Idi swaddled in blankets

Idi came into my life in summer 2008, via the Dane County Humane Society. We don’t know for sure how old she was then. She was named for a dictator, in keeping with Mobutu Davies. She was never my cat alone, but her vets over the years knew her by my last name.

Young Idi looking down from above

Throughout her life, she loved her humans so much, those she lived with and those she got to know. When we had to leave her home during the day, we’d leave NPR on for her, to help keep her calm. Whenever we were sad or anxious or sick, she would drape herself on us protectively. Last time I was job-searching, she knew I was nervous during live-coding interviews, and she’d try to help the only way she knew how: by meowing and demanding pets.

Idi sitting mugly on a row of books

When we had a bunk bed in a small downtown apartment, she loved to be at face level for easy head-butting. Most nights, we had a bedtime ritual where I’d lie down and she’d walk up my chest and nuzzle my nose. This year in particular, she’d often do this again just before my morning alarm. She loved ear rubs, and it’d often make her purr. Lately she learned to pet us gently with her paw, as a way to ask us to pet her.

Idi looking at the camera from a high shelf

She enjoyed musical instruments: tin whistle, accordion, trumpet, keyboards, guitar. When I’d restring a guitar, she’d chase the loose strings.

Her jumping skills were never the best, but she loved sitting somewhere high. Over the years she moved four times, and always had to explore.

Idi sitting on a scratched up old couch

For many years, she loved playing with a “fishing rod”-style toy most of all, chasing it in circles until she’d spin out on the floor. She also loved chasing a laser pointer. She’d play-wrestle with my hand, always holding back her teeth and claws.

Idi sitting on my lap in the way of a laptop

She was no hunter, but she chattered at birds. When we lived in a 12th floor apartment, we’d put on bird videos for her. She’d look for the birds behind the television.

Her substances of choice were catnip–lots of rainbows to lick and kick–silvervine, and plastic carrot bags. Human food was rarely interesting to her, but there were times she went for a corn chip, or a cheddar popcorn bag, or a plate that had bacon on it. For a while, she had a habit of drinking water out of people’s water glasses. She’d also drink from the faucet in the bathtub. If you took a bath, sometimes she’d hop up to the side of the bathtub and drink the human broth.

A mischevious loaf in front of a laptop

We took her out on a leash occasionally, though it took a long time for her to get used to the harness. In her last few days, she actually requested to go outside, despite snow and meltwater on the ground.

I knew this day would come. I thought about it enough that I should have been ready for it when it came. Turns out not so much.

Playing video games with me

Making sure she ate enough had been a struggle, since her first brush with death back in 2011 or so. And then this year, everything started to go. She had a bladder infection in February, which led to an intestinal blockage in March.

Extremely cozy cat on a red blanket

Then in May, she was getting thin and bony, and the arthritis in her hips was getting worse and not responding to injections. That was the first time a vet suggested talking “about her quality of life”. It was a valid question–the vet only saw Idi growling and hissing–but it seemed like we were running out of potential treatments, and I started to wonder if she might not make it to next year.

Idi on her side looking at camera with big eyes

Over the following months, we started keeping score of how many servings of food she finished. Her front feet were collapsed, and it started to put a strain on her back feet, until she was essentially walking on her wrists and ankles.

In September, she suddenly started vomiting a lot. We got a last minute appointment with her regular vet. They gave her an anti-nause injection and said if she still threw up after that, she needs emergent care. So the next morning we had to take her to the ER vet. She was completely out of it when we got there; the doctor said she was in a state of shock.

Ready to pounce on squirrels in the TV

She was hospitalized most of that week, and they determined that she had an infection of her liver and gallbladder, and also diabetes. After five days in hospital, she came home with a tube in her neck and an intensive course of antibiotics.

Over the last two months or so, we’ve been back to the vet a lot. We’ve been doing feedings through her e-tube multiple times of day. For a little while, she was eating more on her own, and it seemed like she might outlive the tube.

Asking for pets please

In the past week, the nausea started coming back. Plus her back legs started failing her, and her eyes got a weird texture. Whatever reflex made her gnash her teeth and paw her face was limiting her ability to eat.

Then yesterday (Dec 5), she stopped throwing up. It seemed like an improvement at first, but by the evening, she was just really out of it and fading.

We took her to the ER, and they determined that her kidneys were failing. According to the ER doc, they could put her on life support, but even then she wasn’t likely to make it through the night. There was basically no chance she’d ever come home, or really be conscious again.

Coaching me while I exercise

In that first visit to the ER, there was no choice because she could pull through and have some quality time left with us. And she did. She made it clear every day that there was still joy in her life and that she wanted to be with us.

In the last visit to the ER, the choice was clear because drawing it out would do nothing for her or for us. It was still hard to give up on that chance she’d get better, no matter how implausibly slim it was.

Sitting on me in bed, about to bap me for not petting

I’m glad we had so much time together. I’m glad so many people got to meet her. Not just people who came over, but in the COVID/Zoom era, lots of coworkers and family and friends. And I’m glad that so much of her life is documented. Thanks to Sylvie, she had her own following on Instagram.

I would’ve had more time with her if I could. I know she would’ve wanted that too. We’re lucky that she was so very herself up until the end, up until she wasn’t here at all. We’re lucky that her slow decline didn’t frog-boil us into keeping her around in misery. This gentle, loving cat deserved a gentle, loving end.

Idi at the hospital for the last time