After another 3.30am wake-up, courtesy of Miffy the Geriatric Cat, and yet another toileting disaster - hers, not mine! - I'm running out of humour, bicarb of soda - and incense.
Things are getting difficult - and a bit smelly. I wonder whether Miffy finds it as distressing as I do? As her poor old brain deteriorates, she becomes increasingly stuck in weird behavioural loops, and is often confused.
Like this morning. At 3.30am. Picture this:
Loud yowling wakes me (and probably half the neighbourhood) again. The kitty body-clock is seriously out of whack. I get out of bed and turn on the light. Miffy is sitting in the bathroom, waiting to go through the routine. This is how it's supposed to go:
Human turns on tap in bath. Cat jumps into bath, drinks water from tap. Cat jumps out. Human turns off tap. Life goes on.
Holes are starting to form in even this simple and well-worn routine. I turn on the tap. Miffy hauls herself up and into the bath. She sits in front of the trickle of water and looks at it.
'Um, I know there's something I'm supposed to do now...' Sometimes she remembers, sometimes she doesn't.
We go through this at least ten times a day now. At least. It used to be a once or twice thing, back in the day.
It's starting to be the same with the feeding routine, which is supposed to work like this:
I rattle the bicky jar. Miffy comes running. I put food in the bowl and she eats it. Alternatively, Miffy yowls for food. I put food in the bowl. Miffy eats it. It's a simple process, right?
Not any more. Miffy instinctively initiates or responds to the first part of the process, but can't complete it. She looks at the bickies in the bowl, then wanders off – usually back to the bathroom, where she starts the 'Turn on the tap for me' loop again.
Her brain starts things that it can't remember how to complete. So she starts them again. She does the familiar bits that she can remember. Over and over. And over. Sometimes she just yowls.
I'm not sure what the yowls mean. Frustration? Fear? Simple selfish feline demands? I don't know, and I don't think Miffy does either. Half the time, I think that whatever it was she wanted when she started yowling has flown out of her head by the time I turn on the light. We look at each other.
She follows me around because. Just because. If there ever was a reason, she's forgotten it, but if she follows me around, she might remember it. Confusion radiates from her at these times.
And then there's the toilet thing. The hastily-bought litter tray, which lives behind the armchair, is only a partial success. For Miffy, it's a bit of a hit-and-miss thing. If her feet are in the litter, that's evidently close enough, and she pees with gay abandon. Her bum may well be hanging over the side of the tray, but her paws are in the litter, and as far as Miffy is concerned, that is the important thing. Wee finished, she gets out of the litter tray and poops about a foot away. On the carpet. She's also forgotten that peculiarly, fastidiously feline part of the process – you know, the bit where they bury their business? She just drops a few cat nuggets onto the carpet and wanders off.
I wonder whether she's happy, or content, or whether she's struggling through an unpleasant and impenetrable soup, in which jumbled fragments of a lifetime of routines float and bobble. Her increasingly loud vocalisations are carefully articulated, but in a language I don't understand, and I'm not sure what to do. Her mental deterioration has escalated quite markedly since (a) her stroke, in July of this year, and (b) Oscar's death in October.
I think my dear old cat and I are journeying towards a horrible inevitablility that I don't like thinking about - and if I'm honest, when I bring up the 'quality of life' argument, whose life am I talking about? Mine or Miffy's? Boomerang Boy accuses me of wanting to murder his cat whenever I bring up the possibility that euthanasia might be the kindest thing. Boomerang Boy, it must be said, sleeps through the worst of Miffy's weird behaviour.
As I write this, Miffy is curled up next to me, fast asleep. After the early start this morning, I think I'll put questions of life, death and feline dementia into the too-hard basket, and join her for a little nap.