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01/06/2004

I loved that cat

My cat died this morning.

He'd been ill since November. When he began displaying some uncharacteristic behavior (hiding, occasionally growling, failing to hop up onto my lap at every opportunity), we took him to the local vet, who diagnosed him with hyperthyroidism — easily treatable. So we treated him.

Unfortunately, about two weeks into the medication, he became extremely lethargic and light-sensitive, eventually losing his ability to stand, eat, or control his bladder. We suspected a brain tumor. We thought it was the end. (This dovetailed nicely with the failure and aftermath of IVF #3.)

In a last-ditch effort to save our cat, the vet took him off his thyroid medication and put him on a potent combination of antibiotics and steroids. His recovery was swift and startling. Within a day he was like a new cat — slightly weaker than he'd been, perhaps, but affectionate and friendly and ambulatory once again.

We took him to a specialist who dabbles in neurology, who said she was certain he didn't have a tumor. She believed his condition was a reaction to the thyroid medication. So we took him off the drugs and scheduled radioactive iodine treatment for him.

You can't know how relieved we were.

We took him to the thyroid hospital three hours away and left him there to board over the holidays while we were at my parents' house. I called to check on him daily — he was doing fine, I was told every time. When we returned, we went straight from the airport back to the thyroid hospital without even stopping at home — we were so eager to have him back. When we got him home, he trilled happily and walked around, sniffing and remapping all his favorite spots.

But then later that night, he became mopey. He seemed to want to hide.

His decline continued all through last week. Repeated visits to the vet revealed that his bloodwork was normal, except for a slightly low thyroid value. Thinking that was the problem — radiation thyroiditis, a reaction to the procedure he'd had — we supplemented his thyroid hormones and waited for him to improve.

He didn't.

More steroids, antibiotics, then subcutaneous fluids, then, when he stopped eating, syringe-feeding. Nothing helped. He couldn't walk very well. He spent most of his time with his nose pressed into any dark corner. He didn't seem to know we were there.

We took him back to the hospital yesterday so that he could be put on IV nourishment while we talked to yet another doctor. But when we went to pick him up this morning for his appointment with the specialist, he'd become unconscious.

The only thing to do was to pat him while the vet slid the needle into his vein. The liquid that was injected was bright pink. And then the cat's heart stopped.

You should know, by the way, that this wasn't just any cat. He was the cat of my soul. I've had other pets, and will again, but he was the one. He loved me extraordinarily, like I loved him.

He used to lie obligingly across my belly during my period, tireless in his service as a comforting live hot water bottle. When I lay sobbing after my last D&C, he brought me all his toys, lining them up carefully beside the bed in an effort to cheer me up. (It just made me cry more.) Paul and I used to joke that he could help us herd our children once they began to crawl, like a responsible sheepdog nipping at the heels of its flock.

Well, not now.

How crazy does this sound? I wanted my children to know him. He was a fine cat, friendly and faithful, and I will miss him horribly.

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