Saturday, August 10, 2013

Migraine and the Last of Migraine

"Sometimes your pet picks you."
~ Julie Wenzel

Migraine, when we first met
It was a bright, brisk day in the autumn of 2006. My husband, Robert, was outside fiddling with our car. Because this is New York City, our car was parked at the curb across from our apartment building and he was alternating between the sidewalk and the street.

At some point he realized that a cat, a blond tabby with big green eyes, was sitting on the sidewalk watching him. After a while he locked up the car and started across the street to our building. The cat followed along. Robert opened the door, looked at the cat and said "Are you coming?" and the cat trotted in. He then followed Robert up three flights of stairs to our door. And came in.

This was our introduction to the cat we came to call Migraine*.

Migraine doing his "noble feline" impression
It was clear that Migraine loved people, but it turned out he didn't like cats. This was unfortunate since we already had two cats – best friends Bogie, a big goofy Tuxedo, and Little Harry, a sweet and beautiful Chartreux. We decided we'd try to find blondie's owner and, if we couldn't, we'd find him a good home. We asked all over the neighborhood, checked with all the veterinarians and shelters, looked for signs about a missing cat. Nothing. But we didn't worry. After all, who wouldn't want this loving and handsome young lad? But first – to our veterinarian, Dr. F.

That's when things got complicated. Migraine was not a young cat after all. Dr. F. was sure he was at least 11 or 12. He also had a "galloping" heartbeat, which Dr. F. correctly guessed (and confirmed via blood work) was related to an overactive thyroid. We tried out medications and eventually found a dosage that slowed his heartbeat without making him logy.

A handsome, friendly young cat is one thing. A handsome, friendly middle-aged cat with a bad heart and a thyroid condition was another. It looked like Migraine was staying with us. We had a talk with our three felines and told them they'd just all have to learn to get along.

Migraine with his favorite newspaper
Gradually, over the next several years they did at least learn to tolerate one another. While they never became great friends, Migraine stopped hissing at Bo and Harry and they stopped running out of the room when he came in. Mostly, Migraine liked to sit beside me on the sofa. He especially loved it when Robert would talk to him and scratch him behind the ears.

Over the years his health declined. By 2012 his thyroid meds were no longer controlling his galloping heartbeat and his kidneys were starting to go. His eyesight was so poor that I had to remove the top from the litter box so he could find the way in.

2013 was an especially bad year for Migraine. He periodically stopped eating. Each time it happened, I'd find some new, more interesting food for him to try. For the past six weeks or so, I gave him pieces of chopped up broiled chicken in every meal. That worked pretty well for a while. But this week nothing worked. He simply stopped eating. After a day he wobbled around or lay on the floor panting. He spent Thursday panting and staring at the side of the refrigerator, or the radiator, or a blank wall. He was getting emaciated. He was confused. He would drink water and pee while he stood there, seemingly unaware.

I thought – hoped – he would die gently in his sleep. But he didn't, so we knew it was time to intervene. We carried him to the veterinarian's office down the block. We took this final picture of our poor sad boy.

It was quick and merciful. We stayed in the room talking to him and petting him and crying throughout it all. No regrets, just tears.

"Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet."
~ Colette

*About the name: We tried out several names for Migraine. This one stuck because he often walked around squinting the way I do when I have a migraine, and because his aggression toward the other cats was enough to give anyone a headache.


  1. What a lovely tribute you've written, Michele. I love the story of how you all became a family, and stayed one, despite all the reasons not to. Sending you love. xo

  2. Thanks, J. He was the second cat to follow Robert home. The first one, Clyde, lived with us for most of his 17 years. Cats somehow know things about people.

  3. Michele, this is beautiful. Thank you and I'm so, so sorry.

  4. Thank you, Michael. We will miss him and think of him often.

  5. You are blessed that your husband welcomes these unexpected treasures. Every one of mine has been a battle, though it seems to be getting a little easier after 30 years!

    1. Thank you, Sarah. My husband is a cat magnet, and he likes it. :-)

  6. Awww, what a heartwarming legacy. You guys are absolutely wonderful for taking him in, and caring for him like he had been a member of the family all along. As touching as the eventual outcome was/is, please take some solace in knowing that the quality of life you guys provided was something he treasured right to the very end.

    1. Thank you. He was comfortable and spoiled during his years with us, so we both feel good about that.

  7. Migraine is mostly triggered by a sedentary lifestyle and mostly by an imbalanced nutrient. Carrot, cucumber and beetroot juice along with honey could give you some relief.
    Indigestion could trigger migraine. Bad foods such as fried foods, oil foods could lead to headache. Stress, tension and fatigue could also lead to headache.