When I last wrote about my cat Betsy earlier this year, she was going on 19. Now we are 20 and still going.
You'd think at 20 a cat might start looking a bit messy and down at paw. Not Betsy. She is mostly deaf but still keeps herself up.
Her fur is soft, her coat is healthy. Yeah she's a bit on the thin side and wobbles when she gets up but apart from that everything appears to be in good working order and she is still a very pretty wee cat.
We're into winter now and that's tough for both of us with our arthritis and continual desire for warmth and comfort but the cold doesn't seem to affect her pattern of being pretty lively for a week or so, then needing to rest and take it easy for several days.
However, last week I noticed her slowing down more than usual, unsteady on her pins, not going up on the roof every day to sit in the sun and watch birds. Her appetite, normally healthy and vigorous, was almost non-existent. Bowls of food went uneaten and the birds were the grateful recipients. I was concerned.
Then she went into the hot water cupboard.
The cupboard is in the kitchen and one day the door was ajar. I went to investigate and found she had managed to open it and was crouched under the water heater, looking up at me with eyes that were not smiling. She did not meow her usual greeting and as I watched, she crawled further into the cupboard until all I could see was the tip of her tail.
Betsy has a mat she likes to sleep on so when she exited the cupboard to attend to outdoor business, I put the mat in there for her and a couple of soft, old T shirts. Betsy stayed in the cupboard on her mat for three days, only creeping out to eat and drink a little and go outside for necessities.
Needless to say I watched her like a hawk, tempted her with delicacies of poached chicken breast which she nibbled at, a bit of milk in her special saucer. Nothing seemed to entice her to eat much.
I was feeling bereft already, thinking my life companion of almost 20 years was about to leave. I remembered all of the things we had shared, some good, some not so good, and with such pain in heart I recalled her devotion to me when I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, how she would not leave me during the worst, only going out to eat and pee and bring me leaves, gifts from the bush which she brought to me at night, leaving them outside the sliding door or on the floor by the bed.
I remembered a vet telling me one day that cats are very 'stoic' and in spite of pain or discomfort, they kind of just get on with things. Betsy certainly is stoic. She endures her old age with such grace, making that climb up her little ramp every day to get onto that roof so she can warm herself in the sun and watch the clouds go by. But being with her for a lifetime, I know when she is unhappy and I had a very sad and sorry cat in my hot water cupboard.
So I began getting prepared emotionally for that trip up the road to the vet and decided, well, if she is still poorly on Friday, we will go, and what will be, will be. If I need to make the decision of putting my best friend to sleep, then so be it.
This is when I started to believe that Betsy could be telepathic, or can read minds and the future.
Thursday morning she wasn't in the cupboard. I looked everywhere in the house, she was gone and I remembered a friend telling me that cats will often just go off into the bush when they're ready to die. Throwing on my gumboots I headed for the door to be met with the usual Betsy howl of good morning, especially loud due to her deafness. There she was, as per the usual morning routine, outside the front door yowling for a hearty breakfast which I delivered right away. Food eaten, fur groomed, good morning conversation with me attended to, she was off up onto the roof.
I cannot believe the resilience of animals. They just keep going, They find a way because life is everything. And that's the truth, isn't it.
Life is everything, even if we do need to spend some time regrouping in the hot water cupboard. It's worth it because then we can get back on our feet, have a good breakfast, make ourselves look nice again and we're off.
I guess she was just having a particularly bad 'off' period and I have learned to take each day as it comes with Betsy the Wonder Cat. I suspect we will have more of these hard times, because she won't live forever, but for now, Betsy continues to thrive, amaze and inspire. I can only hope that I am as fit and well when I get to be her age (which in human years is probably over 100 or close to it).
I think the secret to longevity must be the hot water cupboard. I might make some alterations to my house so I can construct one big enough to climb into with my favourite mat, some old T shirts, a few books, and perhaps a bottle of nice single malt whiskey.