Missy was a beautiful kitty, mostly grey with some white. Her markings were very close to her sister Daisy’s with some exceptions. Daisy exhibited black and white fur; Missy replaced the black with grey. Also, Missy did not have the little “goatee” that Daisy sported. In dim light, though, it was very difficult to tell them apart. Usually touching them would reveal the identity; Missy’s fur was softer than Daisy’s.
One other difference was the eyes. The eyes of the other three kittens resembled their mother Carrie, but Missy’s eyes came from their father, a grey cat who just might have been a Blue Russian. Very soulful; I could stare at those eyes forever and wonder just what she was thinking. Very likely she was ruminating on how much she loved her sisters, us, and our home. Most of all she loved her mother, preferring to stay by her long after the other kittens had broken away, so to speak.
As mentioned above, her fur was soft; but it went further than that. She had, I think, the softest coat I have ever experienced on a cat. Perhaps this, too, came from her father. At first she was growing well, and for a while she was the biggest of the kittens. Although she never was one to leap to tall heights in the house, she would climb with the best of her sisters. When her sister Lovey decided to get up onto the boxes underneath the bed, a height of a few inches, Missy was not far behind, having to see just what was up there. Later, Missy herself was the first one I observed climbing the side of the bedspread in order to reach whatever awaited her on top of the bed. She was ever so diligent in digging in her little claws in order to achieve her goal. I wondered how she would get herself down from there, but not to worry. She was unafraid, climbing down as much as possible and then leaping the rest of the way.
I gave her the name Missy, considering it to be a shortened version of mischief. When the kittens grew enough, both physically and in their own minds, to wonder and possibly wander and take action to find out what might be beyond the bedroom door, Missy was the first one every day who would try to sneak past me when I would enter the room. Of course if I was carrying some food, there was plenty of incentive to beat a hasty retreat back to the bedroom. She loved her meals; one of my favorite memories of her came later when the kittens had been given the run of the house. As they were still small, we would serve them a meal on one dinner plate with four helpings of food. Missy would lead the charge down the hall, her bright, lovely shining eyes looking up in eager anticipation of the forthcoming repast.
And what a beautiful girl she was! The soft fur of this little sweetie, the longest hair of all the kittens, made her a delight to behold. Early in her life, one of our visiting friends took to her immediately, as Missy resembled this friend’s own cat, albeit a considerably smaller version. When she was picked up, Missy rolled over in our friend’s arms, asking to have her stomach rubbed. In this way she showed herself to be a lover and an irresistible little doll. I can still hear the subsequent comment, “You are so cute!” Truer words were never spoken.
Along the way her sister Lovey took ill one evening and earned herself a trip to the emergency vet. While there she was tested for feline leukemia and found to be positive, so we subsequently took the rest of Carrie’s kittens for testing at our own vet’s hospital. The tests confirmed our worst fears: all the kittens were positive. We still had some hope that they might somehow be able to overcome the virus, but for the moment there was nothing we could do.
I’ve already cited Missy’s devotion to her mother; it manifested itself in the unfortunate habit of continuing to nurse long after she should have broken it off. If there had been no virus present, this might not have mattered, but we wondered whether or not her immune system would be able to develop enough resistance if she continued. Of course we stopped her from nursing whenever we could, but one can be around only so much. Perhaps by doing this, Missy was comforting Carrie as the mother cat was herself deteriorating from the effects of the virus. We’ll never know whether or not the continued nursing was a cause of Missy’s eventual demise, but she was the first to exhibit a problem. In early December, 2012, Missy quit eating. Since her appetite had always been healthy, actually she had dug into her food with relish, we knew that something was up. Her heretofore beautiful eyes were looking dull and rather anemic, so off to the vet we went. A blood test revealed that her red cell count was very low. Apparently the virus had gotten into the bone marrow; now Missy could not manufacture her own red cells. There was perhaps a remedy but with no assurances. A blood transfusion would buy her some time and just possibly jump start her red cell production. My opinion was that if we could afford it, we should go ahead and try, as it was too early in Missy’s life.
My husband took her in, and the transfusion was performed. When he picked her up at the clinic, she was so full of life, he almost started crying tears of joy upon seeing her. He reached into the carrier, and she began happily bumping her head into his hand. The staff there were all wanting to see this little love bug, commenting on how beautiful she was. Of course he agreed with them.
