Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The story of Pim

I have been putting off writing this blog post because I knew that this particular post would have to be about Pim and I didn't want to face it before.

Not that I want to face it now, but I think it's time to write a little something about the dearest cat that ever lived.

I was never a cat person growing up. Always loved dogs and how cute, open and honest they are. Animals can't tell you what's going on, but somehow, with a dog, you always can. That was one of the reasons I was never into cats. I could never tell what they were thinking, if they were happy or not.

But when I moved to NL, I did miss having pets, and our living situation made it more preferable to have a cat than a dog. I decided to take the leap of good faith.

We visited the shelter to have a look at the cats and I decided that they weren't such terrible creatures after all. It seemed to be a sign that I was ready for a cat, because not two weeks later, Schrobbenmaster got a call from his friend asking if we would like to babysit his dad's cat for a few weeks while his dad went to the hospital to have chemotherapy and recover from it.

We thought: Hey, what a good chance to see if we can live with a cat! So we said yes.

And that's how Pim came into our lives.

I remember the first time I met Pim. We had gone to his owner's place at night. It was a small, cramped Dutch house, and he was a collector/hoarder. I had entered the house and was walking up the stairs when I first laid eyes on Pim. To my surprise, he looked exactly like the cat I wanted! It sounds cliché and like I'm making it up, but I promise you, I had settled on having a white and orange cat, and lo and behold, Pim was a white and orange cat! I immediately fell in love with him, he was such a beautiful creature.

But he was scared at first, of course. He ran back upstairs and watched us as we packed up his life temporarily in this old house. The old man passed away a few months later and Pim ended up ours for good.

For the first week, Pim was always hiding; either behind the TV cabinet or under the bathroom sink, wherever it was dark. We were, to be honest, a little mean to him at first because we selfishly wanted to play with him and to show him the place. We tried blocking his entrance to the TV cabinet so that he would have to walk around the house. But looking back now, we should have just let him be. Lesson learned.

He eventually came to trust us and he became the loveliest and most social cat. He would come sit with us at the computer, lie with us on the sofa and sleep with us on the bed. He would ask for attention and greet us at the door. I called him a cat-dog.

Then we moved house.

He became really stressed with all the change in scenery; the boxes piled up and things moved around. It wasn't his safe haven anymore. He started peeing outside his litter box and frustrated us a lot because we didn't know why. We bought him a bigger litter box, we bought him different food, we gave him more food and we gave him more attention, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, we gave him powerful calming tablets in the week leading up to the move. That cured his peeing problem, but it made him stoned and unlike his usual self. We had to feed it down his throat as well, because the taste was disgusting to him. It was terrible for him and for us, but it had to be done so that he wouldn't freak out on the day itself or misbehave in the new place.

The move was successful. He explored the new house immediately and seemed to like it just fine. He didn't misbehave much and everything seemed to be getting better.

We had many visitors and they all fell in love with Pim. Even Mumsy Bumsy, who is not a cat person. Pim just had this way of winning over people with his quirkiness. He was such a scaredy cat when it came to strange things, but he couldn't overcome his curiosity and would sit in the hallway watching everyone, with his head slightly cocked, like he was thinking very hard about you. He would even bestow his affectionate headbutts onto close friends' legs and chatter nonstop about wanting food or attention.

And then one day, Schrobbenmaster noticed that Pim was peeing way too much and drinking too much to be normal. We took Pim to the vet and that pretty much was the beginning of the end. He was diagnosed with diabetes.

Taking care of a diabetic cat requires some discipline and sacrifice on the part of a young couple. You are tied down to being with the cat twice a day at the same time every day for insulin injections. And let's not talk about the cost.

When first diagnosed, there was still a chance that Pim could recover after a few weeks of injections. So we decided to make the sacrifice for him and try to cure him. It wasn't as bad as we imagined, having to be at home for him. It became a routine, something that you no longer have to think about.

