My husband thinks our cat is dying. Or is close to death or is succumbing to old age.
I don’t disagree.
The cat in question in 19-years-old. He’s lived a good life — an extremely good and long life.
He still goes outside every day, albeit for shorter jaunts than in his younger years. He still comes down for his afternoon treat each day. He may not catch snakes and bring them into the house anymore, but he still runs his routine, just not at the breakneck speed of his youth.
I understand he is slowing down. I know 19 is old for a cat. I know. I understand.
I just don’t want to talk about it.
My husband disagrees. He brings up the subject every chance he gets.
This is odd — beyond odd, actually — my husband wanting to talk about something (something remotely related to feelings) and me being on the opposing end of that chatter.
Usually, I want to hash out everything. Every. Thing. More than once. Multiple times. Extendedly.
When I attempt to revisit an issue, my husband will often say, “We talked about this.”
I remind him that sometimes I need to reach a decision at least three times before I consider it decided.
I am sure this infuriates him.
Which is why our current situation has me so confounded. Our cat’s ill-health is not a pleasant topic. It is distressing, dark, dismal and sad. My husband typically avoids topics that are distressing, not to mention dismal. Yet our cat is on his mind.
He was a rescue cat. Someone found him abandoned in a cardboard box on the side of the road 19 years ago. There were three sibling kittens in total, and it was bitterly cold. Two survived. One died. He’s been a survivor ever since.
And he’s done it in style. All nine lives of it.
Back about 15 years ago, we had two cats — he and a beautiful white female. At the time, one of our cats began using our middle son’s bed as its litter box. We didn’t know which one it was, so we watched.
We observed our male cat on the bed scratching with his front paws in the manner a feline does to bury its urine. We concluded he was the culprit and understood we’d have to make a drastic decision. You can’t have a cat peeing on your son’s bed on a daily basis, even if the mattress is covered in plastic.
Thing was, we had to leave town for the weekend. It was during the summer, so we decided to put our guilty male cat in the garage before having to decide his ultimate fate. We made him a nice cozy bed and left him with plenty of water and food and, of course, a litter box.
We returned two days later and he looked at us with curiosity as if to say, “Why did you leave me in the garage?”
When we entered the house we understood why. Our guilty male cat had been sentenced to a weekend in the garage, yet our son’s bed was wet with cat urine. We’d convicted the wrong pet. And thankfully, he’d been granted a reprieve.
That was 15 years ago.
He’s been a great cat before that and ever since. Rescued from a freezing cardboard box. Almost convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. King of the neighborhood. Thoroughly living all of his nine lives.
My husband wants to talk about his dying and I don’t have it in me. I guess I’d rather write about his living. Neither of us — my husband nor me — is right or wrong; it’s just how we individually grapple with our grief.
That’s what this is: grief. Losing a pet, or anticipating losing a pet, is beyond difficult. Our cat has been a part of our family for nearly two decades. That’s longer than many marriages last. And he’s been a good boy. A tough, loyal, fluffy, handsome, loving, aloof and strong kitty. I hope he’s part of our family for many years to come, but in reality, that probably won’t be the case.
But I don’t want to talk about it.
Let’s just leave it at this: We will love him the best we can until the end. And then later we will see him on the other side.
Love you, Mickey.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.