I think I’m opening the pages of Miffy’s final chapter.
The cranky little kitten came to me in Goulburn back in 1995. Her feisty temperament wasn’t mellowed by a vicious dog attack in the first year of her life, and she grew into a cranky cat. She used to torment Spike, the cat next door, who wasn’t allowed outside, by wandering along outside his windows and pulling faces at him.
The pages of her life have been punctuated by hissy fits and tiger growls, and yet she showed great tenderness to a kitten she adopted for a while, grooming it, curling up with it, teaching it to hunt beetles in the back yard, and bopping it on the head when it was distracted by falling leaves or waving grass. She has slashed vets and frightened vet nurses. She hated Ollie the Wondercat and Oscar Bin Laden the Terrorkitty. The only human she has ever loved is Boomerang Boy. She survived a stroke last year, and is now a cranky, crazy old lady. It’s nearly time to close the book.
I keep holding off turning that final page, though. I watch her closely, to monitor changes in behaviour that might signal a decline in her quality of life. I keep thinking that I will somehow know when the time has come, but I don’t know what I am looking for.
Her appetite is bigger than ever. The dementia seems to have removed the ‘off’ switch. I leave food out for her in the evening, and by 2am she is yowling for more. I leave the bath tap dripping so she can help herself to water from the tap, but it’s not enough. (Thank goodness the drought’s over, but oh God, my water bill!)
The nightly battles – mine, to sleep, and hers, to make me do whatever it is she thinks she wants (and sometimes she doesn’t know that herself) – have increased in number and intensity. Last night I fell asleep exhausted at 8.30, having been awake since 4am (thanks Miffy!) She woke me with desperate yowling at 10.30pm. And again at 12.30. And then again, finally, at 2.57am – and here I am, crying over my blog and desperate for some unbroken sleep. She is snoring next to me on the bed, and I am wondering how the hell I’m going to drag myself through 5 senior English classes today.
Her mournful meowing sessions are loud enough for my neighbours to hear (I’ve asked) and they aren’t confined to the wee hours, either. It’s driving me nuts.
The bottom line, I suppose, is that I don’t want to have to make that hard decision to end her life – and yet I don’t want to be a martyr to a demented cat either, living a zombie existence as she becomes more querulous and demanding, and less in control of her faculties, travelling through the days and nights in confused loops.
Why can’t her heart just give up? Why can’t she just die peacefully like Oscar did, curled up in a cosy armchair? I don’t want to think about her crying in the car on her last trip to the vet, or being afraid in the waiting room, or afraid of the bloke with the needle. I want her last moments to be, well, nice. Dignified. Befitting a grand old lady who has been, in her youth, a proud hunter of beetles, with a temper to terrify the toughest vet.