“How are you?”
The text came through on a Friday evening when I was beyond exhausted. My husband was on the road and I had spent three long days going between vets and an internist trying to find out why my cat was scary skinny and ill. I should have noticed he was eating less sooner…and I did. But you know how life gets in the way. And after beating myself up all day, questioning what I could have done differently, and worrying that we might have to say goodbye to little Riley that day….I was toast.
When I heard the bing of the text that asked how I was, I responded quickly and typed, “OK.” But I never hit send. Because I wasn’t OK. But I couldn’t figure what I was feeling. So I did something I rarely do these days…I closed my eyes and leaned my head against my headboard and just breathed, and listened to him purring beside me. After a few minutes of solitude I typed back,
RELIEVED. CONCERNED. EXHAUSTED. SCARED. WEARY. GUILTY.
It’s funny how it takes near life altering events to make us stop and think, stop and breathe, stop and just be. But that’s what this was for me. A chance to reflect on how Riley came into our lives, and how much he’s meant to me.
I spotted the little kitty at PetSmart one weekend while buying dog food. He sat among the cages behind the glass with his sister just waiting to find a family. I really wanted another dog…but Brutus wasn’t the most social Golden/Australian shepherd mix on the block. (My husband always joked he didn’t know whether to herd or retrieve.) I was surprised to see this particular kitten named Hudson had the exact same markings as our dog, and cuddled right in my lap when I asked to meet him. The volunteer workers at the cat rescue told me, “He’s quite a talker!” Never having owned a feline…I was clueless as to what that meant.
I found out the next day when I took my husband back to meet little Hudson. His immediate reaction was, “That’s a good looking cat!” So we adopted him, and he meowed and howled the entire ride home. (So that’s what a talker meant.) I had butterflies that day on March 3, 2003 thinking….what did we just do?
Though Hudson Hewitt had a nice ring to it, I promptly re-named him Riley; partially because I always liked that name and also because Bob and I had met at a HEAT game…and you know…Pat Riley. He lived in our master bathroom for the first few days to get him comfortable with me, and to keep Brutus from devouring him. I’ll never forget the first time Brutus saw Riley…I was terrified. Riley immediately drew blood though on the tip of his nose, and Brutus knew he had a worthy adversary. They eventually became friends, and Riley slept with me every night. He was the first pet that was really mine.
Things changed drastically though when we had Lila six years later. Brutus barked at her and her little newborn billy goat sounds, and Riley was terrified of the baby. I didn’t have to worry about our cat suffocating the Lila…Riley hid from her. Until he found that under the crib was a lovely sleeping spot. Our furry friends who had once been treated like our babies slowly and unintentionally became afterthoughts. Did we remember to feed them or clean the litterbox? Eventually, but the time we had to give them was cut in half.
When Lila could crawl, and then walk, chasing our four legged friends was a favorite past time of hers. He then hid even more, and would only come to me when the baby was sleeping. And after we moved into our new home when our second child was just four months old, our old cat went a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs. That’s when the problems began; crystals in his urine, peeing and pooping all over our house. He was too scared to come out when people would visit and the vet bills starting adding up. Until our veterinarian came up with this awesome solution:
“I think Riley needs Prozac. It will mellow him out and he’ll feel more comfortable using the litterbox.”
To which I scoffed loudly in a waiting room full of people, “What do you mean my cat needs Prozac? I NEED Prozac!” I rejected this blasphemy until a few more visits and bills poured in…then we tried the Prozac.
The medication helped a little but the health issues have persisted. And because I’m so busy with life, work, and the kids I’ve missed the signs over the past three weeks. I noticed him eating less food but thought it was old age. Because he still hid all the time I didn’t see him as much as I used to. He stopped grooming himself and after a week of not brushing him I felt the mattes. And then last week, he wouldn’t eat his Prozac treats…something he normally inhales. I knew we were in trouble.
After trips to two different vets, and a third to an internist at the Animal Care Cancer Center where I was scared out of my mind we might lose little Riley, we finally figured out the reason behind his drastic weight loss, a kidney infection. He’s on new medication and feeding him is no longer an afterthought, it’s imperative. I need to get him healthy and well, and take care of this little creature who has comforted me the past 13 years.
The guilt has been so heavy on my mind it’s been hard to focus this past week, but the bottom line is this; I’m doing the best I can. We all are. We are trying to keep our children healthy and loved, work, pay attention to our spouses, pay the bills, keep the house up…inevitably something falls through the cracks. And unfortunately it was not noticing the health of my littlest family member declining sooner. Because that’s what pets are…family.
