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California

Less than one percent of all cats, and it had to be mine

She crawled into a warm box on my boyfriend’s dresser and sat on the blanket there, away from us. I thought it was cute that she took the spot that her kittie roommate, Uma, discovered. But, she was there to be alone, not to be admired.

One of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve ever had happened a couple of months ago. I wish I could wipe it away from my mind, but I think it’s burned a hole there and in my heart. I was preparing for my post-graduation and birthday festivities, but instead found that I was to become a nurse to my cat on my vacation, giving her four or five medications a day. Puddle’s eye was inflammed … we thought it was a result of a scratch or a herpes flare up. Anything would have been better.

After extensive blood work, the vet found that Puddle, the cat that never made it to age 3, had a rare and terminal virus called FIP, which inflammes the body.

I couldn’t bring myself, zoning out at the news in the vet’s office, to ask about her life expectancy. Instead, I asked if that meant she had to be on medication her whole life, avoiding THAT question, which I wanted to be answered without the words coming from my lips. The vet, who perhaps could tell the words I couldn’t utter, nodded and said that with medication, some cats could live anywhere from two months to a year after initial infection. But, there were some rare cases of cats living multiple years with the virus. She said she hoped my cat would be one of them.

So, we did research for weeks. We read the stories online about misdiagnoses. We read the online support forums from the owners. We read the memorials on the Web sites. What we read, we thought, were cases of cats all worse off than Puddle was, who seemed too old to have the virus. She never had seizures, and her stomach never swelled up … but the virus just didn’t attack there.

A month later, I woke up and saw a limp ball of fur in the dark that couldn’t handle the inflammation of her liver. Puddle died in our bedroom a day after being diagnosed with jaundice by the vet.

The night before I saw her sit herself down in her litter box, not caring anymore … her own body’s reaction trying to kill the virus ultimately being the thing that consumed her.

We never thought she was going to die, even then.

I don’t know why … the synapses in the brain just never bonded or didn’t want to.

The vet said she just needed to perk up and eat more, so that she had a chance against the jaundice and the terminal virus. But, she did eat … and drank, so we thought she was going to make it. I had hope, and that famous quote from Gandalf continuously went off in my mind for weeks straight. Then, the hope, and it, were gone … just like that.

I never knew I could sob so hard or feel so limp.

Perhaps the worst of it was the night before when she climbed on top of me that one last time when I was on the bed. Her feet, in hot pink badges from the vet drawing blood, walked on me where she stared directly at my eyes and meowed a few times as if to say, “goodbye, my friend.” I could only cry, ignoring my friend’s advice of having to fake to be strong for her because she could feel my emotions.

We only had her for a year and a half.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life not to lose many people. I’ve been to a grand total of one funeral.

But Puddle’s loss caused so much emptiness … I don’t think it ever could be filled in that way again …

… I miss her plopping down her body onto my computer because she was jealous of my homework.

I miss waking up and feeling her warm body on my legs, softly purring.

I miss her randomly jumping on my lap.

I miss the way she would sway her big cat hips when she would walk.

I miss the potential years we could have had together.

Uma climbs in that box now. I often wonder if she’s checking to see if her old roommate is there, or if she knew she could take back her territory because her sick companion no longer needed it. Either way, I think she could tell this entire time … and that’s why she started to sit next to Puddle weeks before we were told her condition was terminal.

I’m starting to think I should just throw out that box.

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About Julianne Shapiro

Opinions are my own personal ones. My passion for publishing amazing content started when I created a website about one of the most popular British bands of our time, which was featured in Q magazine. On screen, I'm a driven digital publishing professional with more than 8 years combined experience working in marketing, sales, editorial and digital development in the hospitality and publishing industries. I've done everything from interviewing rock stars to marketing networking events for Silicon Valley executives.

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