Cats, euthanasia, and dying
My oldest cat, Dean, was approximately 18. No one is certain how old he was, because his former owner found him when he was no longer truly a kitten. She guessed he was 6 months to a year. My guess is he was older than that unless she delayed getting him fixed. At any rate, he was old. She was going to put him down in 2002 or 2003 when I took him and gave him a second chance. He’s run away, stood off a coon (the cat was front declawed!), and gotten soaked several times. He got in cat fights and got thoroughly whipped, but he still opted to be outside as much as possible. He learned to open the door himself when I wasn’t home–I came home twice to find my back door wide open and the cat gone. He should have been named Houdini. He could get out of almost anything.
He caught birds and mice, but didn’t know what to do with them next, so he’d just hold them and look at them while they shook in fear. He lived in windows, slept in the bathroom sink, and loved to sleep curled up with his butt against my face at night. He and I never did come to an agreement on that point, but I can tell you I won. He purred like a freight train anyway. Or like the “Jaws” attacks, he would start at the foot of the bed and purr all the way up: “purr-uh, purr-uh, purr-uh”.
A few weeks ago, Dean stopped eating. I hand fed him. He lost weight, but he was still purring. He ate less. I tried several types of food, hand fed him everything he seemed to eat, but he got weaker. I came to a point of knowing it was his time, but didn’t know what to do about it. I do not agree with euthanasia… I’d rather things happen naturally. Then several days ago he disappeared.
I was sure he had gone to find a quiet place to die. He’d snuck off the porch and disappeared on a beautiful spring day. I figured he was enjoying a sun spot, but he didn’t return. I called. I hunted. I checked all his favorite hang outs, but no cat. So I decided he must have gone off to die peacefully. Then last night he returned, thinner and weaker, but back again.
He could no longer eat. He couldn’t drink. He would try-he was thirsty, but he couldn’t hold his head steady enough due to the muscle weakness. He was shutting down. I covered the furniture last night, thinking he would make a mess when he died in the night. This morning he was still here. He was very thirsty by that point. He still couldn’t drink, but being determined, he decided to just go for a bigger pool of water-my bath. I didn’t see him fall in; just heard him get out. I got into the bathroom to see a significant amount of water on the floor and the cat laying in the middle of it all, forlorn and soaked.
I tried to dry him off, but he’s always been like a sponge. His hair is too long to dry easily. I combed him and waited. He got worse. I finally called the vet.
I hated the idea of taking him in. I feel death should come naturally. But for him, it was just a matter of a few hours or a day or two. He’d lost more than half his body weight. He had FIV and gall stones. His teeth were bad but I’d been warned that at his age and in his condition, he might not wake up from the cleaning. There was a mass in his stomach for the last few years of his life, but exploratory surgery, which would have made his last years miserable and might not have fixed anything, didn’t seem like a good option to me. So he’s been failing for a few years.
Taking him in, he didn’t even hardly meow. He usually cries all the way to the vet’s office. He didn’t argue with going in the carrier. He didn’t cry continuously at the vet’s. He just laid there, half asleep, barely able to hold his head up to look around. I wish I hadn’t needed to make the decision, but I’m glad he’s not miserable now.
The only other thing, something I didn’t consider until after I’d left the vet’s, was that I wish I’d gotten a clipping of his hair. But I have my memories of him, and had 9-10 years with him. He was loved, and loved well. And he loved, in his own way, too.
Still, I hope I don’t have to make a decision like that again for a very long time.