Pixel (4/15/2000 – 8/22/2018)
My cat died today, and I am profoundly sad.
People who don't have pets won't understand. Not really. It's a different kind of attachment than you find among people. Not better or worse, but unique. At least that's been my experience, and I think other pet guardians will back me up on that. But regardless of whether non-pet people get it or not, this is its own kind of hellish grief; profoundly sad will have to do as a descriptor.
It was semi-unexpected. Pixel had been visibly ill for about six weeks and her condition had deteriorated to the point that I knew her days were numbered, but today's visit to the vet wasn't supposed to be the end.
Bags: the ultimate fortress
We don't know for sure, but it's likely that Pixel had lung cancer. There was an indeterminate something on her x-rays, and finding out for sure what it was seemed like a very expensive academic exercise; if it was Bad Cancer, there wasn't anything we could realistically do about it, and if it was something else, we were already doing what there was to do. Meanwhile, her lungs had begun to fill with fluid. The vet drained what she could, but initially it wasn't manifesting outwardly as a big deal, just an occasional cough, so we went about our lives while keeping an eye on things. A few weeks later, Pix went from seemingly OK to scarily very much not OK overnight and we went back to the vet. They did another chest tap and drained enough fluid from her little lungs to fill half a standard soda can. Test results on the fluid ruled out a few things, but didn't give us much useful diagnostic info.
After that tap, Pix was so much better. Not her old self, but back to near-normal behavior for a geriatric kitty. That lasted a couple of days. The third day she had some mild decline, but it wasn't immediately worrisome. The fourth day she was obviously miserable and by the fifth she was putting all her energy into breathing. Today was day six, and we went in hoping to do another fluid drain to give her some comfort for a couple of days, at least, during which I would make The Tough Decision about what to do next. But she wasn't strong enough to handle another drain, which was not a variable I had anticipated.
They told me the x-ray-then-drainage procedure would take a couple of hours and I should check in if I didn't hear from them by 1:00. They called me around 11 to tell me she didn't survive the tap.
"This little one's not worth the effort..."
It wasn't supposed to be today.
We were supposed to get a few more days together.
I fully expected to pick her up and take her home and she'd feel better tomorrow.
I know she was scared. She was always scared when we'd go to the vet, even for routine exams. She was so scared on exam days that a couple of times she peed on me, another she peed on Dr. S. She'd cower in a corner when she didn't need to be on the table. She was terrified of the vet clinic even under good circumstances, and I left her there without me this morning, and I know she was terrified and that makes me even sadder and makes me feel guilty even though I know there's no rational reason to feel guilt. I did everything I could think of to do right by my special feline friend. But she was still scared, and that makes me cry.
Master of all she surveys
I am trying to see the big picture. That is, I'm trying to take some comfort in the fact that, if she had to go down by cancer/illness, this was pretty much the best way that could go—a quick transition from no appreciable symptoms (that we knew about) to the end of the line in just a few weeks, no long and drawn out period of misery. I'm also trying to keep in mind that for 18.1 of her 18.35 years of life she lived happily with me and her kitty roomies—first I-Chaya, then Bansei—and that even in her last night, when I stayed up throughout the night with her to lend whatever comfort my being nearby would bring, she still mustered up a purr for me.
I went through a series of cats when I was a kid. My pets seemed to have the lifespan of the average Spinal Tap drummer. That changed when I got Pixel's predecessor when I was 13; she broke the curse and lived to be 17 before dying of complications from hypothyroidism, aided by incompetent veterinary practice (whole 'nother story). I-Chaya entered the picture about five years later and lived to be 15½; she died of cancer too. Pixel is now the record-holder, and I hope Bansei breaks it and I hope whatever kitty I end up adopting next will break that mark.
From the long-ago time of land lines
Because I know I will. Adopt another one. Probably soon. Maybe that's a little crazy, because when I adopt one I know I'm signing up for another day like this someday. Not precisely like this, of course, but close enough. And days like this are awful. They hurt. A lot. But the reason days like this are so awful is that all the days and years beforehand are made richer and better by loving and being loved back by a loyal feline friend.
My cats have meant so much to me throughout my life. Even the short-timers, but especially the ones that got full lives. Two in particular were real symbiotic bonds, I think, where cat and human shared a particularly strong attachment to each other. Pixel was the second one.
The principle of conservation of energy demands that something happen to a creature's life-essence after death. I don't know what. Nobody does. But physics tells us it can't just disappear, it becomes something else. Maybe something mundane, maybe something more in the realm of what my dad's husband might call "woo-woo cosmic stuff." Either way, I hope Pixel is in some way aware that her brief time suffering is over. And that her human loved her very much, and did everything in his power to keep her healthy and happy.
I miss you so much, ピクシュル-chan. You made my life better. I'd like to think you thought I made yours better too.