And she responded well. My husband placed our mattress and box springs vertically in order to vacuum the area under the bed. With her newfound energy, she handily climbed up to the top, happily looking around and enjoying the view. It was good to see her behaving in this manner.
The elation was short-lived. After a couple of days, he took her in to see our own vet for retesting. The red cell count was dropping rapidly, so we knew that she was not going to be able to make her own. The doctor still offered some hope, telling us of a dog she knew that had lived a couple of years so far with a low red cell count — really there was no reason for the dog to still be here but in any event he was doing fine anyway. Who can know for certain?
And Missy kept going, not quite the lively little sprite that we had known from her early days but still exerting her comforting and calm demeanor throughout the house. One thing we found out was that she loved yogurt, happily licking the top of a container when we would open one. Maybe that helped her somewhat in staying alive for a time. But how much time, we wondered. What would be her fate, would she live quite a while; or might she pass on even before her mother? The dreaded answers came all too soon, with first Carrie and then Missy’s sister Daisy succumbing to the evil virus. Daisy’s cancer came literally out of nowhere and was a complete shock to us. And now Missy’s condition was deteriorating. In her last days, we noticed that she was more and more uncomfortable, meaning that something other than a low red cell count was wrong with her. A malignant growth, perhaps? Her appetite was diminishing, until the final couple of days when it went from almost nothing to nothing at all.
Her two remaining sisters persisted in being as loving as ever, coming by and washing her whenever. For her last night, I stayed with Missy the whole time; and during the morning when my husband came near to her, she tried to purr, something she had not done for a while. He then reclined in a chair and held her while I took some video and still pictures. For our trip to the vet, when I picked Missy up to carry her to the car, Lily gave Missy a comforting lick. How much these cats knew is something to which we are not privy. Did they know Missy was leaving for good?
Missy was frightened when we got to the vet, meowing away outside the hospital. Was she just afraid of being in this strange environment, or did she know that we were about to do a terrible thing? For it is a terrible thing as well as an act of love. Her suffering was certainly going to do her in, and it would not be a long time in coming. So while we can be justified in ending her life to stop her pain, it is still something that will forever haunt us. No matter what, we want to be present when our animals begin their journey to the Rainbow Bridge.
Our little girl now has joined her mother and sister. At least some of Carrie’s brood is still with us. We have been asked how they are doing; our replies are guarded. They seem to be okay, but so did Daisy when out of the blue cancer showed up. A friend of ours has offered some glimmer of hope. She spends a bit of time every year working at Best Friends, and she is familiar with the cats there who have feline leukemia. All cats are tested for it when they arrive, and the ones who test positive are sent to a special building. Kittens who survive it for a year generally overcome it, and when they test negative are moved in with the other cats who have been virus free. Our kittens are now over a year old; maybe they can still shake off this deplorable virus and live long, happy lives. All we can do is hope.
With all that has happened, you might think we wish Carrie had never entered our house. Not at all! She chose to come in (or was given a shove by someone we could not see), and gave us her love plus four beautiful kittens. It would be hard to ask for more from anyone. Our thoughts of how these loved ones ended their lives are mitigated by the wonderful lives they lived during their short stay with us, as opposed to the horrible existence that would have been theirs in the wild. This is very much the message Maureen McGovern so poignantly brings to life in the song On My Way to You.
And Missy? We will have our beautiful girl privately cremated, as has been our custom since October, 2010. Her remains will be placed alongside those of her mother and sister, so that they may be with us symbolically.
One curious reaction upon the arrival of Daisy’s remains was from Lovey, who went right to the box, curiously sniffing at it for a long interval. Although we have no proof, I have to believe that she knew there was something of Daisy in there.
Your suffering shall end soon,
though mine has just begun.
I do not want to let you go,
But I’m told the time has come.
I’ll hold you while you go to sleep,
and wish that I could too–
I do not want to say goodbye;
I want to go with you.
Sleep now, my precious baby,
Dream of your favorite toy,
And hide n’ seek and tug of war–
Those games that brought us joy.
I’ll think how very blessed I’ve been
For all the months we’ve shared,
I’d not trade them for anything–
Though this heartbreak would be spared.
© 1993 Kathy S. Doerr
In memory of Tex