How Parkinson’s disease almost killed our cat
Learning the hard way that pets and Parkinson's don't always mix
My husband, John, and I got our cat Rosie from the animal shelter many years ago. She was a muted calico, the smallest and prettiest of all our indoor cats. What a sweetie she was. We called her my daemon, after the animals that were a physical manifestation of a human soul in the book “The Golden Compass.” No matter where I went, Rosie always ended up beside me.
Then I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015. Rosie became my unofficial therapy animal; she’d sit on top of me, purring in time to my tremors. When I napped on the sofa in the afternoon, she’d stretch out on top of me and give me the stink eye when I woke up and wanted to move.
Rosie always sat at my feet while I prepared dinner. I’m a trained chef, and I use big knives. Suppertime is a flurry of activity in our house, and I’d usually be chopping frantically, talking, and trying not to step on Rosie.
Because of Parkinson’s, though, my grip strength isn’t what it used to be. One night, as I was chopping like a maniac, I lost my grip on the knife and watched it fly out of my hand, sail through the air, and soar right toward Rosie. My memory of this moment is like a terrible slow-motion movie.
Everything sped up as the knife landed. Rosie yowled and took off, leaving behind a small pile of fur. She came out of hiding the next day with a bald patch on her side, and the tip of her tail, where I presume the knife landed with the most force, promptly fell off.
Later I found the closet where she’d hidden. When I opened the door, it looked like a murder scene.
The challenges multiply
As my Parkinson’s progressed, so did Rosie’s annoying behavior. After I had deep brain stimulation surgery in 2021, my daughters kindly took Rosie to their house so that her jumping on me wouldn’t interrupt my sleep. She stayed with them for about one glorious month.
Then one night, Rosie tucked under my feet while I was brushing my teeth. When I tried not to step on her, I lost my balance and fell. Her behavior was getting ridiculous. I didn’t need to add a fall hazard to my mix of Parkinson’s-related problems.
We had our friends over for dinner last New Year’s Eve. Rosie was acting strange and wouldn’t settle until, finally, she decided to lie under the Christmas tree. The four of us went into the other room to visit, and when I came back to check on her, Rosie had passed away, curled up under the tree.
Bittersweet: That’s how I feel. John says we have post-traumatic stress disorder after having a cat like Rosie because, as adorable as she was, she’d get into everything, interrupt our sleep, climb onto the counters, and try to eat our food. When we got out of bed in the morning, we had to watch where we stepped because she’d always leave a hairball (or worse) as a little gift. Sometimes, she’d treat us with one of her presents under John’s desk, under the coffee table, or — surprise! — in our slippers.
Our daughters are trying to talk us into getting another cat, but I think with Parkinson’s breathing down my neck, life will be easier without one.
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