I set the delicate china saucer before her, a tiny calico queen curled up on a quilt. On the dish is a dainty portion of cat food, heated to make it more enticing. The plate was a wedding gift a decade ago, shortly before my husband and I brought our little feline gourmand home.
Only the best for miss priss. She gives this morning’s delicacy, whitefish and tuna, an imperious sniff, then looks up at me. Is that the best you can do, lady? Next up, canned salmon.
Isobel is 12 now, and she is dying.
Her green eyes gaze with the same peaceful focus, and she still flops over for belly rubs and purrs contentedly, but her decline, which had been happening in fits and starts, has gained momentum. And my husband, Jon, and I find ourselves vested with the worst, most painful power—deciding when to let her go. It’s a desperate sort of daily divination. How much has she eaten today? Three bites earlier? Fantastic. As she grows thinner.
And yet as best we can tell, she isn’t suffering. So with our vet’s blessing, we persist. I imagine Isobel as a discerning diner at a Michelin-starred restaurant for which I’m the hapless chef, subject to the mercy of her palate’s whims. No thank you to tuna in oil today; yes please to catnip-laced crunchy treats.
Her haughtiness has hung on in other ways, too. She still emits an irritated squeak when our dog, Brienne, gets too close for her liking. She’s never been a big fan of our coltish pup. Too friendly, too in her face.
But Isobel warmed up to us quickly. The day we brought her home, a volunteer at the animal shelter had asked if we’d like to meet the sweetest kitty in the whole place. Sure, we said. Almost as soon as Isobel emerged from her little metal crate, she settled into my arms. More like a puppy than a 2-year-old cat, really. The sad din of the shelter faded into the background as she stared up at me. Sold.
That night, she hid under the sofa in our apartment until I got home from work, when she finally ventured out from beneath her chenille hideout, to our soft-spoken jubilation.
We go back to the vet tomorrow, where I know the news won’t be good. I’ve begun the steps to volunteer at the shelter where we found Isobel; I hope to guide another family to a cat as sweet as ours.
Until then, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy—a finicky, affectionate Isobel, as likely to snuggle up close as she is to turn up her nose.