Lucy died during the night.
Based on what I saw when I found her, it was probably a stroke. She threw up on the blanket on top of the bed, then jumped down to the floor, where she collapsed.
I had seen this happen twice before, several months ago. On those occasions, she threw up a hairball, then keeled over. After a couple of minutes in a daze, she would get up, then go into the kitchen to eat, or to the litter box, or into the bedroom to nap.
At the time, I looked it up online, to determine whether nor not I should take her to the vet to check it out. What I found suggested that, although it could be scary, it was not dangerous unless it happened frequently.
Those were the only two times it happened.
As a precaution, I bought a tube of that stuff you give to cats to help control hairballs. The idea is that, by lubricating the digestive tract, the hairballs either come up more easily, or proceed through the digestive tract without any problems.
It had been almost a year since the second incident, so it had not occurred to me that the danger might still exist.
But, when I found her this morning—on the floor, limbs askew, vomit on the blankets—there was little doubt that that is what happened. She was already mostly stiff; based on what I was able to find online, she had already been dead for four or five hours by the time I found her.
If nothing else, I can be grateful that she went quickly, that she did not suffer for very long.
When I was growing up, we had four cats, one of which later died in an accident. When my folks divorced, and then my dad decided to sell the house, I left the matter of what to do with the three cats up to him. I could not handle it myself.
Later on, I decided that, if I were to ever have cats again, I would do whatever I could for them. In doing so, I would honor the cats my inability to cope made me fail to treat properly when they most needed it.
I kept this in mind when Lucy would pester me for what seemed to be no reason, when she demanded attention at inconvenient times during the day, and when she would jump on top of my stereo in the morning, knowing that that was the best way to get me up and into the kitchen to put food in her dish.
I was grateful when she would demand attention when I got out of the shower, until I would pick her up, sit on the ottoman in the hallway, and put her on my lap, where she would settle for the next ten minutes or so. I was grateful when she would jump up onto the sofa with me, and paw at the blankets until I lifted the top layer or two for her to crawl underneath.
And, of course, there were the plush toys she would pick up and carry around, all the while making these noises that sounded simultaneously mournful and comical. As soon as she was acknowledged, she would drop the item wherever she was standing. If nobody was around, she would drop them in the strangest places. I found the white duck in the food dish once. Then there was the time she left the blue Peep in my pants—leading to the famous phrase, ‘there’s a Peep in my pants!’…
Although she was a skittish cat, Lucy was very affectionate in her own way—and purred very loudly when she was feeling particularly happy. At other times, she would lick the top of my head. She hated being picked up, but she would indulge me for a few seconds; eventually, I learned to put her back down before she became uncomfortable.
Most famously (?), she was very good at getting me up in the morning. Not because it was time for me to get up, but because it was time to put food in her dish. At first, she would sit and stare at me. If that didn’t work, she would jump up on top of the stereo, then start licking the cloth grille on one of the speakers. Trixie would sometimes join in the effort to get me out of bed and into the kitchen, but Lucy was the main instigator.
It is hard knowing that Lucy died while I was asleep, that I could not do anything to help her in her final moments. But it helps to know that I did what I could to help her feel comfortable and safe while she was with me.
As I write this, it has not quite been twelve hours since I discovered her next to the bed, already gone. After thirteen and a half years, it will be hard to adjust to her absence, even though I still have Trixie, her sister.
It’s hard now. We were together for thirteen years. But, as my dad said, she ‘will now be in cat heaven.’
(14 November 2016—additional material added November 17th)