We lost our cat Doofus on Friday. His decline was sudden, sharp and unexpected: he went from apparently fine to a memory in the span of a week. And we’re still very much in shock about it.
He was at the vet on Wednesday on account of his having become increasingly lethargic and barfing more than usual (which with Doofus was saying something). The vet found some indications that he had early stage one kidney disease, and prescribed a new diet and some medication. Despite this his condition deteriorated sharply the next day. He went from ambulatory to unable to manage stairs within a matter of hours, and then suffered a severe and prolonged seizure. Back to the vet as soon as we could the following morning, where despite being administered anti-seizure meds, he suffered three more seizures, at which point it was clear that recovery was impossible. We ended it at two in the afternoon on Friday.
We’re still trying to process what happened. Doofus was supposed to be the healthy cat: Goober had his many health problems, and Scourge tends to injure himself with his exuberances; Doofus had made far fewer trips to the vet before this, and apart from a common urinary tract problem that necessitated a special diet, there had been nothing particularly wrong with him. He was the cat I expected to live the longest. We anticipated getting at least three to five more years out of him. We weren’t prepared at all for him to go now; we weren’t done with him yet.
More to the point, I would never have bet that Goober would end up having a longer lifespan than Doofus—and neither would you. But Goober’s many issues were chronic and manageable. In the end kidney trouble was what did in both cats. Only Goober’s kidneys were like a clock that slowly wound down, releasing its tension until it came to a stop. Doofus was a mainspring that suddenly snapped. Doofus did not go gently. It was, frankly, horrific.
It couldn’t have happened to a less deserving cat (not that deserve has anything to do with this sort of thing). Doofus was a playful goof throughout his life, a perpetual kitten who never quite grew up, one who was fond of climbing into bookshelves, sitting on cushions and especially boxes. He was profoundly gentle, sweet-tempered and tolerant of attention, and he was utterly devoted to his people.
One of Doofus’s most favourite things from the time he was tiny to not long before the end was to jump at shadows on the wall.1 Despite his name, he was smart enough to recognize where the shadows were coming from, and would chirp at me, his favourite shadow-provider, to make shadows so he could jump at them. (He also had enough theory of mind to recognize images in the mirror for what they were. Most of the time.)
He was extraordinarily photogenic. Doofus was obviously a good-looking cat. He was also an astonishingly good photographic subject. Being a brown tabby helped: Goober’s white fur tended to blow out the highlights, and Scourge as a black cat was habitually underexposed unless I used one of the Nikons in good light. But the thing about him was that he somehow knew how to pose: he had a characteristic head-tilt that I think you learn in modelling school; it shows up in many of the shots of him I’ve taken. (Nearly three hundred of them are here on Flickr, plus more on Instagram that didn’t get imported over.)
But more than anything else, he was a desperate housecat. Doofus was not as personable with houseguests as Goober was, but he was intensely attached to his people, especially Jennifer, onto whom he glommed hard. (I was basically the understudy: if she wasn’t around, I would suffice.) If she was reading or watching a movie, he’d be right next to her on the couch. If she was marking, he’d sit on the kids’ homework and scent-mark her pens. If she was tutoring or teaching online, he’d splay himself across the keyboard and introduce himself via the webcam. He was deeply invested in sitting on top of her if she was sleeping or otherwise prone, and would find the most ludicrous positions if he had to. There was a long list of activities for which he appointed himself as her chaperone. Her own private, cat-shaped remora. In return he put up with being held, squished and otherwise bothered in ways that few other cats tolerate.
He was, in other words, constantly close by (at least when he was awake, and certainly more than the other cats). He took up a large amount space in our lives in every sense: physical, emotional, mental. Which makes his sudden absence more jarring than you might expect.
Also, because for most of the last two decades we’ve had at least two cats (and for eight of those years we had three), we’ve built up a certain amount of multi-cat infrastructure, and contorted our lives around the fact that there would be multiple cats in our home: litter boxes, cat beds, cat toys, consumables like food, treats and cat nip—all in quantities that presume several cats. Not one. We only lost Goober last June: we’ve gone from three cats to one in the space of nine months. With just Scourge now, the house feels uncomfortably empty. It’s too abrupt.