Remembering my diabetic cat Khan (14 Feb 2005 – 15 May 2015)

In February 2008 I adopted a three-year-old grey cat named Khan.

“My neighbour Pat is looking for a new home for her cat Khan,” my sister tells me. “I think he would be perfect for you. He’s calm, friendly and has grey fur!”

Khan relaxes on the couch.
Khan adjusts to his new home and life with Nathaniel and Housemate. This photo, taken in February 2008, was one of the first I ever took of him.

“Hmm… is he smokey grey?” I ask.

“Yes!” replies my sister.

“I’m coming right down.”

He was a West End kitty who originally belonged to a college student from Japan who was subsequently deported and unable to bring Khan, then named ニャー, with her.

He was subsequently taken in by Pat who said he was a very well-behaved cat who loved the company of humans but not other cats. Apparently he would shoulder box his feline siblings out of their food bowls.

So, Pat set out to find him a new “forever” home. A home where he could be the only cat.

When I first saw him I knew he was the right cat for me.

I was sitting on Pat’s vintage couch next to her mother as this grey behemoth weaved himself between our legs.

“He’s a nice cat,” said Pat’s mother as she stroked his forehead.

And he was.

I packed him into a grey Kennel Cab II crate, loaded him on the 135 SFU bus and brought him to my Capitol Hill apartment.

Cat carrying case
I brought Khan home in this carrying case on 14 Feb 2008.

Today marks the one year anniversary of his death.

He was the centre of my life. Every day he gave me a reason to get up in the morning, clean the house and engage with the world.

He was also a powerful rebuke against this constant voice of self-loathing that runs through my head on a loop.

His survival depended on my intervention and a bad person, I thought, wouldn’t be taking care of their housepet.

I had to feed him, brush his fur, clean his litter, do his blood work and give him his insulin injections. Whenever I performed any of these task that nagging voice dialled down to zero.

Khan and Nathaniel.
Khan and Nathaniel pose for a portrait at Sears. Taken March 2011.

Additionally, his presence seemed to lower my resting heart rate and reduce any feelings of stress or anxiety.

In June 2011 he was diagnosed with diabetes. Needles, insulin and blood tests became a routine part of his and my life.

Everything seemed to go well until May 2015 when he had a few hypoglycemic episodes. He stopped eating and drinking and his blood sugars went all over the map. After a few excruciating weeks he was gone.

I was no longer a pet owner.

It took time to adjust and re-calibrate my life and daily routines.

His early morning injections and feeding routine lingered for a some time after he died. Every morning at about 7 a.m. I would instinctively wake up to attend to his needs. In a few instances I could actually feel the thud of his body against my mattress and hear his plaintive “feed me” meow.

Some friends suggested that this was a ghostly visitation but I think it was just an example of how my mind and body adapted to his needs and routines. Even in death.

One of the hardest post-Khan task was the disposal of his supplies including his needles, blood glucose meter, food, carrying case and litter box.

Especially his litter box. He went in there to die and I just couldn’t bring myself to toss it into the dumpster as it felt too much like I was tossing him into the dumpster.

Khan's litter box.
My cat Khan died in this litterbox on 15 May 2015. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out for a few weeks.

When the garbage truck came I still wasn’t ready to let go of it so I waited another week and gently tossed it into the dumpster at about 3 a.m. when nobody was around.

People often ask if I intend to get another cat and my answer is always, “No.”

I love cats more than anything and would love to have another one. But not now.

I’d like to spend more time working on myself and addressing my own issues. Can you do that with a cat? Sure. But I guess I want to learn to how channel the love and energy that I once devoted to Khan to myself and others.

I’m making slow and steady progress.