My beloved cat is ill. The kind of ill that means trips back and forth to the vet and difficult decisions. She's an old lady now, with all the kinds of problems that old ladies tend to have, in her case a long struggle with asthma has meant treatment with steroids over the past few years to keep her breathing under control, although she never did get the hang of her inhaler...no opposable thumbs you see.
As I write this, tears running down my face she's lying down, but inside her litter tray, and although our vet instructed me to phone him first thing tomorrow morning to see how she'd been through the night, in my heart of hearts I know the time has come, if not today, tomorrow.
She wasn't even my cat originally, she was brought as a 6 week old kitten for my younger sister, but in that way that cats do, she chose to own me, and we've been inseperable since I was 16. A tiny little bundle of fur, the runt of her litter, and too young really to be parted from her mother I carried her round in my pocket to keep her warm and safe as I studied for my GCSE's, then less than a year later delivered all her four kittens by hand, alive and well despite one being a dry birth. That was the kitten we kept who also decided to own me.
She was by my side as I sat my A levels, then later my finals, there through every broken heart, every happy occasion, as I grew more unwell and struggled to come to terms with my body and world collapsing around me without explanation she was a constant presence, comforting and warm, always appearing if I was sad, seeming somehow to know.
In her youth she was a true cat, dominating the neighbourhood, hunting and bringing 'gifts' home to us, sometimes still live birds, one memorable occasion a rat almost as big as herself, and regularly seeing off foxes in protracted noisy battles in the middle of the road.
In later years as I became more physically vulnerable she took on a new role, and became as protective as any dog, sitting on the side of the bath growling at any carer she mistrusted, with uncanny instincts for getting it right, even going so far as to bite one she took particular dislike to. She was quite right to attack that woman, she always went out of her way to physically hurt me if she could, and it was the cat in the bathroom with me, yowling her warnings when that same carer left me on the bathroom floor after a fall, too busy chatting on her mobile to take any notice of what was going on.
The winter I was so ill I didn't really know who I was the cats probably helped save my life. They, but especially this one rarely left my side, always somehow knowing to lie next to my most painful joints, purring, the vibrations acting as a form of pain relief, but more importantly their body heat giving me desperately needed warmth.
Now she's dying and I feel it as acutely as any human. All I can do for her now is to try and make the right decision about when to let her go peacefully.