Just A Cat
Shadow was just a cat. I know that.
I first saw her as a stray outside the apartment complex where a friend lived. I learned that the family she belonged to had simply abandoned her. She was being fed by some of the residents but none of them could afford to take her in. She was so thin and scared. She’d been pelted by rocks, chased by dogs, and beaten up by other cats. Even shot (we found that she’s had an airgun bullet lodged in her thigh from her x-ray Saturday). And she had these gorgeous golden eyes.
It was probably a full month before she’d come to me. Any time I came by to visit, I’d spend a little time on the bench outside with her. I didn’t even have to call her, she knew the sound of my car. When I finally got her in my car, I didn’t hesitate to take her home.
She wasted no time filling out her figure. She went from skin and bones and matted hair to plump and shiny in no time at all.
She never cared for the company of other cats. She didn’t like to be picked up, being in laps made her nervous, and snuggling was straight out. (I don’t doubt she was abused.) And strangers, forget that entirely. (She would growl when the doorbell rang.) But she would purr up a storm for me, look at me with those big, golden eyes, and tell me she loved me in cat words.
She was so vocal. There was never any doubt what she wanted, food, treats, being let out, having a door opened, having the damn door opened NOW, and, in probably a dozen ways, affection. She would scold me for getting ready to leave for work. Greet me when I came home. Say hello to people she knew. And, sometimes, when I think she’s had a bad dream, call for me to make sure I was there. Last night, when she would try to walk and collapse after a few steps, I heard something new: despair.
I suppose Shadow was pretty bright. Mom relates a tale of how she solved our mole problem. She certainly had me trained. If I got a snack, she wanted treats. I got up for a few minutes, treats. Ignored her too long, she’d reach out with a paw from the corner of the bed and pad me on the shoulder. Time to wake up, paw in the face.
Several months ago she started losing weight. Our other cat, Jinx, was also losing weight. I thought maybe it was because we’d changed cat food brands. I didn’t worry too much because she’d become much more energetic at the same time. Both cats kept getting thinner. Finally deciding they might need worming, I got the medicine. But last Thursday Shadow started throwing up. Just water, she hadn’t been eating. Friday afternoon she was in none of her usual places and didn’t come with called or her dinner was set out. After much searching, I finally found her behind boxes under my bed looking very unsteady.
It’s never a good sign when sick cat hides from you.
I took her to the vet Saturday. The vet found an odd mass in her abdomen. X-rays never really told us what it was. The results of her blood work indicated her kidneys were failing. The vet tried telling me she was probably too far gone but I wouldn’t hear it. So they started her on IV treatment Tuesday.
She was almost her old self when I brought her home that night. She was getting around on her own and even used the litter box to pee. She found all kinds of strength when it came time to go into the carrier Wednesday.
Wednesday is when it all went wrong. When I went to pick her up, the vet informed me she’d just had a seizure and that her body temperature was low and hadn’t gone up any during the day. Poor Shadow was drooling and her eyes looked vacant. When I got her home she was curled up in the back of the carrier. I had to reach in to take her out and she complained only weakly. She could barely stand. For the rest of the night, she would get up for a few moments, manage a couple of paces, and flop down. She had another seizure that evening. It was horrible, all I could do what hold her to keep her from injuring herself. It left her a drooling, exhausted wreck for most of two hours.
I’ve had other cats, but none quite as long, or as old as, Shadow. Gryphon, I had as a teen. I only had him about 3 years before he disappeared. Later I learned he was last seen in the clutches of a little girl visiting a neighbor. The Mooch I left with our landlord when I left Korea. He was too tough and would have mistreated Mom’s cats. And the landlord’s family adored him. The fact that he was death on vermin and kept other cats from brawling out front was an added bonus in their eyes. Other cats weren’t really my cats. I was sad when they died, of course. I miss every one of them.
This morning Shadow hadn’t improved. Her head bobbed slightly and she could barely get around. Her eyes were dull and even her protests at going into the carrier were weak. This marked a full week without eating. I had to face facts. She wasn’t going to get any better and trying to keep her alive any long would just be torment. The vet confirmed that there was little hope. So I had her do it.
Shadow purred and looked at me with her golden eyes as the sedative took effect. When the vet came back with the solution that would stop her heart I so wanted to tell her to stop. But I managed not to.
I cried. I haven’t cried like that in, well, decades. I’m still crying really.
I’m lucky really. The losers are the people that left such a beautiful creature to her fate.
She was just a cat.
Just a treasure.
Just a friend.