A Letter to My Dying Kitten
It’s the middle of February and you struggle to get comfortable on the couch. You stretch your little legs out and curl them back again. You roll onto your side and reveal the large indent in your fur. I remember when I first adopted you in August, everyone kept saying how cute you are, how beautiful, how perfect. I wonder what they’d say now. You reach your tiny front legs out over my forearm and extend your claws. They dig into my skin; you latch on as if to say don’t leave. I don’t mind.
It’s the end of January. The veterinarian communicates that most cats diagnosed with FIP die within eight days. He tells us of the fluid that is building up inside your body, pressing on your little organs, on your heart. “The heart of a cat,” he says, “is no bigger than a plum.”
I think of the days leading up to your appointment. I stay up through the night, shaming myself each time my eyes begin to close. I watch your small frame ripple as the oxygen moves through your body in labored breaths.
The vet asks me if I have any questions. I manage to shake my head no. My mother is beside me. Her body shakes and her face scrunches the way it does when she is about to cry. I recognize the face from when my grandparents died, when she found out her best friend commit suicide, when my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. Jenna, my best friend, is crying. I can’t cry. Not here.
I stare at the white of the walls, the white floor and the cold metal table. It smells sanitary, like a hospital, and I’m reminded of Aunt Kathy, who spent six months in a room like this. I wonder if she was afraid of dying then.
It’s Easter morning and you’re on the couch. My Easter basket is on the floor and your brother, so full of life, rips through the basket, sending Easter grass all over the carpet. Your eyes open and look at me. They seem greener today. This will be your first and last Easter with us.
I continue to stare at your small face, at the golden hairs accenting the black shading around your nose. I count your whiskers and imprint the fuzzy whiteness of your face in my mind. There’s a nick in your left ear. I memorize the details of you. Maybe because I want to. Maybe because I’m afraid.
I notice that there’s some litter stuck to your front right paw. Since you’ve been sick, you haven’t been cleaning yourself. You eat constantly, and the disease asks for more. I am a spectator in your suffering.
Your brother grows bigger and you remain the same. Pongo can sense it, you dying. I can tell by the way he sniffs you. When you two sleep, he wraps his long warm body around your heaving frame.
I find patches of fur everywhere. In the bed, on the kitchen floor near your food bowl, in the basement near your litter box. I wonder if it’ll ever grown back (it won’t). People are appalled when the hair falls out. It’s a sign of aging, of sickness, of losing a part of you that is both youth and beauty. We value hair as something to take care of. I’m not sure I even know what it is. Maybe it’s confidence. Maybe it’s security. Maybe it’s both.
We value health and hair
and now you don’t have either.
It’s April now. I open my laptop. I feel the warmth of you against my hip. You stretch and walk across the keyboard. You’ve typed a few letters—mig5s—and I decide to leave them. It’s piece of you I decide to save for when you’re gone. There’s a patch of hair in the spot where you were just; a tiny indent. It reminds me of those plaster handprints parents get for their kids. Just a memory of them, tangible evidence of the child’s small hand, a little print that lasts forever. When I make my bed later in the morning, your imprint will be gone.
Gigi Balsamico is a student at Point Park University. In addition to her writing, Gigi is a personal trainer and health coach, and is currently training for NBC' American Ninja Warrior. She is now working on her sci-fi/fantasy series, Broken.