The last time I mentioned Yang on this blog, I talked about the unexpected success of getting him to wear a harness so he could be a balcony cat on the 16th floor of our condo. He had a fantastic spring out there with us, full of cool breezes and irresistible puddles of sunshine, a combination that enabled some of the most peaceful and satisfying naps of his life.
It’s taken me a long time to work up to writing this post. Yang died on May 19 after a short bout with cancer.
He was happy enough, but we knew he was slowing down. He had become so docile that, as you can see in the photo above, we would often let him wonder around on the patio without his harness.
Like all good animal emergencies, Yang’s problems started the very day I left town for a business trip to San Antonio. A mere two hours after I had landed, the husband called to tell me that he had found blood in the litter box and had already made an appointment with the vet. I stumbled through the better part of 24 hours, not knowing if I would still have a cat when I flew home.
Cancer. Probably. In his intestines. The only way to know for sure was to do a biopsy, which was a patently ridiculous notion given his age — he was nearly 18 (for all we know he was ALREADY 18, since we had made an educated guess when Yang and his brother showed up and simply let them share my June birthday). To be clear, the vet didn’t push this option, but instead offered a couple of palliative treatments that cleared up the blood problem and seemed to perk him up a little.
So, I came home to help run a cat hospice.
He was a great patient. He decided that his usual diet wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and would only eat Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats, with minuscule doses of Pepcid AC. I figured it wasn’t the worse thing in the world, giving a dying cat whatever he wanted.
He had a pretty good two weeks. He ate, he drank water from the bathtub faucet, he chased sun around the condo, he moseyed out onto the balcony when he got the chance.
That final Sunday, though. Wow. He got 100 percent worse in a matter of hours. You know that horrible feeling, when you’re taking care of an old animal, or one that’s simply too sick to go on, that you won’t know when it’s time to let go? We totally knew it was time to let go.
As the day wore on, he lost most of his ability to walk. His balance was off, and his back legs just weren’t working right. He somehow was still able to get to the litter box, but he had no interest in food or water. He spent part of the night with me on the bed — I didn’t want him to wake up unable to move and scared to be alone, but that didn’t fly for long. Independent cat demanded to get down around 1 a.m., and he spend the rest of the night sleeping in the hallway. He was limp and non-responsive when I woke up a few hours later, and I was shocked to find that he was still breathing. He stirred as we started making breakfast, and he actually drank some water that I offered — I knew he needed to be hydrated to make it easier for the vet to find a vein. (I may be a complete emotional wreck on occasion, but I’m still the girl you want on your side to think clearly during bad times.)
We called in a euthanasia specialist (apparently a thing in large cities, thank goodness) so we wouldn’t have to subject him to a car ride. Dr. Katie Billmaier with Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice was a blessing that day. She came through the front door and immediately began doting on Yang. Part vet, part social worker, she let us tell her stories about him and completely control the timeline. It was all very gentle and very peaceful.
Like his brother before him, Yang was dutifully driven to the crematorium by the two people who had cared for him since he and his brother showed up on the carport of our rental house in Mobile, Ala., in 1996. We wrapped him in a pillowcase that my grandmother had embroidered (it matched the one that Yin was cremated with) and outfitted him with Greenies, a spoonful of catnip and a couple of toys.
Thus ends the saga of Yin and Yang, two Very Good Cats.
The condo is unbearably quiet at times, although it’s not so much the sounds of Yang that I’m missing (he was notoriously opposed to noise), but simply his presence. You spend 17 years with a furry little beastie, you expect him to be in one of his spots.
We’re cat-free for the moment. After caring for a quiet, older cat for so long, I don’t know that we have the patience or time to return to the hijinks of younger cats.
Mostly, though, I get the feeling that these guys might just be irreplaceable. R.I.P., Yin and Yang.