Yanny lounges

We’ve lost three cats to old age over the past three months: Nina in October, Luigi in November, and Frankie in December. We euthanized Nina and Luigi after they each were diagnosed with a laundry list of ailments: pancreatitis and kidney failure for both, neurologic issues for Nina, and cancer for Luigi. In Frankie’s case, she died suddenly at home after having struggled with diabetes for years and mobility and incontinence issues more recently. Some pets save you the choice of deciding when it’s time to say goodbye by checking out on their own.

Whereas Luigi lived alongside the rest of our cats, Nina and Frankie lived in a spare bedroom with one-eyed Yanny. We’d established this “quiet kitty room” years ago when we’d adopted Gumbo, who had congenital heart problems and needed a calm environment. Gentle Nina was a perfect roommate for Gumbo, so when he died we adopted Frankie then Yanny to keep Nina company: three mellow cats who thrived in a quiet space away from Luigi’s big and sometimes bullying personality.

After both Nina and Frankie died, Yanny was the lone survivor in the “quiet kitty room,” and although a room of one’s own might be desirable for prospective writers, cats accustomed to roommates get lonely. In the past, we would have adopted new cats to replace the ones we’d lost, treating our household menagerie like a sports team where a new player gets called up whenever a roster spot opens.

But…after Nina, Luigi, then Frankie died in rapid succession, it became clear that neither J nor I wanted more cats. The emotional rollercoaster of adopting and acclimating a new pet, spending lots of time and energy on their care, and then saying goodbye is draining. After years of being the “crazy cat couple” who intentionally adopted cats with medical needs and then centered our lives around their care, both J and I want to spend less time on pet-tending and more time on travel and other pursuits.

So this week, we freed Yanny from the solitude of his room and introduced him to the housemates he barely knew he had: gregarious Hillary and Larry and secretive George and Gracie. We’ll care for these five remaining cats until the end of their natural lives, then we’ll transition to being (just) dog people. When Henry David Thoreau left Walden after living there for two years, he said he’d realized he “had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” After shepherding so many cats through medical challenges and end-of-life care, J and I are approaching a place where it’s time to live another life.

So, how are *you* keeping warm through the storm?

Last month, we euthanized one of our cats. Gumbo (pictured above, on right) was a medical mystery: when we adopted him as an adult in 2015, he had a chronic respiratory infection, and soon thereafter he was diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect that should have killed him as a kitten. Given Gumbo’s diagnosis, we knew he wouldn’t be with us long, so we took care to give him every comfort. When the end came, he died in my lap, which was his favorite place to be.

Welcome home, Yanny

These past few weeks, we’ve been looking for a cat to take Gumbo’s place. Gumbo had lived in our master bedroom with toothless Nina (pictured above, on left) and one-eyed Frankie; the two of them were quiet and calm enough to keep Gumbo company without putting stress on his heart. In looking for a new cat, we wanted one who would be affectionate enough to cuddle with Nina, the gentlest cat on the planet, and savvy enough to give standoffish Frankie her space.

Yesterday we brought home Yanny (pictured on right), a sweet shelter cat who was hard-to-place because of age and medical issues: glaucoma that claimed one eye, an uncertain prognosis for the other, and an unresolved urinary issue. Now that Gumbo’s gone, we have another medical mystery in the house. Already, Yanny is quietly coexisting with both Nina and Frankie: nobody is cuddling yet, but nobody’s fighting, either. When you adopt a medical mystery, you commit to provide whatever that creature needs for however long they decide to stay with you: a quality of life measured in depth rather than length.