Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Goodbye Qif, Hello Vif


My longtime companion Qif, a brindle domestic cat, was put to sleep last Tuesday, 17 September 2013. A dear friend visiting me accompanied me to the ASPCA for this painful parting; as the fatal injection was administered, I stayed stroking her until she was unconscious but left before she became cold and stiff.  Qif was over 14 years old, or 73 in human age.  She was adopted from the ASPCA in Media, PA, on 8 December 1999, a five-month kitten, and I named her askew marking Qif following her predecessors, Mif and Pif.  I liked her friskiness but also her askew marking, which I called a Veronica Lake look; her hind legs didn’t match either, one was black and the other white. She was a healthy and lovable cat, as attached to me as I was to her.  She always slept on my bed at night and, in later years, habitually lay on my chest face to face for a while before sprawling more comfortably with her head on my foot or leg.  She adjusted herself quickly to my one-bedroom apartment in New York when she was moved in 2009 from a three-bedroom house in Swarthmore, where for nearly ten years she enjoyed roaming through ample rooms and cavorting up and down the stairs.  Early in December 2011, she suffered a severe gastrointestinal disorder and stopped eating.  Her vet tested her with a series of blood tests and X-rays and detained her three nights to test for pancreatitis; but he could not find any abnormal condition and sent her home. Though she begged for food, she was unwilling to eat.  It took her four weeks of voluntary fasting before she regained appetite and three more weeks before she started eating normally. But subsequently, through 2012 until August, she periodically suffered bouts of stomach disorder -- vomiting and diarrhea, followed by refusal to eat -- almost once every month.  She visited the vet in August, and he repeated blood tests and X-rays and reported that her kidney and liver were healthy.  Her health improved for the next several months. But she lost her taste for Fancy Feast Gourmet Salmon, which was her only soft food all through her life, which she always ate with relish. She would occasionally hide under the bed as though she was in pain.  In April 2013 she vomited and became very sick again.  The vet tested her again and his only diagnosis was constipation; she was given mirtazapine, an antidepressant, which promotes feline appetite.  But she continued to refuse food; I tried all kinds from venison to cod to duck to liver, and also tried ground beef, raw and cooked, roast chicken pieces, and milk.  She kept losing weight.  On 25 July I saw her bending the right foreleg and limping on three legs; I had not seen what she did.  She went to the vet, who X-rayed her and saw no fracture.  Late in August she was back at the vet as she was not eating at all; he drew blood for testing, and had no diagnosis.  At his insistence, I took her back for sonogram on 13 September; the report was a tumor outside the kidney, and the suggested treatment was another sonogram in order to locate the tumor more precisely so that it might be scraped with a needle, and possibly chemotherapy to remove it completely.  There was no prospect of healing.  That was when I considered euthanasia. I didn’t want to see live in pain and starvation. Without my friend’s support, I might have delayed the decision.  I know Qif had a good 14-year life.  I asked her ashes to be scattered at the communal cemetery, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

After bidding farewell to Qif, I proceeded immediately to find a cat to adopt.  I was shown some fifty cats of all ages and shapes and forms but I requested for a 1 to 3 year old frisky female. Two that caught my attention, both black with some white, were male, 6-months and 5-months.  It did not take me long to choose, watching their behavior; I decided on Billy Ray, the younger of the two, whom I renamed Vif.  Like Qif, he featured an asymmetrical white marking on his face as though a lump of ice cream spilled out on one side of his mouth.  There were papers to go through and sign and a payment to make. Then, I was instructed to meet with the Feline Behavior Counselor, one Adi Hovav; she was full of warning how Vif, as active as he is, might turn out to be destructive and impossible to manage.  I assured her that I had many cats in my life and am well acquainted with hyperactive kittens, and I was allowed to take him.

Back home, he immediately inspected every nook and corner of my one-bedroom apartment and within an hour acquainted himself with the odor of the place. I played with him for while with a variety of toys I improvised -- a string with a butterfly bow at one end to jump up for, a short bamboo stick to run around, a crumpled fist-size cardboard to chase after, a cardboard toilet tissue core which scares him, and a large brown paper bag to poke the head in. I went out from 5:00 to 10:00, and when I came home, I found two waste baskets upturned and two piles of books unpiled.  He ate, drank, and used the litter, and he slept well that night on my bed, leaning on my legs. Within the next four days, he was totally at home. He plays hard, eats voraciously, and sleeps well; he purrs a lot and follows me around everywhere, weaving between my feet; he digs in his litter with such force that he scatters it all over the bathroom; he watches me while I shower and as soon as I come out he jumps into the puddled bath tub -- just for fun.  He is fearless. When I wash my face under the faucet, he reaches the wash basin standing on the toilet cover and then climbs into it, pushes my soapy face aside, and, with his head turned sideways, drinks from the running water; he does this unfailingly every morning and bedtime. He knocked down the table fan, which fell with a clash from the top of a low bookcase; its cover came off but it didn’t break. He likes to stretch out on the window sill, which was too narrow for mature Qif.  He is intelligent as I knew the first moment I saw him; he learned “No” quickly, which I use to get him off the dining table and kitchen counter and to stop him playing with my feet and legs. He is, of course, always at the door when I come home, hearing the keys.  Vif is ever lively true to his name, exactly as I like, reminding me of Qif in her first years.  He is truly adorable and evidently adores me.  But I still miss Qif just the same. 


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