I have tried to write this five times since August and I’ve failed miserably every time. But sooner or later I knew I wanted, needed, to post it.
My cat, Satine, is almost fourteen years old. We met way back in 2002 when I was about to complete my freshman year of college and she was a two-week-old rescue that needed four hour feedings because her mother had abandoned her. We didn’t have any room for her and her siblings at the vet clinic where I worked, but my parents had just gotten a condo for me to live in for the summer, and I was in need of a cat. So I told them that if they could hang on to her for me for two more weeks, until finals were over, I’d take her. They agreed.
They called a week later – when my condo was only half ready and when I was in the middle of finals – to tell me that if I wanted her I needed to come now. Her siblings had all gotten sick and, while she wasn’t sick yet, she likely would be soon. Two of them had already died. The third was already sick. When I picked her up that afternoon and they asked if I wanted them both, the rescuer in me wanted to take both of them and try to rehab the boy. But I knew better – when they are that little, once they start getting diarrhea like that, there isn’t much you can do.
I took her back to my condo… she was so small – her ears weren’t even all the way up yet. She weighed about two-tenths of a pound. And she was covered in shit. I put her in the bathroom sink and cleaned her again and again with Dawn until she was clean. Then I wrapped her in a towel and held her until she dried.
Throughout the night I tried feeding her several times (by feeding her, I mean with a bottle) but she wouldn’t eat. Finally, at about 2 a.m., I gave up, wrapped her in my old Dr. Seuss sweatshirt, and went to bed, figuring I’d wake up to a dead kitten. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I woke up the next morning with her nestled snugly in that crook of my neck between my chin and my chest, warm, sleeping, and purring away. When she ate that morning, I realized that she was going to be okay.
She quickly became my shadow… following me everywhere, talking all the time (she is QUITE the talker), getting into messes she shouldn’t… she actually stole one of my beanie babies – a hamster that she was determined to have, no matter where I put it. To this day, she carries it with her everywhere.
She’s not an easy cat to handle. She has had serious urinary issues (even a bladder stone), she hates the vet – so much so, that one of her old medical charts is covered in his blood. I even had to remove her stitches on my own, because the doctors were too afraid to do it. She does not get along with anyone… not other cats, not dogs, not people… Well, except for me… And she’s finally, after a year and a half of living with him, started to let Ormsby pet her. But I think we both know that the only person that will ever get the privilege of picking her up and snuggling her will be me…
Almost fourteen years after that day in 2002, Satine and I have moved around a lot. She’s lived in four states – Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida. In essence, through everything, she’s been my constant. See, she’s the only living creature that has BEEN there for the entirety of my adult life. She’s been there as I completed a degree and started working on another one. She’s been there, right beside me, watching television or playing World of Warcraft. She’s sat stubbornly in empty laundry baskets when I was trying to fold clothes, or stretched out in my clean bed after I’ve changed the sheets – or on my freshly vacuumed floor. She’s the one thing that has met me, consistently, at the door when I got home from work, or came home from traveling, or even just the grocery store. And though no one believes me when I say this, she talks to me. Like, literally talks to me (in cat… or duck… when she feels like quacking). We have conversations. To us this is normal… to everyone else? I guess I sound like a crazy cat lady.
But that’s my point… she’s been there for me when there was no one else – through an abusive marriage and a comparatively civil divorce, through countless relationships and breakups. Her finest moment came at the end of one of those, when she scratched the hell out of Botboy’s hand when he was moving his shit out of my apartment (when I wasn’t home) – and afterward, when she sat on my feet in my bed that night as I lay there, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
About six months ago, though, after we moved, she started rapidly losing weight. And that wasn’t normal for her. She’s always been a big girl and to drop weight like that wasn’t good for her. I took her to the vet, got a diagnosis… and at this point, I am just keeping her comfortable. I could put her through surgeries, and medication, and multiple vet trips and tests but you know, she hates the doctor so much, and hates leaving the house so much, that I have a hard time justifying putting her through that torture when all it would do is prolong the inevitable. She is not in pain. She sleeps a lot, but is still eating very well and still has enough energy to play with me now and then, and to carry her stuffed hamster from room to room. I do not know how long she has, but I have noticed a big change in her this winter – and I can’t decide whether it’s due to the cold, or whether it’s just due to the fact that she is getting older and slowing down. I guess time will tell.
In the meantime, now that she really needs me, it’s my turn to be there for her. Because that’s what best friends do.