My Cat

Okay, let me get one thing out of the way first: This is not a “cat blog.” Yes, I’m a cat owner, of which I’ve made mention before, but it’s not my usual topic of discourse. So if you’ve stumbled across this entry as the result of a Google search on “cats,” I’m afraid you’re likely to be disappointed. But today, it does happen to be occupying my thoughts, to the exclusion of much else, and — as a writer — I’m left with little choice but to express myself here. A lot of this I’ve talked about before, so if you are a regular reader, please forgive a little repetitiveness on my part.

We actually have three cats in the house: Lily, the girls’ kitten, Chlöe, the well-adjusted indoor/outdoor cat, and Sasha, the neurotic one. My cat.

Of course, she wasn’t supposed to be my cat. About ten years ago, my mother-in-law took in a pregnant stray, and Pam fell in love with one of the little tortoiseshell kittens. Every time we’d go down to Virginia Beach to visit, Pam would lavish attention on her; I still remember Pam slipping her into her shirt pocket, she was so tiny. Pam chose the name “Sasha,” after a favorite doll she’d had as a child. Once Sasha was old enough, growing from a pocket ornament to a little puffball, we brought her home with us to our Falls Church apartment. At the time, we had another cat, Phoebe, and were optimistic that they’d get along together, that Phoebe would have someone to play with when we were away.

Alas, that didn’t work out as planned. Phoebe didn’t cotton to the idea of an intruder, and Sasha ended up spending most of her time in our guest room. Since Phoebe regularly slept on Pam’s head at night, and we didn’t want to leave the new kitten alone, I stayed in the guest bed with little Sasha for a while. Perhaps as a result, she ended up bonding more with me than with Pam. She’ll still accept attention from Pam (and has now taken over Phoebe’s old spot on Pam’s head), but there’s no doubt that I’m her “person.”

Sasha’s always been terrified of everything. We joke that the phrase “scaredy cat” originated with her. To this day she’ll have little or nothing to do with the girls, running away whenever they get too close. Up until recently, she’d spend most of the day hiding under our bed, coming out only after we’d climbed into bed in the evening (an awkward arrangement at best). When Chlöe came along, we hoped that Sasha would come out of her shell a bit, but it soon became clear that — while she’d tolerate the new addition — she had no desire for a “friend.” I don’t know if that was a natural tendency, a result of her experience with Phoebe, or just a feline personality conflict, but nothing we could do would change it.

In the end, all three cats — Phoebe, Sasha, and Chlöe — made do with their own “territories,” none bothering the others. Phoebe passed away a couple of years ago, and once we moved into our new house, Sasha and Chlöe quickly worked out their respective areas of influence.

And then, about eighteen months ago, our daughter convinced us to let her have a new kitten — Lily. Chlöe and Lily bonded almost immediately; we can regularly find them curled up together. But something else happened as well: Sasha started coming out. In hindsight, it seems likely that Lily simply refused to accept the territorial boundaries that had been worked out, and Sasha no longer had her little safe hideaway. Still — reasoning that actually seeing the light of day would, on balance, be a positive thing for Sasha — we were perfectly happy with the result.

A few months ago, though, we noticed a change for the negative. At first, it was hard to be certain, but she seemed to be using her litter box more frequently, and drinking a lot more water. Still, with three cats, and Lily getting bigger all the time, it was hard to know for sure. And then across the last month, she started using our dining room instead. We thought it was just an isolated incident — or, at best, a behavioral issue — but as things got worse, we realized there was more to it.

Last night I took her to the vet.

Sasha has diabetes.

And I honestly don’t know what to do. The obvious concern — as selfish as it may sound — is money. It’ll cost somewhere between $500 and $600 just to get her started on an insulin regimen, and then a recurring cost of close to $100 per month. That’s not something we’ve got readily available in the family budget. But even without regard to the money, there are the practical concerns. Even now, we barely see Sasha, and certainly not with any degree of predictability. I had to take off early from work yesterday for the vet appointment, because — even though Pam was home — catching Sasha is a two-person job. I can’t imagine we’d be able to catch her twice daily — within a two-hour window, mind you — to give her an insulin shot. And once she figures out that when we catch her, we’re going to give her a shot, it would only get more difficult. It’s possible to try managing her illness with diet alone, but with a blood sugar level as high as hers, the prognosis is not good.

It’d be one thing if she were so ill that euthanasia were clearly called for. Agonizing — as our experience with Phoebe drove home — but easier to deal with. On the other hand, if it were Lily who were sick, we’d no doubt be likely to more seriously consider the insulin option, not only because she’s little more than a kitten, but because we could catch her.

Rationally, I know what we should do: Try our best to manage her diabetes with diet. But I suspect we’re just kidding ourselves as to the likelihood of any reasonable measure of success. Emotionally, I’m completely torn. Sasha’s my cat. I’ve raised her since she was a kitten. And while 10 years isn’t all that much less than the average 12 to 15 year lifespan of an indoor cat, that’s still a considerable chunk of time that she won’t have. I know that, on the scale of problems one can ask for in the world, this is a relatively lightweight issue; I know she’s not my child. But that doesn’t make it insignificant — at least not to me.

I know that — at my core — I’m a rationalist. But sometimes that doesn’t make the right decision any easier to accept.


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