A Tribute to My Terrible, Beloved Cat

Note that I didn’t say “terribly beloved.” Let’s say that Pinky doesn’t really … like … people.

I found out this week that my cat Pinky, who has been with me for thirteen years, is not going to be with us much longer. She has a growth on her jaw. Removing it will mean removing her entire lower jaw. So I will be saying goodbye to her shortly. I have loved her and adored her since I first saw her at the shelter. But what makes me saddest about the whole thing is that I am probably the only person who will miss her. She’s just such a horrible cat.

This is her "don't mess with me" look.

This is her “don’t mess with me” look.

Pinky has never been to the same vet twice, because she behaves very poorly on these visits. In the beginning, I was always searching for the “right” vet, someone who would “get” her. But lately (ok, maybe the last five years), I have been switching up vets because she has attacked someone or been kicked out. She was, very honestly, refused service by one vet who took her in the back without me and returned, with mussed hair and bloody marks on his arms, saying he could not get her sedated. I had taken her for this particular doctor visit because she had fallen from a great height a few days previously and I was worried that she was badly hurt — she would crawl around the house yowling in what seemed like pain. I guess we got the bargain diagnosis; if you are well enough to attack the vet, you are probably not permanently injured, right? Looking back, perhaps the yowls were the evil spirits who inhabited her soul.

Every time we would go to the vet, I would try to explain to everyone — many times! — “She’s aggressive. We have about seven minutes to do the entire exam and then she needs to go back in her carrier. Or she will end you.” And everyone, from the techs to the vets, would give me this look, like “Lady, we’ve been there, chill out,” and then completely ignore everything I just said. Friends who came to my house would do the same thing. “But I’m a cat person, they love me,” I would hear. And then there would be a yelp and a call for some bandaids.

A few years ago, I took Pinky to yet another new vet, this time because she was losing weight and pulling out her fur. Or it was falling out. She’s always been an anxious cat, easily startled and generally suspicious. A few times this has turned into an allergic reaction to her flea medicine, although I’m not sure that’s what it was because it came and went almost with her moods. So when her hair started to get thin, I thought maybe she was just allergic again, but after a while I felt bad about how ragged she looked, so off we went to the vet.

The tech who took us back to the exam room was very nice. I warned her about how aggressive Pinky was. “We need to be in and out of here really fast,” I said. She smiled and acted like maybe she hadn’t heard me. We attempted to get Pinky onto the scale to weigh her, but it was mostly a disaster. We waited a few moments by ourselves and then the vet came in.

“I think we should do some blood work,” he said. “See if we can’t figure this thing out. We’ll do the entire elderly cat panel of blood tests.”

I said ok, only realizing much, much too late that when you take a blood sample from a cat, you have to shave their neck first. Or, at least, that is what this guy did. Pinky had her full “don’t f*ck with me” face on, so I was ready to call the whole thing off and come back another time, but the vet was so sure it would be fine. He had an “it’s ok, I’m a cat person” face on. The sweet vet tech held Pinky while the vet approached her head with a set of loud, electric clippers. I retreated to the far side of the room, convinced I was witnessing the apocolypse. Pinky lashed out, and got him pretty good near his thumb. But he managed to shave a spot on her neck and get a needle in there.

“Huh,” he said, “I’m not getting a whole lot.”

That’s because she probably stopped her heart, I thought. To teach you a lesson in humility and to remind me why I’m not supposed to bring her to the vet.

So then he shaved the other side of her neck. Dear Lord, man, have you no respect for your own life? I watched with clenched teeth. There wasn’t much blood on the other side, either, but they managed to get enough in the end. Then he suggested sedating her while he ran the tests.

Pinky and I waited alone in the room while we waited for the medication to kick in. She sat in her crate and slowly went to sleep. Then she started drooling. When he came back, she was out of it. Her pupils were dilated, her mouth slack.

“It looks like she’s dehydrated,” the vet said. “Everything else came back normal. So, let’s do some subcutaneous fluids and see if that helps.”

