They don’t know it’s the last time when you hold them

I put my cat down today (on the 13th), after almost 13 years of being in my life. It came too soon, but it was the only decision that made sense. She was with me the whole time from my transition from a teenager to an adult, so it was quite hard.

It’s hard not to look back at the past when grieving. I don’t think a cat can really change you, but it can be there for you at your lows. Do they really understand love and affection? When I was lying on the bed, she jumped up, sniffed around, and slept by my feet anyways. It usually felt better after that.

I remember when we first got her, as a stray. My brother found her in the backyard, and we fed her and let her go on her way back to the wild. My mother late at night saw something on the street in the dark, and thought it was her body. Turns out it was just a fast food wrapper. We kept her at home after that, with the usual pains of a stray like getting them fixed and getting them acclimated to the indoors.

It’s hard remembering what was special, because it was simply normal until now, for years. I do remember she got into trouble a bit, often involving food. Or she’d jump up into places where you wouldn’t want to be (likely in the kitchen, trying to get to bread or coffee of all the things). But it’d be hard to blame her for such things though – cats are fundamentally animals of instinct. Who knows what her life as a kitten was like, after all? Despite that, she still wasn’t very smart for a cat. Sometimes she’d tip over on a rocking chair, but always landed on all fours.

She used to love sitting on people, or sleeping near them. The fur on clothes, cloths, and in the air might have been annoying, but it was worth it to hear her attempts at purring. She didn’t really sound much like a cat doing so, more like a weird rumbling, but it was sweet.

But she was an old cat now. Her health was failing, starting a few months ago, with hyperthyroidism causing her to be hyperactive and constantly hungry. She got medication, which started to make her behave better. After dealing with a lot of mischief from instinct, there was some brief peace.

But the last two weeks, she took a turn for a worse. At first, I thought it was some kind of depression from missing me, since I was out for a conference over the weekend. But she just retreated to a corner under a chair, in my room.

I think she became blind and deaf, somehow. I don’t know if it was a stroke or an aneurysm – for a few months prior, she sometimes had fits where she lost motor control and cried in pain. But they were always brief, and she came back to normal soon after. I tried to hold her through them.

I don’t think she could see and hear anymore because of it. She didn’t react to stimulus outside of her whiskers and feel – maybe the vibrations of me walking. She used to be so mobile, walking and jumping freely. But the few times she did move, she missed a jump, and she walked into walls, getting lost. To get back to the corner, she relied on memory, which wasn’t always helpful.

I had to pick her up and place her next to the food dish. Normally, she would run out as soon as I went to the kitchen. She took a few minutes to eat, when she’d normally take seconds, then spent a minute more on water. I then had to take her to the litterbox. She’d go, but sometimes she’d eat the litter, probably because of the lack of senses; when that happened, I took her out.

I think she sat in the corner because she was trapped in her own body. Where was everything else? Being in the corner was probably the only place she felt safe. Not like she could look out the window anymore.

I did what I could to try to make her life better, paying for medication, but at that point, it was going to be agony, just throwing even more money (all the possible surgeries) to save a dying animal that had a good run anyways.

This morning, I spent time holding her as long as I could. I don’t think she knew it was going to be for the last time. Do cats have a sense of their own mortality?

On the way to the vet, she was confused in her carrier. I don’t think she knew where she was anymore, so she just slept. I wouldn’t blame her.

When they came to call us in, she had the catheter for the IV installed, and let us be with her last time. They said it’d a few minutes, but it didn’t take long. A few seconds after, she passed away. She was at peace with those she loved.

But the last time I saw her, her mouth was agape like roadkill. Not the kind of thing you’d want to see at the end, even though she was the same animal I grew up with. It’s never poetic as it is in the movies. I don’t believe in some “rainbow bridge”, but I believe it was dignified despite the final impression.

I came back home with an empty cage. I still cried at what I did, even though it was the only thing I could have done; delaying would prolong the suffering. And I know it’ll be hard getting used to not having her jump on me, or feeding her every few hours, or having to hide food to where she can’t get it. What seemed annoying-even-if-cute at the time makes me realize what I had lost.

Rest in peace.

(These pictures are from a month ago, when she was in better health.)

One thought on “They don’t know it’s the last time when you hold them

  1. KS June 13, 2022 / 11:09 pm

    She’s so beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss – it’s never easy but you made the right choice. I was in your position two years ago and it still hurts.

    I wish there was something I could do to help. All I can say is that I’m happy you had such a great companion for so long.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *