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June 18, 2011

Goodbye to an old friend

Thursday was a hard day, as we lost a friend who had been with us for 13 years. In fact, she had been with my wife even longer than that.

We had to put Miss Kittycat to sleep, one of the hardest things we've had to do in a long while.

She had been my wife's companion for 5 years when I joined the family. Five years of love, even if it was, at times, cranky love. When I came along, she passed that love on to me as well. She seemed very content to have multiple people around, hardly ever alone unless our schedules dictated that we be gone at the same time. But even when that was the case, she knew that she would soon have at least one of us again. Until that time, it was best just to sleep.

She was a small cat, always had been. But to us, she was just the right size. She only looked small when you held her up against another cat. She was easy to pick up, no matter how much she hated that. For years, she tolerated it, but you could tell she didn't want to be held. She was quite unusual in that way. She was definitely not a lap cat.

But that was fine. We took what she gave us and she took what we gave her. Which was treats. She was definitely a treat-hound. In fact, she would work it quite hard at times. She would stand on her little house and just stare at you for a while. It became part of the daily routine. I'd do my morning routine of bathroom stuff: shave, shower, etc. As I moved about our home in the morning, she would stay asleep, or sometimes she would be wandering around. But as soon as I came out of the bathroom after my shower (and only after my shower, not if I came out before), there she was, sitting and staring. "Ok, it's time now," she would probably be saying if she could talk. It's like the sound of the shower going off was her signal.

When I say above that she shared her love with me, it's definitely true. But it wasn't the same as what she gave my wife. My wife was the one who rescued her from the shelter, all those years ago. My wife was her "person," the one who had been with her through thick and thin. In the later years, when we had to shut her out of our bedroom, she would sometimes howl when I was in there. But she would really howl when my wife was. (It wasn't a constant howl, but she would do it in short bursts for a little while before finally giving up and going to sleep) When I sat on the couch, she would come to me for attention, but would head off after a short while. But when my wife sat on the couch, she was relentless.

The last two or three years were hard ones. She developed urinary issues that, it turned out, were behavioral. She would pee on the bed, so we had to shut her out of the bedroom. We think she began suffering from some form of kitty dementia, as her symptoms matched almost perfectly with what was found on the web. Among other things, an obsession with soft things to pee on. It got to the point that we had three litter boxes in the living room and no rugs on the floor, because while the peeing was an issue, we couldn't bring ourselves to put her down. She was too special of a cat, and she was worth adjusting our lives around. She was otherwise healthy, if a bit old and running down. She wasn't as energetic as she used to be, occasionally had trouble jumping up on things that she didn't before.

We wanted her to live out her natural life, and if it inconvenienced us a little bit, so what?

Sadly, Thursday night I came home from work (ironically having just bought two bags of cat litter) and discovered that she was having trouble walking. One of her back legs was, while not paralyzed, extremely weak. Every step she took, she would collapse a little bit. She couldn't jump at all anymore (though she did try once). She retreated to her little house and lay in there for a little bit. I put some treats in front of her, which she quickly gobbled up, and then called my wife. When she called me back, we discussed things and I called the vet.

It was 4:50pm, and the vet's office closed at 6:00. We had gone in a couple of weeks ago to have the cat looked at and discuss quality of life issues. I explained who I was and what I had come home to, and their first words after I finished were "did you want to bring her in tonight?"

Before I go any further, I just want to say how wonderful the people at Arbutus West Animal Clinic, on 16th & McDonald here in Vancouver, are. I'm going to do a separate post on them next week, because they deserve a post of their own, but they are awesome. They knew that taking us that night would have them there after they closed, but they didn't care. All of the people there were so kind to us, throughout everything.

I hustled the cat into her carrier, and the fact that she barely resisted and only let a few howls out just reinforced that we were making the right decision. I picked my wife up and we drove to the vet.

Thirty minutes later, it was over. We'd been with her the entire way. It was hard to say good-bye, but it was for the best. Every day for the last three years, we had kept re-evaluating our decision to keep her around . Every time, the decision was the same: yes, she's worth it, no matter how many accommodations we had to make.

She took that decision out of our hands finally.

It's very quiet around here now. No more howling. We don't have the bedroom door closed any more. There are no more litter boxes in the living room. We're not constantly stepping on pieces of litter that she took with her when she stepped out of the box. A couple of days later, I'm still looking for her when I walk out of the bedroom.

That will pass, in time. I know it will.

Thank you for the many years of companionship, Miss Kittycat. And thank you for taking care of my wife until I came along.

You will be missed.


