenge of the Super Friends. Now she watches superhero cartoons with her kids. Jackie’s superpower is stamina: she survived pitching 1,000 beloved comic books after a battle with a flooded basement. (Comic books, contrary to popular belief, are not waterproof.) When not writing about superheroes and the villains who beat the heroes into a bloody mess, she likes to write about demons.

For more about Jackie, visit her website: www.jackiekessler.com.

Comments

  1. *HUGS*
    I am so sorry to hear about your cat, and it is very surprising how much pain a cat can hide. I had to say goodbye to my old man of a cat last month, we was 13 but had cancer in his mouth. Two weeks after test results came back and a quick check up we found it had already started to spread to his glands, we got told we had two months at most with him.
    The next few weeks he ate like no tomorrow, he ran up and down the fences, stayed out for all hours day and night and got spoilt with treats, and it was only me going home early to see him that I noticed his mouth was bleeding and how bad he really was. He hid it from me and my parents and we had to make the decision to put him out of his pain. It was a very tough and emotional decision to make and even now I still cry when I remember things about him or talk about him.
    One thing that has helped me cope has been the thoughts and hugs from online friends, and also knowing he is in a better place. I was in your exact place and I know how it feels and how hard it will get, just know that my thoughts are with you, and my hugs come all the way from the UK.

  2. Thanks, Michelle — I truly, truly appreciate your words.

  3. Jackie it’s tough to lose your little companion. I always think they are more intuitive then we give them credit for and your cat wouldn’t want you to feel her pain. Last year my husband was in hospice and my cat was sick. Actually I always called her “his” cat. She hung on until he was at the end and then passed away. I think she knew. I am sending you my best wishes that this time passes easily for you and your buddy.

  4. Awwww, poor office kitty. I shall think with of affection of the times she has hissed at me, occasionally followed by allowing me to pet her for a (very) brief moment., then hissing at me AGAIN to ensure that I understood that it was a privilege and that I shouln’t get used to it.

    Remember, you have given her a wonderful life.

  5. I am so incredibly sorry. I have a 14 y/o kitty that I consider my first child and I worry all the time about when the “time” comes. They are a friend like no other. I work in a vet’s office so sometimes im hard to these times but your post is the second impact today on my sensitivity to this subject. Thank you for reminding me to not harden my heart but rather to be open to this constant of life which is death.

  6. ::hugs:: Right there with you. My kitty of 15 years is in his last days too. It’s like watching my oldest child die — he’s been in my life longer than my children have been. When our other kitty died, it was sudden and unexpected. This is a slow inexorable march toward the inevitable. Every day with him is a blessing. So yeah, I get it. ::hugs::

  7. My 20 yr old son suffers from depression, and in the moments he’s at his lowest, our 14 year old cat goes to him and curls up beside him. My son has told me that the cat’s presence has pulled him back from the abyss. Our furry family members are more intuitive and attentive to our needs than we give them credit for. My heartfelt prayers go out to you and your family.

  8. Barbara Elness says:

    I’m so sorry about your kitty. I’ve gone through that three times in recent years, the last one a year and a half ago. I haven’t had the heart to bring home a new kitty, but I will at some point. It’s just not the same without them and I miss having my furry friends.

  9. (((Hugs)))

    I had a cat that lived to the ripe old age of 21. We got her when she was 2 weeks old because her mother cat abandoned her. My mom carried her around in her bra to keep her warm and fed her every two hours from an eyedropper. She let us dress her in doll clothes and push her around in a carriage when we were little. She was an integral part of our family.

    By the end she was arthritic, senile and incontinent. I was away at college when my parents had to make the decision to release her from her suffering. Its a devastating decision to have to make (I know. I’ve had to make that decision with another pet.) and it weighs on you. But when the time comes, theres a certain peace in knowing it is the only choice you can make because anything other choice is selfish on your part. That doesnt mean it doesnt still hurt.

    I’m so very sorry about your kitty. Hope the meds keep her comfortable and happy for a very long time.

  10. Thank you all so much for your comments, and for sharing your stories. I truly appreciate it.

  11. I’m so sorry. My cat, Sasha, was my and my sister’s baby. She died six years ago this month and when I think about her for more than five seconds I could still easily burst into tears. I think it’s great what your doing for your cat. I used to roll my eyes at people getting it done, but my vet happened to have another vet working for her who did holistic medicine for animals in addition to traditional medicine and she gave her vitamin shots and performed accupuncture on Sasha, especially if she was having a bad day (she was in renal failure). Sasha hated it, but it really would work wonders.

    We knew, because of her condition and the fact that she was 16, that we wouldn’t have her for much longer, so we really tried to not dwell on what was going to happen and be happy with every second we had left with her, even though it definitely wasn’t easy at times. Good luck with everything and I’m absolutely sure your cat knows how much you love her.

  12. My heart goes out to you totally.
    My cat recently dissapeared, went out on day and never came back. We still have her sister, who has stepped into the role of “alphakitty” (thank you for the perfect word) and doesn’t seem to miss her. We also have my older cat, somewhere between 12 and 14 years, I’ve had her since I was 4 and although she is still hanging on, her teeth are falling out and she has trouble eating. I’m starting to think about saying goodbye and it makes me cry.
    I was wonderful and sad reading your post, it really got me thinking and apprecating my amazing cats. You can get through this and I hope you totally pamper your cat in her last days.

  13. We have three cats– the oldest, Daisy is about 9 years old:) They are part of our family too, so I can imagine how you feel since your kitty is 19. She must love you very much to hide her pain like that, and I’m sorry you have to say goodbye. {{{HUGS}}}

  14. Juliana Thomas says:

    Oh Beloved Dame Jackie, this is something else we have in common (besides the Wonder Woman Underoos, that is). I could have written your post a few months ago. My beloved cat of 19 years had to be eased off to the Happy Hunting Grounds in July – she was a little over 19 and had been with me since she was 6 weeks old – before husband or either baby – she was my FIRST baby. She, too, developed arthritis (and terrible eyesight), and “hid it” from me a lot. Then suddenly, within a week, she became skin and bones. Her vet is one of my best friends, who took one test and said “stomach cancer.” And I stayed and petted her until she fell asleep. I knew it was the right thing for her (it was), and I knew it would be hard (it was). Just wanted you to know you are not alone and that I will say a prayer for you.

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