I’m not sure when Iris started doing her pressing spines thing, but it wasn’t when I got her as a kitten, in 2011. Back then, despite her limited vision, she was a little spitfire who just wanted to be outside killing things.
And she really did have limited vision, despite all the jokes that she was faking it because she was such a good hunter. If you moved the coffee table to vacuum, for example, you’d screw up her leap from it to the couch. She’d clearly memorized the distance. Sometimes she’d stand on the table and reach her arm out for the couch before she jumped, just to make sure it was there.
And if you tried to shine a laser pointer at her? Nothing. No response. Which was always funny, because she got around so well it was easy to forget her vision was even an issue. Not to mention the hunting, which I already did. Those first few years I had her, she gleefully murdered just everything. And sometimes she just maimed things and brought them inside. Once a live cicada. That was peaceful. Once a live bird. Also peaceful.
Once I was pulling up to the house and saw her leap easily five feet straight up in the air after something. She was amazing. “She has a fifth sense for hunting,” one of you said once, and it was my favorite thing anyone has ever said about Iris.
Anyway, I know the pressing spines thing was, you know, a thing by the time I moved in with Ned in 2014. He went to bed way later than me, which he would tell you is just part of his circadian rhythms and I would tell you is part of love avoidance, but whatever. Different topic for a different day.
He’d put me to bed every night, and as he did so, Iris would come in and I’d roll to one side and she’d press her spine up next to mine. We’d stay that way till Ned came to bed at 1:00 or 2:00.
When I moved out, after a year of being love-avoided, she kept up the spine-pressing, and she does it to this day. It’s so comfortable. And she’s not fussy: If you move, or roll over, she just adjusts.
I often am tempted to roll over and spoon her and kiss her cat head and tell her how good she is but Iris isn’t a cat like that. She’s friendly but not clingy. So I respect the affection she does give me and don’t ask for more.
For the past several years, she’s gotten sicker.
I think it all started when two loose dogs came into our yard and nearly killed her. They lacerated her liver, broke her pelvis and cause all sorts of damage to her. I think that’s how she got pancreatitis, which is a condition that flares up painfully now and then. She throws up blood when she gets a flare-up and it’s awful.
I’ve noticed when she gets those flare-ups she then inevitably gets a flare-up of her chronic rhinitis, which is this terrible upper respiratory thing where she has to keep her mouth open in order to breathe. She sounds like Darth Vader when she has it.
If those two things weren’t bad enough, she has irritable bowel disorder, and I can tell that’s been making her miserable.
And? Her eyes are worse. The other day, I called her in, and she was on the table in the back yard. She put her leg out to feel for a surface, over and over again. She was scared to jump down, so I got her.
Even worse, I cannot medicate her. I’ve told you about that when she had her thyroid issue in the fall. She will foam at the mouth till her medication has left the building. I’ve had cats all my life. I’ve never NOT had a cat. This cat won’t take medication. So I can’t even make her feel better with this stuff.
And I was trying. I had medicine I was trying to give her for her irritable bowel, which an ultrasound last week revealed was pretty bad. I blame myself for stressing her out, because after a week of wrestling with her and her foaming, this weekend she got really, really sick. She threw up copious amounts, then got her terrible rhinitis, and she didn’t eat or drink from Saturday night till just this morning.
So, yesterday I called the vet. “I think it’s time,” I told him. He listened to my reasons, but when I was done, he suggested we give her liquid antibiotics to get her over this rhinitis, and I felt guilty saying no. I felt like I was murdering her if I said no. So I drove her sick, wheezing self down there, they hooked her up to an IV for fluids, gave her a B12 shot, and brought her out foaming at the mouth.
“We gave her her first antibiotic. Does she always drool like that?”
“This is what I’ve been telling you for months. Yes.”
“She looks pretty rough. She’s well-loved here, please know that. Call us tomorrow and we’ll talk about next steps,” said the technician, petting Iris through her carrier.
So, last night, Iris, who had been on her rocking chair nonstop for days, jumped down from it. It woke me up, as I’ve been sleeping lightly, listening for her condition to worsen.
Seconds later, I felt her jump on the bed. Her steps seemed lighter than usual.
And then? She pressed spines with me. And I couldn’t help it. I rolled over and spooned her and kissed her cat head and told her what a good kitty she is. And how much I admire her spirit.
And you know, she didn’t mind. She purred through her Darth Vader breathing. She let me do it. Eventually I rolled over and we pressed spines all night.
Today she really is a little better and finally, finally ate a little. It looks like a Golden Corral up in the cat food area, so many choices do I have up there for her. Tuna juice? Kitten food? Canned special Iris stomach food? Special Iris kibble? Can I make you some dry toast? JUST EAT.
She opted for her canned special stomach food that costs 9 million dollars a can. I’m glad because at least it won’t set off her IBD.
So even if she pulls through this, I don’t think I should keep Iris going much longer. Her bad days happen more than her good.
I think it’s nearly time for her happy hunting grounds in the sky.