My favorite cat

I haven’t posted anything but ginger beer updates and memories of cats that have passed away for a long time. Maybe one day I’ll think of something else worthwhile to say and have the time to take to say it. And I have missed an entire life, our tiny little black and white kitten, Poppy, who appeared from nowhere and who ballooned into a sixteen-plus pound long-haired wonderfully friendly monster before leaving us after only four years. I will write about her one day.

For now, though, there’s Parsley.

Parsley has been a family member since 2009, after we lost Basil to my carelessness. He’s the first cat who’s ever been mine, rather than a family pet (at least, the first other than Basil) and he’s always been very special to me.

When he was young, he would regularly leap up onto my shoulder, or my wife’s, even after he’d gained a few pounds. Vicki would be working in the kitchen, lean down to pick something up, and suddenly there was a cat on her shoulder or on her back, appearing from nowhere.

He was 9 in this picture, but he still liked to be a shouldercat when it wasn’t inconvenient for him.

He topped out at around 15-16 pounds. His most common nickname around here is lump.

Lump – for obvious reasons

He’s never been a particularly well cat. He’s always had crossed eyes, and he has a little lion face. If we didn’t usually give our cats the names of herbs or spices, and if he wasn’t a replacement for Basil, I might have thought about naming him Clarence. But he became Parsley, partly due to Parsley, the Friendly Lion. He has often had mild congestion or coughing, probably mostly because he was allergic to his own fleas, which is a nasty problem for a cat, especially when you live in a big old house. Seresto collars have been a huge boost to his quality of life.

He likes cat traps

and sharpening his claws on the banister.

But mostly, he likes comfort.

And warmth.

He loves to be outside. We live on a main road, and many strays have met their ends to traffic, so these days our cats are one hundred percent indoor. But a couple of months ago, Parsley started waiting at the back door to dash through it. He doesn’t go far, but I’m nervous about leaving him even in the back yard, so I got him a harness and leash. I usually let him wander, just keeping my eye on where the leash points to to know where he is.

While I’ve been working from home, I can often sit outside to work. So I attach his leash and let him wander. He usually finds the same pile of wood with an overturned drawer at the base to work as his tent, a home-outside-of-home where he can stretch out and be safe from the elements while being surrounded by fresh air.

This morning he came up to me and pawed at my leg, meaning that he wanted up. So I picked him up and he nestled in my arms, purring constantly, while I cried my eyes out.

A few months ago he started vomiting several times a day. When I took him to the vet he was already down to about eleven pounds. I don’t think the vet quite believed me when I said he was over fourteen not long ago. But he responded well to treatment, and stopped throwing up.

He didn’t stop losing weight, and when I got him back to the vet he was only nine pounds. After some poking and an X-ray it seems he has lymphoma. There’s a small chance it isn’t, but it makes no difference. Even if the tumor is benign, it’s trapped an artery and isn’t operable. So he’s home, and losing more weight. The vet said, wait until he stops eating, and if his quality of life is still good, let him enjoy it.

That’s happened, now. For about a week, he developed a huge appetite. If we hadn’t known about the tumor, we’d have thought he was recovering. But it was temporary, and about a week ago he wouldn’t eat anything solid, and would only take a little bit of tuna juice, though I think that might have been for thirst, not hunger. He plays whack-a-mole with our koi to drink from the pond.

He’s still happy. He really loves being outside, and while the weather is good, I want for him to be here.

Many, many years ago, when the Internet was barely coming together – in the days of Trumpet Winsock, if I recall correctly – and when searches (on AltaVista?) still returned meaningful results, I search for “poetry” one time. And wished I hadn’t. Because a poem caught my eye that made me cry, and that now I can’t stop thinking about. It was “A 14 year old convalescent cat in the winter” by Gavin Ewart.

I want him to have another living summer,
to lie in the sun and enjoy the douceur de vivre
because the sun, like golden rum in a rummer,
is what makes an idle cat un tout petit peu ivre

I want him to lie stretched out, contented,
revelling in the heat, his fur all dry and warm,
an Old Age Pensioner, retired, resented
by no one, and happinesses in a beelike swarm

to settle on him – postponed for another season
that last fated hateful journey to the vet
from which there is no return (and age the reason),
which must come soon – as I cannot forget

He’s out in the sun now. Summer is over, but the weather will be warm and dry through this week. And age isn’t the reason, since the poor kid is only eleven, but that hateful journey has to come this week. I’m planning to do it on Friday, and I know that I will be a basket case. With Covid, I can’t even take my wife and family for support. Only one person can be in the vet’s office with an animal, and it has to be me. I love this cat and I don’t want to let him go, but I need to be with him at the end.

As much as I hate knowing what’s going to happen and feeling the way I do, in a way, I’m glad it’s this way. Before now, every cat we’ve lost has been to sudden decline, with regrets about how we had so few memories from its later life. I have had the chance to spend time with Parsley, knowing that there won’t be much more, but able to give him what he needs – companionship, the outdoors air, cooked chicken (while he still ate). Peace and quiet. I am glad I have the chance to do that.

Two things on the Internet are guaranteed to reduce me to tears. One is the poem. The other deals with the same topic. This comic. It does help put the loss of a pet in perspective. Having them put to sleep when they’re in pain isn’t a betrayal. That would be letting them continue in pain. But hell, it feels like one, and the comic has never eased my sadness, even though I appreciate it.

In a few days I’ll take my lovely, trusting cat to the vet, and will be bringing back a memory to bury, and it’s tearing me up.

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