As I write this, Charlotte is curled up by my legs, asleep on a blanket. Since September, I feel as if there has just mainly been sickness and death around here. Akasha died in late September, then I got pancreatitis, then Maceo died in January, shortly after I got my second cancer diagnosis and after we adopted the two kittens. As soon as I recovered from my pancreas surgery, Charlotte fell ill, and now, unbelievably, we are trying to make our sweet kitten’s last weeks happy and comfortable ones, after she was diagnosed with a fatal condition called FIP (feline infectious peritonitis).

Charlotte is doing OK, though she can’t walk very well. As when I was sick for months, sometimes it seems as if it’s always been this way, and it’s hard to imagine what it was like to be well. The comparison would be too hard, pitting the memories of 100 percent wellness against the current reality. It’s only been about two and a half weeks, but sometimes I can barely remember the Charlotte who scampered around the apartment or jumped for toys. I can’t reconcile that with the current kitty who sleeps most of the day or pulls herself shakily across the floor. Yet her spirit is the same; her eyes still alert. Weak as she has been, she located and caught a stray bug in the apartment last Sunday. Her ears perk up at her name.

I will remember her as she was later, when it stops hurting so much. I know it will never completely stop hurting, but I also know that, with enough time after a death, the pain of loss turns into a gratitude for having that person—or cat—in your life, even when the time with them seems too short. Even when the life itself seems unjustifiably, unbearably short. I can’t believe Charlotte has been with us for only about four months, and she’s been alive for only eight. I asked about drugs and treatments, but was told they are expensive and not proven to be effective. I can’t stop this disease from taking our sweet Charlotte no more than I can stop time from inching forward.

When we found out she didn’t have much time, we pretty much cancelled most plans so we could be with her. Since the FIP makes her wobbly, one of us always has to be home to watch her. For the past several weeks, one of us has slept on an air mattress to be with her since she can’t jump on the bed, but this week, after pumping up the air mattress at night, we would awake on the floor, the mattress around us in a deflated heap. Since the leak couldn’t be located, the regular mattress is now on the floor, off the box spring, so Charlotte can still get down if she needs to and she still has someone to cuddle with at night.

These weeks have been bittersweet. Seeing her up and about is heartening, while seeing her struggle to move is heartbreaking. Ziggy tries to be helpful at times, but he tends to bathe her kind of aggressively—as is his way with everything he seems to do in life. Ziggy also has been curling up with his sister and cuddling more with her the past few days, and it’s sad to think that they won’t be able to grow up together as we thought they would, as lifetime companions.

I don’t want her to suffer but I don’t want her to go. I stubbornly want her to get better. The vet gave her two to three weeks. We are entering week three. When she curls up in our arms and purrs, we’re at our happiest. It’s during these moments I will the impossible, for time to stand still. I want to keep her like that forever, a happy purring kitten, in my arms and heart.


Aside from my recent goofy photo blog, I haven’t written much about the two kittens that we adopted in January. Ziggy and Charlotte have been bright spots the last four months among so much bad news: our 17-year-old cat Maceo’s death, my pancreatic tumor/cancer diagnosis, and the Whipple surgery and recovery. I thought I would have years to write about them, but I found out Friday that this assumption was wrong. Our little kitten Charlotte is very sick most likely has only a few weeks to live, if that.

I can’t believe I’m writing another farewell post to yet another cat. I had partially held off writing about them out of respect for Maceo and Akasha, who died in September at the age of 16. Shortly after we adopted Ziggy and Charlotte as four-month-old kittens, Maceo died. Even though he was 17, it was still a shock. Saying goodbye to Charlotte is painful in another way—she’s just a baby. If years with our old cats didn’t seem like nearly enough time, only four months with this sweet kitten is supremely unfair.

About a week and a half ago, I noticed she wasn’t putting much weight on her front legs and couldn’t walk very well. Then she slid across the floor with her front paws out, propelling herself with her back legs. We took her to the vet the next day, and X-rays showed no fracture; they thought maybe she strained herself and gave her an anti-inflammatory shot. For a few days, she seemed like she was recovering, but when she started to look weak again, she went in for blood tests, which didn’t show toxoplasmosis, so the vet tried another anti-inflammatory shot. By this past Thursday, she didn’t improve, so the vet recommended that we take her to a neurologist.

