The very bad thing I've done
Ella came to me when she was just a few weeks old. My middle sister found her and a littermate on a golf course, as I recall. She called a local shelter about bringing in the kittens. They were overly full. Since the kittens were too young to be vaccinated, they faced almost immediate euthanasia. The sad fact is that cats and kittens are almost literally a dime a dozen. They are efficient reproducers and shelters can seldom keep up with the flow.
I had two cats and two dogs at that point (this was June of 1999) and didn't really need another, but agreed to take in this kitten. My sister found a home for the other kitten. She was headed my way for a visit, so she brought Ella with her. The little tabby cat was so tiny that when I first took her to the vet, she did not register on the scale. I still have that first vet receipt showing her weight as 0 pounds.
Because the dogs were upstairs (and are obnoxious and like to chase cats for sport), we set up the basement for our cats. We installed a cat door on the door leading from the basement to the dining room. My other two cats, Bobby Shafto and Franklin, died a few years later. That just left Ella. By 2000, I was heavily involved in Boxer Rescue and was bringing in foster dogs all the time. Ella mostly stayed downstairs. I did my best to make her environment comfortable for her. I bought one of those multi-level carpeted deals so that she could jump up and get close to a window. We gave her our old couches so that she could sharpen her claws to her heart's content. I supplied her with toys, catnip, plush cat beds, two litter boxes, and high quality food. I've taken her to the vet every year like clockwork.
But here's what I didn't give her: a good life. Although Ella is not a social cat (I am the only person she tolerates and she hisses at me pretty regularly), she is sweet in her own way. She has always, always used her litter boxes. She has never really caused me any trouble at all. Up until six months ago, she maintained a rather Rubenesque figure. So, when she started eating less a few months ago, I didn't rush her to the vet immediately. I mean, what would I say? "Excuse me, but my cat is somewhat less fat than before!" But eventually she plummeted past "ideal weight" and headed straight to "downright skinny."
I know from living with cats all my life that the last thing they do, before the end finally comes, is to become very thin. So, that seems to be where we are now. The veterinarian prescribed a vitamin called Pet-Tinic, so I've been giving Ella two doses a day. She is too weak even to fight me off at this point, although she still manages a respectable hiss when she sees me with the dropper. Sometimes I go downstairs and sit on the ruined couch with her. Sometimes she even agrees to sit in my lap. "Do you want to get stoned?" I ask her, sprinkling some cat nip in front of her. She is no longer interested. In anything.
I am hoping the vitamins will help but realistically, I doubt they will do much. She is eating less and less and I fear I will need to make a tough decision very soon. I am engulfed in guilt. Sure, I have helped a lot of dogs over the past 12 years, but I feel like I sacrificed my cat on the altar of rescue. She has spent years in a quiet basement (it is a finished basement but still, it's a basement) without a lot of companionship. I tell myself that re-homing her was never an option because, well, people don't exactly line up around the block for a chance to adopt a fat tabby who hisses at them. Plus, she was and is my responsibility. I have taken good care of her, in the literal sense, but I have not done right by her. It's hard to reconcile.