I know he's moving towards the end of his life.
How do you write about the process of your cat dying of cancer?
I was plunged into the knowledge that he had cancer very suddenly. I came back from Israel late in January, to find him looking gaunt and subdued after my month away. The vet offered an operation, which cost a quite eye watering amount. After a few days away, I brought him back with various bits of his fur shaved off so he looked a bit like someone had been trying to do a poodle cut on him. But he was already surprisingly cheerful and responsive. I couldn't imagine how I could be that lively less than a week after having had a chunk of my guts cut out.
And then quite soon he seemed altogether better. Instead of producing horrendous little messes, sometimes in my bathroom, he was doing what cats normally do. He was his usual charming, communicative, curious and endlessly inventive self, generally ruling the household and graciously accepting the admiration and service of others.
How fortunate, I thought, that cats recovering from cancer don't have the misery of going through chemotherapy. Though I later looked up stuff on the internet that told me that some cat owners do put their cats through it.
But by about four weeks after the operation, I realised that the tumour must have been growing again. Because he was producing the same messes as before, though he was still otherwise his usual self. I bought a cat tray and resigned myself to him using it in the house.
Over the last week or two, though, he's become painfully thin--except for the fact that his abdomen is much larger than ever it was before.
Then over this last week or so, he's become quiet and passive. Most of the time, he wants to lie flat out on the floor, and in a pose which suggests he's found a way to minimize his discomfort. He still wants to be sociable. He comes and lies near me or alongside me, and still follows me from room to room. But a lot of the time, he has a look of endurance on his face. Yet he doesn't seem to be in obvious pain, and he's still eager to eat, and wolfing his food down.
Over the last few days, he's become more frail, and occasionally half totters as he starts to walk, but he still leaps onto my armchair or bed when he wants to. I'm not even sure whether he can sleep properly, since his eyes always seem to be open, even when he's resting. Now I can see almost all his bones under his fur. But when he walks, he still holds his tail high, like a kitten.
As long as he wants to eat, and doesn't visibly seem in pain, I want to let him live out his time. I would much rather he ended his life naturally at home. I don't want to have to put him into a catbox and take him on a car journey which he always hates, as the last thing he experiences. I don't know if that will be avoidable.
And he still enjoys attention and love. Susie, my neighbour, who is his next most devoted fan after my daughter and me, came in to see him yesterday, and we fussed over him together for almost an hour. He purred and closed his eyes, but he hardly interacted with us.
The absence of his usual insouciance and charm, his sheer enjoyment of life makes me intensely conscious of how he was and how strange its absence is.
I keep thinking of one of my favourite poems, Christopher Smart's "For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey", which I first encountered as an undergraduate, and then it used to be one of the pieces in the poetry presentations I did in my teacher training days. For though most people think of cats as cynical and disdainful, Smart's poem is full of a sense of his cat being close to the Almighty, and showing what it is to worship and praise the Almighty and the life we are given. Then of course, Smart spent quite a bit of his life in a madhouse.
It's exactly what I've always recognised in Pashta, and I'll end with my favourite part of it:
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffrey
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees . . .
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion....