Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Too Much Water, Too Little Time

Important Information for All Cat Owners:
If your cat starts drinking much more water than usual, this is not standard quirky cat behavior. Take your cat to the vet. Increased thirst could portend such maladies as kidney failure, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Trust me on this.

Today, with seemingly little warning, my cat Marcelle passed away, a victim of kidney failure.

I got Marcelle when she was two years old. Born in Uzbekistan and raised in France, she was shy yet talkative, the complete opposite of Marcel Marceau. She was easily frightened and uninterested in toys — and sometimes, easily frightened by toys — and she looked like a miniature Maine coon, with a tiny bend at the end of her tail where it must've been caught in a door when she was a kitten.

She'd greet me when I got home. She'd have conversations with us by meowing in response to whatever we said. Like most cats, she had a knack for interposing herself between reader and book, or writer and computer. When I first got her, she hid under the floorboards and meowed me awake every morning at 4:30. She'd then rub her face against my chin.

She was the sweetest cat I've ever known.

About two months ago, Marcelle started begging for water every morning. We'd fill the upstairs sink for her, or a small bowl, and she'd lap away at it as if she hadn't had a drink in weeks. It was odd behavior, but she was a cat of many quirks, and everything else seemed normal so we thought nothing of it. We figured our dog, Sonya, had been drinking her water downstairs (she did that sometimes), or chasing her back upstairs (she did that often). Besides, the air in the house did get dry in late autumn.

A few weeks ago, Marcelle began hiding in one of our box springs, and vomited up bile a few times in a matter of days. She'd done both things before (there was a hole in the box spring, and cats vomit), so again we weren't worried. Character quirks, that's all. Just a phase. She visited with us less often, but when she did come out, she was as affectionate (or as likely to run from the Sonya) as she'd always been.

We only realized something was wrong in the past few days. As a small cat, she'd always had slightly bony hips, but now we could feel her ribs and spine. And though Sonya sometimes ate her food, we now realized Marcelle was barely eating, barely drinking. She'd lost two pounds, or more than ¼ of her total weight. Yet, apart from this, she was still acting like herself.

The vet did all he could, but it turned out she was already in Stage IV of chronic renal failure, and the end came much quicker than any of us expected. By this afternoon, at the tender age of nine, our dear Marcelle was gone. We never even got the chance to say goodbye.

And it was all my fault.

You may think I'm being too hard on myself, but I should have sensed something was wrong when Marcelle kept begging for water. She had many quirks, but she always repeated them. Never had she consumed water at such a pace before. Never had she kept herself hidden from me for so much of the day.

Kidney failure can be managed if it's caught early enough. All I had to do was Google "cat drinking a lot of water," and I'd have understood. I could have saved her. I could have given her many more happy years of meowed conversations and frightening toys.

I'm so sorry, Marcelle. So so sorry. I didn't know.

But at least now, others will.


Goodbye, Marcelle. We miss you dearly.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear this. I have similar feelings of responsibility in regard to the loss of my own cat-- but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. There's no guarantee that even if you'd taken her to the vet sooner it would have changed anything, except that she'd have had to go through even more vet traumas, you know? Sometimes the things we do to keep our pets with us are more terrible for them than the things we overlook, imho.

    My thoughts are with you, though. I absolutely know how hard it is to lose a beloved cat.

  2. I will miss our phone conversations. She was always so chatty on the phone.

  3. Nate, I would say that there are no words to express how terrible a tragedy this is, but being a writer I do have words to express. I am sorry for your loss. You didn't realize the symptoms at the time, but now that you know them, you've taken that knowledge and shared it with others. You could even chronicle Marcelle's story in a book, and send it out into the world as a means of informing other cat owners of this.

    I've lost my fair share of cats over the years. The important thing to take from your grief right now is the fact that you've shared a lifetime of memories with Marcelle. If cats have nine lives and Marcelle lived 9 years, then technically haven't you gotten 81 years worth of love from your pal? I admit it is a bit of a stretch, but from what I've read so far you seem to be a cool guy and I just want to be supportive of you.

    My final thought here is that hopefully you'll be able to take your grief and turn it into something really beautiful. Your blog entry today is an excellent start.

  4. Nate - I'm so sorry about little Marcelle. I know it's easier said than done, but don't blame yourself. We do the best we can by our pets, and sometimes it's difficult or impossible to know. As Amalia said, hindsight is 20/20. Take the time to grieve for her, but then remember and cherish all the wonderful times you had together, and the rich and loving life you gave her.

    My thoughts are with you.

  5. Hey, shit, I'm sorry to hear that. And thanks for the heads up, too. I'm not sure I even pay that much attention to how much our cats drink. But I will from now on.

  6. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. It's been tough couple of days, but reminiscing about all the fun times I got to have with Marcelle has certainly helped -- as has all your support.

    Thanks again.

  7. awww I'm sorry to hear about Marcelle. And i know it's hard, but it's not your fault. I had a dog we lost to a hemangiosarcoma on my little sister's 16th birthday. basically a tumor on her liver exploded and she was bleeding internally. It was so obvious she wasn't well, she was on many different meds, had lumps, was thin, but we never thought "Maybe this time the lumps are something serious instead of benign". If we had just asked the vet to check them out one more time, then maybe she would have made it past 8.
    In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you loved Marcelle, and that should be stronger than any guilt you feel

  8. Of course you're right, Falen; the feeling of guilt was most prevalent in those first couple days. It will continue to recede, but the love will always remain.

    And thank you, Becca. Hug your cat extra hard, for me.

  9. (popped over from Jeffrey's blog)

    Almost a year ago, our 4-year-old German Shorthair started limping once in a while on her back leg. She was a diva and we thought she was mad at us for going away for a day and leaving her in the kennel with the outside hunting dogs.

    A few days later we got home from shopping and found her nearly comatose. An emergency vet visit and a few hundred dollars later, she was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease, put on medicine, and deemed saved.

    A few days later she was gone. It's the little things you need to look for, isn't it? I'm sorry for your loss. A right-hand girl's hard to find.

  10. You're right, Erica: much like a good man, a right-hand girl is hard to find. Not that I'm looking for a man -- then again, I don't think Flannery O'Connor was, either -- but I believe I'll begin my search for Marcelle's successor in the coming weeks. Thanks for popping by.

  11. That is so sad. Of course, you didn't know. If you had, you would have done something. RIP Marcelle. Matilda will come play with you soon.