There’s a way a cat cries when you have them in the car on the way to an appointment. A plaintive yowl that gets into your bones.
“Aww, it’s okay. You’ll be fine. I love you,” I say to mine. I reach behind my seat and put my hand next to the bars. He smells it, rubs his face against my fingers, and then yowls even louder.
“I don’t think that helped,” I say to my partner, who is driving the car.
“Not at all,” he replies. “He’s just going to be upset for a while.”
I let out a sigh, look out my window. I would give anything to be able to explain to him why we’ve subjected him to the torture of the car. I would tell him about the tumors and how they’re why he isn’t feeling well. I’d tell him that taking him to the animal hospital is scary but that the doctors are optimistic that they can fix him up. Give him a good life for a while yet. That he’ll feel better soon here. That we’re not torturing him, just trying to help him.
But I can’t. He’s not even as good at understanding tone of voice as my other cat — who actually knows a bunch of words (most of them related to food). So no matter how many times I try to be soothing or explain, he yowls and yowls. Even once the car stops.
On one hand, I’m glad. It means that he can’t dread what comes next. That he won’t worry about his illness, not in the same way a human would.
I comfort myself by reminding myself that if I were the patient, this is the treatment I’d want. It’s what I’d choose for myself if I were the one sick.
But it’s still hard.
“I’ll be back for you on Friday,” I say to him as we wait for the tech to come out to our car and get him.
He has no clue what I’m saying. I can tell he’s nervous. So am I.
I feel empty as we’re driving home without him. Both of my cats are elderly — I know what that means. But it still hurts in the moment, as you’re dealing with illness — and mortality, its spectral twin always waiting in the wings.
Accepting reality doesn’t mean it always feels good.