Of all my cats, except for a few early fosters, Minuet was with me the least amount of time. Even Raleigh - Peachy, of fair memory - was with me for almost two years. Minuet stayed not quite seven months.
Most who are reading this are familiar with her story. She came to me as an owner-surrender. I agreed to take her because I have some experience with diabetic cats, and Min had been newly diagnosed as diabetic. I accepted her, and was then told that she had been wetting outside the litter-box for sixteen years. That’s the sort of thing one likes to know beforehand. Minuet was also deaf and, allegedly, didn’t groom herself.
Well, readers are probably familiar with the sequel, too. Minuet was not diabetic. It still annoys me that the veterinary not only misdiagnosed Minuet, but didn’t know how to diagnose diabetes at all. One blood-reading can’t determine diabetes; there are too many influential factors. When my Tucker was diagnosed with diabetes, only one reading was taken. But that reading put him at something like 23 (you want your cat to be between four and eight); as well, his urine was almost tacky (with the sugars in his system; this is what led me to bring him to the doctor), and his rear end seemed weak. These are all signs of diabetes. Min was at 12.5, which is not really worrisome, especially for a cat under the stress of a hospital visit, and is not so high that diabetes must automatically be assumed. This is an example not just of misdiagnosis, but of ignorance of how to diagnose. I don’t, as we used to say, play a doctor on tv, but even I can see this.
Anyway, the diabetes was solved by its non-existence; Minuet herself disproved the accusation about not grooming, and her problem with the litter-box was concluded with Cat-attract litter. I recall one of the early photos I took of her, looking so proud of her on-target results, while still living the refugee life in my bathroom.
Minuet came with a ratty old ‘house’ that she loved. It had been wet in numerous times and smelled. No wonder the poor girl was wetting outside the box. The first opportunity I had, I threw the little slum out, despite the previous owner’s claim that it brought Min comfort. The smell probably did, as it was familiar; I later discovered Minuet lying in her litter-box. I then devised a bed for her out of the bottom half of an old - and clean - litter-box. That sufficed.
Her initial weeks with me were bumpy, as might have been expected. Her whole world had been changed, and she had been thrust into an alien environment; her trusted and loved human was gone, and, instead, there was another person, of the wrong gender, who had other cats. None of this was right to Minuet, who developed diarrhea as a result of the stress. Feliway spray (not the diffuser, which I have always found ineffective) was liberally used, as was catnip (not successful) and pro-biotic (moderately helpful). Slowly Min came around.
She started exploring the library, which became her safe-room, and the apartment at large. She yelled at the other cats as soon as she saw them, and they respected her space. Even Hector, who thought it fun to rush at Madame (as I started calling her after just one week), stopped short when confronted with her indignation. This evolved slowly over time, and by the day she died, Minuet had come to tolerate their presence, even their proximity, as long as it didn’t seem as though they were coming toward her.
Minuet was shaved in March. Her hair had matted badly, and in many spots, especially under her legs, which probably restricted her movement and may have been uncomfortable. Once shaved, she made more use of the custom-made cat-tree that had been brought to her, and liked to lie in the strengthening spring sunshine. This earned her a new nickname: Lady Sunflower.
But the evenings and nights were still chilly, so after a couple of unsuccessful experiments, the perfect little shirt was made for her. Fabricated to her measurements and made of soft flannel without any hard seams or corners, it was perfect. Minuet disliked having it put on, but she never made any attempt to remove it, and I think she grudgingly may have found it satisfactory. It warmed her trimmed body without confining her actions.
As befitted a cat with nineteen years of life and living behind her, Minuet had her personality, and her personality had its idiosyncrasies. When she used the litter-box, she would scratch, not at the litter, but at the edges of the box. Cammie used to do the same thing, but she favoured boxes with hoods on them, and so scratched at the vertical walls inside the box. Minuet’s boxes were, for the convenience of her increased age and possible decreased mobility, uncovered. Consequently, she scratched on the edges. A couple of my litter-boxes are now permanently engraved with her tiny claw marks.
She also clawed the floor at either side of her water dish. She did not initially do this, and only developed the trait months after being with me. I would hear a scrabbling noise and, thinking it was Min in the litter-box, worry that she had to use it yet again. But no, it was Madame preparing to drink.
