Before there was Grumpy Cat, there was Dust Bunny: the original and the greatest.
Dust Bunny was 17 years old this year. Born in 1998 and taken away from her litter much too young, she came to my family as a tiny gray kitten (hence the name) and we bottle-fed her kitten formula in her early days. Probably as a result of not having littermates to play with, she ended up with no sense of proportion about anything she did and was therefore bitey, ornery, and kind of mean. But I loved her anyway.
A few years ago she came to live with me and my wife, having stayed with my parents after we got married. After a waiting period—because we had leukemia cats in the house and it was best to wait—my three cats came to live with us one by one, with Bunny being the last. Unlike the other cats that came to our house, there was no integrating her. She was too freaked out by the other cats and insisted on staying in the basement. So for quite a while now, we’ve had an inadequate number of litter boxes upstairs and Bunny has had basement to herself. We put a plug-in heating pad down there for her to sleep on, and put an ottoman over it with a blanket over that, forming a nice little tent that she liked. During nicer bouts of weather, she enjoyed sacking out on a giant dog bed.
About a year ago, Bunny was diagnosed with diabetes. She’s not the kind of cat we could medicate or give insulin too, so we put her on low-carb food in the hopes that would help her. Nevertheless if she ever ventured upstairs and was brave enough to interact with the other cats, she’d help herself to the regular food and we’d let her. And for as long as she’s been with us she’s had the same wet food treat every night as everyone else, and we’d give her occasional plates with scraps of chicken, ham, turkey, or steak.
Starting about a month ago, Bunny started coming upstairs a lot more, and even exploring as far as the living room—sometimes even daring to go partway up the steps to the second floor. She growled at the other cats, but gradually came to deal with them. She’d come up a lot at lunchtime, so we’d feed her things she liked: bits of chicken, cheese (a favorite), bacon, turkey. It became a new routine.
This past weekend, though, she went downhill. She showed less interest in food, and seemed uncomfortable. Maybe it was because the weather is getting colder and she felt it more, but when we took her to the vet on Tuesday she had lost weight, and was down below six pounds. They gave her fluids and some medication to stimulate her appetite and control nausea, because we figured she at least deserved a fighting chance to get back to normal and have a few more good months in her if she could. She ate again right after she got home, but yesterday was spotty, and today when she came up at lunch, she acted like she wanted food but would eat nothing at all.
After weighing all our options, we decided the best course was to let her go. Dust Bunny had lived a full life, and although she didn’t really bond with anyone much (except, I think, for Hershey, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 12), we still loved her for what she was. It was harder than I expected, even knowing she was at the end of her life, to bring her in. She didn’t make it any easier by being alert and interested, but the fact that she didn’t fight being picked up, didn’t try to bite anyone, hardly even complained about anything even during the car ride, convinced us she was hurting and it would be unkind to wait out the inevitable.
If there’s an afterlife for cats, and I’d like to think that’s as true for them as it is for us, hopefully they don’t face judgment, and she’s in a better place now. But if she needs an advocate from this end of the rainbow bridge, I can say this: Although she was a difficult cat, she was loved, and I was glad to have known her. I’ll miss those days we spent on the crappy red chair, while I watched MST3K and fed her a bottle of formula while she chewed on the nipple.
Farewell, Dust Bunny.