I love cats, always have. When I was about Sam’s age, my parents got us a cat that we called Chim-Chim because he looked like he’d come down the Chim-Chimney (a la Mary Poppins), all dark and sooty. He didn’t last terribly long, after breaking a window in our basement and escaping before we could get him neutered. Our next cat, Flower, gave me cat scratch fever, which sounds like a big band number (a la Zoot Suit Riot), but was really a serious medical condition. She was far too violent to have in a house with small children (I was about five and my brother was an infant), so we had to rehome her. Two years later, we adopted sisters, Tigger and Silky, from some friends of ours in New York state whose barn cat had just given birth to a litter. They stuck with us until I was probably nine or ten, and then we had to rehome them because my sister had developed severe allergies.
After Tigger and Silky were rehomed (which thoroughly broke my heart), I decided that I’d adopt a cat of my own the second I moved out of my parents’ house. Thankfully, though, I didn’t have to wait that long. On my seventeenth birthday, my mom drove all of us to the grocery store after school, ostensibly to get some supplies for my birthday party the following night. Instead of getting party supplies, though, she picked up a box of kitten chow, a litter box, and a bag of litter. While I was still processing this, we drove to the animal shelter the next town over so that I could choose a kitten to bring home.
The shelter had about half a dozen kittens at the time, which was somewhat remarkable for early November. One litter was four weeks old and had just been brought in. They were all long-haired with Siamese-type markings, and none of them knew what was going on. They were matted to high heaven and none of them had gotten their shots yet because they were so brand new.
The other litter was just a brother and sister, both grey tabbies, about six weeks old and ready to go at any time. I washed my hands from the four week olds and met the sister, a tiny puff of fur who fit in the palm of my hand. She wasn’t content to sit there, though, and dug her needle-like claws into my peacoat until she reached my shoulder, where she perched and purred contentedly. I was sold, 100%, and on the drive home, I decided to call her Tinkerbell.
(Tinkerbell the Christmas after I got her–she would’ve been about three months old)
I wish I could say that she’s been at my side ever since, but it’s vacillated. A little less than a year after I brought her home, I moved away to college (side note: why do movies always depict people moving away to college as them moving out forever? Like literally, just because you’re going away to college doesn’t mean we’re going to turn your room into a hot tub time machine or something. Calm down, movie parents), and I really only saw her on weekends. Sometimes, not even then, like when I spent a semester overseas, studying at Oxford.
(the September after Oxford, during her “I am a triangle” phase)
When I moved to Texas, I couldn’t bring her with me because my life was too unsettled. I hopped from home to home and place to place, and even once Kyle and I found the apartment we’d live in for about the first year of our marriage, everything was too up in the air to commit to bringing her down with us. Tink and I didn’t properly reunite until Kyle and I moved to Massachusetts, about five years ago, but she’s been by my side there ever since.
For the most part, she’s been a healthy cat. She pukes with unerring regularity, as a method of either demanding attention or communicating displeasure. Once upon a time, I wondered if this was cause for concern, but since she’s been otherwise healthy, it hasn’t worried me too much. She used to be obese, so fat that she was shaped like a triangle, but as she’s aged and calmed down (read: as she’s ceased sharing her home with other cats), she’s slowly lost weight… nothing concerning, just age. She hasn’t changed, behaviorally, since she was about six months old: she’s absurdly lazy, talkative and demanding, cuddly but only on her terms (read: you must be lying down, not sitting, and there must be room for her not just on top of you). She loves cheese, her stuffed turtle, and her catnip mouse.
(some point recently, lounging on Kat’s bed)
And she hasn’t eaten in 24 hours. Maybe more.
Kat texted me yesterday to tell me this, and after some frantic shuffling, I came home to bring her to the nearest veterinary ER (which is one of the best in the state–it’s at the Tufts Veterinary School, so you know they’re going to be good). They ran tests on her but couldn’t find anything wrong, so they wanted to keep her overnight because she was dehydrated and they wanted to run some more tests–bloodwork, urine samples, X-rays, ultrasounds, the works. Despite not eating, she was 100% herself: she yelled at me and Kat the entire drive to the vet, yelled at everyone who came in to look at her, made mournful noises when we dared to pick her up and cuddle her, tried to jump off a table that was way too high for her.
(bundled up at the vet yesterday and very angry about that fact)
I’m waiting to get the call back and hear what they’ve found, if she’s eaten anything, if she’s gotten better or worse. I’m dreading it for many reasons. What if they’ve found something that’s unfixable? What if it’s something that’s fixable but that will cost a lot of money to fix? What if it’s just going to be ridiculous bills either way?
They had us put down a deposit last night, $1875, to cover her overnight stay, testing, and any treatment they might do overnight. That’s almost $2000. Thankfully, we had that… because we had set aside $2000 for PGS. I didn’t even think about it before swiping my card (that’s not true; I did think about it, but I thought about it in terms of, “well this sucks”). She’s my baby, you know? I can’t not try to fix whatever’s wrong, if I have the money for it.
But what if we don’t have the money? What if they call today and say, “we can fix it, but it’s going to cost you $5000”? What do I do then?
When we first got Tigger and Silky, back when I was a wee child of seven, Silky stopped eating and started throwing up. My parents brought her to the vet, and the vet found that she’d eaten a piece of floss and gotten it tangled around the back of her tongue and all through her intestines. Without hesitating, they performed emergency surgery and removed it, and Silky was healthy afterwards–healthy, active, and as happy as a cat owned by a family with small children could be.
The surgery, though, cost $600–more than–and they didn’t talk to my parents beforehand. When I was a kid, the fact that it was even a question infuriated me. It was her life! How could you even pause and think about it? You save her life and find a way, that’s what you do!
But now I’m an adult, in the same position, and I don’t want to make that decision. If they call me back and quote some ridiculous number to save her life, I don’t know what I’ll do. She’s old; at best, she’s probably got another three, maybe four years in her. That’s aeons in cat years, but what will her quality of life be? If they fix this, will she decline more quickly afterwards? Will she stop chasing leaves and playing with her catnip mouse? Will she sleep far more, start missing the litterbox, lose use of her legs? If she was younger, if she was even five years younger, this wouldn’t even be a question, but now…
I don’t know. The last 24 hours have made me feel so hopeless in so many ways. Literally the only thing that’s made me feel better is looking at pictures of kittens on various shelter sites. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve lost way too much in just a couple of hours–my hopes for a healthy baby and my beloved and cantankerous old lady furbaby.