I’m afraid there’s a trend to my blogging activity. I’ve drifted from this blog over the past few years, having only written in it a handful of times since 2014, and even then not at all since 2016. I see in hindsight, however, that many of my non-academic posts since starting this blog in 2009 have fallen under the Probably Cats tag, and of those, the majority have covered either the approach of, or fallout from, pet loss. I can’t say exactly why it works out this way, but as seen with Dexter in 2012 and Monty in 2016, I guess when I approach a certain point in the declining life of one of my feline friends, I just need to write out how I’m feeling.
The trend continues today. Miles, our 11-year-old white/brown tabby with a bumpy nose and a coffee splotch on his chin, and whom we’ve had since his shelter-estimated age of 1.5, is not well.
Ever since the 2009 loss of our first older cat, Thacker, we’ve feared a renal failure redux. Thacker’s vet told us when we began treatment that so long as we felt he had a positive life, meaning he could still do the things that made him happy, his quality of life was in balance. For Thacker, happy meant morning cuddles, sitting with us while watching TV, meeting us at the front door, snuggles with his younger brother, and a bowl full of now kidney-friendly kibble; for those things, Thacker endured daily sub-cutaneous needles as he purred his way from 10 pounds at diagnosis in September 2008 to less than 6 the following April. We’ve related our experience to veterinarians in the decade since, citing Thacker with self-effacing jokes about our paranoia. Still, we always asked how our older kids’ kidneys looked during exams, and occasionally requested cautionary blood tests just to be sure. We had one of those blood tests performed in June 2017, just before our move to Colorado, and found no problems. Less than two years later in March 2019, even when Miles looked healthy and normal, another of these tests revealed he was already in advanced kidney failure. Just like that, we were again facing soon-to-be terminal renal failure.
Miles is not like Thacker. Miles was never a gregarious or particularly involved kitty and has always been content to mostly sleep his days away in another room, so we didn’t have the same happiness indicators to judge his quality of life against. What we did know is that Miles would not abide the painfully slow sub-cutaneous sessions, so we eventually found a new syringe pushing method that allowed us, with enough treats as distraction, to speed the process enough keep him hydrated. Miles then began turning up his nose at one after another type of kidney cat food until we decided that we’d rather he eat something. Then Miles developed anemia. Then a heart murmur. Then high blood pressure.
Thacker’s progression was like dropping a tennis ball, with each bounce’s zenith coming a bit lower, but the peaks and valleys were clear: Thacker would get worse, then get a bit better again, then worse, then better, repeated until finally the good days stopped and it was time to say goodbye. Miles’ progression has been a bowling ball – it’s taken four months to get here, but it’s clear that each day has been worse than those before. Now Miles has stopped eating solid food and won’t come to the kitchen for his meals. He’s hiding under the bed almost permanently, emerging only to drink a little water and use the bathroom. The subcutaneous fluid pouches, which used to shrink as they were absorbed within a few hours, now persist for a full day. His voice is getting weaker and raspy, and he protests in pain if picked up. His balance looks a little unsteady. And sadly, he no longer wants to do the one thing I think he really enjoyed: treat-motivated tricks like high-fives, target touches, and balancing on his hind legs. We gave up on seeing better days a while ago, but now we have to accept that there are no more “good enough” days left. We’ll be taking Miles to the vet later this afternoon where we’ll say goodbye.
I hope to return in a few weeks or months to eulogize my poor sweet, complicated, odd fellow that is Miles. For now, I think I once again just needed to put it out to the ether…
this fucking sucks.