My cat is dying.
She’s a beautiful cobby-shaped black and white longhair of undetermined breed with gem-like green eyes. We found her wandering outside our church, skinny and bedraggled. We brought her food, but she wanted to be petted more than she wanted to eat. When a raccoon ate all the food we brought her, we decided to take her home. She’s been home for sixteen years.
Her name is Spot. I named her Spot because I was six. Also, she has a black spot on her tiny pink nose.
She is the best cuddle buddy. She always knows when I’m sick or sad, and whenever I’m either of those she’s right next to me, in my lap, or curled up on my chest, her deep, rumbling purr vibrating through my bones and shaking all the broken pieces back into place.
In cat years, she’s 80 years old, but she still plays with bits of string or catnip mice like a kitten. She has a habit of finding a toy, putting it in her mouth, standing in the most resonant place in the house, and howling to get our attention. It’s annoying, but iconic.
Spot is the queen of the roost. The other cats are bigger than her and much younger than her, but Spot only has to look at them archly to have them back down and behave. Occasionally, our middle cat Dot will get in a violent mood and need to be extracted from underneath a piece of furniture. Once she had wedged herself under my nightstand and wasn’t at all eager to be pulled out. Dot’s a big cat and very strong—Spot is small and frail. But when Dot angrily latched onto my hand, Spot attacked Dot in my defense and made her let go. Spot is not the kind of cat to attack anyone or anything, but she would not stand for anyone hurting me.
She misses me. I know people joke about how cats don’t care when their humans are gone, but Spot always very distressed when she sees me packing a suitcase. But when she sees me unpacking a suitcase or bringing in boxes of dorm accoutrements, she’s all purrs and affectionate rubs around the ankles.
Spot loves to watch the outdoors. While she never wanted to return—she bristles at the sound of loud trucks and dogs barking, indicating she’s had nasty encounters with both—she loves wide windows. She loves car rides and watching the world whiz by. She loves basking in pools of sunlight. She loves watching birds and squirrels and falling snowflakes.
But more than anything else, she loves to curl up with me and be scratched between the ears.
We found out she has thyroid cancer about a year ago. Last week we noticed a sore in her mouth, and when the vet examined her and did some tests, he found out the cancer had spread to her mouth. She has 38 days left to live.
The things is—she knows it. She knows she’s sick. She knows she’s dying. Dot knows it too—despite their occasional tussles, Dot idolizes her—and stays with her all the time.
Spot spends even more time looking out of windows—even late at night when there’s nothing to see. She wants to spend all her time with me. Right now she’s curled into a ball next to me on the couch. She’ll leave her usual resting places and seek me out, patting me on the arm to be petted, purring wildly. And she gets agitated whenever she sees me cry.
“Don’t do that. Don’t be silly, human. Just pet me. It will be okay.”
I hate to see her hurt. And she does hurt. She’s learned how to ask for pain medicine. It hurts her to eat, so she doesn’t eat much, and she didn’t eat much before this started. I don’t want her to hurt, but there’s nothing I can do about it but do what she wants—pet her, brush her, hug her, and let her wake me up in the morning.
She’ll probably go while I’m in Croatia. I’d like to think that she wants it that way.