Saturday, 01 June 2024 15:40

What My Cat Taught me About the Preciousness of Life

My boyfriend, who would eventually be my ex-husband years later, and I approached several of the cats at the humane society in hopes of finding one that would make a good fit for us in our first apartment in Florida. We had just moved from Pennsylvania in July of 2012. 

Several of the cats were sleeping as we looped the area. Some cats were awake but didn’t seem interested in socializing. Then we came to a small, black kitten. She reached her tiny paw through the bars to play and I gently squeezed it.

Glancing at her identification card I saw the name “Jinx" and she was born June 24, 2012. Her friendliness and energy were infectious as we watched her continue slipping her tiny paw between the bars like she was marking us for her own. It was hard for me to step away to continue searching, but we left and went home.  

But as with many rescue animals, it is often not we who choose them, but they who choose us. I couldn’t get the friendly little kitten out of my mind. A few days later, we adopted Jinx. 

The humane society had claimed that she had been found abandoned with her dead mother and sister. She tested positive for parvo, which is a death sentence for most cats and dogs. By the time we met her, she had tested negative for the disease. I knew immediately she was a fighter and survivor.

Over the years, she became our travel companion, coming with us on our bi-annual trips to Pennsylvania. She curled up on my lap for most of the trip.

She came with us from our apartment to a townhouse and to eventually our own house. And after my divorce, she came with me to a small apartment. She stayed by my side each time I flooded my bed with tears. Or she met me on the floor as I curled into the fetal position, comforting me in the only way she could: purring, rubbing against my hand, or crawling on my lap. I read once that a cat’s purr has an imperceptible effect on humans that helps calm them down. I don’t know how factual this is, but I like to think it worked for me. 

For years, we had our routine. She knew approximately when my alarm would go off, or if it was a weekend, she still knew when my alarm was supposed to go off, and she would be on the bed waiting eagerly for me to get up and head to her food bowl. If I so much as dared to go back to sleep, she would bite at my hair until I got up.

Every day when I got home from work, she greeted me when I walked in the door with a scratchy meow and a leg rub, telling me to hurry up and feed her. 

At night when I was reading in bed, she would often lay on my chest, blocking my book to “make bread” until she was satisfied that it had been made to perfection. Then she would sidle up at my feet to sleep. 

She turned eleven years old in 2023, which made her the oldest cat I had ever had the privilege of having. But a few months later, she stopped eating and drinking. She vomited frequently. She became lethargic. She lost weight.

After many vet visits, tests, ultrasounds, and fluid injections, the vet said she had triaditis, a disease that affects the pancreas, intestines, and liver. A prescription for a steroid was prescribed, one that she would have to take for the rest of her life. It was a small inconvenience if my cat would be okay. 

Except she wasn’t. 

Though her appetite came back, the vomiting didn’t stop. She kept mostly to herself, no longer wanting to sleep in the bed with me. Then the diarrhea started. Back to the vet and the new possible diagnosis was intestinal lymphoma, but to rule it out, Jinx would have to undergo a biopsy, which I was told is hard on cats. I decided to forego the biopsy because even if the result was cancer, the only cure was surgery and surgery on an animal as small as a cat was dangerous. The best thing to do was to make sure she was comfortable and to wait and see. 

Meanwhile, another crisis had befallen me, which I wrote about here if you need a recap. While living at my dad’s, the diarrhea got worse, and Jinx lost half her body weight. She also seemed hungry all the time. I took her to a different vet to get a different opinion. 

This vet didn’t run any tests. He didn’t take any blood. He felt her abdominal area and told me she had intestinal lymphoma, just as the other vet suspected. He gave me an oral form of chemotherapy. It wouldn’t cure her, but it might slow the growth of the cancer. I would do anything for my cat, and monitored her closely for side effects. 

At first, the treatment seemed to be working. She wasn’t vomiting and her bowel movements were solid. Even after this whole ordeal, Jinx would still snuggle up against me in my bed. I heard her purring next to me and felt the vibrations against my back as I drifted off to sleep. When I woke to my alarm she was there like always, knowing it was time to get up for breakfast. But a week later, the vomiting and diarrhea returned. The vet told me to reduce the medicine and bring her in for blood work.

After the results of the blood work came back, it was determined that Jinx had diabetes in addition to lymphoma. She had also lost more weight. Now I was left with one of the hardest decisions of my life. 

The thing with our beloved pets is they can’t tell us they are in pain or hurting. They go on living even when they are not well. That’s all they know. As their people and the ones who are supposed to care for them, we have the responsibility to notice when things aren’t normal anymore, but to still love them for who they are regardless of what they may be going through. 

One morning I woke up and Jinx was not next to me. I feared how I would find her, but when I went to the bathroom, there she was, sitting on the sink waiting for me to turn on the faucet so she could drink the running water. She never liked stagnant water and preferred the water from the sink. As I watched her lap the streaming water and saw her spine protruding from her back, I knew what I had to do. 

I was there every second of the process. I touched my nose to hers as the first shot was given. My tears soaked the fur of her head and ears as her body went limp. I told her how much I loved her and that I was sorry. Then I told her she didn’t have to be strong anymore. Wrapped in a blanket, I carried her body back to the car and held her in my lap for the last time while my dad drove home. 

Jinx’s life was long and, I would hope, good. She fought for life from the time she was born until the last. And I hope she knew how much I loved her. I felt I was loved by her in ways no one else could love me. She taught me a valuable lesson on how precious life is. 

When I take the time to look back on everything we went through together, it’s impossible not to be grateful for her presence and the time I had with her. The loyalty of an animal surpasses that of a human every time. They love you for who you are, not for what you can do or can become. 

Once by my side, Jinx will now forever be in my heart. Her impact reminds me every day how precious and fleeting life is. Even in the midst of suffering and challenges, we still have a choice to fight to overcome for as long as we can.  

My Sweet Jinxie

June 24, 2012-April 27, 2024

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