SNIFF NOTES: Finding Solace in a Three-Legged Companion’s Resilience


You know the strangest thing about living with a three-legged cat?

The guilt you feel for doing it.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my baby Loki having cancer. He’s a 7-year-old black cat who came to me as a little kitten. The cancer was in his back left leg and it was amputated up to the hip.

I’m pretty sure they got it all because his chest x-ray was good and his heart and lungs sounded good, too.

He’s hopping around the house and eating and drinking and using the bathroom and I’m still…a nervous wreck.

I know I need to enjoy every day with him and I do. It’s just I feel like I’m constantly looking for new lumps on him and when he hobbles up on the bed on his three legs, part of me feels guilty.

My acupuncturist told me I actually removed cancer from his body. I shouldn’t feel guilty, but.


See Loki has always been my trouble maker. He gets into literally everything and would jump just about everywhere. I don’t know, there’s just something when I watch him hop along that makes me think, oh, man. He can’t jump like he used to. He can’t get up on the bathroom sink and drink from the faucet like he used to (he’s instead using the faucet in the tub).

And yes, amputation really was the best option for him because that lump was the size of a ping pong ball on his knee, so I really do logically know it was for the best…but.


Why do I still feel guilty?

It’s crazy, right? I mean, I wholeheartedly admit I have a number of issues, so I know I operate more than 15 degrees off center on a normal day, but this might be a bit over the top, right?

Realistically and practically, I did the only thing I could. I got rid of the cancer and hopefully prolonged his life for many additional years.

I still just feel so bad when he hops up to me.

As I’m typing this stream of consciousness column right now I’m starting to realize that maybe my real issue with all of this is I just wish it hadn’t happened. I wish he hadn’t gotten cancer and I had to take these drastic steps.

That’s very childlike, though. Wanting to rail at fate or circumstances that life hands you. I’m reminded of a toddler throwing a fit because he or she couldn’t get the yummy dessert or something.

And I’m not proud that I find myself in that exact situation.

Is that where the guilt is coming from? Is it really just a wish that my boy didn’t have to go through this?

It kills me to think he might still be in pain. My acupuncturist told me of course he’s in pain. He had muscles and nerves and bones cut away. She said pain is part of life.

I remember telling her, but I don’t want that for my Loki – right before I burst into tears in her office.

She said this was his path, his journey and asked me to consider what I could learn from him.

I think maybe I’ve always looked at our four-legged friends as pure and the best of us. They are so trusting and they offer unconditional love and they are there for us often when humans aren’t or can’t be.

As a result, I think they should have the best of everything. They should have soft beds and good food and water to drink and fun toys to play with…and they shouldn’t hurt or have to suffer.

That might be what this is all about. I haven’t really, truly dealt with the fact that I can’t protect my babies from everything. I can’t be absolutely certain that they will never be hurt or know pain.

On the night I really cried about Loki – the ugly crying I described a few weeks ago – I got kind of scared. Because it was really, really bad crying. Like from deep in my gut. I know I was crying for a whole lot of things that night and Loki was just the catalyst, but it freaked me out.

That might be what I really don’t want to look at. That might be why I can’t seem to come to terms with what’s going on with my boy.

I just want him to be happy and loved and pain free.

He shouldn’t have to hurt like I do sometimes.

Whew. I did not know where this one was going to go this week, but wow. Okay. Maybe I need to work through some of my own stuff so I can see what Loki and this diagnosis is really trying to teach me.

For tonight, though, I’m going to go home to my boy and see if he’d like to cuddle a little and I’ll take solace in the fact that he’s still around to be with me.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected]. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.

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