On Tuesday, I noticed Possum wasn't at his usual spot beside me, and I wasn't getting smacked. He was somewhere behind me with the others. Not a problem, I thought. Maybe he's finally becoming civilized.
When I put the food dishes down, everyone dug in with the usual gusto, but Possum walked away after a few bites of lamb and sat in the living room. This was strange; this was alarming. Usually he snarfs his bowl and tries to finish everyone else's. Then he licks crumbs off the floor. If he doesn't like the food in his bowl, he has no qualms about taking over the bowl next to his and making that cat switch with him. So this was odd.
The other cats were eager to finish his bowl but I put it in the fridge, planning to try again later. When I did, he refused it. I didn't think it could be the food itself because it's one of the flavors we feed every day, and everyone loves it. Harris had happily finished his portion of the can.
I've had enough experience with old, fragile, sick cats across the years to relish seeing our five chow down. As I watch and listen to them every night, munching in a row, I am grateful they are healthy. I'm grateful we can afford to give them good food and that we are doing as much as we can to keep them happy and well. I'm aware that these are golden years, when no one needs pills, liquids, sub-Q hydration, syringe-feeding, injections, eye treatments, or any of the other nursing we patiently did over the years for their predecessors. I know that more complicated times will come again; we may be lucky to have five geriatric cats growing old alongside us in a decade or so.
I knew I was overreacting; sometimes cats just skip a meal and that's that. But I also know that — more rarely — this is how The End can begin. So it's scary. I can't imagine life without Possum. Not now. I can't imagine life without any of my cats, but I need Possum. He is essential. So I told him so. He gazed at me, exhausted, from a prone position. He has the most expressive eyes of any cat I've ever known but they weren't saying much at the moment. I noted that he didn't appear to have lost any weight.
Two nights earlier, he'd gotten into a bowl of popcorn, so I wondered if it had upset his system.
He spent the evening lying around, which is how he spends about 22 hours of every day. Still, I worried and kept an eye on him. "If he doesn't eat breakfast, he's going to the vet tomorrow," I told my husband, who did not object. I continued to watch and worry silently. "He looks off to me, like something's not quite right," I finally said. My husband looked and said he seemed the same as ever: lazy, fat. But I saw what I saw.
Not exactly like Beth in Little Women; we'd watched the wonderful Winona Ryder version
together recently. But I noted similarities.
When Possum wouldn't eat his lamb later on, I fed him our roasted chicken breast. I gave him a good amount and felt a little better. He went back to sleep. I texted Connie about my worries, and we got onto the subject of FIP (feline infectious peritonitis: sudden, incurable, fatal, often affects younger cats), the other horrible thing that immediately pops into my head when a cat doesn't eat. (It pops into Connie's, too, which was somehow comforting to know. She is a good person to turn to because she knows so much about cats, is also something of a worrier, and has me mostly figured out, too.)
I said goodnight to Possum and went to bed hoping he'd wake us by puking up a hairball or undigested popcorn kernels and solve the mystery.
Instead he visited me for purring and petting in the wee hours, which doesn't happen often these days. He slept curled beside me under my arm. My husband woke me later to report that, at breakfast, Possum refused his newly warmed bowl of lamb from the night before — but finished a bowl of different food at his usual high rate of speed. I was more than relieved. He spent the day loafing as usual.
At supper he stood beside me, smacking and yelling. I thanked him, and followed his orders. And then I had five happy cats in a row.
The Way Life Should Be.