About 12 years ago this summer, I was working in my shop and heard funny noises. A persistent investigation revealed two tiny kittens in the weeds outside my shop. They eyes were not open yet, and they were about the size of a large cigar butt. After checking to see if they were abandoned I brought them in. I did not want them, and tried to get rid of them, but nobody wanted them so I bought a baby bottle and some kitten formula and fed them.
The Black one died, the calico lived. I named her Buffy, after Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because of her martial and acrobatic prancings as a young kitten. I did not even like calicoes, but I had one now.
One day, when she was about a year old, I found her frozen in a camel-back pose in the middle of the floor, in obvious pain. I called the after-hours doc and eventually got a diagnosis of Idiopathic Feline Megacolon. What that means is the colon expands for reasons nobody understands, normal peristalsis is compromised, and the cat can’t shit normally. Without meds and a special diet it usually dies. Meds and a special diet are expensive and most regular cat owners just have megacolon cats put down.
I did not, and there followed a strange and often exasperating friendship. Since Buffy could not eliminate normally, she developed a habit of leaving butt streaks on the carpet which had to be cleaned up. Her food and medication ran close to $100 a month, and if I missed a couple doses she would develop an impaction which could be life-threatening.
Finally, I realized I could cut my cat-shit cleanup by 80% if I just made a partition to keep her off the carpeted areas of the house, which I did. She eventually adjusted to her night-time sequestering and would remind me about 10 pm if I hadn’t closed her in the kitchen.
So there was almost 10 years of our routine: Wet cat food with Miralax twice a day, Latrine duty on the kitchen tile floors several times a week, shampooing carpet butt strips as necessary, and constant observation so the bad symptoms didn’t sneak up on her and require an emergency trip to the vet.
That’s all the bad news, of course. Buffy was a smart cat. She would come from the other room when I called her, and leave my lap when I asked her to get down. Eventually, I got to favoring calicoes.
Seven months ago she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I accepted this until my guilt got hold of me, and I took her to a fancy-assed specialty vet service in St Louis. They charged me $1200 to tell me she had inoperable cancer, but graciously offered to treat her for another $3000 or so. I am still angry at this clinic, and think they represent the worst, as well as the best of the Vet medicine profession. Their walls were covered with pictures of happy dogs and cats, no doubt their success stories, assembled for the comfort and reassurance of new clients. They did not post photos of the dead dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, and boa constrictors that they could not save and I suspect they did not have enough wall space. I give them an “A” only for brass, in offering to take another $3000 of my money to treat Buffy’s inoperable tumor
For most of the time Buffy was alive she was not in great discomfort. Her appetite was good, she was active, she was alert. A casual observer would not have noticed she was sick. I knew she was sick because I watched her lose perhaps 1/2 of 1 % of her vitality every day; much more the last few weeks of her life. Her last few weeks were bad, sad, days of exhaustion and loss of vitality. Today, she tried to walk from the computer room from the living room, got half way, and laid down in the middle of the floor and took a nap.
A few hours later, she was dead–a humane killing by the vet, the subject of euthanasia, or–if you need a really syrupy and disrespectful euphemism-she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
I buried her in the cat cemetery in my back yard, wrapped in a magnificent and expensive tunic made for me by Mary, my deceased wife who died in 1996. Now I am sad, and lonely, but the stress of watching for months and months as Buffy lost her vitality is gone.
I spent my whole life living with cats, I will have another one. It will probably outlive me. But somewhere, in a pet store or no-kill shelter, there is a cat that will look up when I walk past, and say, “It’s me. I’m the one you were looking for.” And we will go home.