My boyfriend called me from the neurologist’s office on Friday and as soon as I heard his voice, I knew something was really wrong. After doing some tests, the vet thinks it’s FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). From what I understand, it’s caused by feline coronavirus, something that many kittens are exposed to, and a mutation causes only a small percentage to develop FIP. Unfortunately, this includes Charlotte, and FIP is always fatal. The disease is affecting her brain and her coordination, and the vet estimates she can live about three more weeks. Once she no longer purrs or appears to enjoy life, then that’s the end.

In the meantime, they prescribed steroids to help make her more comfortable, though we haven’t seen any improvement. She’s been very weak, and it seems like she’s declining quickly. Seeing Charlotte propel herself across the floor using her back legs breaks my heart. Seeing her so weak hurts. Seeing a little tremor in her tiny body wrenches my guts—the ones I have left after the Whipple. Still, she seems to want to be by us and cuddle, and she still purrs in our arms.

Last night, I slept on an air mattress because she can’t get up and down from the bed. As the motor to inflate the air mattress whirred, I held Charlotte, who looked alarmed and upset by the noise. I told her it would be OK. I felt like a liar. I hate that I can protect her from the non-danger of the whirring air mattress pump, but I can’t do anything to protect her from the disease that’s killing her. She doesn’t even know to be afraid of it.

The phrase, “You have cancer,” is among the most dreaded phrases in existence. But even worse is hearing that a loved one is sick or dying—especially if you’re in some way responsible for protecting them from harm. She counts on us to protect her and there is nothing we can do. (One of my long-time hesitancies about having children lies in the vulnerability. To me, having a child would be the equivalent of having all your nerve endings packed into another being and then sending it out in the world. How do parents live knowing that they can’t protect their children from the pain that comes with just existing? I have two creatures I keep in my apartment and never let out and I still manage to be a wreck sometimes.)

I’m a worrier. And I’ve been worried about Charlotte not growing and her not seeming as energetic. This time, I was right to worry. As frustrated as I am that there’s nothing I can do for her, it’s somewhat comforting to know there’s nothing I could have done sooner. I couldn’t have prevented this or done anything differently: the outcome would have been the same.

I have tried to make those desperate internal bargains we all make. When I’ve told some people about Charlotte, they’re surprised so much bad luck can happen at once and say I deserve a break. I bought a lottery ticket today in case that’s true. Immediately after I bought it, I found myself promising I would rather have Charlotte live than to win. I was trying to bargain somehow, with my imaginary winnings.

Aside from my fruitless bargains, I tell Charlotte that I love her and try to make her happy and comfortable. It doesn’t seem like enough. No matter how much time you have—whether it’s with a kitten or a person—it never feels like there was enough time to show them how much you loved them. As hard as the Whipple recovery was, I am glad I got to spend so much time cuddling with her and with Ziggy.

Ziggy is laying across my neck as I type. He seems to grasp something’s wrong with Charlotte and he tried licking her. It is his preferred method of comfort. He also licked my face, which was sweet. Seeing Ziggy play by himself, without his sister Charlotte, also breaks my heart. As the size difference between the two cats grew—or more specifically, as Ziggy grew and Charlotte really didn’t—we’ve been trying to discourage Ziggy from roughhousing with her since she is about five pounds to his nine. I don’t know what any of us are going to do without her. Ziggy has known her his entire life, and in just four months, Charlotte has become an irreplaceable part of our lives. We love her so much. But with love, there’s just never enough time.


I’m finally, finally starting to feel closer to normal, a little more than six weeks after my surgery. (More on that soon.) I’m returning to the office soon, after spending the last several weeks working at home. As I adjust to the idea of getting dressed in the mornings and interacting with people again, I have been thinking about how office life will differ from working at home with two kittens.

Con: I will have to wear real clothes with zippers and buttons.
Pro: I can wear clothes with ties and strings without being jumped on and having someone try to bat at them.


Con: My co-workers will report me to HR if I rub their bellies.


Con: People at work will frown upon afternoon naps.


Pro: My co-workers will be less fascinated by my lunches.


Con: I won’t be able to do this with my pens.


Pro: My co-workers are less likely to run across my keyboard and erase my work.


Con: When I tell people something surprising at work, they won’t look like this.


Pro: No one is likely to chew through my computer’s power cord and then look at me like this.


Pro: This won’t happen while I’m working.
Con: This won’t happen while I’m working.