Cats and life and death and all that

It’s a cold winter Tuesday in Kenwood and I’ve just delivered bad news to my roommate, George, about his 12-year-old gray tabby tomcat. Willy has a tumor on his right jaw, not the abscess we’d both hoped it be. I knew it was bad when Dr. Wagner stepped back from his examination to a side table, leaned back and crossed his arms before delivering the news.

Since George is working 10 hours a day six days a week — he’s a die cutter for a huge wine label printing outfit — I had taken Willy over to Glen Ellen this afternoon. This isn’t a sudden development. Willy’s been strange for many years and got noticeably stranger this summer when he started staying outside all the time. He’d only come in to eat some wet food and head right back out. Thankfully, he’s not senile and started coming back into the house as soon as it got below 40 at night, but he still wants to wander out at odd times.

His eyes have been leaking and his tongue hangs out almost all the time. He’ll only eat canned food and sleeps a whole lot. He doesn’t seem to be in pain and doesn’t cry out when we touch the lump on his right jaw. But he’s lost weight and looks lumpy, although he is friendlier than ever and a pleasure to have around. When he crawls into my lap, it’s clear he’ll stay there for the next few hours if not dumped off.

Like so many things today, the economics of a pet’s illness is enough to threaten your economic stability. George is waiting for a biopsy on a nasty shin wound/development/??? that’s going to cost him beyond his insurance for surgery soon to follow. Just finding out what’s wrong with Willy is going to cost from $300 to $400, and this is a reasonable vet… At this cat’s age, much more cost will be a death sentence. Just as it will be for George or myself as the years roll on. Neither of us have any padding whatsoever against vicissitude or calamity. It makes for heady living in one sense, there’s no going back for do overs, so just forge ahead. I’m just trying not to think about the day when some nice doctor gives me some bad news.