Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Knowing

I hauled two cats into the vet for checkups this morning
The original plan had been to take Dinky and Bart. But someone must have told Bart what it means when the cat carriers come out and I walk around the house with my coat and boots on making friendly, come-here noises. Since he has been a housecat only about six months, there is no way he could have known, so here's possibly more evidence for feline ESP. Anyway, no dice with getting anywhere near him, much less being able to cram him in a cat carrier. Okay--he has a cough and one eye that bothers him, but both conditions have been around pretty much since he came inside with no sign of getting worse. He didn't *need* to see the vet. So he won this round.

But I had an appointment for two cats, so I looked around for another possible victim/patient. Tommy, in the shop, has been sneezing and showing signs of a cold for the last two days, so I figured, given his positive-FIV status, he could probably stand a check-up. So, out to the shop I went. Toby was lying on the sheepskin, relaxed and happy. Frieda was in the cat tree and greeted me. Molly chirped underfoot. But Tommy saw me coming and vanished into the morass of junk engine parts, jack stands, air compressors and lumber that take up the front area of the shop. No amount of sweet talk would convince him to come out. Feline ESP strikes again.

So, there is always Fred. We don't know for sure how old Fred is, but he was at least a year old when he came to live with us in the winter of 1990. So he pretty close to, if not older than, seventeen years. With typical hybrid vigor, he keeps on keeping on and the years seem to have little effect on him. But it certainly wouldn't hurt to have the vet look him over. And he would be easy to grab. So it was his lucky day.

Fred is the originator of The World's Saddest Meow, and Dinky can make pathetic little noises when the occasion calls for it (in her opinion) so the trip into town was a pretty miserable-sounding affair. The only thing that makes it bearable is that I know everyone will be in a much better mood going home. They always know when we are Going Home...

Dinky has been feeling thinner to me over the last month or so. When we put her on the scale, it was obvious that she has lost nearly two pounds since last summer (and she is a small cat to begin with, hence the name...) She has some inflammation to her gums in the back of her mouth, which might cause her to eat a bit less, but when Dots drew some blood to check for possible thyroid problems, she was concerned by how thin and anemic-looking the blood was, signaling possible kidney problems. She sent the blood out for analysis but it will take a couple days. Dinky also has a slight heart murmur, significant only because her brother Sparky died of heart failure. But that didn't seem problematic to Dots.

Fred is doing well for his age but may be in early-stage kidney failure. His gums are also not good, so I came home with a course of oral antibiotics for both of them and a special diet for Fred. Fortunately, Fred is very much an eager eater and enjoyed a snack of kidney-diet when we got home, so he won't be hard to treat in that respect.

So, I won't know anything firm on Dinky until Friday at the earliest. I have to wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse to know that she has a time-bomb, in the form of incipient illness or organ failure, ticking inside her. Right now she is happy and apparently healthy. I know that we are going to lose each of our cats eventually. I know that it will be before I am ready to let go of them. This is the sadness that makes our interactions bittersweet. But I don't want the future to overshadow the present. I would love to embrace the day and live in the ever-present now like the cats do, with no worries or fears about what may come. True, if I am aware of potential problems or early-stage disease, I can take steps to prolong the healthy portion of Fred and Dinky's lives and keep them comfortable when the end comes nigh. I suppose that is reason enough to embrace the knowing even if I dread it.

But part of me feels there is a lot to be said for ignorance being bliss.

Dinky is one of the cats that is particularly close to me. She sleeps with me every night, either perched on top of me or nestled beside me under the blankets. Over the last year or so, I have come to recognize and appreciate her devotion. She has a friendly, out-going personality, a cat that is a joy to be around, to interact with. I hope we can keep her healthy for many years to come.

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