07 Jan Our Hospice Kitty Cat

Last week, Jill and I adopted a cat that was supposedly seven years old. Abandoned or lost, he had been out-of-doors for as long as a year. He was very underweight, his coat dull and matted. But he was in good spirits and very sociable. We didn’t want a kitten because we didn’t feel like dealing with kitten antics. And kittens are something of a gamble. With an older cat, you can see what you’re getting. Or so it seems.

This cat — we’ve named him Newton — was so calm and affectionate, we took him home that day. He didn’t mind the car ride and calmly watched the traffic. He seemed copasetic with everything — our dogs, our other cat, our routine. He found the litter box right away and later when he couldn’t make it to the basement, where the box is, he did his business in the bath tub. He slept with us from the first night. None of that I’m-in-hiding-for-five-days-in-a-closet-till-the-coast-seems-clear stuff for him. When he’s hungry, he paws at our knees. The minute we pick him up, he purrs.

As soon we got him home, however, we realized that he wasn’t simply underfed. He was, he is, an old cat. Much older than seven. After a couple of days, we realized something else: he’s ailing. So we took him to the vet. And, sure enough, Newton’s kidneys are going. This is common in old cats.

The vet praised us for taking on such an old cat. She estimates that Newton is ten. We grant that he may even be twelve. After she got the test results, the vet said, “You could take him back,” suggesting we’d gotten a bad bargain. True, we did not want an old cat, and especially one that needed hospice care. But, no, we’re not taking Newton back. He’s a great cat. Besides, he’s got nowhere to go.

Every day, Jill and I look at Newton sleeping nearby, then we exchange a sad smile and exclaim, “Poor Newton — he’s so old!” Then we think, Isn’t that just like life, to sneak in a sucker punch when you’re not looking?

Newton still has his appetite and now he’s on a special diet. When he stops eating, we’ll know that his time has come. That could be another month or a another year. We dread the day we’ll have to take Newton in, but we can’t regret giving him a home. Every evening, he sits between Jill and me when we watch TV. To look as us together, you’d think he’s been our cat for all these years. He’s adapted so quickly and easily, tolerating even the dogs’ nosy tail-end sniffs, it’s as though he knows he’s got to make the most of his time. We’re falling in love with him, of course. I tell Jill that this is not an occasion for sadness. We cannot let this break our hearts — because we’re giving Newton a grand time and enjoying his company immensely. And, in showing him all the good that love can do, why shouldn’t we celebrate?