misha and karawynn cuddle

Misha: April 1989–March 2005

I know many people have been wanting to know how Misha is, and what happened to him, and I'm sorry that I've been unable to offer an update.

It's been a year now since Misha's death, and I'm still deeply grieving. I can't talk or even think much about him without crying, and looking at the web site with his photos in order to update it was just beyond me for a long time. I still feel entirely incapable of writing anything even halfway eloquent in explanation. But here at least is the general story, synopsized.

Three years ago I took Misha to the vet because I was concerned about his slowly declining weight, and received a preliminary diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. The good news was that it was fully treatable; the bad news is that treatment would cost over a thousand dollars. I put out a request for donations to web site readers, and in a surprisingly short period of time had raised the money that I would need. The first couple of hundred dollars went toward various tests, and that's when I found out that Misha's actual problem was not hyperthyroidism but kidney disease.

misha marks karawynn
Looking at this photo, I have a tactile memory of his face against mine...

Kidney disease is fatal and not curable; the best one can do is to slow the process down. I offered to return the remainder of the money, but the donators generously allowed me to keep it for premium food costs and future vet fees. I put him on a special diet, and he gained some of the weight back, and remained in reasonably good health for almost two more years.

In early 2005 he started rapidly dropping weight again; our vet said that although there were emergency measures that might give him more time, he would likely be miserable even so. I delayed a few last days, and then carried in a near-motionless Misha and held him while the vet gave him the fatal injection.

I also had another cat at home, a six-year-old orange tabby named Soleil. Six years before, my then-roommate and I had taken in a friendly, very-pregnant stray, who promptly gave birth to a litter of five, including Soleil.

So he had not been apart from Misha since the day he was born, and when Misha didn't come home Soleil became depressed and stopped eating. To my shock, this sent him into severe liver failure, and although we caught it earlier than most and worked hard to save him — running up many thousands of dollars in hospital bills, force-feeding through a tube in his neck every few hours — he didn't recover and he died in my arms two weeks after Misha.

Soleil's death was not gentle, and so was more immediately traumatic, but it's Misha's death that has been the hardest. I have an empty place in the crook of my arm when I go to sleep that never feels right. Sometimes I see grey ghost-Mishas moving around corners, a trick of a brain conditioned for sixteen years. Sad dreams of both cats have become a regular part of my life.

misha kisses karawynn
Karawynn receives a Misha Kiss™

I have had no impulse toward getting another cat. Perhaps I will someday, but Misha was unique and irreplacable, even while he was alive. I doubt I will ever be able to look at another cat and not compare him or her to Misha. (I was fond of Soleil, but it was nothing like the deep bond Misha and I had. And although Soleil was fully as intelligent as your average cat, next to Mish he always seemed like a bit of a bonehead. Misha was just ... all that and a bag of chips.)

Instead I found a dog, a rescued border collie pup who is now my sole animal companion. Still no replacement for Misha, but she doesn't remind me of him in a painful way, and brings some of her own joy to my life.

I am leaving the donation link (upper right), for those people who enjoy the information on the site and would like to contribute. I still have over four thousand dollars of credit-card debt from Misha and Soleil's last treatments, so a little help with that is very much appreciated.

I'm sorry I can't reply individually to people about Misha, or about their own cats. From within a couple of months after I first I put 'How to Toilet-Train Your Cat' online in 1995, I have consistently received more mail about it than I could ever possibly answer, even if I could have made it my full-time (unpaid) job. Expressions of sympathy are read and appreciated; if you have questions about toilet-training, please read the FAQ.

Good luck, and thanks for reading.