Thirteen years ago, I was sitting at my breakfast table when I spotted a cat peeking in the sliding glass door, his face curious and friendly. I stepped outside to pet him, and he became a daily visitor, enjoying milk and scratches behind his ears until I had to leave for work each day. Over time, he took his bowl of milk in the kitchen, then he started sleeping in the house, until he was simply my cat.
We have been inseperable since. Tweetie has moved over 15 times with me, has travelled along the East coast, has even ridden a plane with me, an experience he won’t soon like to repeat. I have run in front of a car to rescue him, and he has nestled at my side when I am sick.
Everyone who has met Tweetie can’t help but comment what a strong personality he has. He is vocal, outspoken, demanding, territorial, and perhaps a wee bit spoiled. OK, a lot spoiled. But when he literally leaps into my arms when I bend over to pick him up, when he purrs ferociously like a lion as I scratch his ears, when he curls up on my hip as I lay in bed and makes it known he has the comfiest spot in the house, well, he is worth more than I can give.
A little over a month ago, I came home from shopping and was opening the closet in one bedroom when I heard Tweetie meow in the next room. It was a deep, guttural meow, one he usually reserves for playing, as he stalks a toy and plots its impending doom. Smiling, I wandered into the next room to see what he had found to hunt.
But he was not playing. Tweetie was sprawled beneath the desk, his back pressed to the wall, his mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out, like the meow to call me had taken all his energy. I pet him, felt his tenseness, saw how his eyes moved but not his head, and I sprang up to call the emergency vet. Within minutes, Tweetie was wrapped in a blanket and curled up on my lap as we hurried to the vet.
There is nothing more painful than watching someone you love suffer, and if you don’t understand my love for a cat, then we really have nothing in common. Animals hold a special place in my heart, even more so than most people, to be brutally honest.
Just as frustrating was the lack of answers at the vet’s. According to his blood work, he was a healthy cat. According to his EKG, again, nothing wrong. Yet Tweetie couldn’t lift his head, couldn’t walk, couldn’t get up from the position in which I had found him.
I brought Tweetie home that night and slept on the floor with him, to comfort him, to comfort myself, to keep him near me as long as I still could. The vet had mentioned possibly “putting him down”, and I couldn’t get the words out of my head.
More vet visits, more medication, more tests. I was constantly on the verge of tears but had to go to work, leaving Tweetie in the hands of the vet for the day. I wasn’t allowed to take him home for a few days so they could observe him, so I stopped by after work every day and visited with him. As I approached his cage the first time, his head was facing away from me, but when he heard my voice, he tried so hard to lift his head to see me, and as my hand rested on his neck, immediately he burst into vigorous purring. I leaned over him, practically crawling into the cage with him, to hug him, sing to him, pet him, stroke his forehead.
Finally the vet gave him clearance to come home, and we started our daily ritual of morning and evening medications, having to feed him, having to do everything for him, which seemed to frustrate him and anger him. I barely slept, laying next to him on the floor, watching him, afraid if I took my eyes off of him, he would be gone.
I tried not to get my hopes up, but as time passed, it became clear that Tweetie was moving better, and he is able to sit up, eat by himself, use the litter box, and even walk in a shaky way from room to room to get water or just find a better nap spot. Tweetie had a follow-up at the vet yesterday, and he said Tweetie has definitely improved, and we would keep doing what we are doing.
Yesterday morning as I mixed crushed pills into Tweetie’s Fancy Feast (shhh, he doesn’t know the medicine is in there), I felt a soft, fuzzy cheek brush my leg, and I looked down into Tweetie’s sweet face, waiting for his breakfast. He was sitting up instead of laying down, and he had walked from the bedroom to the kitchen on his own. I picked him up and felt the steady burr of his purr against me. After being afraid of no longer having him with me, every purr, touch of his paw, every snuggle is invaluable.
I know there are no guarantees, and he still has quite a way to go to full recovery. But he has made it a long way already, and as Gary says, he is a tough old cat.