Letter to My Sick Cat, Linky:

It’s Sunday evening, and I am staring at you.  This morning I was staring at you.  And yesterday, and parts of Friday and in the middle of the night on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  I stare at you to see if you are enjoying your life, if you are going to throw up, if you might need water or care for a nibble of fine and stinky soft cat food.  I stare at you to memorize the tufts of your Linx-like ears, your white bib and white feet, your soft dark tabby coat which now covers such an improbable frame—you used to be so fat! 

I stare at you so I may hear you if you tell me it’s time, that sleeping in the sun no longer pleases you; that you are done with lap sitting and bed hogging.  Are you too tired to go on?  You’ve always been tired; you are, after all, a cat.  So be it.  But you are eating again, and drinking water.  And you purr now and again: a burst of approval when I least expect it or exactly when I do expect it.

How we love your purr.

I am exhausted.  I’ve got the vet’s number posted on the fridge; all I need to do is call him, and he will ride in on his merciful stallion and gently guide you away from me, from us, to that pile of blankets in the sky…

I don’t want to call the vet.  Ever.  I don’t want to decide whether you live another day, purr another nanosecond, climb up onto the couch and knead kitty biscuits into the blanket with your gloved paws one more hour.

To euthanize or not to euthanize?  I get it intellectually, of course.  A beautiful, feisty creature like you, toward the end of life, may be in terrible pain.  So time to go.  Et cetera.


I’m sorry, Linky, if my decisions are wrong or slow in coming, or non-existent.  You see, I don’t have an opinion on this subject in general.  I only have an opinion specifically, for today, this hour, this creature, this pet-owner.  For you, the lanky skinny rescue cat with the operatic voice, now a bread loaf on the bed for most of the day…well, what’s your opinion?

Why can’t you speak English?

I am not good at deciding when to stop helping a creature stay alive.

Or a person, if truth be told.

Thank goodness we don’t call a doctor to administer an overdose of barbiturates to people when they’re old and sick and really, really expensive.  We just take care of them or put our loved ones in a facility to receive care, and then we battle with ourselves, doctors, nurses, advisors, and sometimes the loved one too, to decide when Enough Is Enough.  We have Ethics committees, palliative nurses, hospice counselors, and all kinds of articles on what is and is not a quality life.

But we don’t know, not really.

With my father we just couldn’t do it.  My family couldn’t do it.  Just one day, one hour, with him in the ICU, had weight.  We were awed by the flicker of life and intelligence and humor, even when it appeared only in a quirked eyebrow, a signal of squeezed hands, a look of love—a burst of purr, I guess you could say.

My father, I believe, understood.  He was a wise man who knew how little we humans know; how complex life can be.  Some questions don’t have answers.  Some questions have answers but we can’t speak them.  Some answers are answering the wrong question.

I was ready to call it a lifetime for you, Linky, on Thursday afternoon.  Thursday evening you ate and drank and purred, and I put the decision on hold.  Friday you nibbled and drank again, and I dared to hope for two more days.  Saturday I dared to hope that you were making a comeback.  Today I am watching you again, waiting for a sign of decline or improvement, hoping that we can just forget all this life-and-death stuff and go back to hanging out together, like always.

You can’t last much longer, I know.  Your step-sister Cali died a few years ago.  You are getting so long in the tooth you can’t seem to clean your own fur properly.  You are still feisty but not so crabby as you used to be.  I lift you in my arms and you allow it.  You sleep against my side as if memorizing me too.

I don’t know if I will call the vet or not, or when, or anything else, much less how I can pay for what all vets charge.

All I know is that love comes in all forms and in this case that form is you: bright green eyes, swishing tail, hanging flab, pointy ears, whiny complaining meow…and a huge chunk of my life within your 17 years.

Animals are members of the family, and you are a matriarch here in our feline world.  A grand dame, Linky.  We love you, now and forever—even when you are a pain in the neck.






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