Monday, September 5, 2011

Bracing for More Loss

The first eight years I lived in New York, I was in apartments that didn't allow pets.  It was the longest period of my life without a cat, and I was suffering serious fur withdrawal by the time I married Tom.

Tom was also a cat lover.  According to his younger son Jeff, before his parents' divorce, Tom spent every night watching TV with Jeff's cat Inky curled up on his lap.  That ended with the marriage, since Tom's first wife retained custody of both Jeff and Inky.

We were both pleased, then, when our then-landlord finally caved and agreed to let us adopt a cat if we would increase our damage deposit.  We immediately started making the rounds of the local cat shelters.  I saw several cats I would gladly have taken home, but Tom was much more choosy.  Finally we visited a cat store only a few blocks from our apartment.  They specialized in purebreds - I fell in love with the fluffy, friendly Scotch Fold kittens, although not with their price tags - but the rear of the store housed several rescued street cats.  I yearned for a big old tom who reminded me of my long-dead Sunny, but the shop owner told me that he was totally feral and they were negotiating with a farm owner to take him.

The next cage over held a half-grown orange kitten.  When the shopkeeper took her out and handed her to Tom, she snuggled closer and stared up at him with adoring eyes.  He immediately said, "I like this one.  Let's take her."  And we did.

Rusty's prior owner had apparently trained her with a heavy hand before throwing her out; she shrank from being petted and (after that first day) struggled every time we tried to pick her up for the first two years.  She stayed strictly off the furniture for months until we convinced her that we wanted her to share the bed and the sofa with us.  Over time she bonded with us so well that she throws a major fit whenever I leave her, even with the most indulgent kitty-sitters in the world.

I was upset last week when Rusty started bumping into things, and even more so last Friday when the vet confirmed that her eyesight is gone.  She doesn't have cataracts, her irises still respond to light, and the retinas and blood vessels in her eyes still look fine, but the vet threw cotton balls in front of her face and she didn't even blink.

Today the results of her blood tests came back.  Her kidney function has been gradually declining over the last couple of years; apparently it's grown much worse since her last tests in April.  She's also developed high blood pressure.  Both of those things have probably contributed to her loss of sight.

The vet says that most cats who lose their vision adapt pretty well after an initial period of confusion, as long as no one switches the furniture around.  Given Rusty's age and her kidney condition, though, she probably won't be with me much longer.

Queen Elizabeth II of England referred to the 1992, the year her favorite home burned, as her "annus horribilis;" this is shaping up to be mine, not to mention poor Rusty's.

"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet."  ~Colette


  1. What sad news - I'm so sorry. It's awful to have to anticipate a goodbye hovering on the horizon ... the animals we share ourselves with become as truly 'family' as any of our two-legged relations, enriching our lives in countless ways with their unique personalities, their loving companionship, their quirky personalities. It's always seemed so unfair to me that their lives are so fleeting in comparison to ours. The simple act of inviting these little souls into your world means that one day you'll be faced with this sadness as their health begins to fail. It's painful.
    You've been fortunate to have Rusty in your life, and from the sounds of it, she's been most fortunate to have lived the majority of hers with someone who so obviously cares about and understands her. Savor the time you have left with her, and know that she's had a wonderful life with you.

  2. Thank you, Nina. Always before when I've lost a cat it's happened quickly and with no question that it was time to say goodbye. This time, though, I don't know whether my poor baby is crying because she's in pain, looking for me, or using her own version of blind-kitty sonar. I don't want her to linger in misery, but I don't want to take that last trip to the vet prematurely, either. I'm going to hold off for a while and hope for the best.