There are only so many quirks one can ignore about their cat.
I do not want to pretend that my cat can ever be perfect. Sure, she has scratched much less in present days than she did when we first paired up. Her tendency to eat and eat and eat persists. She has successfully claimed the sides of the couch with her claws. She is less ferocious, but her attitude remains.
No, I am referring to those little medical dramas that we try to ignore and put off until it all comes to a head. She looks like a content cat, right? You would never believe that she just had a large incision into her belly to remove an umbilical ulcer. (Giving birth messes up your body. Right, moms?) Or that she had her teeth cleaned. Or that she now has two less teeth.
At the risk of making my cat sound like a car, I was trying to repair all the damages while she was in the shop. “Need to remove that blockage? Go ahead and fix her grill while you’re at it. I’ll leave the ol’ girl with you and pick ‘er up after work. When I come back, I want that baby purring as good as new!”
This is what the mighty Nala the Annihilator looks like when she is on pain meds, has a row of staples running between her legs, and has all her movements inhibited by a plastic barrier. Whee!
I have never been on post-op duty before. Mylar, my previous cat, had a dehydration problem. She would not drink enough. Three times a week I would give her an IV of fluids. She’d sit on my lap, the liquid would drip, and we would be back to our routine.
A different commitment is required here. Nala now needs twice as much clearance to get her head through a door. It irks and confounds her. “I’m walking straight ahead! Why is my movement hindered! That wall’s way over there!” And yes, if I had a half-scale construction cone jammed over my head, I would try to rip, tear, or kick it off until I succeeded. Because I pay the bills, I get to be in charge. Yay?
Nala is a cleaner. She will lick herself all the live long day. Arms are her favorite, but her second love is between her legs. She likes to be clean. I cannot imagine the pain of trying to lick metal staples, let alone pulling them out. Hence my refusal to relent. The cone stays, furball!
This makes it harder for her to eat, pee, and curl up into a cute little ball that sleeps 22 hours a day. I do what I can. I leave extra water bowls around. I lift her into the litter box. I created three piles of blankets with extra cushioning so that she could lie comfortably.
Mostly, like any parent, I worry and fret. I do not call my pet my child. I am not saving up for cat college. I do not (normally) dress my cat in clothes. I know that she would eat me if it came down to it. Yet there is an emotional attachment and a responsibility. If I slack off, this creature will suffer. If I treat her kindly, she will have a better life. If she is in pain, I should do my best to ease it. I hope that her healing comes quickly.
I understand better what my mom went through when her kids were sick. I get a teensy-weensy glimpse into what parents worry about when their kids get rushed to the hospital. You can only control life this much or that much. You can only take away a certain number of injuries.
What I can do is what cats do for me. I watch over her while she is ill. I sit by her on the couch just like how she sits next to me when I am not feeling well. (Okay, so she sits on me, not beside.) I rub my nose against hers. I scratch under her chin and her brow. I keep her company. She does the same for me.
I cannot fix the quirks that my cat has. When one of those quirks is loyalty, I see no reason to.