Rest in peace, sweet Anke Akevit. You were a sweet cat.
About a year ago, her veterinarian diagnosed mega-colon in Anke. You can google it, but it amounts to chronic, progressive constipation, and it starts with a portion of the GI tract getting enlarged and losing its power to push stuff on through. The cause isn’t known, and treatment is at best management. There are surgical options to slow the process down but only if you catch it early enough (we hadn’t) and are willing to put your cat through serious abdominal surgery (I wasn’t). The surgery isn’t curative. At best it buys time, but at the cost of a pretty serious and painful experience, and my feeling is that if we were already past the beginning of a slow decline, and especially already past the point at which surgical intervention could promise much, it wasn’t fair to start what remained of her time with a big painful and probably confusing process. So meds and dietary options to manage the symptoms were all we had left, and unfortunately they weren’t terribly effective, and she wasn’t terribly cooperative.
So for about a year, I’ve kept an eye on her. Because she associated her litter boxes with pain, she stopped using them. Until recently her solution was to poop on the tiled floor and pee in the bathtub near her boxes. These were annoying but not so bad, so we went with that. From time to time, she would let out blood-curdling yowls during the night. But in the last month or two, she’d escalated her communication of discomfort to new locations, and the other day right in front of me while yowling. She’s been grumpy with me and the other cats lately. The message was clear—not that I wanted to hear it. She wasn’t having fun.
Anke was my accidental extra micro-kitty.
In spring of 2015, after having the previous fall said goodbye to my first-born, Gudrun Gjetost, I realized that the remaining cats and dog (Sigrid, Kaja, and Kjersti) were all about the same age, and a very bad period would be coming someday. It felt like time to bring on a new kitten. A boy. So with Edith Newton’s help, I started following the Purebreds Plus rescue group, and eventually found a sweet little Siamese boy whose picture stole my heart.
There was a catch. He came with a sister. They were a bonded pair and were only available for adoption accordingly.
Four sounded like a lot of cats to me, but it made a certain amount of sense. They’d be the young team, and they’d take care of each other. The older pair and the dog would accept them, but he’d be the little guy, and someday he’d be alone. Meanwhile, he seemed to adore his sister. So I drew a deep breath and filled out the paperwork. Edith put in a good word for me, and soon I heard from his foster mom.
Was I still interested in him?
Yes, of course.
But his sister was being adopted that day. Did I still want him if it was just him?
I never quite understood why the bonded pair had been redirected to separate adoptions, but since just one boy was my original plan anyway, I hoped it was for the best and made an appointment to go meet him later that day.
Mira came along with me. Shortly after we arrived, she heard someone yowling from a separate room and asked. That was another of his litter mates, part rag doll, in quarantine because of diarrhea. Mira insisted that we meet her, too, and the result was we took home both Simå and Ragne that day.
They were adorable, of course, and by the next morning I was head over heels for both of them. And the next morning, Mrs Foster called to ask after them, and whether we knew anyone else who was looking for a kitty.
See, Anke (Simå’s bonded-pair sister) had come back that morning. Apparently she really needed to be with Simå, so she managed to put her adoptive dad in the ER overnight with severe allergic reactions.
I set the phone on my lap and told Mira what I’d just heard. She reached into a desk drawer for her checkbook and I told Mrs Foster we could be there in two hours. Which is how I came to adopt not one but three microkitties from that rescued litter.
Simå was overjoyed when I brought Anke home to him. Anke was overjoyed when she found Simå in this strange new place at the end of a long drive. Ragne looked at them with a sniff, as if to say, “get a room.”
Which they pretty much needed to do for five years. Those two were incredibly close. They’d sleep curled up together, play for hours, lick and chew on each other for hours, keep an eye on each other most of the time.
Cats and people are alike in their tendencies to find their favorites and not do a great job of hiding their favoritism. Simå preferred me to other people, and much as I was loyal to Sigrid and Kaja, his elders, and growing in fondness of Anke and Ragne, his littermates, he has been my favorite, too. He has felt like the next incarnation of Norton the Anthology of Cats.
Ragne and Mira chose each other. And Anke and Audrey Jackson soon choose each other. Audrey knew her full name was Anke Banke Boo. So that was the cat-person situation. And meanwhile, among the critters, Simå chose Anke, Anke chose Simå, Kaja chose Kjersti, Sigrid really only loved Candy (Kjersti’s predecessor), and Ragne was Switzerland.
That’s pretty much how it’s been ever since. I moved to Montana, though, and Anke lost her two main people, but she found new allies among my friends here. She continued to get along fine with all the other critters, but she and Simå remained each other’s favorites.
I know Anke has been suffering for a while. I got in touch with Audrey about it. When Mom housesat for me recently, she reached the same conclusion. When Anke escalated, I procrastinated, full of dread.
This morning Anke and I shared a horrible moment. I was straining at the same time she was. For me it was the temporary result of dietary indiscretions. For her it was normal, and for the first time in quite a while, I was witnessing the process she had to go through every day. It was awful.
I drew a deep breath.
I checked with Mom. Mom told me she agreed it was time, and she mentioned that my grampa had also had mega-colon. He’d made it pretty clear that it felt like a daily death needing to happen. I checked with Mira, who was mostly shocked that such a young sweet life had come to this so quickly.
The vet concurred. “Mega colon is a horrible diagnosis, especially for such a young cat. We can’t really do much, and it’s awful for them. We don’t really understand why it happens, either.”
I told her I only hoped I hadn’t waited too long, and I thanked her, saying that I hope someone can do the same thing for each of us someday. She gave a sad nod as she injected the medicine.
Anke has been grouchy lately, and it didn’t seem like she was getting along with any of us. Even Simå was subject to her snarling and hissing, and it’s been a while since I’ve caught them making out. Last night Simå yowled most of the night, inconsolable. I’m not sure why. I listen poorly, it seems. But something has been wrong with Anke for a while, and probably they all have known it for longer and more clearly than I have, and maybe he was yelling at me to do something already.
I hope they knew what was going on. I didn’t know how to explain to them why I was leashing her up and taking her away from the house this afternoon. I tried to give them each a chance to say goodbye, but I didn’t know for sure if my words were clear.
I showed each of them her empty collar when I got back tonight, and they each sniffed it and stared at me.
We’ve all been crying.
Anke Akevit was a beautiful sealpoint Siamese, feisty and burly and strong, but sweet on her favorites and friendly to new folks. I don’t think she ever quite warmed to the puppy invader, but she was gentle with Kjersti. When she wanted attention, she wanted it firm and focused, but she made it clear it was on her terms—except with Simå. She was his sweetie, and he hers. The microkitty team is now two, and it won’t be the same.
I’ve cried my eyes out today, spilling out my own grief, and my anxiety about whether my timing was right—not the decision, but whether it was too soon, or worse, too late. But mostly I’ve been sad for Simå, and for Audrey. They were Anke’s favorites.
A Kaddish for Anke Akevit, who loved us all so well.