Jun. 12th, 2014


Jun. 12th, 2014 11:47 pm
bookofmirrors: (Silver Scratch)
Silver was the cat I never wanted to have.

A co-worker told me about him. He'd been wandering around her house for a while, and her neighbor had said that, if the cat kept hanging around, he was going to shoot him. She already had several pets of her own, and couldn't take him in. She knew I had 4 cats, and asked if I could take him. I didn't want 5 cats. That seemed just a bit too much. But I wasn't going to leave him to be shot, either. So, she caught him in a live trap, and I picked him up on my lunch hour and dropped him off at the local vet to get him checked out, bathed, and neutered. When I picked him up, they said he was in good health, male, and about a year old, so I drove him home.

I had no idea how long I would have to keep this cat before I found him a home, and I wanted a reasonably harmonious household of felines, so I put him up on the couch with me, so he could see my other cats, and they could see him. I immediately guessed he couldn't be a stray, because this "stray" cat lay down next to me on the couch, belly up, purring so loud his little feet were vibrating. He apparently adored me from the start.

Still, you could tell he wasn't used to being in a house. Every little noise that happens in a house that no one pays attention to (the air/heat kicking on, washer/dryer, water running, etc.) startled him. I had no intention of naming him and getting attached, so I simply called him Kitty. Since I figured he must belong to someone, I put an ad in the paper for a found gray cat. In the meantime, I asked pretty much everyone I ran into if they wanted a cat. I even took him to work (that was encouraged, since the residents liked animals) in hopes that someone would see him and fall in love with him.

No luck.

Then, someone answered the ad. I eagerly arranged to drive back to Dwight (I was living in Bourbonnais at the time) and drop him off at "his" house. I immediately didn't like the feel of the place, and I saw a couple ill-kempt outdoor cats nearby which may or may not have been associated with the house. But, I dropped him off, anyway.

And was sad all the way home. When the guy I was living with at the time asked me what was wrong when I got home, I burst into tears. Later, I got in touch with the girl I'd gotten him from to begin with, and asked about the timeframe when he was wandering her yard.

It didn't match the timeframe of the lady who'd lost her gray cat.

I called immediately, and after introducing myself, I blurted out, "You know that's not your cat, don't you?" She immediately and wholeheartedly agreed, stating he'd run behind the television as soon as I'd dropped him off, and hadn't come out since, and hadn't eaten anything. (Keep in mind this cat was all over my apartment, all over me, and ate food voraciously.) "I'll be right there," I told her.

When I got there, I went to the television and extracted him. He didn't fight me at all, and curled up against my shoulder immediately. "That cat *loves* you," the lady said in what I can only describe as awe. I was already in tears at this point, and I don't think I did anything other than nod. On the ride home, I was crying, and promising I'd never do that again.

"Kitty" eventually became Murke. I didn't want a normal name for a gray cat, like Smoky or Shadow or anything like that. Even trying those out in foreign languages did nothing for me. My best friend had just written a short story featuring a character called Gavin of Murk, and murky seemed a reasonable synonym for gray, so I called him Murk, and added the e at the end to make it look prettier. I paired Kitty and Murke together every time I referred to him for a while, and eventually just dropped Kitty. He caught on just fine.

He went from being a skinny and easily-startled cat to a decidedly NOT skinny cat who rather enjoyed having food available 24/7 that he didn't have to hunt for. And he became pretty nonchalant about household noises. He was less afraid of the vacuum cleaner than any of the other cats, even.

And he loved everybody. If there was a lap available, he wanted to sit in it. If that lap was mine, he wanted it twice as much. He was more like a dog than a cat, constantly underfoot, just wanting to be near me, all the time.

The only problem I had with him was that he fought constantly with Neg, who was my oldest male at the time.

Neg was my favorite, and had been since he was a kitten. He was my Buddha cat, my ambassador. Any new cat that came into the house was taught the ropes by Neg. Neg knew how to approach any cat, and make them feel at ease. Except, apparently, Murke felt the need to prove himself.

I didn't grow up with cats, so it had never occurred to me that declawing was anything other than a completely benign and common procedure. I had started to get an inkling that this might not be the case sometime before Murke came along, and hadn't planned to declaw him.

