WARNING: This post contains an overabundance of cat pictures!

I live with two cats.

7-15 cats in chairs

They get along fairly well and enjoy one another’s company — though they both frequently like to pretend the other one simply doesn’t exist.

They have even convinced me to arrange the bedding so as to help them maintain this pretense:

7-15 cats on bed

Today is Hildi’s 20th birthday.

In human years, this would put her at roughly 97. She reminds me a lot of my Gramma Ruth, another nonagenarian who remained stubborn, opinionated, and fiercely loving right up to the end.

One of Hildi’s strongest opinions is that any part of my body can — AND SHALL BE — turned into a lap if she just manages to sit close enough for long enough:

7-15 hildi looks for lap FINAL

hildi sits too close

Of course, sometimes she’s happiest if I simply cede her my chair:

hildi wins

Hildi enters what will likely be her final year still as one tough old broad, now mostly concerned with eating dinner early and having her head gently stroked.

Just like my Gram.

hildi 20th birthday

Nathan, on the other hand, is a big ol’ softie.

The effects of his first, traumatic year of life — abandoned twice as a kitten, a long winter spent fending for himself on the streets of West Philly — lingers, even after more than a decade spent with me and Hildi. He wants very badly to be loved and accepted by everybody. . . and he’s not entirely sure he will be.

So he offers to help with housework, like dusting:

nathan helps…and tucking himself into bed at naptime:

7-15 nathan in bed

He always keeps me company in the bathroom (and by “always,” I do mean ALWAYS):

7-15 nathan in bathroom

His greatest pleasure in life comes in the moments that he convinces Hildi to let him sit close to her, when she’s already sitting close to me:

2014-10-11 09.25.02

In fact, although Nathan pretends not to notice Hildi just as often as she pretends not to notice him, I suspect that for him it’s not about real disdain or annoyance. Or even indifference.

He’s just imitating her, hoping she’ll like him better if he does.

Last weekend, Nathan got sick. Very sick.

Even though I could tell he was scared, he handled the vet’s office — and later, an emergency animal hospital FULL OF DOGGIES — like a trooper:

7-15 nathan vets

Truth is, he may have been getting sick for some time, and I missed the signs. Hildi’s long, slow battle against the kidney failure that will take her life has already lasted months longer than either the vet or I predicted (I did mention she’s stubborn, right?), and I have grown accustomed to weeks where suddenly less food is eaten, the litter box used less, and I am cleaning up more vomit than the week before.

Whenever it began — by the time a doctor saw him, his condition was life-threatening.

Yesterday was harrowing. I couldn’t afford the additional two days of hospitalization the vets recommended, and so I brought him home with many pills, liquid medications, and a ream of directions — knowing that now, it was all up to him and me.

Thanks to repeated shopping trips, a phalanx of Facebook friends with suggestions, and Nath’s own willingness to at least sniff at each new dish offered him, I am pleased — and cautiously optimistic! — to report he finally began eating by late afternoon…

7-15 nathan in recovery

…then drinking water, and otherwise showing very promising signs.

[An unexpected benefit of Nathan’s wishing-to-please personality? As long as I can pop the pill in and get his mouth shut fast, he will swallow it. Stubborn Hildi often fakes me out: cheeking pills for many minutes and only spitting them out once my back is turned.]

I have long been preparing myself, best I can, for the day when Hildi will no longer be here to greet me each morning by perching on my chest and peering closely into my face: 
2014-07-02 06.20.23

“You up yet? Please be informed that I am quite ready for my breakfast now.”

The prospect of losing both my companions, one right after the other, hit me pretty hard this week. That is not something I have prepared for.

Doesn’t mean it still can’t happen.

Love. Life.

Always provisional. The only certainty, impermanence.

They are gifts all the sweeter for existing only in the present.

And so, for today: I am happy to be with my furbabies. Happy they are both alive, both here, both pretending very hard not to have even noticed the unusual closing of the door that shuts her in one room (with her oldlady health food) and him in the other (with a smorgasbord of hopefully-tempting junky treats). If this is all the three of us have left together, it will be enough.

And if we have more time? I will be happy for that too.

I’ll even let everybody celebrate with a little ice cream, a treat Hildi adores and Nathan sees as a delicacy mostly because he believes Hildi’s enthusiasms can’t be wrong — and her enthusiasm becomes downright predatory whenever ice cream is near:

7-15 waiting for ice cream


Because the Ritual Licking of the Spoon is the closest he ever gets to her kisses:

7-15 eating ice cream final

Who are the furbabies — or other nonhuman family members — in your life? 

Tell me their stories, and I’ll be sure to share them with Hildi and Nathan! 

