A few weeks ago, an odd occurrence passed in the middle of the night. I didn’t write about it at the time because I was rather too concerned about it; too concerned to put it into a blog. Anyway, I was awakened at about three in the morning by a loud but perpetual noise in our bedroom – so loud, that it woke the entire house (and I sleep with earplugs in, thanks to my husband’s snoring). Our room was pitch-black and for some reason, I couldn’t find the bedside lamp to throw some light on the situation. My husband was forced illuminate the noisy section of the room with the little light on his wrist watch. Only then could I locate the lamp, which had been strangely knocked to the floor.
Once the lamp was snapped on in a panic, I found my favourite cat, Kirby, lying by my bed in an awkward and ungainly position. Her eyes were wide open and staring at the ceiling; pupils dilated, twitching, claws gripping the carpet, and her tail at an odd kind of right angle. She was, or most definitely had been, having some kind of seizure. Our other cat, Slim, was crouched in fear by the bedroom door, watching.
Both my husband and I scrambled to the floor beside Kirby and I repeatedly ran my fingers over her fir, hoping to bring her around. But she definitely wasn’t ‘with us’, and quite evidently didn’t know I was there. After some time, Kirby seemed to ‘come to’ and even began to purr loudly. But she still wasn’t quite right. It was as though she wouldn’t or couldn’t stand. Tears were already filling my eyes when I turned to Gareth to say, ‘what’s wrong with her? Something’s wrong…’, hoping he’d say she was ‘fine’, or contradict me in some way to settle my fears. But his face was as fearful as mine. Something was wrong, something had happened to our only two-and-a-half-year-old kitty. Eventually Slim ran off and Kirby unsteadily climbed to her feet, wandered a couple of yards away, and hunched down into a ‘bread’ position. I attempted to pick her up and put her in bed with me, but she hopped off the bed and hunched down in exactly the same spot as before.
It was the middle of the night, and we both had to work the next day, so we had no choice but to turn off the light and go back to sleep – or to wait and watch until morning came. I turned to Gareth and whispered miserably, ‘I love that little kitty’, and he (who is usually unreasonably disparaging about the cats and their standoffish ways) said, ‘don’t we all’. Occasionally, I would snap on the lamp to make sure Kirby was still okay, but there she sat in that same ‘loaf of bread’. I think I drifted off, in and out of consciousness, too worried for any hope of real sleep. And during the periods of wakefulness, I clearly remember thinking; I wish we’d never chosen to have pets (not that we ever made a choice, they came to us by default), I wish those cats had never come to live with us and stolen their way into our hearts, because I just won’t be able to handle losing them.
Like I say, Kirby is my favourite cat. I grew up with cats, and she will always stand out as the best pet I’ve ever owned. I love Slim too, but she doesn’t really love me (or anybody, for that matter – she’s a stray with a bit of a personality disorder, and is liable to bite or scratch you if you’re not careful). But Kirby loves me. Mine is the only lap she will sit on, and she’s well known to follow me around the house like a little dog, and she’s even featured in my books. Perhaps it’s because I’m the one who doles out the food 95% of the time, but I still believe that cat adores me. And unconditional love is very hard to come by. Fairly recently, my brother and sister-in-law lost their beloved dog to illness; she died at the respectable age of twelve, I believe. And I remember we remarked that that was the price you paid when you shared your life with an animal; an animal with an infinitely shorter lifespan than a human.
The next day, the alarms went off at their standard time of six-thirty a.m. I cautiously heaved myself to a sitting position and my eyes darted over to the cat. Kirby was still there, sitting exactly in the same place she had been three hours before. I slid out of bed and hunkered down beside her again; another stroke, another purr. But Kirby is normally ravenously hungry by morning, circles my ankles like mad, and nearly trips me up on my way downstairs in her excitement for food. But I made my way downstairs alone. Kirby stayed right where she was. Eventually, I had no choice by to carry her downstairs and place her by her food bowl, but she wouldn’t eat. Instead, she wandered into the lounge and plopped back down into her standard bread pose in the middle of the floor. I explained to the kids what had happened in the night; they had heard the strange noises but were too sleepy to get up and investigate. Kirby was evidently better than she had been at three a.m., and although the kids were concerned, they were not nearly as terrified as me. But they hadn’t witnessed the ‘fit’. I’d thought I was going to lose her there and then on the bedroom floor that night. My cat is a creature of habit; in the morning she wants to be fed, she sometimes sits on my lap when I eat my porridge, she skittishly races around the house knocking things over to remind herself she’s a hunter, and she’ll wander out with me to my car to watch me drive away. But none of that happened that morning, and I was forced to leave her in the house alone.
That day at work, I could hardly think straight, wondering if my cat was having another seizure in my absence. When work was over, I determined to go home and take her straight to the vet if she still wouldn’t express any interest in food. But as I opened the door, Kirby wandered out to meet me like she traditionally does, her tail a little curled in greeting, a little more sleepily than usual, but she was definitely improved from that morning. I dished-up a sachet of food into her bowl and breathed a sigh of relief as she ate it greedily, then proceeded to follow me around the house like a lost puppy.
I’ll never quite know for sure what happened to Kirby that night. I do know our cats like to play rough games (well, Kirby does). Kirby chases Slim around the house relentlessly, and we know they had been fighting off and on that night (sometimes they wake us up with their roughhousing). We figure that Kirby may have run headlong into the wall, a door, or a piece of furniture and practically knocked herself out – causing some kind of seizure. It’s purely an educated guess. I watched Kirby closely for days, and there was no repeat of the incident. Thankfully, it seems the fit was a one-off. But it’s made me face a painful truth; unless there is something very wrong with my expected lifespan, I will outlive my cats. Still, I guess that’s just the human condition, isn’t it?
We’re here to experience love and loss, life and death, and you can’t just shut yourself off from all great experiences because they will invariably come to an end and hurt you. The good times will have made the bad times worth the pain. Yes, one day (hopefully many, many, many years from now), I will lose my cats. And it will hurt me deeply, and a period of mourning will be required. But I shall just have to pick myself up and remind myself that I am still needed. There are thousands upon thousands of kitties out there (there are dogs too, but dogs aren’t for me, you can sort out the dogs – I can’t do everything), and one of those kitties will need me – because every cat needs a home. And I just happen to have one.
NB: If you’d like to follow Kirby on Instagram (she has her own account, obviously), then please click HERE.