But he was hurting my Neg. And he was threatening the household hierarchy, and I felt I needed to defend that. Neg was a benevolent king, and I didn't want him usurped.

Luckily, Murke took the declawing very well, and Neg was quickly re-established in his "rightful" place. I've since learned better, and I would never declaw another cat. Murke was the last. And, as he took everything else completely in his stride, so he took this. Which only makes me feel slightly less guilty about it.

Aside from the guy I was living with at the time, who called him "the gray bastard", Murke became almost everyone's favorite. His sweet and laid-back personality won over pretty much everyone who met him. He would have been the perfect cat for a child, suffering calmly, if not lazily, through any number of games of dress-up, battle cat, or whatever strange indignity anyone could come up with. He was just thrilled to be around people. Glenn referred to him as "the drunken frat brother", in that sillystumbly way that drunks are known to be overly affectionate... "I love you, man".

When I moved to Atlanta, he got carsick 30 minutes into the trip, and was as good as gold the rest of the time. They all were, really.

When Neg died about 5 years after I moved to Atlanta, Murke took his place, even though Smithers was older. He was a lazy king, and I think he only got the job because Smithers just didn't have the personality for it. He somewhat begrudgingly befriended Ashira, the newest cat, whom only Neg had tolerated before. Whimsy, Smithers' littermate, went on disdainfully acknowledging him as she had before.

Somewhere along the line, Murke developed megacolon. It just started out with him being constipated now and again. The vet would put him under, manually extract the problem, and send him home. This happened several times. We consulted a nutritionist, tried putting him on several laxatives, you name it. It is because of him that I had to switch all my cats over to wet food. (Incidentally, apparently cats shouldn't eat dry food at all... so sayeth the veterinary nutritionist. Thus ends today's PSA.)

He absolutely wouldn't take medicine. Once he figured out the Pill Pockets, he refused to eat them, even though he loved them when they were empty. Giving him a pill was impossible, and ditto for liquids. If you could get them down him at all (which was rare), he would immediately throw them up. I'm quite certain he did this deliberately. Did I mention that lactulose in liquid form is extremely sticky, especially once it gets in a cat's fur? Locking him in a room with medicated food for hours on end didn't do any good, either. I later learned that cats will literally starve themselves to death (something in their liver goes wonky, I believe) before eating something they truly don't want, so I'm glad I didn't go more than a day on this. Medicine was pretty much the only thing he took a definitive stand on. In everything else, he remained benignly passive. He did develop carsickness, though. It took me years to figure out it was nerves, and not actual stomach problems. Going back and forth to the vet to get his colon cleared out took its toll.

It was during this time that Murke became Silver. Among the many things we tried to keep his megacolon in check, I enlisted the help of a shamanic healer I'd taken some classes from. During one of the sessions (and say what you want about weird spiritual things, he would get better for long periods of time after these sessions), he said that Murke was too sluggish of a name, and he wanted to be called Silver. There was absolutely no learning curve to using this new name. I started calling him that immediately after the session, and he responded to it from that moment on. I did miss calling him bigolegraymurkykitty, though. I could never find anything that fit well with Silver.

When we moved back to Illinois, the vet we ended up going to knew Chinese medicine, and lo and behold, there was suddenly a pill Silver would take. Ma-Zi-Ren worked wonders for a while, and even though I still had to give it to him forcibly, he rarely spit it out, and it seemed to be working. He was otherwise in good health, although the vet noted at his last visit (the vet retired) that he had "thyroid shift", and we needed to keep an eye on that.

About a year later, the vet that replaced the original one discovered hyperthyroidism. The cat who'd gotten fat on unlimited food still had unlimited food, and ate like a fiend, but was losing weight. We tried pills, and he went back to refusing anything, including the Ma-Zi-Ren. This began a yo-yo battle that would last the rest of his life (2-3 years, I think) trying to keep him in a good balance.

