Loki lies in my arms, wrapped in a towel, purring in halting starts and stops. The growing masses in his brain that affect his ability to walk and see also impair his vocal chords. The purr is no longer steady but sporadic.

Still, our neurologically-impaired kitten seems at peace as he lies in my arms. The towel calms him down and also protects my lap from his occasional loss of bladder control.

He looks at me through eyes that may or may not see clearly. We don’t know. Cats can’t talk. With our pets, we depend on signals that are familiar – the swish of a tail, a particular expression or a change in tone of a meow or growl.

But Loki is mostly silent and impaired motor control functions rob him of the ability to communicate through physical movement. When he tries to walk he falls – a lot. He stumbles over his own feet. He tries to raise his head and falls over backwards, lying on the floor, twitching but not making a sound.

I wonder: Is he in pain? Do the falls hurt him? Sometimes his head strikes the leg of the coffee table or the wall. Does not inflict more damage on his already-fragile brain?

We don’t know. Neither do vets from Floyd to Virginia Tech. After many tests, all they can tell us is that they don’t think he is in pain. They say there is nothing they can do to help him and his future rests with us. So we love him and watch after him. He has trouble swallowing so Amy feeds him diluted wet foot that he laps off a tongue depressor. If he tries to eat himself he falls headfirst into the food and then shows what we think are signs of anger with having a face covered with what he should be eating.

He stirs slightly and stretches out a front leg, pressing his paw against my chin. His eyes are open but I don’t know if he can see or even comprehend who or what I am.

Is he happy? Does he know that we will love and care for him for whatever time he has left on this earth?

I don’t know and not knowing breaks my heart.