Here’s a little content warning before we get started: I’m talking about the life of pets including illness and death here... And it's going to get long because sometimes a girl needs to ramble a little.
Most people who live with pets will tell you they’re like a part of their family. That’s not true in our house. They ARE a part of our family.
It’s not really a secret… I’m a total cat lady.
I wasn’t always. I grew up allergic to cats. Despite knowing this and being warned many times to leave them alone, I was desperate for exposure to pets…. So I would chase any friend’s cat I could in the hopes of just getting a tiny pat from a fleeing friend. I imagine that to them, I was a bit like Darla from Finding Nemo was to the fish in the dentist’s tank.
After Kirk and I got married and there was no chance of me moving back home, my mom ended up with a cat. Her name was Chaos (not related to our blog name), and she was awesome. Somehow I was immediately hooked. So sometime after we decided to start a family but before I got pregnant, Kirk found a cat named Kelsey featured in the local newspaper as the adoptable Pet of the Week. Kirk started the conversation with something along the lines of, “It’s too bad…” and I countered with something like, “Well let’s just go meet him. I’ll rub my face on him, and we’ll see how it goes.” A few days later, we brought him home and renamed him Oscar.
Three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. Nolan and Oscar mutually tolerated each other (which is the most we get out of Nolan when it comes to animals). This continued until he died just this summer. He was my crotchety old man, and I loved him for it. When he first came to live with us, he was skittish. He never got up on the furniture (except for the third night he lived with us when he decided to knock a large glass vase off of the buffet in our dining room at about 4 am, because cats are assholes) and wasn’t a social guy at all. Over time, he became a little bit more social, but it wasn’t until the last two or three years of his life that he got more social… He also seemed to be getting a little bit senile around the same time, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. By the end, he was deaf, had IBS and severe kidney disease, but he never stopped being stubborn. And he never stopped being my first kid.
About five years after we brought Oscar home, Kirk pulled the same shit with another newspaper cat named Frodo. And honestly? Frodo is the greatest cat I’ve ever known. He’s always been a snuggle bug an a food junkie. In fact, we think that’s why the shelter named him Frodo: He eats like a hobbit. Plus his feet are pretty hairy, so really it could be a few things I guess. They estimated Frodo to be about the same age as Oscar at that point (6-7 years old), and they “matched”. People often asked if they were littermates, to which we would respond, “uh… probably not?”
But Frodo would follow you through the house waiting for you to give him a lap to sit on. And that kept up until the beginning of this year. At that point, he started getting wheezy and lethargic. A trip to the vet determined that he had a huge mass on his thyroid. After a biopsy showing cancer was unlikely and a surgery to remove the mass, we found out it was cancerous. They had taken out all of the cancer that they could find (with clean margins- meaning they probably had it all), and he could eat and breathe normally again. Knowing that our only option to prevent its return was to take him three hours from home (he seriously HATES the car), leave him for a week to get radiation treatment, come back to fetch him and pay more money than our little family could afford for the process, we decided to watch and wait. And so far? He’s doing okay. Without the surgery, though, I doubt he would’ve made it to the end of January.
After Oscar passed away at the beginning of July, we decided we would keep our eyes out for a bonded pair of cats that needed a home once we were ready. At the end of August, Big Brother and Little Brother came up for adoption at our local Humane Society. They were littermates who had been surrendered. I went in to meet them on a vacation day from work, and of course I fell in love. We renamed them Jeffrey “The Dude” Lemeowski and Walter Sobcat (can you tell Kirk is a Big Lebowski fan?) They were about a year old at the time, and they’re about the most social cats I’ve ever met. And of course they eat like teenagers (because in cat years, they are teenagers).
Jeffrey is our lover, and Walter is our fighter. Jeffrey makes me crazy sometimes because he just wants to bury himself in my neck while he makes biscuits (and sometimes bites my ears). He’s an asshole because he knows just what to do to trigger my allergies… He’s going to get right in my face and break the skin with his razorblade claws. Walter is an asshole because he will attack anything that moves. Seriously. When he’s not picking fights, he’s doing that cat thing where they walk about a quarter of a step in front of you so that you nearly almost trip with every step you take… Cat people will know what I’m talking about.
And lately, Walter attacks Jeffrey. That’s not exactly anything new, but Jeffrey’s not fighting back like he used to. His belly’s been getting round, and he’s getting lethargic. I wondered if it was sort of a Garfield Syndrome-- you know? Eat too much, get a little round in the middle, lose energy… I’ve been there, and it can be a vicious cycle. So last night I took Jeffrey to the vet just to make sure he was okay. Maybe he just needs to poop or maybe we need a diet food. But I was not prepared for what we found out.
Our little Jeffrey has something called FIP. It causes plaques to form on his intestines that are leaking fluid into his abdomen. There’s no cure for this, and he likely doesn’t have much time left with us-- a couple of months if we’re lucky. Until we have to say goodbye, though, I plan to give him all the neck snuggles and ear bites that he wants. And treats. And catnip (it’s medicinal catnip-- don’t worry about it).
And I already miss him. Because he’s family. I mean- he’s an asshole, but he’s my asshole.