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.