Abby Normal

February 24, 2003

We have a 9-year old Tabby cat named Abby Normal, that my wife got as a kitten in Tampa. Abby is a beautiful tiger tabby with golden eyes and long whiskers. She was an only cat until 6 years ago when we acquired our second tabby, Nekko. Abby grudgingly accepted the interloper and now they are fast friends.

Every since Abby was a kitten she has had respiratory issues. She sneezes. A lot. Prodigious amounts of snot are produced in many of these explosions. There is enough velocity to fling some of this output to the ceiling from the back of the couch. A trip the vet early in her life indicated that there was a medicine that could control some of her respiratory distress but it came at the steep price of shortening her life span. Michele opted to love Abby for who she was and deal with the snot-factor.

There are times when her breathing is obviously labored, and these times seem to be increasing in frequency. She is also starting to have difficulty with her bowels. We first noticed this almost 5 years ago and in that time she has been constipated several times. Once, two years ago, we resorted to taking her to the emergency animal clinic overnight. Since that episode we have carefully monitored her diet and helped with oil-laced cat food when she seemed to be constipated. This past weekend she had a rather bad bout that included a first, urinating on the furniture.

Our fear is that Abby's condition is starting to deteriorate. Between the respiratory trouble and now increasingly frequent bouts of constipation we wonder what about her quality of life. On her good days she plays and romps with Nekko. However, we are seeing a slight slowing in her activity. Abby has always been a tremendous jumper. At times we called her Air-Abby for the deft lightness she has when jumping from the floor to overhead objects. This past weekend, before she passed her blockage she was unable to jump to the desk, an easy distance for her most days.

We talked, often with tears, about letting her go, at length on Saturday. It is agonizingly difficult to discuss rationally. In the end, we decided to monitor more closely her general health, and to track her respiratory and bowel difficulties. If we feel that they are happening too often, or that they are seriously degrading her quality of life, then we'll have to prepare ourselves to let go of our dear sweet Abby.

Abby is my cat, even though Michele originally had her for 3 years before me. Abby has adopted me as hers and eagerly follows me though the house waiting for me to sit so she can be in my lap. At night she sleeps on top of me, and during the day she reclines on a pillow on my desk. I never had a pet of my own growing up and my attachment to Abby is very strong. I've always known that I would have to let her go someday, I just didn't think it would be so soon.

Taking the responsibility to euthanize her when her quality of life is no longer good will be very difficult. I am not looking forward to that piece of growing up. Little Mark is scared and afraid of what it means to lose Abby. I can feel his despair when I think about her. I know that some people would say it's only a pet. To me Abby is a far more than just a pet. She is unconditional love. She doesn't care whether I'm tall or short, smart or dumb, tired or active. She just wants to be near me or on me. To have her on my chest knitting her paws and purring loudly is wonderful. To imagine never having that wonderful sensation again is awful.

I know that I am far from done sorting this issue out, but it has helped to write this much today.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.