And on the subject of the floor, the library was largely covered with cheap vinyl sheets that saved from damage even the inexpensive rugs with which I covered the fitted carpets of the apartment. But the vinyl was not of high-quality material. It did not clean entirely, and so, when Min began impressing a little foot into the fresh urine-lump she had just made in the litter-box, she left a trail of pawprints on the library floor. It’s a good thing most of her needs were met, because if she had turned to crime, she would not have lasted long.
Wetting outside the box was, as I had mentioned, largely defeated. Yet my Lady Sunflower was a sensitive girl, and a later visit to the veterinary hospital, for an inexplicable abscess on her cheek, left her with a return of her old problem. But, just as the abscess was dealt with by antibiotics, so to was wetting outside the box handled with more Cat-attract litter. This, however, brought its own consternation.
The special clay litter appealed not just to Minuet, but to the boys, as well. Renn, Neville and even Hector decided to use the two litter-boxes in the library, in preference to the pair in the storeroom. Putting Cat-attract in them didn’t divert the boys from using the library’s boxes. When I couldn’t scoop them often enough (at night while I slept, or during the day when I was at work), the amount of refuse in the litter sometimes revolted Minuet, and she would wet outside the boxes. But these instances I considered different than the stress-related examples, which were usually concentrated on the library’s threshold. Simple fastidiousness, causing Min to relieve herself in front of the boxes (as close as she could get without going inside the unpleasantly crowded boxes), was not, I thought, a great problem. It was, in a manner of consideration, a credit to Minuet’s hygiene.
Starting in mid-July, my very-oldster’s weight, unbeknownst to me, began diminishing: she lost five pounds in as many weeks. In early August, she started to lose her appetite. She began sleeping, or trying to sleep, in odd positions, and clearly could not find comfort lying down as she once had. Her blood-glucose numbers, so long controlled, increased alarmingly, and she had troubled with her bowels. Endearingly, Minuet still managed to climbed into the litter-boxes to wet, refusing to give in to the one problem that had bedevilled her for so many years.
I suspect that she had pancreatic cancer, but I will never know for certain. Even if it was not caner, Minuet was not going to improve without time and effort. Unfortunately, that would have required her to feel as she was feeling for an indefinite period. Force-feeding, and injections, doped up on pain-killers and discomfort while trying to rest: all for the possibility of a few more months of relative ease. These are the conclusions to which I came the morning of Saturday, August 20th, when I took her final photograph.
When I had brought Minuet to the veterinary the day before, I think I was hoping for something akin to Tucker’s last couple of days, when pain-relief and appetite stimulants really did give him a final splendid day. But Madame would have no more splendid days.
A difficulty arose when I decided to take her for her last appointment to the veterinary hospital. My usual resort for such out-of-hours visits no longer has an emergency service. Several doctors have left that hospital recently, and the emergency service has been abolished. I instead took her to the local 24-hour veterinary clinic. My experience there fulfilled my expectations, and I was not pleased. Fortunately, Minuet was unaffected by the mediocre service, and the less than soothing environment; fortunately - yet a sign that she was already starting her final journey.
Nonetheless, my beautiful very-oldster gave me a great gift in her final minutes. When the technician returned her to me with the catheter in place, I sat down and placed Minuet on my lap. She had never been a lap-cat, and had always wanted off whenever I attempted to put her in that position; she could be held and carried, but the lap was unwanted. This day, before she left, she lie on my lap, calm and trusting. It was another symptom of her condition, but it was also a little parting present for me, being on my lap. That’s where she died.
I was lucky to know Minuet, and luckier still that she seemed to like me enough to tolerate life at the Cosy Apartment. When I think of her, I won’t think of the last picture I took of her, but of the last picture in this post. And I will remember that every morning, when I left for work, I would say “good-bye” from the doorway to each of my cats; for Minuet, who was deaf, I would add, “Even though you can’t hear me.” Every afternoon, when I returned, I would greet my cats from the doorway, and for Minuet, who was deaf, I would add, “Even though you can’t hear me.” Now that she is gone, I will still talk to her, from time to time, still tell her I miss her. Even though she can’t hear me.