I brought Scarlet home from the Bangor Humane Society in 2001. At the time, Hallee and I had just moved back to Maine and were living in Belfast while I worked at MBNA. I had a elderly Siamese named Charlie, who had never been alone much, and now all of a sudden I was at work all day and Hallee was in daycare and preschool. At the recommendation of our vet, I decided to get her a companion.
My sister Robyn and I went to the shelter and immediately found Scarlet and her litter-mates, just released for adoption that week. Tiny, grey fur-balls the size of a tennis ball, they were precious and fearless and desperate for affection. Scarlet made her way to the front of the bars and stared at me. Silent, patient and big-eyed..she was mine.
She was a monster at home..up the walls, hanging off curtains, the bane of Charlie’s beleaguered existence. Scarlet adored Charlie and would sprawl out on top of her and groom her head and face for hours and Charlie, bless her patient heart, would growl softly, but never moved to toss the little upstart off..this went on for years, until Charlie’s passing at age 16.
Scarlet has been an only cat since then, the very picture of feline beauty (at least to me) and grace. She’s never, not once, scratched Hallee, who adores her and is fond of kissing her head and face. She seemed to know that Hallee needed a little more patience. Maddy on the other hand, has been on the receiving end of a feline scolding more than once.
I’ve never thought of Scarlet as eldery, because truthfully she’s still full of piss and vinegar and the nightly yeowling and tearing around the house to kill toys session that we call “Stupid time” still happens at 10pm on the dot. She’s coolly ignored Cooper, our 1 year old dog, unless it’s to box him in the face if he ventures too close and is still my connected-at-the-hip girl. Where I am, she is. Bathroom? Check..haven’t peed alone in years. Bed? Check…left hand side, foot stretched out to touch me in her sleep. Kitchen? Check..directly under my bar stool at the island, trying to convince me she’s still a hungry, half-starved orphan. Stairs? Check.. directly under my feet and how she hasn’t gotten me killed yet is a mystery.
But last month, something began to worry me. She started losing weight, even though she was still eating the house down and getting treats on demand. I watched and worried, half convincing myself that weight loss was normal for an elderly cat, but knowing better. Everything else has been the same, appetite, energy, attitude, all great. But the weight wasn’t right. So this past week we gave the vet a call, and with a gut full of lead, took her in.
Blood and urine tests done confirmed that it was kidney failure..one of the top 3 reasons for elderly cats to lose weight. (the other two being hyperthyroidism and cancer) I think all things considered, I took the news pretty well. I didn’t pick her up and run screaming out of the vet’s office, anyway. Our vet told me that by the time the tests come back positive for any kidney failure, 75% of kidney function is already gone. We discussed feeding, got prescription canned food and we’ll go back in a month for another blood test to see if her levels have remained the same or of she’s in real decline. If it’s worst-case scenario, choices..hard choices, will have to be made.
I’ve felt almost morbid this week, watching her for any sign of trouble, any obvious change in eating or attitude. Last night, however, stupid time came on with a vengeance, she flew into my bedroom, ran part-way up a wall, reached over to the curtain and bit it..hanging there by her jaws for a moment before needing to be rescued..just like when she was a kitten. She went screaming from my room, no doubt looking to assault poor Cooper..tail puffed up, panting with blood-lust in her eyes.
So I’ll follow her lead. Until she shows me differently, it’s business as usual. Life is for the living! Treats on demand, Mama’s shadow and sudden doom to any big, orange, 92 pound puppy who’s foolish enough to try to love on her. And I’ll only cry a little bit, when she reaches out at night to make sure she can touch me.