Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's a First Time for Everything

With the death of my kitty on Saturday, we are a cat-free household.

I have had cats for as long as I can remember.

When I was somewhere around 3, or maybe 4, my Dad, Mom, & I moved into our house in Gainesville, Florida. The prior human owners moved across town. The cat, however, refused to leave. The humans took him with them, but two days later, he was back, a little thinner and looking somewhat worse for the cross-town trip, but happy to be home. He meowed until we let him in and found him something to eat (tuna, probably), then curled up and slept. We called. They picked him up, and a couple days later, he was back. This happened a few times until, finally, they asked if we wanted a cat.

"NO," said my Dad.

"YES!" said I.

"Oh, why not?" asked my Mom. "After all," she said, "we seem to have moved into his house."

And so we got Morris, our orange tabby cat. He was best friends with Petey (actually "P.T.," short for "P.T. Barnum"), the dog next door. The two of them terrorized the other neighborhood cats and dogs, as well as the birds fed by the very kind lady who lived across the street from us.

Morris was joined later by Sylvester, who died too young, and then Gobbolino, who lived a very long time and moved to Alabama with us, long after Morris died.

I left Gobbolino with my Mom in Alabama and moved to Virginia to live with my Dad for a year after my parents divorced. When I moved to Virginia, I got a dog, a Siberian Husky that I named "Bandit" because of the gray mask across his eyes. My new stepbrother promptly got a gray cat that he named "Smoky." Can you tell what decade that was?

Smoky was a pretty cool cat, though. She used to come with me to deliver the papers on my paper route.

A couple of years later, I got a striped kitten and, being tired of the literal and/or obvious names, I named it "Spot."

I couldn't keep a cat in the college dorm, of course, but I did still have Spot and Gobbolino at my parents' respective homes.

Then, I got another kitty and named her Rabia. After the great cat-breeding experiment of '88, she had kittens. They were adorable. I kept one of them, a sleek black Egyptian-looking regal beauty I named Cleopatra.

I moved to Arizona with Rabia and Cleo, and they both lived a good long while. Meanwhile, I met my husband, who had his own kitty named Angus.

Angus died, too young, after escaping on Christmas Eve when the carolers came to the door, and getting hit by a car. Not a happy Christmas...

Later, we got a little Himalayan kitten we named Merlin, and we rescued a beautiful tortoise-shell calico named Isabella from the pound. For a while we had 4 cats and everyone I knew was starting to doubt my sanity.

And then Merlin died, too young, from congestive heart failure.

And then Cleo, and then Rabia, died, leaving only Isabella, my tiny furry calico.

Isabella had always been tiny, no more than 8 pounds at her heaviest. But over the last couple of years, she had lost weight and was just skin, bones, and a lot of fluffy fur. She looked like she weighed about 6 pounds, but it was really more like 4. Poor thing. But up until recently, she still seemed happy. She would sleep by me at night, purring. She followed me around during the day.

But then she started spending more and more time under the bed, coming out only to eat, puke up her food, pee or poop somewhere she shouldn't, and then go back under the bed. She wasn't grooming herself well, and didn't much like it when I brushed her. We had tried everything: thyroid medicine, antibiotics, special foods.... nothing helped. She just wasn't happy, and we weren't either. At least we have tile floors so the mess wasn't as bad as it would have been with carpet, but oh, it was awful always wondering where you'd find the next pile or puddle...

So it was time. I took her to be euthanized. She always hated car rides. She'd meow loudly the whole way to the vet, every time we went, protesting that she hated the car, hated the vet, hated that I was doing this to her. But this time, she meowed just twice. I poked my fingers through the cage on the seat next to me and stroked her cheek and told her it was the last car ride she'd have to endure. Who knows how much pets understand, but she got quiet after that and didn't meow the whole way to the vet. It was strange.

I hate the whole process at the vet. It's just so hard to look in your beloved pet's eyes and tell her goodbye, knowing you're responsible for deciding she has to go, right now. Even when it's the right thing to do, it's just so awfully hard.

And I hated that I was in a hurry on Saturday; I had to get downtown to meet with all my students. It seems terrible to rush through euthanizing your little furry friend. But there I was. In a hurry to let her get on with dying. Some might say, "in a hurry to kill her." Ouch.

She seemed ready - or maybe she was just paralyzed with fear. She didn't struggle at all, just sat in my lap and shivered a little, leaned over and rested her head on my chest, and then, after the shots, she closed her eyes and slept, one last time, forever.

And then the ride home with the empty cage.... except it's not really quite empty. It's filled with guilt. Did I really do everything I could have done? Was it really her time to go? Should I have tried harder to find a cure? Would she have been happy being an outdoor cat instead of being a dead cat? Damn that's hard.

And then entering a house with no cat. For the first time in 40 years, I don't own a cat. Damn, that's kind of hard, too.

We do still have Sparky, our Saint Bernard, but he's too big to curl up on the bed and sleep with me at night. And besides, although he smiles a lot, he doesn't purr.

* * *

Maybe it's time to get a kitten?


SkylersDad said...

Oh man, I know all too well the pain you are going through. I also understand each of those questions you are asking yourself. Mine have been with dogs instead of cats, but it is the same with our pets that turn into family members.

If it means anything to you, I think you did the right thing, at the right time.


Whiskeymarie said...

God, I'm sitting in at my desk at work, hoping no one sees me, kind of teary-eyed.

You did the right thing. I can't even think of the day one of my furry turds isn't with me anymore- it just breaks my heart.
I totally think you should get a kitten (or two- they like to be in pairs, you know.) And if you do, take lots of pictures for us/me.

Silliyak said...

The pain of loss is the price of love. There are so many animals now that need homes because of the economy...I think you should get another cat. Sorry for your loss.

Mulled Vine said...

I grew up with dogs. We also moved, and took our pet Dalamation SoSo with us, but she kept on running away, and we found her one day running along the motorway back to our previous home.

Now my family has one dog, two cats and a fish. I said "No" to all of them, but have learned over the years that 3 women have more say than 1 man. Mind you, 1 determined woman is enough. :)

Gaston Studio said...

Oh, I know exactly how you feel. I moved here with 3 cats, all old, for sure but healthy. Slowly, over the past 6 years, they've all had to be down for various health reasons. I just can't take it anymore, so no cats for now.

Suzy said...

You did the right thing. When I had to put my dog down, the vet always said to me "You'll know when it's time."

Silliyak said...

If you're bored enough you could go back to the very first entries of my blog where a cute Siamese kitten was abandoned on our doorstep shortly after one of our cats was killed by a car. And approximating her age, she was born right about the time my mom died.