Jan. 4th, 2017 08:41 pm
bookofmirrors: (Smithers)
Like Whimsy, Smithers has been with me since the day he was born. His origin story is also hers, and I said it better in It includes how we ended up with Smithers, how he got his name, and his early life.

As I stated there, we hadn't planned on keeping Smithers. He had a home lined up. But the couple ended up not taking him, and my father agreed that I should keep Smithers, in addition to Whimsy, so we ended up with the only two gray and white kittens from the litter... a matched set, male and female.

Even though we always joked that Whimsy (and therefore kinda Smithers) was Dean's cat, Smithers was always a Mama's Boy. He loved to be on my lap, milk treading and purring. When he was a tiny kitten, and I had to go to work for one of my off-hour shifts, I took him with me. He spent most of the time there sleeping in my cleavage while I did paperwork. Although it obviously didn't bother him at that time, Smithers had a weird quirk where he hated skin. More accurately, he hated walking on skin. This was a bit of an issue, since I spent a lot of time naked. He'd jump up on the couch, wanting to be on my lap, but not wanting to get his feet on my bare skin. He'd pace and meow plaintively, until I threw a blanket over myself, and he'd jump up immediately, and proceed with his cuddling.

He had an adorable habit when he was young, where if you petted him, he'd bliss out and his tongue would slip out of his mouth. I loved it when he did this, and thought it was the cutest thing. Whenever he did it with Dean, though, Dean would touch Smithers' tongue with the tip of his finger, and Smithers would pop it back in his mouth. I protested, because I thought it would make him stop doing that. Sadly, I was right, and it wasn't something that remained a habit for very long.

I don't recall a time Smithers was ever sick, up until the end of his life. The only medical problem we had was one of his claws started growing back, and we had to get it re-done. I found out then that there were two different ways to declaw cats, and he and Whimsy had both had the incomplete version. I opted not to have the surgery re-done on all their claws, and that was my first inkling that declawing wasn't the benign procedure I had presumed it to be. I cried when I had to replace his dressing, heartbroken to think that something I'd done had caused him pain. But we both got through it, and there were no further complications.

There are no good pictures of Smithers. Most of them either look frowsy (and he was that, at times), or just like ...well, a cat. None of them captured his easy, muscular grace. As Whimsy had been the smallest of the litter, he had been the largest, and he was the only cat I had whose muscles clearly rippled in his shoulders when he moved. He wasn't a particularly athletic cat, but he just somehow had that build. But for all his obvious power, he was a much more timid cat than his sister, and moreso than all the other cats. I always said he was a bit neurotic, and pictures also failed to capture the almost perpetually worried look he had. His other "look", which photos likewise could never portray, was a regal pose he would have sometimes, either sitting and towering over his domain like a contented monarch, or lying in a pose very much like that of the Sphinx, and looking just as wise.

In spite of being neutered as early as possible, Smithers still apparently had a healthy sexual appetite, and would chase Whimsy and Loki frequently, must to their annoyance (and horrible yowling). I don't think he ever caught them, but it certainly wasn't from lack of trying.

As part of his neuroses, singing in his presence almost always caused him to yowl in a very concerned manner. Apparently Glenn and I concerned him often. Everyone's a critic. :) He would also go through the house yowling for no apparent reason, moreso later in life. Glenn told me that it increased to an almost constant when I was out of town for work. Trying to get him to stop was like talking to the walls. But we loved him anyway, even as we were trying to get back to sleep. It certainly drove Brett nuts, but to his credit, he never did more than verbally complain.

As I type, I take back what I said about him not being sick ever. At one point, he developed crystals in his urine. (Apparently, there are two kinds. I can never remember which kind he had, but it was the most common kind.) The praised me for knowing my animals so well, and for paying attention enough to notice something was wrong, because apparently, this could progress to death very quickly. He said he'd have to be in a special diet the rest of his life, and that deviating from it would cause them to come back. All the cats ate the same food, so all the cats ended up going on the same diet. I tried to switch him over to a different food later, when Silver required special food for his megacolon, but the crystals did indeed come back, so we had to switch back. Interestingly enough, however, when we moved to Illinois, the original vet we went to (now retired) was not only a DVM, but was also versed in animal chiropractic, acupuncture, and Chinese medicine, and said that we could switch him over to non-prescription food if we only fed him "cooling" foods, as per Chinese medicine. I was skeptical, but I went ahead and tried it, and damned if it didn't work perfectly. I was able to switch all the cats over to the food that the in Atlanta (*highly* recommend her, by the way) had recommended, and if it was possible, they got even *more* healthy, with a noticeable difference in their coats - and it's certainly not like all of them hadn't always had top-of-the-line food since they were kittens. Everyone had always commented on their coats, and any cat that lived with us, or was cared for by us for any length of time had a noticeable improvement in their coats, even before then. What you feed your pets matters, people. (/end rant... maybe) After a few years of the cooling foods, it turned out it had pretty much cured him, and he could eat anything without the crystals returning. Really amazing.

