Lilith, my dear old kitty, passed away late Friday night at home, in my arms. She was not quite 17. Since then, the old Who song has been playing in one of those brain loops that digs in deep until, you either listen to the song from beginning to end, or respond to the song lyric trigger.
Lil was a cross-eyed rag-doll cat with a kinked tail. We adopted her from the Animal Rescue League of Boston on a hot August day back in 1997. She was about a year old, sickly and malnourished. In other words, she was perfect. We named her Lilith because she was so tiny and pale. Our Lilywhite Lilith.
She thrived with us. She loved our older cat, Neville (who passed away in 2004 at the age of 21) even if the feeling was unrequited, she loved her sun-porch and her staircase – which she would roll down with abandon, or throw her self in front of you as you tried to descend. I scolded her frequently that she’d kill me one day doing that. When she was younger, she’d drag pillows and clothes from room to room, even when they were bigger than she was. She was funny and frisky, a girly-girl cat who worked her way into our hearts. I called her all sorts of silly names and, in true cat form, she ignored most of them.
We’d been treating Lily for bladder stones since last summer but she wasn’t really improving. She hated the prescription food. Never very big even in her prime, she began to lose weight. She began having accidents. It was becoming pretty obvious that there was something very wrong with her. In mid November we got the diagnosis of an untreatable mass in her bladder. She was dying of cancer. Her vet suggested we try Piroxicam, an NSAID that has shown some promise shrinking tumors in cats and dogs, and that also provided an analgesic. With that and a few other drugs to help keep her digestion functioning as well as possible we shifted to kitty hospice mode and hoped she’d make it to Christmas.
While she wasn’t getting better she was, at least for a while, feeling better. Winter settled in, she’d curl up by the fire or sit in my lap as often as I’d let her. Her appetite picked up. She started trying to jump on the counters and eat our food, things she’d never bothered with before. She’d sit by the back door and try and get out (she was always content to be an inside cat). She developed a taste for whipped cream and cat treats. In other words, she seemed to have a bucket list and we indulged her as much as possible. Christmas, New Years, Obama’s Inauguration, the Blizzard of 2013, Valentine’s Day; she stayed with us through all of those. I let her sit on the porch and feel the snow.
She shifted from comeback kitty to fading away pretty quickly. On Friday, she could barely walk and wouldn’t eat. I steeled myself and made the call to the vet to bring her in the next morning to be euthanized. (As if Mercury in retrograde was messing with us personally, our car wouldn’t start.) That night we sat in the living room listening to music while she slept in my lap or by the fire. Just before midnight she awoke and cried and we comforted her as she gasped and slipped away from us. Our hearts broke. 16-plus years old is a long life for a cat (about 86 in human years). We think we did what she wanted. I know we did what we could.