I don't like this new cat food, Mommie!
He was the runt of the litter of nine kittens, and after weaning was so shy he would mush (rhymes with push) himself back into a corner when approached. So Missy at Seattle's Animal Talk rescue gave him to me to foster, because I'm good with the shy ones and can get them to come out and socialize and trust people.
I gave him time, and patience, and named him Mushkin (rhymes with push pin) because of his behavior. Sitting down, I would let my hand drop to where I knew he was crouching, and say without looking at him, "Mommy's hand, see? Just Mommy's hand. It's not going to hurt you." After a while he let Mommy's hand touch him, then pet him gently, then pick him up. He would still mush himself back into my tummy or the crook of my elbow. But he started to trust me and no longer ran when I entered the room.
At night he would curl up beside me, often just under my chin and I would wake up with a mouthful of cat fur. Then he started crawling in under the covers beside me and snuggle up. This is unusual for cats as they don't like having their heads covered up; it's too much like being pounced on by a coyote or other predator going for the throat. But I thought it was sweet that he was so attached to me, and thought seriously of adopting him myself.
I mentioned Mushkin’s behavior to Missy and she said it's what cats do when they're sick. Kind of like what I did at five when my appendix fired up and I crawled into bed with my parents so they could make it better. They did. But Mushkin didn't seem sick.
Then he stopped eating. I took him in to the vet for tests, took him home and gave him IV fluids to keep him hydrated. The tests came back positive for Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a hereditary disease that is always fatal. Shocked, I kept him over the weekend to say goodbye. He went downhill before my eyes. He could not eat or relieve himself, and started crawling off into little corners to die. He didn't even want to curl up beside me anymore. It had been ten days since the first symptoms appeared.
Tuesday I put him in the carrier to go to the vet. All the way there, he stared up at me through the openings as if to say, "Where are we going, Mommy? Am I going to feel better there?"
We laid him gently on the table and the vet injected him in the hind leg. I held his head and kept saying, "Mommy's here, Mushkin. Mommy's here." His eyes stayed open, watching me. "He's completely anesthetized," the vet said. She listened through her stethoscope. "There's still a heartbeat." A minute later she listened again, and said, "It’s over." He was eight and a half months old.
I could not tell when the life left his body. He was still warm and his eyes were still open. I stayed in the room with him a few more minutes, stroked him, closed his eyes, and cut a bit of his fur off as a remembrance. Then I noticed a yellow trickle slowly moving down the table. He could finally pee.
Goodbye, Mushkin. Take care of him, St. Francis. You look after him now.