People seem to divide reasonably neatly into two groups: cat people and dog people. People who say "But I like both!" - you're probably dog people. People who like both (in my experience) tend to be more devoted to their dogs while the cats are just kind of around the place. Whereas people who are only cat people often have either a basic mistrust of dogs (and dog people) or just don't have the time to traipse after a drooling needy idiot, picking up their faeces. (Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, I'm sure you love your cat as much as your dog. Sure, fine, OK, it's a generalisation. Sue me. Can we move on?)
Cat people are often viewed as obsessive, and this is only because they usually are. But it's definitely true that there are some cat people who take it to a whole new level of obsession. You know them - their cat is their phone wallpaper AND desktop wallpaper, they buttonhole you in the lift and show you photos "Look! He's wearing a hat!", and they phone home occasionally to an otherwise empty house so that their cat can hear their voice talking to the answerphone. Don't tell me you don't know one of these.
Well I'm the guy that those people think are a bit weird.
Cats to me (or at least the two cats I have lived with for any time) aren't animals, or pets, they are best mates who happen to be shorter than me and covered in fur*. A number of you reading this will remember Trevor. Trevor was a big ginger moggy my wife and I adopted when we moved house since he obviously had no owner and he lived ten happy years with us until ill health took him in 2012 - the year that also took my father.
I cried far harder on June 11 2012 when Trevor departed than I ever did over my father's 2-year decline and eventual death** from (what else) cancer in November of the same year. Seeing this cuddly, furry force of nature brought low by hyperthyroidism, asthma, heart disease and god alone knows what else was unbearable and I will never forget digging a grave for him down the bottom of our garden in the rain that evening. The cherry tree we planted alongside him will forever be Trevor's Tree.
The void he left was in part filled by Shira, the 18-year old black-and-white female cat we inherited when we moved into the rented house we still occupy. The owner had moved into assisted living due to ill health and left her cat behind, hoping that new tenants would take her on. We did, of course, and she wormed her way into our hearts in next to no time and became our beloved Little Bear.
You can probably see where this is going.
Shira is now very ill indeed. She is now 20 years old, and has been having fortnightly antibiotic injections to counter various gum infections and similar ailments that plagued her for a while, and doing OK on it until just over a week ago when she stopped eating entirely. We suspected teeth problems but at the vet this was found not to be the case, and the dreaded hyperthyroidism was suspected again - but following blood tests this too turned out not to be the case. In fact, Shira's numbers were all inside the normal ranges - amazing for a 20-year old cat - which when coupled with the racing heartbeat all pointed to the one thing you can't test the blood for, heart disease.
We continued with the antibiotics, and right now I'm administering a (meant for humans, cut into quarters) heart pill three times a day, and we're trying all the easy-to-eat foods and supplements that we can. She occasionally eats a couple of mouthfuls of cooked chicken, or trout, but every time we think "Aha, she'll eat X" she turns away from it the second or third time we try it. The frustrating thing is she seems to be hungry and to want to eat - but when we put anything in front of her she goes up to it, looks at it, then walks away. Heartbreaking.
So. Further emergency supplies (high calorie gels, assistive diet foods) have been ordered from the internet, post haste, paying utmost for fastest delivery possible, but I hear that today she is even refusing cream and pâté, the two things she had been fairly reliably at least nibbling at. Hopefully the syringe of stuff that aims to counter the negative effects of antibiotics on the digestion will arrive in time (it's due Wednesday) to help her turn this around, but if we're still in the same situation this time next week (vet appointment on Monday) we will very likely have to make the Final Decision for our gorgeous little Shira.
And that is why I am sad.
*Definition borrowed unceremoniously from Tom Cox.
**Of course I cried for my Dad. Of course I did. But that is another story for another time. RIP, Dad. You were the best.