When I open the refrigerator, my cat wanders over and seems to want to climb in. She is going for the light.
These days, she lives under a kitchen stool, where I have made her a bed of towels and warm fleece. She comes out to eat ravenously and to beg for more. (She also comes out to use her litter, thank goodness.) When she walks around the kitchen, she bumps into walls, stumbles over the dog’s feet or walks under his belly. He pays no attention. Oliver, who is a three-year-old ginger cat, bats her, grabs her neck and makes her growl.
When I put her dish on the floor I tap, tap, tap it to get her attention. Clearly she can’t see it, but she wants her 9-Lives. Every night I pull her onto my lap and despite all the devoured food, she feels like skin and bones, an old lady who can’t keep any weight on her frame. Once on my lap, I jab her with a needle that is attached to a bag of saline. This hydration is keeping her very much alive.
This little cat is one of a pair of litter mates Laura and I adopted 18 years ago this month. We named them Ichabod Crane and Esmé (for Esmeralda), in celebration of Halloween. Esmé was so small, she could walk under the basset hound we had in those days. The two felines weren’t especially attached to each other, but they were attached to us and Esmé stuck like glue to Sam, the basset. When he was dying in 2001, she slept with him in his bed and stayed by his side as he stumbled about the backyard. I had never seen anything like it.
I was partial to Ichabod. He was a big, independent cat. Esmé was needier and once she started purring, she drooled. Seep-through-your-jeans kind of drool. Ichabod died last February. He was eating well and so it kind of snuck up on me. One day he wasn’t grooming himself and lost interest in his food. I called the vet for an appointment the next day. That morning he was weak and by the afternoon I decided he was dead. He was stretched out under a chair. I put him in a clothes basket and loaded it into the front seat of the car for his final trip to the vet. I chuckled at the thought of a cop pulling me over. Like a Monty Python bit. Officer, I have a dead cat!
Esmé has been more difficult. She’s been dying for a lot longer. She has some sort of infection or maybe cancer. She responds to the hydrating and the steroid shots, although I know one day she will stop eating. And that will be that. In the meantime, she is drawn to the light. Sadly for her, it’s just the refrigerator.
Note: Esmé died today. She stopped eating yesterday and then gave up walking. I took her to the vet at noon today and she gently left this earth. A little cat, a little life, a big loss.
copyright © Mary Goodbody