Sunday, January 09, 2005

A cat's life

In the overall scheme of things, the welfare of one cat doesn't merit top billing in the history books. Yet in his own way, the furry black character who's been with us for pretty much all of our married life has managed to carve out his own place in our family's life.

So it was with a tinge of sadness that we learned yesterday that our 12-year-old pet is diabetic.

My wife, who's got a much finer sense of these things than I, knew something was up. He had been losing weight for some time. I figured he was simply being himself. Shadow's always been a bit psychotic, so I buried my head in the sand, assuming that age and age alone was why he was becoming less like the boisterous kitten who had ruled the house ever since we first brought him home.

Our vet put him on some special food, and we'll try to manage it with diet for now. If that doesn't work, I may need to learn the intricacies of injecting insulin into a cat. At the same time, I will also learn extreme self-defense techniques against a ticked-off feline. We'll hope it doesn't come to that.

Of course, the world continues to spin about its axis at the same speed it did before we received this news. The real suffering on this planet - today and always - puts this in its properly minor perspective. Yet I can't help but take notice of this change, and draw parallels to how these things evolve in humans as well: now that we know, we'll never look at him the same way again. He's fragile, different, older. My wife and I find ourselves thinking of how we'll explain it to our kids as things progress to their inevitable end - and hope that it'll be a while before we need to do so.

Our daughter, in her typically gentle, motherly way, reached out to Shadow before tuck-in tonight and softly smoothed his fur while she quietly spoke to him. Watching her, I got the distinct feeling that at the age of seven, she already understood what I am still struggling to accept: that things change, lives end, and sometimes a little cuddle is all you can do to help ease the inevitable transition.


Jef said...

I'm sorry to hear that Shadow is not feeling well. It might make you feel better to know that many cats do develop diabetes and live long lives after the fact. They do need to have a special diet to balance their blood sugar levels and some do require insulin shots eventually. However, at some point a pet owner has to decide whether or not medical science is prolonging a beloved pet's life for its sake or for that of the owner.

There is a reoccuring theme in your writing and that is of your children teaching you difficult life lessons. If you can trust the divine intelligence that brought your children into you life, can you then trust that divine intelligence to know what is best for Shadow and enjoy your cat fully for his remaining time with your family?

Joan said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Shadow. I know there are times that I look at my 17 year old cat that I've had since she was a kitten and think, "Oh please, don't ever die!"

The good news is that it does sound like now that you know what the trouble is, it can be managed and y'all can have some more years with your furry family member.

Jamie said...

When I was little, "kitty ran away" was how I knew our cats were gone. But that lesson was never really taught. Especially when one came back. After three months!

She lived to be over 15 years old!

We used to joke she'd live forever... And then I read Pet Cemetary when I was 14. Ew...

Trillian said...

So sorry to hear about Shadow. That is just not great news. The nice thing about pets, though is that they eat what we put out, so perhaps the special food will be enough and you wont have to tussle with putting a needle in the polydactyl fur man.

Diane said...

I am so sorry to hear that Shadow has not been well. My cat that passed a couple of months ago was diabetic and when he was first diagnosed, responded well to his high protein diet and insulin shots. Hopefully you won't need to start Shadow on insulin therapy, but if you do and have the same experience I did, it is actually very easy and cats' skin is very loose in the shoulder area and mine never even flinched when he received his shots. I'll be thinking of you and Shadow and hoping the best for you both.

carmilevy said...

Thank you, everyone, for your wonderfully kind thoughts in response to this post. We're actually pretty OK with it: it's part of life, and we'll do the best we can with our furry little guy.

The good news is he seems to absolutely love his new food. He goes nuts every time we reach for the can, and we have to almost shoo him away as we scoop it into his bowl.

Canned food is beyond disgusting, but if he continues to eat as well as he has for the past couple of days, we'll be only too happy to put up with it.