30 thoughts on “WARNING: This post contains an overabundance of cat pictures!

    1. Thank you!! I’m still working with the vet to get Nathan fully stabilized, with what turned out to be chronic pancreatitis. But my short friends are both still with me today — and still letting me take as many pictures as I want, with a minimum of exasperated eye-rolling!


  1. GAH !!!!! They are beautiful, and your descriptions of their demeanors had me in stitches… =)

    I am so sorry that Nathan had a scare, but THRILLED that he may well be on the mend… hugs to you all, planning to raise an ice cream spoon in your honor later before work ! =)

    If I was a real cat I’d want you for my mum… just sayin’. =)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “If I was a real cat I’d want you for my mum” This just may be MY FAVORITE COMMENT EVER.

      Thanks for stopping in, thanks for the comment — and, most of all, thanks for appreciating my short friends!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YAY ! You really like me… =) I am always pleasantly surprised when my words are happy-making to others… as an aside, whenever I type that line above, I am reminded of Sally Field at the Oscars… lamo… and there went any pretense of me being a young lass… ! =) =)

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Awe I love your story and pictures. Hildi is almost identical to my little Missy. Sadly I lost her last year, she was 16 and I had nursed her as a 3day old kitten. So nice that Nathan is pulling through

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, it’s been the cause of much rejoicing in these parts!

      I am sorry for your loss — but how wonderful that you and Missy got to spend her entire life together.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hildi and Nathan are charmers. What a duo. I love cats and all of their seemingly eccentric behaviors. I’m hoping that this comment finds them both up and kicking. You’re certainly doing your part to help them remain healthy. And come what may, you’ll always be able to reflect back on them with love.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much!!
      Actually just brought Nath home from his first followup appointment. While full recovery will be a long slow process, all signs so far are encouraging! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was a veterinary tech I would pop in the pill, shut the mouth, and then, while holding the mouth shut, lift the chin and stroke the neck (downward motion only) with the other hand. Some cats will reflexively swallow at that. My apologies if you already tried this..
    You have a lovely family, with the sweetest paws.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That strategy does work pretty well with Nathan, provided Fumble Fingers over here can actually get the pill in his mouth! 🙂

      And yes, they are sweet babies, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I do hope Nathan continues to improve. He is a charming fellow, and his story tugs my heartstrings. I’m working on a post about our newest addition, Bellatrix. He reminds me much of her.

    On New Year’s Eve 2013, my husband and I made the decision to say goodbye to our 18-year-old cat, who had been with us since the beginning of our marriage. I still miss her. The hole in my heart has not healed. She, too, was diagnosed with kidney failure. She fought it like a tiger for six years. And then enough was enough. She couldn’t stand in the litter box anymore, and her dignity was at stake.

    If you don’t already have one, water bowl fountains encourage many cats to drink more. Cats don’t drink water as much as dogs do, so dehydration can become an issue with older cats.

    Wishing you many happy moments with your two.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the suggestion — I’ll look into that.

      Dignity is important. I’m not sure how much longer Hildi will be with us, as she has lost so much muscle mass, she is unsteady on her feet. And I will miss her terribly, just as you miss your darling. Decades of life we spend with them — how could the loss be anything other than deep grief?

      I look forward to being introduced to Bellatrix!


      1. I think if we don’t allow ourselves to experience that deep grief when we lose a beloved pet, we are doing them a huge disservice. It hurts to love so much, but the alternative – to never experience that deep kind of love – is unthinkable.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. So sorry for the health issues. I have an 18 year-old diabetic cat named Jake whose goal is to outlive me. I thought last year was his last year (we had an appointment) but he rallied. Now he gets balance issues and his vision must be going because he is easily frightened (of nothing). Maybe one more year? I have 3 other younger cats who he “corrects” as needed. He is ornery and loud and demanding. We will miss him when he’s gone….all of us. Wishing the best for Nathan (and Hildi too.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I had expected last fall to be Hildi’s final time as well. Must be something about ornery, demanding cats — too bossy and stubborn to go gentle into the night, good or otherwise!

      Best wishes to Jake and his three charges, as well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ll have had Bella for 8 years at the end of August. She was found on the streets by a friend of a friend. The person who found her already had 4 cats, and Bella prefers to be the only furry dictator. Over the years, she’s had a thyroid issue, and now has high blood pressure, arthritis, and the beginnings of kidney disease. This doesn’t stop her from running the house, though.

    The first day I met Bella, she hopped on my lap and sat there purring while I pet her. When I took her home, she explored my apartment and then settled onto my bed to claim it. That’s pretty much set the tone for everything after.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like — even before the bed! — Bella claimed YOU. This is always a good thing.

