The last cat
The cat is suffering from acute renal failure, a condition that impairs all the senses. It’s been coming on for some time — I think I commented in a brief, earlier post that she seemed to be suffering from some form of feline Alzheimers — but because of the rain over the first two months of this year, we’d assumed that her desire to stay indoors, curled up in a corner or on top of the towel we had put down to stop water coming in the downstairs door or on the shelf under the tv, was because there was nowhere outside that was dry enough for her sensitivities to allow her to crap.
When the rain stopped & she finally went out, she stayed out. Would initially hang around somewhere in the garden. Then she started disappearing across the road, wouldn’t be seen for 24 hours, once even for two days. We thought maybe she was getting food & water somewhere else, but she kept wasting away. She just appeared on the driveway in the evening, wouldn’t respond to calling, wouldn’t react to movement, would just sit there, would have to be carried in. Would run downstairs with an urgency, eat but not drink, & then run back up the stairs even faster than she came down them, & sit somewhere near the door yowling noisily & plaintively to be let out. Then, once outside, she would go & sit in the middle of the, fortunately quiet, street.
After the two day disappearance — & to be honest, I didn’t think we’d ever see her again — I took her to the vet. She’s been there for just under a week now, most of the time on a drip in an attempt to see if her condition would improve. It has, but only slightly. We went in to see her on Saturday, & though she was brighter, she still didn’t respond as she used to, didn’t seem to have that zip she used to have. Today’s blood test, taken after she’s come off & away from the influence of the drip, will tell us if her condition’s stabilized or worsened. If she was a younger cat, a kidney transplant might be an option; but she’s at least 15 years old, possibly a year or two older. But no matter what the prognosis, I shall bring her home for a few days, to sit in the sun, to hopefully chatter at the birds.
I’ve shared nearly all my life with cats. There are photos of me at four or five, straddling the first of them — it so large & me not much larger — as if I was riding a horse. The cat we had in the next town we lived in got hit by a car. I can remember the driver coming in to tell us of the accident, how the cat had crawled away down a stormwater drain, probably to find the dark to die in; but that night, with plaintive sound & massive injuries, it came crawling back to the front door, was immediately taken to the vet & survived.
I don’t think we had a cat in Wellington where I spent the first part of my teenage years, but after I left home at eighteen, cats were constant companions. Always kittens, always strays, usually female. Various breeds — part-Burmese, tabbies, indeterminate. Cats that have given me ringworm, that have got diabetes, that have sat with me as I wrote poems, sometimes even about them. Lizard-eaters, bird-catchers, cats that learnt the wisdom of not eating birds, cats that were happy to share their space with frogs. This one’s a tortoiseshell, &, of the three of us, seemed to be the one that has adapted best to this environment we now live in.
There is a poem by Borges in which he posits that whatever we do, we may possibly be doing it for the last time but never know. That this will be the last cat, however, is something I am certain about. Acquiring another cat now would mean it would outlive me, though, if I reach eighty, I may change my mind.
(The vet has just rung to say that the cat’s condition has deteriorated badly since she’s come off the drip. So I’ve asked that she be put back on it for another day so that when I bring her home, she might be bright enough to enjoy the sunshine for what will probably only be a single day.)