Just three weeks after Alla's death, I started looking in earnest for a cat to adopt. I didn't know if I was ready, but I couldn't get the thought out of my head, so I pressed on. I looked at picture after picture and struggled with all the unknowns, like whether the cat would get along with the dogs, how Eli would adjust to a new companion, what type of hair the cat would have and whether it would affect Mitchell's allergies, and, of course, the huge paranoia that comes from having lost a cat to the dreaded disease FIP. After several days of searching and thanks to an online rescue friend, I found a beautiful, long-haired Siamese (otherwise known as a Balinese) in the Savannah, GA animal control shelter. By that weekend, Hazel was in Connecticut, making herself comfortable with the dogs and trying to decide what to think about Eli, since on the outside he looked a lot like a cat and she far prefers dogs to cats. It's been three weeks now, and it feels like Hazel has always been a part of our family.
I constantly wonder, though, how Eli feels about the stream of cats he has seen come and go in his 14 years with me. He was always "the baby" of the house, since he grew up with his older brothers BoBo and Otis. They were my kitty crew for a full 10 years--BoBo as the patriarch and my lap warmer and the other two a silly Mutt & Jeff sort of pair. I don't think that I realized how much the group had aged until BoBo succumbed to the mounting effects of his failing kidneys at the age of 16. Otis was 11 already and Eli 10. It seemed fitting, then, when 8-year old Manny came to live with us five months later. Little did I know then that Otis would become sick just a year after we lost BoBo and gone in under 3 months. Twelve-years old seemed too young and intestinal cancer so random, but just 2 1/2 years later, Manny fell victim to the same tormentor at the age of 11. And, then, of course, Alla was taken a year later, a mere 7 months after we adopted her and at the tender young age of 14 months.
In case you've lost track, since January 2006, Eli has experienced the loss of four of his feline friends. And, now, my "baby" suddenly seems old and tired, jaded and suspicious, aloof and cautious, maybe even sad and worried. And his emotions are rubbing off on me. I worry about him day and night. His meow is off. Could he have a tumor in his throat? He's lost weight. Could it be intestinal cancer yet again? He seems a bit dehydrated. Is it his kidneys? He isn't eating a lot. It could be any number of things. I'm trying not be too doom and gloomy. I am struggling with the decision to take him to the vet to do bloodwork or to just watch and see. I am wondering if this is just a natural slowdown for a nearly 15-year old cat. In any case, I am still not OK seeing Eli as anything other than the strong, independent, wise, young cat that he has always been. To this point, he has been ageless, and I don't know how to (or want to) treat him like an elderly pet. He's not the type to submit to medical treatments without much complaining. He would much rather be outside enjoying the fresh air and rolling in the dirt than to be babied or tended to. He has a routine, and he has trained us all to follow his schedule and to meet his demands. I can't imagine him approving any changes or amendments. He's the boss. He will always be the boss. As long as I keep things on his terms, I am sure I will be making the right choice. I just don't want to have to make any choices...not for a long, long time. Please.