Our family cat Mischief is aptly named. Ten pounds of tabby trouble, this cat has cost us a small fortune in vet bills in his short life. First there was the tin can he found in the neighbours recycling bin, I am sure it was something yummy but the ten stitches in his mouth couldn’t have been worth it. Multiple times he has disappeared into small crevices in walls. Last month we lost him for a couple days when he wandered into the crawl space and got locked in. This fall he came home with a slashed face and a limp tale, apparently, a raccoon had got the better of him. Tailless, he seemed to slow down for a few months, and we tried, unsuccessfully, to make him an indoor cat. A few weeks ago he came home from what was to be his final adventure. He arrived at the back door listless having got into poison. Despite ten days in hospital and several more of home care, we are saying goodbye to this lover of adventure.
We share our home with a lot of animals. Two big dogs and five cats. The dogs were intentional, the cats lay claim on our space and we didn’t have the strength to argue. I am a dog person. Obedient, loyal highly physical, I understand dogs. Cats are another thing altogether. It’s hard to understand these independent souls. Both my husband and I threaten, to no one in particular, that we are going to re-home these pesky beasts. There are so many things not to like about them. My black long haired sheds fur constantly. Every chair she relaxes on is covered with the stuff. Our calico Ami is, well, a calico -- Moody, bossy and non-committal. She is a gorgeous looking cat and will sit on your lap for twenty minutes and then suddenly bite your hand. My vet, who has seven cats of his own, calls her Killer. He has scars to prove it.
And yet, and yet last week I spent time and a small fortune at the Animal Hospital when Mischief went into acute renal failure. I learned they have ICU’s for animals. When we brought him home I handmade his medical food in a blender, tube fed him, and administrated medicine. I have cleaned up his cat pee, his cat barf, and changed his soiled bedding. I can’t explain my actions from a place of undying love for this cat. I like him, I share my home with him, and his life is worth something to me. When he is sick or injured, it seems to me he deserves to be cared for.
I am deeply grateful to share my life with a menagerie of creatures, they make my life better. Sure, some of our cats are more likeable than others, and the dogs do trump the cats in our house, but they are all part of our animal family. In our rambling home, when all the teenagers are away at school, I notice the coming and goings of all our creatures, I talk to them, I cuddle them, and take the dogs for hikes. There is a rhythm in our home that the animals are a big part of; I finish work at six to feed the cats, I wake up early to let the dogs out, at night as we all settle into the evening hours, everybody comes into the living room for family time. When I travel for work, I race home to see my dogs, who are invariably waiting gleefully at the front door when I return. The cats meow, and run between my feet. It feels good to talk to the cats, to tease them for being so darn pesky, to note their disdain that some idiot bought the wrong cat food. On the many nights my husband travels, I am never alone, the animals keep me company before breakfast, and make me honour a routine at night.
Today, I am saying goodbye to one of our animal family. I have been through this end of life ritual at least a dozen times with other animals. I know how it goes, and I am prepared for the hollow space that invariably is created when we lose a friend. Mischief, your life with us started when you were rescued from a sewage pipe with your neurotically lovable sister, you have made us laugh at your antics, you have given us wonderful stories to tell about your costly misadventures, and you have added your own unique footprint to our animal family. God speed.