No I’m not necessarily a cat person, but I am thoroughly smitten with this little purrball. He lays on my desk when I work, he hangs out with me when my husband travels, and his purr lulls me to sleep every night. And when I can’t sleep he further keeps me company and helps me through long nights. Yes, he’s a bit crazy, and needs more love and attention than I sometimes have to give….but aren’t we all?
As he ages and this new problem emerges, I try to appreciate him more. I feel sad that I had less time for him when the babies came and missed out on some of the better years, but I still look forward to his visits every night.
How am I? For now thankful and happy to still have my Prozac cat.
Susanne/The Dusty Parachute says
I just love this. We lost our 12 year old dog over Christmas break and it was a big wake up call and now our two 18 year old cats are getting some serious love and attention heaped on them. That doesn’t mean that they don’t drive me crazy about 12 hours of the day, but I still take time out to make sure they’re getting the love. I’m PM’ing you a post I did that will make you feel much better about your kitty situation. 😉
awww, thank you. Yes it IS a big wake up call…
And I’m sorry to hear about your dog! It’s been 3 years since Brutus left us and I can still hear the clickety clack of his paws…and make the first pancake for him and set it aside. Even though he’s gone never forgotten.
This is such a sweet post. I know you’re feeling bad about missing the signs, but your love for him shines through every word.
i think so many of us can relate to this. My husband and I got our first dog right before we were married. He was our dog but really My dog. I used to lay in bed at night and think “If someone broke in and made me choose between my husband and the dog, what would I do?!” Obviousmy if lock my husband but it would kill me and it would be slightly influenced by the fact that his family would be so pissed if they found out I picked the dog!! Haha! But when the kids came and the silly and annoying food stealing habit became a problem because he stole every sack out of my kids’ hands, things changed. This dog that I loved now made my life so much harder and I was so mad at him all the time!!
Brodie was 14 when he died. I know the last 3 years of his life weren’t filled with daily trips to dog beach and the park like they once were. I know he was in trouble more than he ever was in previous years. I know he was left alone more than he would’ve liked. But I also know he was lived, cuddled, scratched, snuggled, well fed and spent every night in our bed. That was the best I could do. Hopefully it was enough.
Loved this post!!
Vicky I’m tearing up thinking about your Brodie, that’s just how it was with Brutus. They are our first loves then become so difficult. Thank you for sharing your story!
Oh, sweet puss. We lost our cat very unexpectedly an heartbreakingly last year. Parenting changes everything, but also there is something just different with pets. We have two new kitties now, they are loves, though neither of them has filled the hole left by my sweet, sweet Mae. Sending love.
Awe, I teared up reading about Mae. Pets are ingrained in our hearts forever aren’t they?
I hate cats. but you just made me like yours!
I love you Nicole!
It is so hard to balance it all and that means pets too! I really want a cat, we have a dog… and I think she would like to have a buddy. (she is very cat like haha) But my hubby (aka: the more responsible adult) says we should wait a little bit. Pets are the first to get neglected in the family chain.. try not to feel guilty about it, just give prozac cat some extra cuddles! 😉
Well cats are easier than dogs when they are little, that’s for sure, but yes both of you need to be on the same page. I’m trying for sure!
Aubrey @ 53weeks says
I would really like to have a pet in the home for our boys…BUT since we’ve been condo living and moving, it hasn’t been ideal and of course 2 kids is already lots to manage… It’s surely a balancing act and I appreciate your honestly of what happened and you know what…at least you recognize it now!
I would like a dog too, but it is an impossible balance. Thank you as always for reading, hope you are staying warm up there!
Trevor E says
This is just the most beautiful. I don’t know what I would do without the living things that I surround myself with. The cat… and even my plants bring me so much joy. As long as we are giving of ourselves and tending to others, there is a joy that is brought to us.
Thanks for this!
So beautifully said Trevor, it is so hard to get lost in the mundane idiosyncrasies of life and forget what is truly important…to live.
Crystal Bissonnette says
I loved this Kristin. It is honest and true of many people who have pets then children come along. Myself included. I have worked as a Veterinary Technician for years. I have seen people who will do anything for their pet slowly step back when their children arrive. It is not that they don’t love them. Things change. It’s a shift. A slight tilt of the way things were to make room for more love. I have 2 dogs and a cat. Both dogs came before my children. One is my son’s best friend. The other hates my children and it breaks my heart. She use to go everywhere with me. She was my shadow. Now I fight the 17 month to stop chasing her. I know if she could talk she would say Fuck You to me. It makes me sad. I love her, always will. My heart will ache when she is gone. I feel your love and struggle when I read this. You are doing a great job!! Your kitty is lucky to have ended up with you. Sending healing vibes!
