This evening the cat fell out of bed.
Not the bed, actually. He was snoozing on an end table on our back porch. I was five feet away, grading papers on my laptop, and jumped to a THUD!
He was on his side on the wooden floor, just lying there.
Like when my late mother fell out of bed. And a few years later, my late father. Now Stewart.
Stewart looked at me. What the heck just happened? I picked him up. I petted him. He jumped off my lap and blithely padded away, preserving his feline dignity.
Stewart isn’t eating enough to maintain his weight.
For most of his 15 years Stewart ate nothing but dried Friskies, and plenty of it. He had a mashed potato belly that swung as he walked and spread when he reclined. Even after losing one incisor to infection, he managed to put away the hard stuff.
More and more often, though, he’d scarf it down and almost immediately throw it up, which I wrote off to gluttony. After a while, at the vet’s advice, I reduced the feeding, and in a year’s time he lost a pound, same as me but much more significant percentage-wise. Year after that, he lost a pound and a half. And in the last few months, he’s been dropping ounces like melting snow.
No more fat cat.
The vet said try canned Friskies to see if he stops throwing up and regains his appetite.
She was right, sort of. He doesn’t puke after licking at pretentiously labeled “pate” with allegedly real bits of salmon, turkey or “mixed grill.” But he barely finishes a spoonful of it. Or anything else.
It’s not for lack of trying on my part and his, with moments of hope. He’ll lustily lap up torn up bits of Dietz & Watson low-salt turkey breast, or tiny cut-up pieces of grilled chicken, canned anchovies, or solid white tuna, or a sprinkling of grated pecorino Romano. But next time I offer whatever he seemed to enjoy, he sniffs and turns away.
He still goes for the dry food, though not as much as he used to. And if he gulps it down, he’ll often throw it right back up. Usually on the rug.
Stewart was the name he came with when we adopted him, back when the kids were grade-schoolers, and he has remained an undemanding, unassuming member of our otherwise empty nest.
He greets me at the door with a meow and a long rub against my black slacks. He plops into my lap, forcing me to stop typing and fully experience the pleasure of scratching a grateful cat behind the ears. He responds when called more quickly and enthusiastically than some children – except for occasions of late when he’s hiding in the back of a closet. Oh, Stewart.
Stewart’s black, white and brown fur is still soft and full (except where it was shaved). But where for years he looked stuffed, he now is eerily chiseled. On the verge of fragile.
He’s had X-rays. He’s had his belly shaved to smooth the way for an ultrasound. Neither turned up anything definitive about what might be inside him that could cause him to waste away. I sliced pills in two and smashed appetite-inducing, nausea-reducing medicine into tuna that he left mostly untouched.
I’m not inclined to put him through surgery to determine if, for example, he has cancer, nor do I want him to suffer through treatment. We’ll let his life run its course.
He doesn’t seem to be in any pain. He runs up the stairs. He jumps on the table. He uses the litter box. He purrs. He seems content. A good cat. A cat.
Time for bed, Stewie. He follows along with a jaunty jingle of his break-away collar on which his name and our landline are etched, heaven forbid he gets out and takes off. I don’t want to lose him.
My once well-padded tabby curls his bony back in the crook of my arm, tucked in for the night, safe from mysterious ailments and unbidden falls.