Anyway, he was about 16 when he was diagnosed with kidney disease. All cats who live long enough will eventually get this. It's kind of amazing that Whimsy didn't seem to have it, all the way up until the end. But it's something that happens, and it progresses, and there's really nothing that will cure it, although there are some things that can be done to delay it. I gave him subcutaneous fluids for a while, but he didn't like it, and I wasn't going put him through that just because I didn't want to lose him. Ditto any medications, which I knew would traumatize my already-neurotic cat. In spite of that, he lived a few years without his levels going up significantly, and having no apparent major changes.

The first thing that really happened was when he started wasting. I was worried that he was losing weight, because I could start to feel his bones when I petted him. The checked him out, and said that he'd actually gained weight since his prior visit, and that what I was noticing was actually wasting - loss of muscle mass. This progressed slowly over time.

As any elderly cat will do, he started to move more slowly, and look like he had some of the aches and pains of old age. But he was otherwise still himself. At his last checkup, my suspicions that his kidney disease was progressing more rapidly were confirmed with bloodwork. I knew it would be soon.

He kept seeming older and older, but I never got the "signal" I'd always gotten with my other cats. He started sleeping almost exclusively in the corner of the living room where the two heating registers met, or on top of the subwoofer in Glenn's office.

It wasn't until Whimsy's death last Friday, that I really realized how far along he'd gotten. Whimsy ate like a fiend, and even moreso after her seizures, so I hadn't realized how little Smithers was eating. Since her death, he ate a total of less than one can of food, and there was only one tiny piece of stool in the litterbox. He was less interested in cuddling, which was very unlike him, so I finally went and picked him up for a while, which is when I realized he had a bunch of cat litter in his paws that he hadn't cleaned out, so I knew he wasn't taking care of himself. I was able to get all that cleared out, and I'm sure it must have been uncomfortable, but when it was gone, he didn't seem any less uncomfortable when he walked. Gentle petting while he was standing was enough to make him lose his balance. I was sure it was getting time to put him down, but I hadn't gotten any message from him, and when I'd had the with Whimsy, they'd worked a bit with Smithers, as well, so I thought I'd have more time with him. But all this was too much. I asked around, and finally decided that, signal or no signal, I couldn't keep him alive any longer.

So, I made the appointment. And I sat down and told him how wonderful he'd been (I swear he must have thought throughout life that his full name was BigOleSmithersHim'sSuchAGoodBoy), and that I thought he was very brave to be willing to stay with me in spite of his pain, but that I would never ask that of him, and that I didn't want him to hurt anymore, and that I was going to help him pass on.

When Glenn and I took him to the vet, he wasn't as calm in the car as Whimsy and Silver and Loki had been (they'd all made their wishes clear to me), but he was so tired and worn out. He didn't get out of his carrier at the vets until I took him out. Glenn and I petted him while he left the world, and I didn't feel him go like I'd felt my other cats go, so it was hard for him to feel dead to me. But I know he's in a better place now, and I'm happy for that.

So now, for the first time in over 20 years, I have no cats, no pets. It's strange how much of my life was focused on their care. I didn't realize how they're almost my first thought in most things. When I come home, when I wake up, when I walk through the house - there's a part of me that is always on the alert for them, and wondering where/how they are, what they're doing, thinking I need to get them more food/water, change their litter, just know they're there. I can tell now, because I constantly have to check myself from doing those things. I know it's only been just over 24 hours, but there's definitely an emptiness.

I suppose the obvious question people will have for me now is to ask if I'll get more pets/cats.

Yes, of course. But not for a while. And I don't plan to own for quite some time. There are a couple of groups in town that do cat rescues, and they're always looking for foster homes. If I own a cat or cats, I can only help the cats I own. If I foster, I can help so many more lives. I'm sure I'll end up being a "foster fail" at some point, of course, and that's fine. Also, with fostering, the cost of veterinary care is covered by the group, and I could really do with saving money right now. When I do adopt, I will probably do so from the Humane Society, and will focus on animals that need to be adopted together, or special needs animals, or ones due to be euthanized next. I figure I can help more lives that way, too.

But for now, I'm just going to take some time to regroup. I'm going to do a deep cleaning on all the cat areas, and I'm going to put everything away, and/or donate all my current supplies. I'll call PetFlow and figure out if I can stop my current shipments and still maintain my early-adopter discount when I start shipments in the future, or if I need to keep a minimum order to be able to do that, and arrange for that order to be sent to charity in the meantime.

I am so grateful to all the animals in my life for letting me share in their lives. This is the end of an era for me, and I look forward to the next chapter.



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January 2017

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