  1. Dave, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this experience. One of my girlfriends had to have her dog put down earlier this week. I've had to do it with dogs three times in my life and nothing makes it easy to get through. Nothing makes it easy to live AFTER the fact. Nothing but time, I guess. Even knowing you did the kindest, right thing doesn't always help all that much. I loved the story you told about Miss Kittycat - you brought her to life with your words and gave a wonderful memorial to her. Pets bring a rich depth to our lives, because they teach us a new level of love, commitment, caring and sacrifice. You were both loving parents to her, to the very end.

    Sending you a heartfelt hug and much love, Dave.

    ~ Dawnie

  2. Thank you so much, Dawnie.

    I can't imagine how much harder this would have been if we hadn't been living with the possibility for so long.

    In fact, I'd rather not.

  3. Dave-
    What a sad time for you & your wife, my deepest sympathies. I had my 'Gizmo' with me 14 1/2 yrs and had to make the same heart wrenching decision last December. I'm sure you both (like me) will question whether you made the right decision, your heart and intellectual mind battling each other. Not sure if you are familiar with the Rainbow Bridge Poem, but it does offer some comfort during these times.

    It sounds like Ms Kittycat had a wonderful life :)


  4. Thank you very much, Raquel.

    Rats only live 2-3 years, so we're *very* familiar with the Rainbow Bridge poem. :) You're right, it can be quite comforting.

    It's been thought of after many rat deaths, but this is the first time we've had to consider it for a different animal.

  5. *nod*
    You did the best thing that you could have done for her. As a true animal lover you didn't put her down when she became a bit of a "nuisance", as some might call it. BUT the second she showed you it was time, you did what you had to do.

    I'll make sure mom reads this. We're approaching the one year mark of Mom putting Jackie down. She went through ALL of this with the dog for years.

    Meanwhile, my heart is with you and Kim. Pets are family.

  6. I'm so sorry you had to put Kittycat down. I/m sure it was a hard thing to do. You know had to do this with our dogs & it's hard. Wish I could say something to make you feel better but there really isn't much to say. Just know we feel your pain & you have our sincere sympathy. Give Kim a BIG hug from dad & me. We'll give her one in person when we see you. Hugs to you to of course. We love you.

  7. Dave I feel your pain and I'm so sorry for your loss!! It's very difficult to move forward in life after the passing of a beloved pet and I wish nothing but the best for you and your wife. Eventually love and memories will surpass the pain that is felt today. Stay strong and best regards!!!

  8. A heartfelt post about the cat who has brought you so much joy. It is fitting that you honour her in this way and I applaud your courage.

  9. @Karen: Thank you very much for that. I knew that you and your Mom knew what we were going through.

    @Mom: I did. :) Thank you.

    @David: I knew that you also knew what we were going through. Your blog is a testament to what animals can bring to a life. If anybody's reading this (or coming back to check on comments), you should definitely check out his blog.

    @Elizabeth: Thank you so much.

  10. What a sad time Dave. This I know because I’ve always been a ‘cat person’ and when they go it’s like losing a family member. I’ll never forget one cold winter night when little Manny, my daughter’s kitten, died in her arms. We still have his photo on the piano and I can hardly look at it without getting teary-eyed. Then, last fall we lost Bootsey, a cat we’d had around for years. It may get easier with time, but you never forget their unique personalities. My deepest condolence to you and your wife.

  11. Thank you, Debra. It's so wonderful that so many people who know what this is like have commented and shared their stories too.

    We'll probably get another cat at some point this Summer, but it will totally different. No tortoise-shell or calico.

    Because there can only be one Miss Kittycat.

  12. I'm sitting here, in tears. So forgive any typos. You and your wife made the right decision. To do otherwise, would have been in some ways...selfish.

    Kittycat knew the end was near and probably thankful that you both found it in yourselves, that love to give her that final act of love and compassion by releasing her from her pain.

    At the age of thirteen I had to put my mom's cat down, six months after my mom's death. It was almost like losing my mom all over again. That was HER cat. But kidney failure set in, and she was getting old. As much as I wanted to hang on for just a while longer, I said good-bye to Tuffy and gave the order to let her go.

  13. Thank you, Missy. Sorry to cause you so many tears, though. :)

    I know it's something we all go through eventually. It's just not something I've ever had to do on my own. The two dogs I grew up with lasted until I left home, and my parents had to do it.

    The dog we had before that, I was too young to really be involved.

  14. I should not have read this at work. But since I did, I must tell you how sorry I am. My dog is 11, and while he seems to have good years ahead of him, the fact that I might have to make a decisions like this already makes me teary. Sorry for your loss...but how kind of you guys to be so selfless in caring for her--that part does the heart good.

  15. Thank you very much, Emily.

    It's been almost two weeks now, and it has gotten easier. But there's still that kittycat-sized hole in our lives that will take some time to go away.


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