|Tia, in a rare public moment|
We came back from spending Saturday at LepreCon, one of the local conventions, and were starting to get ready for bed. Part of the checklist for that is giving some of our cats a few kitty treats. Which is when we realized that Tia, our older Ragdoll mix, not only hadn't come out for her treats, but hadn't come out the night before as well, and possibly longer.
Tia (short for Tiamet) has always been our "ghost cat", very much a solitaire who didn't interact much with the other cats and who was extremely shy about people in general and especially when there were strangers in the house. We've had friends who've visited dozens of times, over years, who would finally get a glimpse of Tia and ask, "Oh, did you get a new cat?" Until the last few years, when she got a little more outgoing, she'd spend almost all of her time in one room, our bedroom. So it wasn't at all unusual -- in fact, the default -- to not see Tia. When we realized she hadn't been seen at all for several days, our fear was that she might have slipped out the back screen door -- we've had people going back and forth to the backyard more often than usual the last few days -- even though that would have been extremely unusual for her. (Except for watching an occasional episode of Bird TV, she showed little interest in the outdoors.)
But we found her under our bed. Our mattress is on a multi-drawer pedestal, which most of the time means the bed is effctively a solid block. But if you get down on the floor and wiggle and shimmy around like an urban spelunker/contortionist, there's a crawlspace under the headboard (the headboard is a bookshelf attached to the top rim of the bed itself; we are so predictable) that leads to an area under the bed between the drawers on each side. A quiet, private place.
Tabbi, who's younger and far more limber than me, was able to bring Tia out. Tia was very dehydrated, thin, and obviously in distress.
This was a shock, because while Tia is actually our oldest cat, adopted from a rescue organization in 1997, she's always been exceptionally healthy. Our next oldest, Rikkus, the "foreclosure cat" we rescued after his owners abandoned him a few years ago, was born in 1998 and has become a frail, slow-moving old man who'll sometimes sit on the floor and stare at you until you pick him up and put him in the high spot he wants to go. Tia...? Except for routine vaccinations and the bad case of ringworm she had when we adopted her, I don't think Tia has ever had to have a vet visit in her entire fourteen years. It was only a couple of weeks ago she was trying to catch a laser pointer's red dot.
This happened past midnight on a weekend. So I drove her to the closest Emergency Animal Clinic, rather than waiting a day and a half for our regular vet's office to be open. Findings: Besides the dehydration, Tia had an irregular heartbeat, her blood oxygen was poor, and she was very, very anemic. The doctor's prognosis was pessimistic; aggressive treatment might bring some improvement, but even with that, the odds of Tia dying before Monday morning were probably over 50%.
And that was just to treat the current crisis; it didn't address the original, unknown, cause of Tia's sudden downslide.
(Speculation: Tia might have had a slow-growing tumor that didn't produce obvious symptoms until it caused internal bleeding, leading to the severe anemia leading to the heart problems leading to all the rest.)
It was a hard decision. But after talking with Hilde on the phone, we finally decided euthanasia was the best choice. The vet had already installed an injection port during the critical care after Tia first arrived at the clinic, so there wasn't the ignominy of a final needlestick. I petted her while the injection went in, and she went quietly and quickly (and with, I suspect, relief).
Tabbi and James, one of our other housemates, dug a hole in the side yard and buried Tia for us. We've lived in this house for over 25 years, so there are about another four or five cats buried over there from years past. It doesn't get any easier.
I said that Tia didn't interact often with the other cats. Oddly, though, she seemed to love our Welsh Cardigan Corgi, Madame Mim. When Mim would be laying on the floor in the bedroom, Tia would sometimes come up and start washing Mim's face and ears, and doing the head-butt PURR-PURR-PURR thing. ("Tia," I sometimes told her, "you are a traitor to your own species.") Mim, to her credit, would lay there and take the washing and loving without objection, albeit always with a horribly embarassed expression on her face.