In 2011, our beloved cat Edward died after a very brief but horrifying bout with cancer. All through the summer we didn’t even speak of getting another cat. Sometime in early autumn one of us brought it up. “We’re in no hurry,” we decided, “we’ll see what comes up. There’s always someone with a hard luck tale.”
Near Halloween, we went to see our friend G., who was preparing to move to Japan. He had 4 cats and had done the 6-month prep work Stateside to get them ready for importing into Japan. But at the last minute, he was worried about the 2 oldest cats. And, indeed, the one who was already in somewhat ill health died less than a month later at his parents’s home in Olympia, Wash.
The other cat died just a little over a week ago.
Ilse came to us a cranky old lady, not at all pleased to be put into a carrier box for the second time that day (once for the vet, once for transfer of prisoner). The first few days she was very shy, mostly hanging out in the bedroom and snuggling with the humans. Andy had already gotten to know her when petsitting for G. and was quite fond of her.
Then, she got over her shyness. And realized … we had other cats. Ilse hated all other cats. She terrorized Fergus. She tried to dominate Eleanor, but Eleanor would just give Ilse A Look that clearly said, “Bitch, I don’t know who you think you are, but this is MY house.”
In November of 2014, Ilse officially became Old, with a hyperthyroid diagnosis and an order to try to regain some lost weight. She never did. In January, she had a raging UTI that, it turned out, we didn’t quite eliminate. In early March she was extremely sick again and we thought we were going to lose her then. But she bounced back! In June we had that horrible heatwave and she became so dehydrated we needed to do at-home subcutaneous fluids. But she bounced back!
Over the weekend of Aug. 15 I was away on a work trip. Andy was quite noble about not telling me how bad Ilse seemed to be until I was out of Canada and just 45 minutes from home. She’d been looking a little poorly again toward the end of the week, and by Saturday she was just wandering around the house howling. She wasn’t drinking, but Andy was trying more fluids. She wasn’t eating.
Sunday night we decided that Monday would probably have to be the final vet visit. And, indeed, on Monday when Andy tried to feed her, Ilse was so thoroughly uninterested in her food that she stepped in it on her way out of the dining room. Ilse has long been a food thief — woe betide anyone who thought they were going to have a snack on the couch, because Ilse would come bounding along and jump into their lap. Ilse once stood on her hind legs for nearly a full minute in the fervent hope that Andy was going to drop the roast chicken onto the floor. If that cat was no longer paying any attention to her food, then she was no longer really Ilse.
Monday, Aug. 17, we had her put to sleep.
Our friend G’s parents drove up from Olympia to pick up her little body, so tiny and frail at this point — down to under 5 pounds. G’s dad made her a little coffin. They wrapped her in the towel I had put her on, then placed her in the coffin with a can of tuna and some spaghetti noodles, which she’d always loved when she lived with G. Then G’s parents inscribed it with her name in both English and Japanese, held a little ceremony in the back yard, and buried her with 2 other of G’s cats.
When we took in Ilse, we thought she was around 13, which would have meant she turned 17 this year. But it turns out that G remembered taking her in some time around 1995 or 1996, which made near nearly 20. From being found in a garbage can and requiring hand-feeding for her first few months to being a tough old broad of almost-20. Not bad, little cat. Not bad.
We’ll miss you, Il-chan. We’ll miss your snuggles, and your ghost snores, and how you always came running to greet us at the door.