Sunday, May 25, 2008


Jeez, animals can stress you right out, no? As the cat totters into her dotage and acquires a truly dizzying array of health problems (and treatments and medications to facilitate the management thereof), I find while dealing with them that I spend a bit of energy worrying about the next shoe that will fall. Some days, like today, I obsessively watch her because she seems "off" (Why isn't she finishing her food, I fret? Is she usually this inert? Is she in pain? Is there something else wrong?)

I think this stress is one part my natural tendency to worry about everything under the sun, and one part sheer dread at being faced with that moment feared by all animal owners: the heartrending end-of-life decision on your part, and the medical care choices and suffering on their part leading up to it. I've had and known a lot of animals, but this is my first as an adult, and I feel uniquely ill-prepared to make tough and stoic decisions in her best interest. I'm also acutely aware that by virtue of being single and independent, I'm going to have to do this alone, without crumbling into a million pieces. I dread it, for her sake and mine, and given the health issues that we're dealing with, I don't think I can persuade her to the virtues of shuffling off the mortal coil like a hearty, healthy nonogenarian who runs marathons up until the day he peacefully drifts off in his sleep.

Yeah, the fun and companionship they provide are big pluses in the equation (can you beat that whole snuggling thing?). But I am not sure whether I'd want to do it again. They're with you long enough to be set in your routines as much as you are in theirs. Having lucked out with a freakish cat who doesn't jump on everything (and who had to be trained to jump on anything), would I really want a standard model? What are the chances of hitting upon another animal who is neither obsessively needy nor standoffish? It all seems unlikely.

But of course the key--as with everything--is to have fun with them while you have them around, then do your best to deal with things as they come. And so I will perform our latest temporary addition to the daily routine--towel swaddling, then medicated shampooing of the chin (luckily, her fondness for chin rubs makes this an easy task). This is followed by a five-minute tour of the house--me carrying her in the towel, and her peering around--while the meds permeate. One of the nicest things I've discovered rather recently is that she likes to be held so that she can get a view of things from a different angle. I kind of wish I had figured this out years ago, but nonetheless, I'm really pleased to have discovered a new way to bond with the kitty.


Toby said...

I can't really comment on this, because I just heard Sia, Breathe Me, on the iPod at lunch. It is the song that played at the very end of Six Feet Under and, as a result, is twinned in my mind forever with the fact that human existence is the process of watching our loved ones die from accident, disease, and old age. So, I'm in too morose a state to say anything helpful.

Laura said...

Well, I don't draw any equivalences between animals and people that I love. Still, I'm firmly of the camp that animals are family.

Hope you and Ms. T and a nice lunch! I'm jealous that you guys had a minireunion. I also expect she met Graham.

Toby said...

Personally, I feel the death of a family pet is only a little less traumatic than the death of an extended family member.

Yes, it was good to see Thaisa. She looks great and seems happy. She did meet Graham, and he was appropriately effusive in his greeting.