I recently had to do something I hope never to repeat, but I know I will. I put my cat down. A big, fat punch to the gut pretty much sums up the entire experience.
Kitty came in to my life about 7 years ago when the thought of being a cat owner kind of appalled me. I was a dog person for crying out loud and cats were mean and snooty, right? I was allergic to them too, so when this neighborhood stray started hanging about my yard looking for his forever home, my answer was a firm, no way!
He did look thirsty though, what harm would a little water do? Some scraps of food couldn’t hurt either and oh how his hair needed brushing! Soon enough, I was in possession of pet grooming tools, food and water bowls painted with dancing cats, and a “spoiled” placemat to lay them on. I have no recollection how this happened, only vague memories of heading towards the pet store before blacking out.
I eventually decided this strange but oddly endearing creature could stick around and soon kitty became Kitty. Under no circumstances though was he allowed inside the house. Except that one night it was super cold out and I let him eat indoors, just that one time. I must have blacked out again because when I woke up the next morning Kitty was curled up at the edge of my bed like he belonged there. He did.
We were good for each other. I always enjoyed having pets but at the time was not around enough to give one the attention it deserved. Kitty was different. He was beginning to trust me but still too fearful to spend much time nearby other than eating and sleeping. His feral instincts kept him at a distance, which suited me just fine.
While I liked having him around, I didn’t feel guilty leaving for hours or days at a time because he preferred being left alone. We had a good deal going; pet companionship without responsibility for me and food, water and shelter staples for Kitty, plus a safe backyard to lounge in.
This all went out the window a couple of years later when Kitty decided he could not live without me. My once proud and independent lion was now mewing constantly for attention and waiting anxiously by the door for my return whenever I went out.
It was ok because I felt the same way about him and soon became your typical neurotic, overspending pet owner, complete with obnoxious baby voice when talking to him. I did manage to spare Kitty the indignity of wearing costumes/clothes though, minus that one incident with cat reindeer antlers which shall never be spoken of again.
His age was always a mystery and my best guess was he was 14 or 15 when things started going downhill. He was losing weight and no longer interested in his favorite foods. The vet felt a small mass but couldn’t get much more specific, even after X rays and lab work. Ultra sounds, biopsies and surgery were the next steps but I didn’t want to go down that road at his age. I’m not gonna lie, the thousands of dollars in costs I was looking at played a significant factor too.
So we decided on prednisone to control the inflammation and get him eating again. His appetite did pick up for awhile, but after a couple of months he was losing weight again and in obvious pain. It was time to make the decision. He still had some good days though which made things difficult.
Is now really the right time? Should I have spent more money on a diagnosis? Am I hastening this along because he’s become so high maintenance? Who am I to play God here?
Someone once told me that choosing to end your suffering pet’s life is the most difficult, yet best thing you could ever do for them. You are taking their pain and anxiety away and putting it all on yourself. Yes, that’s what it’s come to and it would be my parting gift to him.
Just as everyone says, things happened quickly. I held Kitty’s head as the vet injected a sleeping drug. He then looked right at me as he drifted off, which I like to think was a last goodbye. The next injection stopped his heart and I watched his little body flatten as his soul took flight.
The only way to avoid the hurt of losing a pet is to never have one. This is not acceptable to me so I know I will go through this again. I gave my heart to that darn cat and it’s hurting now, but you know what? It’s bigger because of it, not broken.
Thank you Kitty for this precious gift and rest in peace there at Rainbow Bridge, the land of endless catnip, Meow Mix treats and roasted chicken.
A few hours after putting my cat down, I found myself in my dad’s room at the memory care center, where my mom was feeding him dinner because he’s forgotten how to eat on his own.
Post to be continued in part 2 here.