      I don’t understand people who have pets but do not give themselves over to being changed by the experience. Surely what we learn about love when we commit to caring for an animal that can give us nothing but its own love in return is as profound as the ocean floor.

      Hope Bella is doing well this week!! (And you too!)


  8. This is the amazing thing about humans who willingly care for domestic animals – we see them through to the end of their lives. Having lost a dog and a cat in the last few years, I remind myself that it is a privilege to give them the best hospice care possible. It doesn’t take away the worries or the grief, but it’s a gift to us humans who are so often selfish and flawed. Our better natures can shine through.

    Our cats, Pete and Owney, have a similar dynamic. My Pete looks very similar to your Nathan. Ours are older cats, so what you are going through, I imagine will be down the road for us soon. Pete just wants to be loved and will stalk Owney for the entire day, just hoping she’ll let down her guard so that he can sleep near her. Owney is a neurotic cat with litterbox issues and Pete issues. We’re her 3rd home for a reason, but she adores my daughter (who named her after a famous postal dog. Go figure.) and I’ve learned to deal with the constant cleaning and challenges. I made a promise that we’d be her last home.

    Anyway, just know that you are doing your best to keep them safe, happy and comfortable. That’s really all we can do and is what matters to them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, I feel exactly the same way: this is a privilege. To love a creature that trusts me even unto its own moment of death? And to act in a way that I may feel myself worthy of that trust?

      I don’t know, when you say you “made a promise,” if you mean to your daughter or to Owney. Or both? (Or perhaps to yourself?). But this is exactly the language I have been using at Hildi’s own vet visits: what I promised her about her end of life care. Even if, practically speaking, I am the only one with functional agency in these relationships, I choose to respect the animals that share my home just as I would if they had the power to stay or go — and had made an active choice to stay. This just feels right.

      Thank you for your comment today. 🙂 I just saw your recent post announcing that I have come across your blog at just the time that you are taking a break from writing in it(!) — but I love what you are doing instead. And am looking forward to the new introductions!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this post. There was much in your not-saying on FB that sent implications of your heartbreak over perceptions about Nathan’s care. You know this, but I will say briefly, what you provide these animals -past/present/future – goes well beyond missing signs or finances or anything else. One only has to look at the pictures and know that the lives of these two kitties are so much better because you are their mom.
    Happy Birthday once more to Miss Hildi, and Nathan’s determination is awesome. I am now going to scratch my kitties ears, check on her flea medication (all $113 worth) and try to take her to go pee before she decides to go on the floor or the another chair. We do what we do, as we can, and that’s all our animals ask. LOVE.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Another part of the emotional challenge: Nathan and I have *just* gotten to the point in our relationship of having mutually satisfying interactions! Although the ex and I adopted him together, he was always very much my ex’s cat. G did all the work of socializing him, during those early skittish years. He worked at home, and so was around all the time to dote on the cats — and they both ADORED him. Hildi and Nathan both grieved for nearly a year after the divorce, waiting for their poppa to come back. And then that year+ when I was so symptomatically PTSD’ing all over the place? Nathan and I just kept retriggering each other’s worst reactions. I felt TERRIBLE, realizing my own issues were making this sweet-natured kitty so tense and anxious all the time. We’ve just finally gotten past this, since about January. He’s even cuddled in my lap *twice* in recent weeks! The thought of losing him — when I have really just found him so recently — broke my heart…

      Fingers crossed this won’t be the case, of course! — but having been able to bring him home and care for him here has made me feel better about it, whatever the outcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cats are so…odd, all my experience with both dogs and cats has always shown dogs to be simple, easily pleased and just sort of ‘okay, just give me food and you’re alright’ sorts of creatures. CATS on the other hand are eerily like people in their emotions and attitudes so I actually really get this issue you describe. I swear to god snowflake really understands me when I talk to her, even though she mostly responds with disdain and thinks she knows whats up no matter what. Anyway, no matter the past issues, I still firmly believe that Nathan knows you love him and want him to be better and hang around because he knows he has a good thing with you. And it seems as if he managed to work through his issues just prior to this, and rather you may realize it or not probably helped you work through some of your own simply by being with you and facing ownership and responsibilty and such.
        Crap, that was a rather nonsensical ramble, so I hope you get my meaning: You are a great mom and no matter the outcome you have given of yourself in the best way that you could for both Hildi and Nathan. Please stop the self-blame and the past issues guilt and enjoy your kitties. Have more ice cream. I don’t think the cats will mind 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you! And it’s not self-blame — just the ongoing process of getting my bearings on the kind of person I want to be. And the kind of love I want to put out into the world. 🙂


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