Saturday morning was the last time we drove our almost 18 year-old cat, Spirit to the vet’s office. Her kidneys had finally failed. Heather and I were grateful for the professional and caring doctors and staff of the Los Gatos Dog and Cat Hospital. The veterinarian let us ramble, stress, be confused, and struggle with a difficult decision. Once made, they proceeded with care and gave us the time we needed to say our good byes.
Heather adopted Spirit as a kitten before we were married. As a kitten Spirit would snuggle up under Heather’s chin and go to sleep. Spirit also started showing her stubbornly persistent attitude. There was another, older, meaner, nastier male cat living with Heather at the time that they called, “Memer.” Memer liked to sleep in a basket on a desk. Well, Spirit liked to sleep there too, but there wasn’t really enough room for two cats. Spirit would come up and just sit next to the basket, then she’d put in a paw, then another paw and Memer would shift a little, and before you knew it Spirit was sleeping in the basket and Memer was out.
This became one of Spirit’s trademark behaviors – slowly and with unwavering determination, she’d make her way onto your lap, your pillow, between your eyes and the book, under the blanket or wherever she had in mind to go.
Heather and I were married when Spirit was about two. At that time I had a cat named Shy and Heather’s daughter was living with Heather. As our wedding approached, arrangements were made to rent Heather’s house to her daughter and partner and to have Spirit stay in the house she grew up in.
Shy kitty only lived for a couple of years after we were married and it wasn’t long after Shy’s death that Heather’s daughter and partner decided to move out-of-state. Spirit came to live with us and adapted to her new home quickly. She soon learned where all the sunny places were and had favorite places in the garden. Spirit liked high places and often we’d find her sleeping on top of a bookcase or in a white wicker doll cradle that we had on a high display shelf.
Spirit was a fierce defender of the garden. Many times we’d here two cats growling and fighting in the yard. By the time we’d arrive on the scene, the other cat would be gone and Spirit would be at the door with a bit of the other cat’s fur in her mouth.
Spirit was healthy and happy for many years and was our furry friend.
Three and half years ago a stray cat had kittens in our yard and we ultimately adopted them, much to Spirit’s disgust. Spirit’s hobby soon became hissing at the kittens and otherwise showing that grandma cat ran the house. Spirit was nearly 15, but was still able to let out a menacing growl. Over the next couple of years Spirit started slowing down, sleeping more, and moving slowly. The kittens all wanted to be Spirit’s friend (especially Boots kitty), but Spirit wasn’t having any of it.
In time they learned to get along and avoid each other in the garden. Spirit started having kidney problems and we put her on a special diet. We watched her slowly develop more problems and had to start giving her medications. Just a few months ago Heather had to learn how to give Spirit subcutaneous fluids and for a few months I’d hold Spirit twice a week while Heather did the needle jab. Then we’d talk calmly to Spirit while waiting for 100ml to drip from the IV bag.
Three weeks ago Spirit took a turn for the worse and we were told to do the fluids daily.
While all this was happening, Spirit just kept on being Spirit, but she was becoming less nasty to the other kitties and now would sleep in the living room with them while we watched TV. She still found sunny places and still spent most of the night sleeping on top of me.
All the time we knew the kidney disease was terminal and struggled with the question, “When will it be the right time?”
That time turned out to be a Saturday morning after Spirit had yet another bad day. When I called the vet’s office at 8:00 am we were told to bring her in now. At 8:30 the technician weighed Spirit and made notes in on the chart. The doctor reviewed the case with us and offered no new options.
We came home with an empty cat carrier and an empty place where Spirit use to be. We had lunch with family and when we returned home in the late afternoon there were flowers on our doorstep. It was a little mystery as we hadn’t told any friends yet and family wouldn’t have had enough time to get flowers sent. Turned out that the vet’s office sent them and we found ourselves again touched by the kindness and professionalism of the doctors and staff.
The other cats still look for Spirit and still walk cautiously past were Spirit would sleep. I think Spirit will be in this house for a long time.