Goodbye, Kyla, I miss you

Two days ago, my cat Kyla died.

It happened with little warning. She was still eating and drinking, but her weight crashed, until in less than a week she was skinny enough I could feel her ribs when I pet her. She would bat at the side of her face with her paw when she ate, as if she were in pain.

That happened once before, and the problem turned out to be an abscessed tooth. I took her to the vet, they removed the tooth, that evening she was clearly feeling better and by week’s end she’d rebounded.

On Friday, I brought her to the vet, expecting the same thing.

She never made it home.

The vet did her lab work and came back with the diagnosis: end-stage, terminal kidney failure.

I first met Kyla on October 6, 2010. I didn’t think I wanted a new kitten. She thought I was wrong.

I’d gone with my partner Zaiah to visit her parents, who had a litter of Tonkinese kittens. Kyla climbed in my lap and snuggled up to me. For the rest of my time there, she stayed with me, always returning to my lap whenever I moved her.

“No,” she said. “You’re my person now. That’s it.”

Zaiah kept telling me “I think you have a kitten now.”

“No, no, no,” I said, “I don’t need a kitten.”

I had a kitten anyway.

Kyla spent the first three years of her life living on my shoulder.

She stayed with me everywhere. She rode around on my shoulder all the time, she slept curled up on top of me. I don’t know what makes cats choose one person over another, but once that choice is made, they’re quite stubborn about it.

No matter what I was doing, she wanted to be a part of it. She was so insistent about this, I even ended up using her as a scale for talking about the sizes of different styles of programmable microcontrollers, after she photobombed a picture I was taking.

She went camping with us (and had a great time).

Whenever I worked on a novel with my co-author Eunice, Kyla could be found, as often as not, curled up on my lap. I had to be careful about what I left on the computer desk, because she had a path she would follow—floor to bed to night stand to desk to lap—when she wanted to curl up with me, and anything in her path would quite likely get knocked to the floor.

On Friday, the vet laid out the news in stark terms: Kyla’s kidneys had failed. I could spend many thousands of dollars on veterinarian ICU and there was a small chance she might rebound briefly, but the odds were against it. Without that, she was unlikely to live through the weekend. Even with the most aggressive intervention, she was still unlikely to live the weekend.

So I made the difficult choice to say goodbye.

It still hasn’t really sunk in. I still catch myself thinking “I wonder where Kyla is—oh.” I’m emotionally wrung out.

Goodbye, Kyla. I was privileged to know you.

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