She stands on the bed and yowls, over and over, a piercing sound audible throughout the house. I get up from my chair and walk to the bedroom. As I approach the bed, the yowling tapers off into a meow.
She looks at me, with slightly crossed blue eyes. I say her name, Jolie. But I’m not at all certain that she hears me. She may be deaf, or close to it. After all, she is seventeen years old. That’s old for a cat, about 85 in human years.
Another meow. Then she curls up on her heated pad and sleeps.
The yowling started last year. It’s disconcerting and very loud. The vet says it can be caused by hypertension. So Jolie gets a daily dose of small pills crushed and mixed in with her food, because that’s the only way I can medicate her.
I’d always heard yowling was an old kitty thing. An Internet search on the subject provides plenty of anecdotal evidence that underscores yowling as a behavior pattern in geriatric cats. I’ve gotten so used to it over the past year that when she suddenly stopped for a month I became very concerned.
Was it time? Did I have to make a decision?
Then she started yowling again. I was relieved. Decision deferred. For a while, anyway.
Jolie and her littermate Teddy were feral kittens, captured by a cat rescue group on a vacant lot in Oakland. My pet sitter was fostering the kittens and decided to keep the male. I took the female, at that time named Sophie. But I already had a Sophie, my calico. I’d just returned from a trip to Paris. Jolie is French for pretty. So the pretty blue-eyed kitten, white with a tabby face and brown ears and tail, became Jolie.
She was about four months old when she came to live with me, not particularly socialized. She hid, mostly under the bed. But she did like to sleep on the bed. Another four months passed before she let me touch her. She gradually decided she like being petted. But only on her terms.
For seventeen years, the only time she willingly lets me touch her is when I’m in bed, flat on my back. Then she comes and purrs, wanting to be stroked, patting me on the face with her forepaw to get my attention. She does it at night before we go to sleep, and in the morning, whether I want to sleep in or not.
Capturing her to got to the vet is a major campaign. Until recently I accomplished this by running the vacuum cleaner, scaring her out from under the bed, into the living room where I could catch her and get her into a carrier. This no longer works. Either she’s gotten wise to me, after all these years, or she just doesn’t hear the vacuum cleaner any more.
Jolie has never been very big. Each time I take her to the vet she’s lost a little more weight. The most recent tests show that she is in the very early stages of kidney disease. Eventually she will go into kidney failure. I will have to make the decision to say goodbye to my little old cat.
But not this week. She’s still agile enough to jump onto the bed, and feisty enough to chase the other cats off what she considers her bed. Other than that, she sleeps a lot, on her headed pad.