6 Jan 2012, 5:33pm
animals & children commentaries death life
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Chyna

I wonder why they say “It’s for the best.”

Rather, I know why they say it. If you’re a vet, you probably see mostly sick animals, and when they’re really sick, death is a saving grace to the pain which is your vision of that animal’s normal. If someone’s cat was hit by a car, of course you wouldn’t say “It was for the best.” When your cat gets a sudden illness, or even a less sudden illness, it is one long car accident, culminating in death. When it’s over, and you’re stroking the fur of what used to be your cat, you are still reeling from coming home to find her wheezing and lethargic, barely able to move and not interested in tuna. When the vet says “It’s for the best,” you are still thinking of uneaten tuna.

“It’s for the best” is like a slap, but a slow slap, that you can see coming.

It brings up those secret worries about snowballing vet bills. Googling “hepatitis” and the dismay at complicated and expensive long term treatment on top of the twice a day insulin injections and hepatitis has a different special diet than diabetes and there will probably be more urine and vomit and blood and probably diarrhea to clean up now. In the end you conclude she’s worth it, but when the vet says, “It’s for the best,” that little part of you that was tallying up the logistics of animal illness slinks lower down inside you, hunched with guilt.

Chyna (pronounced Chee-nuh) was probably about 8.

Back when Matt was still living in his own apartment, I had a project using a little piece poster board. The rest of the poster board I folded in half, into a rough Teepee shape and wrote “cat house” on the side. To my delight, Chyna ran right over it and proceeded to camp out. She played in that paper Teepee for weeks as it lost it’s shape sliding wider and lower, and she had to crawl on her belly to get underneath.

A pair of freshly ironed pants once attacked her, and she was afraid of pants for the next several months.

She liked to attack dust, or towels or toes under doors.

If you made the mistake of scratching your leg beneath a blanket, Chyna was there to help you SCRATCH harder. Then when you jerked your hand out from under the blanket she perked up and said, “pet me?” with her eyes.

Her meow sounded surprisingly like the word “hello” and I’d always meant to record it, but never got around to it.

She liked to carry toys in her mouth and meow around them, and often meowed in the darker corners of the house, as though she was exploring. If we called out to her, she we glance at us, then continue her expedition. Hello? Hello?

A few years ago we adopted Tricky, and Chyna, though she was eventually happier for the company, started binge eating to keep the new cat from getting her food. She slowly gained weight and started slowing down, acting old. About a year and a half ago, we found out she had diabetes, and almost as soon as we started treatment, she started acting like a kitten again, and was more loving and social than ever. The new house was likewise good for her, with more spaces, more places to climb, more perches, and spaces to crouch beneath.
With some cats it seems like the only time they come near you is when they want to be fed or they want to be pet, but Chyna would follow you around to see what you were up to. If your lap was full, she would curl up by your leg, or if it was too hot, she’d curl up a few inches away, purring and clearly just happy to be near you. Her favorite place in the world was the bathroom, and the first time she tried to jump on Matt’s lap he was in the bathroom and he was, shall we say, unprepared for a lap cat.

When Ender came into the picture, Chyna was the first cat to sniff him (though she’s also been the smarter cat in terms of keeping out of reach as he starts to grab for furry things) and when he cried she would meow at us in evident concern that we weren’t taking care of him fast enough. One of our friends brought a toddler to the house, and when we weren’t watching closely enough, she picked up Chyna around the middle, and carried her into the room, arms and legs sticking awkwardly out in front. Chyna didn’t try to scratch or bite the little girl, she just looked at us and meowed pitifully as if to say, “can you do something about this please?” I really hoped we would get a few years of trying to stop Ender chasing her around before we would have to say goodbye.

Whenever we got home from a trip, or even a long day of errands, Chyna would be sitting at the french doors, looking out for us. As we got out of the car, she would stand up expectantly, and we could see her mouth opening to meow at us.

Hello?

Hello?

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