“Ok,” I said. And then I realized that subcutaneous fluids meant that he was going to inject her with the world’s largest syringe. Very slowly.

He brought her out of the carrier and her eyes snapped right open. Oh my God, I thought, she’s not sedated. She’s been pretending. Everyone back away! But none of this came out of my mouth. I just watched what happened with a look of horror on my face. She bit the vet and the tech so quickly I almost couldn’t see what had happened. Somebody swore. Somebody left to get gloves and reinforcements.

A few minutes later, all the employees were in the exam room with us. Two techs, the vet, and the receptionist. I feel the worst about her. “Get the bowl,” the vet said, and one of the techs appeared with this plastic contraption that he strapped to Pinky’s head. It was like a bowl that curved in front of her face so she couldn’t bite anyone. She was, in a word, pissed.

“Maybe if I could help,” I began, but they cut me off.

“No, best let us do it from here,” the vet said. Someone held her back legs and someone held her front legs and someone held her body and someone began the slowest injection I have ever witnessed. Pinky lasted for about thirty seconds and then she wiggled away from one of the handlers. What she did next, I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. She hooked both of her front feet behind her ears, and then hooked both of her back legs up there, too, and suddenly the bowl was off and everyone jumped away. Two of them were already bleeding, including the poor receptionist.

They tried the bowl a second time, but when she flipped if off her head again, I shouted that we were done and I packed her back into her crate. Where she promptly remembered she was supposed to be sedated and went into a coma for the next five hours.

Oh, dear Pinky, I will miss you. How you sit on the kitchen counter so no one can get to the sink. How you sit on the front porch so no one can get to the door. How you wander around the middle of the street, daring someone to run you over. How you hiss at everyone who walks past the bedroom where you are pretending to take a nap. Thank you for killing cockroaches for the first nine or ten years, even though it seems a little sadistic that you would just pull off their legs and leave them in a pile near the body. Thank you for keeping my head warm on cold winter nights and cleaning your butt next to my ear for the five hours or so before dawn. You are a terrible cat. But beloved just the same.


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6 responses to “A Tribute to My Terrible, Beloved Cat

  1. Mom

    Oh, Alicia, you wrote a wonderful accounting of your trips to the vets and how difficult Pinky could be, with anyone other than you, but what impressed me was the way you showed your love for her with words that made me both laugh and cry. She was notorious for protecting her space against anyone but you, and I am one who had to “learn” not to pet her as she meandered by. You should be applauded for taking in the runt of the litter from a shelter that might not otherwise have given her a chance to know the comforts of home. I know you’ll miss her, and so will I, so give her a stroke from me.

  2. Annie

    One of the scariest (and funniest) moments of my life was when I was staying with you and I was sleeping in Pinky’s spot in your bed. I remember laying there with my head on the pillow and you looked at me with terror in your eyes and told me to freeze because she was right behind me. So I screwed my eyes up tight and didn’t breathe as Pinky slowly circled my head. I still have both my eyes and no disfiguring scars on my face, so obviously it ended okay, although I think I blacked out for a few minutes! Give Pinky my love.

  3. Judy Burns

    Loved reading this. We had Annie-who was of similar temperament. People would ask, “Why do you keep her?” The short answer was that we were too terrified of her to take any decisive action. She lived to be 12 or so, and was something of a “mean cat legend” among our friends and family.

  4. mere

    i remember when you first brought her back. i thought- there is something off in her eyes. ha! what a cat.
    i have a picture of pinky and saka during the week they lived together. i walked into the room and they were sleeping next to each other. i couldn’t believe it! i ran as quietly as i could for the camera and if i remember correctly snapped the picture just after pinky looked up with a “crap i was caught” look on her face. i’ll have to dig it out…
    no feeling guilty about letting her go now. she had as damn good a life with you as she ever could of had. her presence will be missed~ for good or for bad. maybe for both 🙂

  5. Pingback: When Writing Is So, So Hard | alicia finn noack

  6. Barbara Morikawa

    Loved it! Truth is funnier than fiction. Wonderful story. Barbara


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