Thank you for validating that it’s OK to give less. It’s so hard isn’t it? I’m sorry about your dog, but in a few months when your baby is older they will get along. Riley doesn’t run from my 6 year old now…it feels like a miracle! Good luck to you as well…
I love this! I am totally a cat person (animal person in general) and I completely understand. We have three indoor cats and a family of cats has now inhabited our backyard. My baby Eastwood is my purrball and I don’t even want to think about when he gets even older. Your Riley is beautiful, I would love him too!
Thank you, he is my first baby and will forever be a part of my heart.
I love your story and am so sad for you, yet so happy you still get his cuddles. We lost our cat, Simon, in June last year. It was a very similar situation except we decided to help him peacefully rest. He was there by my side through so much for 12 years. I miss him and think of him nearly every day. It’s never easy, but if it were we would cease to be human. Hugs.
I am happy your Prozac cat is doing better with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Animals really do make our lives better!
Dave Lucas says
My cat Buddy adopted me. He belonged to the neighbor up the street. But he would come down whenever he saw me outside. He would say “meow meow meow” over and over again. He asked to come inside one day, and ended up staying. A guest! I had to offer food and drink. Eventually he somehow had his own bowl. He stayed overnight every now and then. Months passed. Then one day, the neighbor rang the bell.
“Would you like a cat?” he asked me. I said “er, maybe, why…” He answered “we’re moving to Arizona so I can do my residency there. I notice my cat spends a lot of time down here. Here’s his papers, toy and brush.” “Gee thanks!” And Buddy was home.
He tweets! https://twitter.com/BuddyMeowMeow
That’s a lovely story Dave, and Buddy is better off! I followed him on twitter…can’t wait to follow his adventures.
Jill Ginsberg says
Oh my God, Kristen, this just yanks at my heart on so many levels. Since my dog turned 13 recently I’ve been really beating myself up about practically ignoring her … for the past 8 years! With 3 kids and an ultra busy life, she has totally been put on the back burner. Hell if there was a back-back burner, that’s where she would be. I’ve really been making an effort to appreciate her presence more and spend more time with her, but man, I don’t think I’m ever going to live down the guilt of demoting her to the D list so swiftly once the kids came along. Btw, we have a Lilah too (but with an h).
Isn’t it awful? The guilt is tremendous…like if my cat dies is it because I ignored him? It happens to all of us…stepping over them in the morning to run to the baby. But the good news is they still love us…you are doing the best you can. Say it over and over because it’s TRUE!
So glad it’s something you can treat! We got all of our pets after both kids so they’ve always known their place in the family. (where that is, I don’t know, but under the crib is one of those places!)
Your little Prozac Cat knows how much you love him.
Thanks Tamara, and I’m praying that this is all it is. Thankfully the appetite stimulant is kicking in and he’s eating this week…
Loved reading this. We lost our cat almost a year ago. He was 13 and predated two of our kids. Parenthood definitely changes things with pets…and all the things.
Pets become some incredibly important to us and are truly members of the family. I can feel all of the love that you have for Riley as I read this. It’s beautiful!
Thanks Echo, they really are our family!
Oh Oh OH so glad he is on the road to recovery. We can’t have cats, Hubs and both girls highly allergic. So what do I do, I go get a mini weenie called Fizzy and slowly but surely introduce her to the youngest who is the only one allergic to her. After about a year the youngest is fine around her, but not other dogs, she just got used to Fizzy YEAH!!!!
So we have a hedgehog and a weenie, and they are PART of the family. Here’s to many more years with your fur friend.
I’m with you. These little furry people add so much to our lives, but it’s hard to fit in the time for them every day. My Yeti comes bounding to the bed when it’s time for a nap because he loves to snuggle under the covers with me. That’s a lot more attention than I get from anyone else in this house! My life would be so boring without him. By the way, I love how you framed this post with a tweetable quote and a pinnable quote – I need to get better about adding little touches like that to my posts. Is there a plug-in you use for that? #SITSsharefest
I use click to tweet plugin for the tweetable quotes, the pinnable quotes I create myself in either photoshop or canva. And yes, pets are wonderful…but it’s sad when they get older!
Tracy Williams says
Hi! I am fond of pets. I have a dog and a parrot at home. It’s true without them I may find my home cleaner but my heart will be empty. In fact I am planning to adopt a cat too as my daughter love cats so much. By the way it’s really very nice blog. Thanks for posting.