This past summer, Kate and I took Andrew to the vet, fully expecting to be coming home with an empty carrier. He wasn’t eating or grooming or doing anything other than curling up in the cave underneath the scratching post. He’s eighteen years old, and he has either pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer—this was inevitable. But rather than do something final, the vet prescribed a new painkiller and appetite stimulant sent us home to give him one more chance to pull through. Some time to say goodbye. It only took a day for him to return to his old self.
Six months later, he’s doing great, but he is definitely old. During his last appointment, the vet told us that we didn’t need to bring him in ever again, that the next time he sees a doctor will be the last time. Which begs the question, how will I know it’s time? I’ve asked this question of a lot of people, and the consistent answer is, he’ll tell me. But will I listen?
Here’s the problem: he’s pretty achy. You can tell by how slow he moves and the position of his tail. My attempts to increase his painkiller dose any farther than it already is have turned him into a sleep zombie, so I’ve scaled it back. But, even though he seems to be feeling some pain, he’s pretty active. He helps me cook, and he follows me from room to room. He’s cuddly, he’s playful, he’s grooming himself nicely, and he’s so hungry. When I look at him, I don’t see a cat who’s ready to retire. Am I just seeing what I want to see? Has he been signaling that it’s time to go, and I’ve been missing it because I desperately don’t want him to go? I mean, he’s literally been with me a third of my life, and I can’t imagine living in this little condo without him.
I do understand that Andrew has lived a long life full of love, comfort, and adventure. It’s not him who will be missing out when he retires. I know that.
So which is it? Is he hanging around because he wants to? Because he wants to sniff a few more things, sleep on a few more laps before it’s time? Or am I being selfish and not letting him go? I don’t know, and I don’t know how I’ll ever know. What I do know is that he’s my friend, and I want what’s best for him, and I hope to figure out what that is soon.