“You know what I should do?” Hoshino asked excited. “Of course,” the cat said. “What’d I tell you? Cats know everything. Not like dogs.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
I cannot think of a way to explain to you how to treat a sick animal without making me a martyr, but somehow, I’ll try to convey to you both sides of the equation: one in which the illness demands a great deal from me and the other that makes me weigh if I am the right person to help him.
About a year and a half ago Che, my 12 years old cat started to lose weight. He would eat, but he wouldn’t put on weight. He would drink water, but never seemed to be satisfied. The cat’s fur now dull was once shiny and healthy. He walked in a strange way, with his back paws leaning too heavily on the ground. He would lay down more than usual, but who has cats knows that they are constantly in standby mode, rising only to satisfy their interests and needs, which sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish laziness from a pathological lethargy. In silence, he would show me how his health was degrading and I though, naively: “It’s the age”. Against the intransigence of time there is not much to do and the presence of cats in our lives is unmistakably ephemeral.
When we took him to the veterinarian the answer was straightforward: it is diabetes and it is also essential that the owners have the availability to manage his disease. From diagnosis to daily injections of insulin twice a day to weekly blood glucose curves (stick the needle on the cat’s paw, again and again because the glucometer requires one more blood sacrifice. Repeat it three hours after, seven hours for day…), to the oscillations between hyper and hypoglycemia, the fear of a diabetic coma… It was all too fast and the adjustment time too short.
I confess it has been some ordeal. From hoping for an eventual remission to the care taken to guarantee a quality life for Che, must of us have been lost. The freedom of a vacation – or a weekend way. The inexistence of someone who can administer insulin in our absence. Work and sleep schedules interrupted to give injections at the exact time. The control needed to prevent a relapse or to anticipate a remission. The conversations that for weeks seem to be always leading to the same themes: “it seems to me that he drinks a lot of water again (…) did you notice if he has gained his appetite? (…) are there any needles left? (…) Iosing fur again, the glycemic must be out of control again (…)”. The exorbitant prices of consultations, examinations, food and veterinary medication. The willingness to devote oneself’s time and energy to a single subject that consumes, absorbs and reduces us to caregivers.
We are no longer happy owners whose biggest concern is to ensure that the sofa remains cat-claw proof and out clothes free of fur. We are constantly reminding ourselves of the need of our presence, our availability and our sense of self-denial. And sometimes, I confess, I’m not the ideal mistress. I do not know if I have it in me. I feel a great deal of fatigue and constant frustration at the investment I make to assure my cat’s health based on the results we get. The balance is never positive. It’s always unbalanced and never in our favor. We haven’t yet found an optimum stage where he is well, stable and this reflects upon us. Or will it be the other way around?
But he seems happy to me. He allows the injections of insulin without disarray. When we need to measure the glycemic, he turns the head not to see the needle sticking in his paw and the blood dropping from it. The food is guaranteed and the bed too. What more can a cat ask for? And what can I expect of him but to be with us for a few more years?
They say we’ve been looking for love all our lives. We want to find an absolute definition that seizes us, but we forget that love meddles with the gaps. It is not perfect nor total. It’s plastic, resilient and stubborn. It starts with the reorganization of priorities. In immediate concern with the other. In the unquestionable care for someone who doesn’t reciprocate as we would expect and yet doesn’t let us give up.
Love comes in many forms. Mine came up in the form of a diabetic cat.
This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here for the original text.
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