I gave one of my cats back to the universe last week. His name was Java, and he was a large, loud, solid-black cat. It had been just the three of us–Java, his brother Tag, and myself–for so long that I’ve been a bit stunned as to how odd the dynamic has felt in my house. Who knew that a loud, misbehaving, cuddle monster of a black cat could have such an effect on me?
He was diagnosed with large-cell/high-grade lymphoma in his intestine. That’s the more aggressive type of lymphoma a kitty can get, and it certainly was *aggressive*. He went from being somewhat off to completely different in under two weeks. I’d been taking him back and forth to the vet and his kitty cardiologist for about a month for what looked like kitty IBD: some vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. But then there was the suspicious ultrasound, an even worse ultrasound, and then his symptoms didn’t just go downhill–they jumped off a fucking cliff.
I knew that no matter what the type of lymphoma, any kind of treatment would only buy us time. And when he didn’t respond to his steroid medication and they told me it was the more aggressive type, I knew I had to make the tough decision. Like most cats, he hated going to the vet, and was a jerk about taking pills. To *maybe* have a few more weeks with him would involve weekly checkups and multiple medications added on to an already impressive list. I couldn’t do it. For him and for myself, I needed to get it over with.
My vet got me in contact with a great mobile veterinarian. I knew that if I had to say goodbye, I wasn’t going to take him somewhere he hated to do it. She was compassionate and wonderful, and I got to say goodbye in our own home. By that time he was finally showing me how sick he was, which in a way helped the decision, but I’m still struggling with guilt. But I know I was lucky to have such a great companion and constant in my life for nearly a decade (9 years in April). He was spoiled and I did all I could for him.
I adopted Java and his litter mate Tag from a woman who had terminal cancer herself. She had five cats in total, and got the boys when they were kittens. Naturally she didn’t want them to be separated. I had just come out of a rough breakup, and add to that some tumultuous years with family upheaval, moving around, and trying to figure out who I was. The timing was perfect. I needed comfort and they gave it to me. Even after all these years, I may not have kids or a husband or any of those things people think you’re “supposed” to have by my age, but I wouldn’t change anything. He was an adventure on his own.
So now I’ll share the bits of Java I’ll miss the most; what’s amazing is how many of them drove me so crazy:
1.) Java was loud. He loved to yell, announcing his arrival into a room or into your lap; or to tell you he was about to break the rules or how proud he was about climbing up high on the cupboards. He didn’t do something unless he could show off.
2.) He was my Stage-5 Clinger. He wanted to be wherever I was and sit on me, to the point he’d sit on his brother Tag if he was already in my lap.
3.) When it was bedtime he’d let out a deep and dramatic sigh before collapsing on my chest each night, then give me the “bedroom eyes” before he went to sleep.
4.) His constantly sneezy face. He was the forever-snotty toddler but in feline form.
5.) His nighttime operas, performed at full volume. Nothing helps you sleep like a cat yowling in the living room at 3am.
6.) His dramatic personality. When he flopped, he almost somersaulted. When he disapproved of the smell of something, he’d make the most offended face, and sometimes added a gag reflex to that. That boy was a queen.
His brother and I will soldier on as best we can without him, though it’s still hard to imagine at the moment. I’m going through the phase where I don’t really think of him as gone. It’s like he’s at the vet for the day and I expect a call to pick him up. I may not be to acceptance yet, but I’m working on it.
To Java: Thanks for making me laugh, comforting me when I was down, and being the best damned cat ever. If there’s some kind of an afterlife, I hope you find your original owner and first “mommy,” and have all the butter and tuna you can eat.
“‘I meant,’ said Ipslore, bitterly, ‘what is there in this world that makes living worth while?’
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually, CATS ARE NICE.”