Warning: Maudlin post ahead.
Back in January, I was having my brother and sister-in-law over for dinner, when C. noticed that Kinoko was dragging her paw. The toes were curled under as though she was auditioning for “The Walking Dead: Cat Edition.” I hadn’t even noticed–her gait was still pretty typical and she didn’t seem fazed by it. But I made an appointment to the vet and then googled the hell out of it. Was it diabetes-induced neuropathy? Was it arthritis? Cancer? And what was I going to do about it?
I have pretty strong views on life and death, about how death is not necessarily the worst thing ever. In a sense, it’s easier with a pet–after all, you can pay a vet to put an animal down if a lot of suffering is involved, and theoretically, it’s okay to do this. I had thought I would be pretty pragmatic about it–with an old animal, don’t you have to be?
But we were able to treat her somewhat and she got better for awhile. She enjoyed having wet food with prednisone-infused tuna oil (it was advanced arthritis). And though I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on end-of-life care, I did get x-rays after a month, because she seemed to be getting better. I told the girls that she wasn’t going to make it to 2017, so in her end days, we should spoil her.
And then, about two weeks ago, it stopped mattering how much we spoiled her. She’d pick at her fancy food, be unable to jump up to the laps she used to love, and ignore the open screen doors with their fresh air. Yesterday, I heard her vomit in the litterbox–something that she never used to do, but is doing now–and watched her drag her lifeless back leg and herself into her box. She doesn’t come out much now. She doesn’t even meow much. It was subtle because it was a slow regression, but when I started counting all the ways she is different now, I realized that it’s time.
That’s the sucky part about adulting. I could just wait a few months for her to pass on her own, and let my own sadness stop me from making that appointment. I could spend a bunch of money on a few more months, but that would be to make me feel better, not her. And though I feel a bit weird about paying someone to kill my cat for me, it’s up to me to do the responsible thing. Because. . . what would her life have been like in the wild? At 16, she’d already be dead, and probably in a messy way.
What I wasn’t expecting though was the emotional ride. I knew back in January that we were in her end times. I thought I would be ready. I mentally practised. But I find myself just crying. Not constantly, but erratically, which makes it harder to predict. I’d be fine for a few hours and then would break down. I felt–well, I still feel–a little embarrassed. K. came over yesterday and found myself not wanting to break down in front of my boyfriend–even though I’m pretty sure that’s what boyfriends are for sometimes. All I wanted to do was just be alone. So that if I wanted to burst into tears I could just do that, no imaginary judgment. Because I know there’s no judgment but mine.
In the end, I took the day off and made the arrangements. I’ve been spending this beautiful day either smiling at the chirping birds on my balcony (I’m a sucker for birds and their quantum movements–they’re just so darn cute!) and then crying over Kinoko. Who sleeps in her box, unaware. But when she slowly, slooowwwly drags her leg over the tiles to sniff her water and return back the box–I know it’s okay to let her go.
So this is my ode to old kitty Kinoko, who gave us a lot of years. Her eyes are all atrophied crystalline fibers now, and she has the feline profile of a crotchety Bast. In her youth, she had a mean volleyball spike that would bring down any bat that managed to make it into the living room. She could jump 5 feet up in a vertical line. Once she brought us a live garden snake, and once a live bird. (Both survived to live another day). She liked to meow-a lot. A lot a lot. If you stood between the kitchen table and the refrigerator, she would jump on unsuspecting people to launch herself on top of the fridge. In the winter, she liked to cuddle in my armpit or between my legs. She loved it when I took a shower so she could jump on my towel-clad shoulders and suck water out of my wet hair.
But my favorite story is the one where she got stuck in the goddamn ceiling. Imagine, if you will, a refrigerator next to the doorway to the garage. Above the garage is a storage cubby, high enough that even a tall person such as myself can barely reach. Kinoko loved high places, so sometimes I would stand on my tippy toes to open up the cubby doors and let her jump up there. But once, instead of sitting at the edge and crowing loudly (can a cat crow? I’m going to say yes), she seemed unusually interested in the cubby. So much so that I got off my lazy ass and pulled a chair over to see what was going on.
Up in the cubby, behind the 10 quart lobster pot, was half a cat. See, cats are built in such a way that if their head can fit in a space, the rest of them can too. Kind of a like a snake, when you think about it. Her head and her shoulders and her front legs had disappeared into a hole that led into the ceiling above the kitchen. And as I look in shocked, the rest of her disappeared as well.
Let me tell you, it’s strange to have a cat stuck in the ceiling. I felt a bit like I was calling to Carol Anne in Poltergeist, “Run to the light, baby, run to the light!” Except it was more like “Kinoko!” “[from the southwest corner] Meow!” “Kinoko!!” “[from the southeast corner] Meow! ” “KINOKO!” “[from the northwest corner] Meeooowwwr!” (Sadly, there was no green portal from another dimension.)
And just when I was going to get an ax to chop up the ceiling, she deigned to squeeze back into the cubby storage space. After which, we boarded up the hole so no cat could get stuck ever again in the kitchen ceiling. Never underestimate the shenigans a cat can get into.
So, goodbye Kinoko. You were sweet. Also, somewhat bitchy. But I loved you. I’m glad I could provide a good home for you. Thanks for adding to my life.