Peach, Like the Fruit
In the summer of 2005, I had one cat, Gandalf. I loved him dearly, but wished he were a little more affectionate and a little less aggressive. When I visited my then-in-laws with my then-husband of less than a year, I was surprised by how docile their cat was. Not long after we got home, I saw a Pet of the Week news segment about how cats are often happier in pairs. My ex noted the gleam in my eye and said, “I think someone wants another cat.”
So one August day, we set off to an animal shelter in search of the friendliest cat they had. We considered a few fluffballs and even (briefly) a cool bobcat. Eventually I sat down, and a tiny cat with unusual coloring launched herself into my lap, rolled around, and started rubbing her head all over me. I looked at my ex and said, “I think this is the one.”
For a couple of days, she didn’t have a name. The shelter had called her Kelli. I tried out Lucy (as in Pevensie), but it didn’t feel exactly right. (Aside: My now-best friend’s cat is named Lucy. Alanna and I wouldn’t meet for another few years, and her Lucy wasn’t born yet.) That Sunday night, my then-brother-in-law commented, “She’s peach-colored. How about Peach?” Peach looked right at him and meowed affirmatively.
Everyone who ever met Peach commented on how sweet and beautiful she was. From day one, she was the Extrovert Cat to Gandalf’s Introvert Cat. Her characteristic behavior at the shelter turned out to be more hyperactivity than affection, though she was very friendly. She loved to be petted, but hated to be held or picked up, and rarely stayed still long enough to cuddle. When she wanted something at any time of day or night, she’d just start chewing on you – a habit that persisted all her life. She especially loved toes. She was generally more playful than Gandalf and sometimes liked to chase a ball. In contrast to her personality, she was quiet vocally and rarely meowed above a squeak. Oh, and PS, the socialization totally worked.
Peach was almost a year old when I got her, so I never knew what her kittenhood was like, but I suspect she spent most of it on the street. My dad called her “Street Cat.” If I let her, she’d happily lay on my car all day. She was also an excellent hunter. One day last summer, I’d let both cats into the garage for a while and left the house door cracked so they could get back in. I was in the kitchen cutting up a watermelon when I heard a scuffle at the door. A minute later, Peach strolled through the kitchen with a live salamander hanging out of both sides of her mouth. I froze, then tossed both of them back into the garage, told them to work it out, and shut the door. When I checked back later, the salamander was gone. I choose to believe she let it go – it was way too big for her to eat.
About four years ago, Peach started throwing up abnormally frequently. The vet said her mouth was rejecting two of her teeth, so I had them removed, but pretty soon the throwing up resumed and got worse. For almost a year, I tried everything I could think of to help her. I switched both cats to (expensive) grain-free food. I bought probiotics. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of tests showed that other than a total inability to keep food down, she was perfectly fine. By January 2012, she weighed six pounds and was so sick I was about to give up. Only then did the vet suggest we try giving her prednisone. She improved and gained some weight immediately, so by process of elimination, she was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Disease.
Some cats with IBD live a healthy, normal life on meds. Some can even taper down to an occasional dose. Peach was never one of those cats. I had to manage her treatment constantly, and she never regained her full health or energy level. One fix after another proved to be nothing but false hope. Over the last six months, between the loss of my other cat and the packing up of my house, she got noticeably more distressed and lethargic. But after I moved into my new place almost two months ago, she perked up drastically and I hoped this was the change both of us had needed. She seemed much happier… but again, it was only temporary. Soon she was losing weight again and I was cleaning up messy accidents four times a day. A new, great vet recommended B-12 shots that had no effect whatsoever. Still, I was too close to the situation and had been dealing with it for too long to see that it was time to throw in the towel. My family had to sit me down and tell me that she was looking very rough and I needed to think about letting her go. So I started preparing myself. I’d always expected some Incident to let me know it was time, but I realized that with this type of condition, eventually you just have to decide that enough is enough… a sad application of my One Word that I never saw coming.
The Incident came anyway, last Monday. I arrived home from a trip to find an epic disaster that took me an hour to clean up. I knew Peach and I had finally reached our mutual breaking point. The next day I called the vet, who agreed that there was nothing else I could do for her. So on Friday afternoon, I said goodbye to my Peachy of almost ten years. As sad as it was, I feel totally confident that it was the right decision, and relieved that she’s no longer suffering and we’re both free. The way I see it, I got three bonus years with her, because I really didn’t think she’d make it the first time.
Losing both of my cats in the span of nine months (on top of everything else that’s happened in the last few years) is rough. A new friend commented, kindly, that I must be a strong person to handle this so composedly, but I told her it’s not so much strength as experience. I know this place too well. I know the drill of powering through the necessary awful thing, of making a double-bind choice, on my own. I feel like I’ve spent my entire 30s so far taking emotional knockouts and staggering up from the mat only to get hit again. I know it’s all part of life, and of course there have been happy times too, but I’m beginning to have serious objections to the frequency and intensity of hits I’ve had to take. I don’t know how many more times I can get back up. But that’s another post.
As weird as it feels to be alone alone, I have no immediate plans to get more cats, or even a dog or rabbit. Someday I will, but it makes sense all around to take a break. Freedom is the name of my game right now, plus I’m still too traumatized to risk another high-maintenance pet. I’m also trying to enjoy having any flowers I want in my house, knowing that objects will stay where they are, leaving food and drinks unattended, and other small luxuries.
And I see one other silver lining. It probably sounds crazy, but after a lot of reflection, I’m positive that I would not have decided to move when I did if my cat Gandalf hadn’t died. He was the best pet I’ll ever have, and losing him so suddenly was my final push toward making a big change. I’m hoping that the timing of this loss, of nothing tying me down, will also somehow lead to something positive and purposeful. I guess we’ll find out.
About Brenda W.Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
Posted in cats, grief, memory lane, one word: enough