Monday, May 18, 2009

Farewell Marshmallow


Earlier today I decided that it was time to comb Marshmallow, my giant white fluffy cat. She didn't take to it as well as she usually does (she typically just loves being combed) so I stopped before the last knot was out of her fur. She sat on the floor in front of me and seemed to be breathing in short forced gasps, striking me as almost the same way that I breath when my asthma is getting to me. It was odd, but she wasn't wheezing or anything and otherwise behaved like herself so I figured she was just a bit under the weather and resolved to watch her more closely, maybe take her to the vet on Tuesday if she still showed symptoms. The rest of the day she was a little bit more reserved than usual, but not enough that I thought anything of it.


Tonight as I lay on the couch watching tv she jumped down off the couch across from me and walked slowly around the corner into the bedroom hallway. Her mouth was wide open and her tongue was out, her sides heaving in that same 'short of breath' pant she was doing after I'd combed her. I followed her to go to the bathroom then watched her as she lay down in the hallway on her side, mouth still open and tongue hanging out. Now I was seriously scared. I went over to her and all the sudden realized that she wasn't breathing at all anymore, she'd literally just dropped dead in front of me, and there was nothing at all I could do. I held her tight and stroked her and told her over and over again how much I loved her, and that was it.

Once again I don't get it. There was nothing at all to indicate she was in such a bad way. I took her to the emergency vet clinic, just like Trickster before her last year, and made arrangements for her to be cremated. The vet examined her and heard my story, had a hunch, and asked permission to use a needle on her. She quickly drew a needle full of clear, slightly pinkish fluid. Marshmallow's chest cavity was filled with it, a pleural effusion that kept her lungs from expanding properly. She literally suffocated right in front of me and I had no idea it was going on. The vet assured me that even if I'd brought her in earlier today there was nothing that they could have done to prevent her death. Prolong her life a little bit maybe, but not save her. She likely had an undiagnosed heart condition, but there's a chance it was a viral infection called FIP which means that Timbit, my remaining cat, is at risk of it too so I'm having a post-mortem done.

I hate death. I hate saying goodbye. I still remember when it was clear that we were losing Mayonnaise in 2001 and Tam and I drove him to the EVC to be euthanized; that feeling of finality as we walked out the door knowing that he would never see these walls again, that this place was sadly and permanently emptier. It was the same when we took dad to hospital in 2006, and when Trickster passed away here at home last spring. Today I made that lonely exit again, but even harder was coming home and opening the door, knowing that I wouldn't hear that meow as she came up to greet me. Tim's still here of course but he doesn't say much, and certainly doesn't rush up to say hi like Marshmallow always did.

I was so blessed to have that cat. I remember after Mayo passed, it took us some time to get over it and I'd always thought that three cats was too much for a one bedroom apartment; but after eight months of the place being one cat emptier it was simply time to get another. We searched online classifieds and listings at various shelters for an older cat, as we knew they don't often get adopted and are ultimately put down, and we wanted to give such a kitty a second chance. We found a listing at the Toronto Humane Society that really spoke to us and drove to Toronto to adopt, but when we got there they said the cat was still having all sorts of health problems and was not well enough to be adopted out. Tam was heartbroken as we were so set on that cat, but agreed not to waste our trip and to take a look around to see if there were any other older cats that we could help.

There were all sorts that were cute but we saw one in particular that just sat at the back of her cage, not being social with anyone who came up to her. As I wheeled Tammy by the front of her cage in the wheelchair though, this cat brightened, stepped forward to the bars and reached out to touch Tammy with her paw. Instantly we knew this was our cat and brought her back with us to Kitchener. She was such a sweety, pure white with long fur and green eyes that were always wide open with warmth and love. They told us her name was Fluffy and while she literally certainly was, it just didn't fit her and we resolved instantly to change it. I wanted to call her Princess but for Tammy it was nothing but Marshmallow, and reluctantly I agreed. Cats don't understand much, or at least not when you're trying to tell them what to do, but this cat must have understood 'marshmallow' because she grew right into it. Fast. She went from slight to fat in no time at all, and after a few months there was no question of her being named anything else but.

Her bond with Tammy was instant and they were always together, which I was so happy about because Trickster was skittish and distant, and Tam had never forgiven Timbit for trashing the new furniture and curtains when we first got him as a kitten. It was Tam who begged for us to get him but after just a few weeks he was no longer Timbit, becoming instead "Your damn cat!", as in "Get your damn cat off the couch!" "Get your damn cat off the curtains!" You get the idea. I had my own pet name for Marshmallow too of course, Cuddle Slut. That cat just could not stand to have anyone or anything but her be the centre of attention. If you'd pet Timbit or Trickster while she wasn't actively being petted by someone else, she'd ditch whomever she was with to come over and vie for your attention. Her cutest gesture was when she'd look at you with those wide eyes and tap you two or three times on the shoulder or leg with a single paw, just as if she was saying "Excuse me. Hello. Excuse me!"


When Tam moved into the nursing home and wasn't around the house as much, Marshmallow still kept up her loyalties, giving Tam the majority of attention whenever she was home for a visit. After Tam got the feeding tube though and was afraid to be sat on all the time, Marshmallow slowly got the hint and bonded primarily with me. I felt guilty as hell about that but Tam never seemed to notice so it was all good. Of course when Tam passed away that bond was the most precious thing in the world because Marshmallow always reminded me so much of her, and the way she'd picked Tammy out of all of those other people at the humane society.


I've gone through a lot of depression both before and after Tam's passing away, and with that comes a lot of feelings of worthlessness. Marshmallow for sure is the one that got me through it. I'll always remember that unconditional love from her. All those times she'd be sitting on me purring away while all I could think of or say was "Why do you love me so much?" She didn't answer me of course, she'd just sit there going right on loving me. Goddamn I miss that cat, we all need a little unconditional love in our lives from time to time, and she was the greatest source of that.


Farewell Marsha; Sweetball; Pussciousness. I love you too. Unconditionally.