My cat, Michael, knocks things off tables and counters when he’s unhappy. I don’t mean little things like pens and paper clips. I mean big things. Books and lamps.
He picks fights. Sometimes with his dog and sometimes with your feet under the covers. In a fight, he’s kidding until he’s not. He’s gentle until he’s not. There will be no warning of the transition between gentle and not. If he picks a fight, he’ll win. If you pick a fight, he’ll win.
He’s big. He eats three cans of food a day. He starts agitating for dinner at 5:00 in the evening, and for breakfast at 5:00 in the morning. Neither of these times are close to the hours when he’s actually going to get fed.
He enjoys company, and will cozy up to guests with a disdainful glance in my direction, as if to underscore that without these supplementary laps to sit on, he is neglected and sad. (Friends assume that I ignore him, which would be impossible to do.) He also has claws like talons and will bite if the mood strikes. So enjoy the attention at your own risk, friends.
Those claws have sliced open many screens in windows and doors. He has pressed his XL body so firmly into screens that he falls right through the window. He sometimes uses the litter box, but sometimes just goes near the litter box. He hides puzzle pieces. He used to try to eat legos.
We’ve assigned Michael a difficult personality, in the way that pet owners always give voices and characteristics to their pets. We think he’s uninterested in anyone’s satisfaction other than his own. He finds the dog ridiculous. He’s crusty. He swears a lot. He’s a terrible roommate.
These are the stories that we tell about Michael.
In reality, he’s fantastic. He sits next to you on the couch in a companionable way and if he thinks you’re dirty, will offer to wash your hands for you. He will gladly supervise a sickbed all day long. He particularly loves John and comes running whenever John comes in the door. He speaks when he enters a room or when you enter a room. Not a yowl, just a “pprrrbrt” to acknowledge you. He’s quick to purr. I’ve never had a cat who was so very much a part of the life of the house. He is a kickass boss cat. He’s a magnificent creature. And he would be the first to agree with all of that.
Michael is 14 or 15, so it wasn’t that surprising when he started to lose a step or miss a jump from time to time. On Sunday, he started to limp. On Monday, he really started to limp. By evening, he was not putting any weight onto his back left leg. On Tuesday, we learned that he had bone cancer in his paw. On Wednesday, we took him to the vet to have a leg amputated. On Thursday, he came home on just his three paws. Today, he’s getting around a little better.
Michael is old, but not OLD old. He seems fine except for the paw/leg situation. His main hobbies are eating and sleeping, and having three legs doesn’t seem like it will interfere with those things. I felt like we could still have more good, healthy, comfortable, companionable time with him. But he has an incision the length of my hand and there’s no way that this doesn’t hurt like hell. I inflicted this on him. Did I do it for him, or for myself? I want him here. Would he agree? I hope this was the right thing to do. This was not a small surgery and it wasn’t an easy decision.
In the next few weeks, while Michael learns to navigate life in a new way, I expect that I’ll second guess this choice sometimes. It’s hard to see him try to hop up on the couch with just his one leg to push off with. (Especially since there’s a significant amount of bulk to launch off that one leg.) But the alternative wasn’t keeping two legs. The alternative was that he would have died earlier this week. It just didn’t feel like the end of the road. I’m so happy he’s still (mostly) here.