This might be a long post. If so, I apologize. It’s entirely off-topic and personal, but it’s also something that I need to write, so . . . bear with me, if you will.
We had to say goodbye to one of our cats this weekend. His name was Lear. We adopted him from the local Humane Society last summer, about a month after we bought our house. Me and Erica always wanted cats, but they weren’t allowed in our old apartment. When we bought the house, getting a couple of cats was at the top of our priority list. Y’know, because cats are awesome.
We didn’t exactly adopt Lear. He adopted us. He came up to the window when we walked in, and was even purring when they brought him into the visiting room. His name was Tiger then, a name which really didn’t fit his personality, and he’d been rescued from a home with hoarders. When we brought him home, he laid claim to his kingdom, sitting regally on our staircase.
There was no “adjustment” period for Lear. He was home right away. We were his humans. Whenever Erica and I sat on the couch, he curled up between us. He greeted us at the door every day, jumped into our arms, and pressed his face against our cheeks.
Lear followed us everywhere, like a small dog. He had to be right there with us at all times. We nicknamed him “Baby Cat” because he always wanted to be held. He and our other cat, Balthasar, took some time to get along, but once they finally grew to tolerate one another, our home found a new sort of harmony. You might say they helped us settle in to the next chapter of our lives together.
I guess the first time I realized Lear was special was when he followed me up to my office every evening when I’d get ready for bed. He’d chase me up the stairs and curl up with me next to my pillow. Sometimes he’d climb onto my chest to sleep, which presented its own set of challenges, but I didn’t mind. He always knew when we were having a bad day, being sure to stay at our side as much as possible; whenever Erica got sick, he’d stay with her all night.
Like I said, Lear adopted us. He watched over us. Cared for us.
Unfortunately, Lear also had some health problems. They first arose last fall, when we noticed he was grooming himself bald around his tail. We tried a number of treatments before learning the true problem: allergies. The poor cat was allergic to pretty much everything. He endured a lot in the last six months of his life—multiple trips to the vet, bloodwork, allergy shots, gland expressions, icky medication. And then this last Thursday, when we got up for work, he wasn’t there on our bed. He was downstairs in our dining room, behind the table, curled up into a ball. He’d vomited multiple times.
We fed them first thing the morning, and normally he and Tsar would be voicing their impatience with me as I stumbled my way to their food dishes, but that morning Lear didn’t get up. We thought he had an upset stomach—after all, we’d given him hairball medicine the night before. So we told Tsar to take care of his brother while we left for work; that evening, on the drive home, I commented to Erica that I’d worried about him all day, and she said she’d done the same.
When we returned, we found him in the same spot we left him. Best as we could tell, he hadn’t moved at all that day. When I touched him, he yowled in pain, and I realized his pupils were dilated. Erica called our vet, who told us to take him to the local animal hospital. An hour later, a doctor explained to us that Lear had a urinary blockage, that he couldn’t pee and would need to have a catheter inserted. He had what’s called FLUTD, or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. It’s fatal if not treated, and would be a lifelong thing for him going forward.
So . . . we agreed to the catheter. They would keep him for 48 hours, monitor him, make sure he gets his fluids, and keep him sedated so he couldn’t pull out the catheter. If after 48 hours he could pee on his own, they would release him from care. This was on Thursday.
On Friday, we received our first update: He was doing well, he’d kept the catheter in, and everything was going according to plan. Which was great, because we wanted him to meet our latest addition: a kitten we adopted from a coworker of mine. We named him Oberon (or “Obie” for short).
On Saturday morning, our second update came: Everything was still going well. They were going to remove the catheter around noon, and provided he could pee on his own, he’d be able to come home Sunday morning.
By Saturday evening, however, things had changed. We got a call around 9 PM from the doctor. Although Lear was able to pee after removal of the catheter, he hadn’t done so since then. All day, he hadn’t been able to go, and his bladder was full.
The doctor gave us options. Re-insert the catheter, which the doc did not believe would be successful. His reasoning was that this was the first time Lear had had this issue, and if his urethra closed up so quickly, there was a bigger issue in play. The suggested option was surgery to widen Lear’s urethra. Unfortunately there was no guarantee this would solve the problem. We had already committed to paying nearly $3k for the catheter and medication. Paying it a second time, or even paying another $5k on top of that for surgery, simply wasn’t something we could afford to do.
And even then, even if we’d had the means to give that little cat all the care we could, that might not have been enough. After all he’d been through, all the health issues he’d suffered in time we had him, we couldn’t bear to put him through any more. He’d given us so much love in the year that we had him, that making him suffer any longer would’ve been extremely selfish on our part.
So . . . around 10:45 Saturday night, we said goodbye to our Baby Cat. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. We kissed him, scratched his ears, and told him we loved him. I told him I’m sorry we made him wear that awful cone so he’d stop over-grooming, that I’m sorry we took so long to figure out he had allergies, and that I’d miss him terribly.
Me and Erica, we sobbed. God, I haven’t cried so hard or so much in years. I cried until I was sick, until my chest hurt. I’ve lost family and friends over the years, but I’ve never had to put a pet to sleep. That little cat meant more to me than I realized, and I will forever look back on our year together with fond memories. He truly left prints on our hearts.
I am not a religious man. I’m about as close to an atheist as you can get without wearing that particular badge. I’m skeptical of what happens to us after we die. But if there’s an afterlife, or any semblance of a heaven, I’m certain it isn’t populated with people. It’s populated with our furry friends. Theirs is a kind of love that knows no limits. They alone are the only creatures worthy of such a place.