Pim even slimmed down and became even more beautiful. But slowly, so slowly that we didn't notice, he was becoming more withdrawn and less happy. When I look at old pictures, I see Pim lying around beside us or with us very often. We hadn't experienced that joy in a while by then. He would come to be with us, but he would more often lie on his scratching pole or curl up somewhere soft. I don't know if it's because we scolded him too much during his peeing problem phase or if it was also because we didn't allow him on the sofa where his fur would get all over it. Or if he was really not feeling well.

Besides his behaviour, his blood glucose readings were going haywire. In the morning, he would be extremely diabetic and 6 hours later, he would have so little glucose that he should have dropped into a coma. The vet had expressed her worry that it might be caused by a tumour that was messing with the insulin. It slowly started to appear quite likely.

After three months of battling with stablising his glucose levels, which should normally be 4 to 6 weeks, it still hadn't been stabilised. We had decided to keep observing him and adjusting his insulin as needed. But we noticed that he seemed to be in more pain every day. His legs were giving him trouble and one night, he sat at the foot of our bed, on the floor, staring at us and constantly extending and retracting his claws. That was very unusual and quite scary.

Then one afternoon, when I came home from an outing, Schrobbenmaster came to me looking really worried. He had scolded Pim for trying to attack him and Pim had reacted more aggressively than usual. Then he tried to make friends with Pim again, but was rewarded with a big gash in his knee. The whole afternoon, it seems that Pim had been hunting Schrobbenmaster as if he was a prey in the wild. I just thought that Pim was upset and thought nothing of it.

The next morning, it was my turn to get a fright. I had gotten my breakfast and went to sit at the sofa. Unknowingly, I disturbed Pim from his slumber. I apologised as I normally do and went back to my breakfast. But I noticed that he was different. He glared at me with strange, wild eyes and actually attempted to scratch me a few times. It really scared me because Pim was never the scratching type.

I got up to walk away, but I heard his ball rolling behind me, and when I turned, to my surprise, he was actually stalking me with the same wild look in his eyes. I got really scared and tried appeasing him by giving him some food. I was so scared of him that I almost didn't dare to walk back to the bedroom with him behind me. So I threw some food bits in the opposite direction and raced back to the bedroom to tell Schrobbenmaster what was happening.

We made the decision pretty quickly. We had noticed this wild behaviour from Pim for the past 3 days and I can tell you, you don't even want to spend 10 minutes being afraid to walk around in your own house. Cats' claws are incredibly sharp and hurtful when they're playing, imagine how terrifying it can be when they're actually hunting you down.

On Saturday 24 March 2012 at 13.07, Pim died peacefully in his sleep in a vet on Mathenesserlaan, Rotterdam. He didn't give much trouble but he was a fighter to the end. The vet had to give him extra dosages of the poison and Pim still got up and tried to leave the operating table. It was really hurtful to watch but that was the point of no return. I didn't start crying till I saw that Pim was well and truly gone. I guess while he was still fighting for his life, I could lie to myself that he wasn't actually dying inside. But in the end, no matter how much of a brave fighter he was, the fact is that there was enough poison in him to probably kill off two cats and nothing could reverse the process.

It hurts my heart to think about that moment now, but the only thing that can help me through is remembering how he had been suffering in the days and weeks before and how (I hope) he would have chosen this end eventually, before he got any worse. Sometimes I remember the way we treated him; how we didn't allow him on the sofa because of his tremendous fur shedding, how we left him alone in the house for whole afternoons... and I feel such deep regret for not taking him more into consideration. He was a really special cat, he never damaged any furniture intentionally and he never hurt us. Everyone fell in love with him.

And most of all, I guess I'm really scared to forget him. I don't ever want to forget him or replace him in my heart. But as the days go by, I know that I will eventually not think about him every day, or even every week. I will try to hold on to his memory as long as I can and I hope that it helps him, knowing that we are still thinking of and loving him from down here.