We lost Loki Tuesday night to Cytauxzoonosis, a nasty tick-borne disease hosted primarily by bobcats. He started looking ill on Thursday, but spent the weekend at home on medications after a vet visit on Friday. By Monday he was clearly still declining, so we returned to the vet where blood tests confirmed the diagnosis. The disease is almost always fatal, killing within 5-6 days of symptoms appearing, and Loki succumbed Tuesday evening. There is currently no known treatment or antidote, and it is very difficult to prevent. Anti-tick products are only so effective, because they take time to kill or dissuade a tick, and Cytauxzoonosis is conveyed very quickly from a single bite. Even suburban indoor cats get it, as a single tick carried into the house on a pant leg can be enough. It’s simply not possible to prevent every tick bite on a farm-based animal, pet or no.
Loki was a cherished member of our household. He joined us at a young age less than two years ago, when Joanna brought him home from the Humane Society to help with mouse control and to keep her company while I was away working in Virginia. We’re both deeply cat people, and Loki was the best cat either of us have ever known. He led a cat’s dream life, with a wide array of forests and fields to explore and hunt in and a warm, comforting home to return to. He was friendly and loyal, following us on long walks through woods and fields no matter the weather, happy to curl up on a soft, warm lap, and quick to purr. He was independent and curious, ever ready to climb a new tree and investigate a new sound or smell, and often staying out all night exploring and hunting. He was mischievous, loving to pounce on unsuspecting feet, hide under beds, and get into the kind of trouble all real cats do. He was an integral part of our daily lives, and losing him has crushed us.
Death comes with all life, but it is fair to ask ourselves why the death of a cat is agony when the death of a deer or meat goat is acceptable. I believe that the value of life is integrated with its purpose and nature, and the end of life must be judged against those concepts. If the form of death complements and respects the purpose and nature of the animal’s life, I see that differently than a death that contradicts them. A meat goat whose life is spent happy and healthy is fulfilling a natural end as food; it was bred and raised for that purpose and a humane slaughter respectfully fulfills that. This is part of the reason we eat primarily meat that we produce; we respect the value of life more deeply when we are involved in all aspects of it. However, a pet that was bred and raised for companionship is intended to achieve that for as long as possible, and an early and unintended death subverts that purpose. Loki was less than two years old; were he fifteen we would feel somewhat differently. As it is, something deeply meaningful to us has been taken away, and we have lost a beloved friend far too soon.
We brought him home Wednesday morning. I built a small box from scraps of cedar milled from the farm, and we laid him there on his long-used fireplace blanket with one of the fur mice he loved to play with on wintry days. He is buried along the cedar path leading between the house and market garden, where he accompanied us for so many days as we went about our lives together. We plan to build this spot up with stream-rock walls, to become a perpetual raised garden at the heart of our farm and lives.
We have a large collection of photos and memories from Loki’s time with us, and I plan to compile a page of these, though I do not have it in me right now. We’re grateful to have known Loki, to have given him a happy and fulfilling life, and to have received the unwavering loyalty, friendship, and joy he provided. We miss him deeply.