Luckily, the hyperthyroidism treatment could be applied topically to his ear, which made that a fairly easy problem to solve, but when he started getting constipated again, he wouldn't eat, and therefore wouldn't gain weight, and he was always dangerously close to being underweight, no matter what we did. He went back and forth to the vet with increasing frequency to get his colon cleared. Once, he got so stopped up, it cut off his urethra, and he had to be catheterized and in the hospital for several days. We almost lost him, although he assured the animal communicator he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. And he didn't. The great silver lining of that incident was that the emergency vet told us to try Miralax. I hadn't even known cats could take that, and I'd tried every remedy I could glean from veterinarian or internet.

And it worked. It worked for a long time. I had to play with the dosage, since all the cats were getting it, but it kept him out of the vet's office the majority of the time. He was still stubborn now and again, and if I didn't manage to get the ratio just right, he was back in the office. But it helped better than anything had.

The most recent time (before today) that I had him in the vet's office, it was for his usual procedure... but I mentioned to the vet that I'd doubled his dosage of his hyperthyroid medication, because he kept losing weight in spite of the usual dose. She took some bloodwork to check him out, and what came back (in a very roundabout way, I won't go into the medical details) led her to believe he had intestinal cancer.

I know a bit about cancer in humans, obviously. I've never worked oncology, but I've certainly seen it in the elderly patients I've worked with, and I've seen people die from it. I've seen how chemo affects people, and I've heard stories, none of them good. I'd be hard-pressed to put a human through that, much less a cat, much less a 15-year old cat. So, we added another medication to his usual dose, to relieve the obvious symptoms that would likely come up as a result, and I said I was just going to watch him, and probably not treat him.

When I spoke to the animal communicator about it, she relayed that he was tired, and didn't expect to be in his body more than a month or two longer, and that he trusted me to make the call when that should be. (In past conversations with her, he'd told her he "bragged on" me frequently when given the chance. I'm not sure I've ever had any animal love me as much as he did.)

So, I watched. And waited. He was heartbreakingly thin, and nothing I did helped him put on weight. He was refusing to eat anything with Miralax in it by then. I'm not sure why he could suddenly taste it. I managed to slip it in once or twice with some really strong-tasting food, but it was a losing battle. He had specifically said he didn't want his last days spent going to and from the vet, so I knew if he got constipated badly again, there wouldn't be anything I could really do about it. He got more and more lethargic over the days, although while he was awake, he was his normal self, albeit weaker and frailer. He wanted to be outside a lot, and not just on the balcony. I accommodated him when I could, which probably wasn't nearly enough. He certainly didn't think so, and his meows ranged from plaintive to extremely-put-out when I didn't open the door every time he asked.

I woke up this morning around 5am, with him lying on top of me - something he'd been doing with increasing frequency over the past couple of weeks. And that's saying a lot for a cat that already wants to be on someone's lap all the time. And I knew it was time. He was ready. I left an email for the vet, and canceled a scheduled visit to a friend's house, and waited. When we got the call from the vet, they asked if we could be there in an hour. I asked to go later, but it turned out the vet was going out of town that afternoon, and I wasn't about to be so selfish as to make him wait.

So, we ended up in rush-mode to finish breakfast and grab a shower. He was more awake now, and was brighter-eyed, and I began to doubt my original assessment of the morning, but if I allowed myself to be calm, it still felt like the right thing to do.

He didn't get carsick at ALL on the way there. I put him in his carrier, with the towel, thinking he would, as he always did, but he stuck his head out and watched the road with unusual interest while I petted him, and never once got the least bit queasy. That was enough for me to know he knew perfectly well what was about to happen, and was absolutely ready.

I held him while they injected the medicine that would help him die. I'd asked if giving him the sedative ahead of time was really necessary (they hadn't used it on Loki), and I was told that it might prolong it if not, but wouldn't hurt him. I remarked as I held him afterwards that I hadn't felt him leave... I'd felt all the other cats I'd put to sleep leave. She listened to his heart, and said it was because he wasn't gone yet. A few seconds after that, I felt this pressure on my heart. It lasted for about 10 minutes. But I didn't feel that whoosh of expansive energy I've felt in the past with others. When we left, the vet was still holding him and rocking him, with tears in her eyes. She'd fallen under his spell, too, in all the times she'd worked with him.

I'd been caught from day one, whether I had recognized it at the time or not.


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