My friend Sofie lets me pretend that she’s our house cat. Anyone out there who shares their home with a feline knows exactly what I’m talking about. She tolerates, just barely sometimes, me telling her what to do. To come eat her breakfast or dinner. To aim her hairballs on the hard wood floors, not on the couch. To be nice to Husband because he’s had a tough day. To not get pissy and quick with her teeth just because she’s overstimulated from getting brushed. I’m not sure what she gets out of humoring me in these matters, but I’d say seven times out of ten she does as I ask. I’m not a gambler, so I don’t know if that percentage is any good.
I make every effort to be a good CatMom. It can be a challenge because Sofie has some health issues. Her appetite–and temper, too–is rather finicky. Cats are not like dogs. Generally speaking a dog will listen to your requests for good behavior or companionship or whatnot without tipping you the stink eye in that way only a cat can do. Generally, canine friends are very much like your best old drinking buddy from college. Always up for whatever, always ready to go on a Taco Bell run at 2:00 in the morning, always ready to lick your cheek after you’ve thrown up in the toilet from food poisoning. Cats will watch you throw up, sure. Cats appreciate a good vomit as much as anybody. Then they’ll turn around and offer you a nice view of their balloon knot as consolation. But what can you do? It’s part of their charm. We’re all co-dependent on some level.
Sofie’s 18 years old. Nineteen next October. Since she’s lived with us she’s had kidney disease, splenetic cancer (a mass-cell tumor from which she’s in remission–an entire shock to Dr. Nick over in Denver) and the cartilage between her lumbar vertebrae has been dissolving. She’s begun walking with a slight limp after she’s jumped down from the sofa. It’s heartbreaking. Husband and I agreed a long time ago that as long as she’s still happy eating and pooping and showing her belly to the radiator, we’ll do our best to spoil her rotten (we adopted that approach when she got her cancer verdict back in 1999, and I’m convinced that’s how she beat it. What cat would want to give up the Feline Life of Riley?). Part of spoiling her rotten is a vow to never subject her to unnecessary procedures or testing, etcetera. Quality of life is the thing. Not extending her life by any means necessary, just to make us feel better. I’ve gone through that with four-legged friends before and I carry the guilt today. Not every animal’s human agrees with that philosophy, and I’m not passing judgement. I’m just saying what we’ve agreed to do regarding Sofie when the time comes that she hurts more than she doesn’t. With luck and tuna, that won’t be for a long time yet.
Sofie and I have several things in common. Her bad back, my fickle myelin…we both have good days and bad. I watch her look at the couch and take a longer moment before trying to leap up. She’ll see me watching and give a most pitiful little meow. Sometimes I think she’s asking for help, and sometimes I think she’s telling me to mind my own business, stop staring. She moves with more care. She watches where she’s stepping. I do the same thing.
I’m working to adjust to certain signatures of my situation, and it’s no cake walk (she said “walk,” hardee-har-har), even at this stage. Right now it’s mostly little things. Little issues I think of as indiscretions. Smallish betrayals by a thing unseen and out of my control. Smallish. But annoying, that is certain, and I know they’ll only develop further. This is not the best news of my life, but I try to keep a sense of humor.
And I focus on the little victories. Every time Sofie leaps from the floor to the couch or to her favorite chair, and does so without slipping…without doing a chest plant and falling back to the ground…I cheer like crazy. I root for her as I root for myself, in hopes that we both have more good days ahead than bad. Lots of days where I tell her what to do and she gives me the stink eye, then urps a hairball out onto the floor.
As long as it’s not on the couch I’ll consider it a compromise, and call it a good day.