My Cat is Dying

My SEO monitor is going to bitch at me for such a short title. But really, what more is there to say?

My cat is dying.

His name is Squirt and he has no penis. If he still went to parties that’s probably how he would awkwardly introduce himself before stealing someone’s seat. We’ll get to that in a minute.

I have been dreading this post for more than a year — waiting for the day I would sit down and write this in a house that is too empty. But as it turns out, this cat has no damn intention of dying. Ever. So I’m going to write it, anyhow.

The morning of May 18, 2016, Zach called me into the kitchen.

“Squirt can’t walk at all. His back legs keep giving out.”

Squirt’s back legs had been getting progressively weaker for the last year or so. His never-graceful jump to the bed and couch had gotten more accident prone. That morning, though, he could not put any weight on them. He did not appear to be in pain, just really confused.

I rushed him to the emergency clinic. I assumed we would have to put him to sleep the following day. My birthday.

Somehow, Squirt has lived another year. We are swinging back around the sun and again facing the decision I never wanted to make.

My grumpy companion for 15 years is fading quickly. But also, slowly.

I used to work in an animal hospital as a veterinary assistant. Occasionally, an animal would come in who was going to need long-term care that was unaffordable for his owners. Squirt was brought in by his people because he couldn’t pee. His urinary tract was completely blocked.

You can imagine that this is a medical emergency. I was once witness to a cat’s bladder exploding from just such a situation and it is a sound I will never forget.

After lots of medications, catheters, and care, Squirt got better. Unfortunately, the Struvite Crystals that caused his blockage were extremely likely to return, even with expensive prescription food. His owners could not afford that sort of ongoing issue, and they relinquished him to us.

I want to be clear that I harbor no judgment about their choice. It was not an easy one, but they knew there was no way they could shoulder the burden of his medical costs.

Squirt went to live with one of our vets, Dr. Sarah. He was pissed about the other felines in his new home and was a bully. Sarah wasn’t sure what to do, she loved him but he was making life miserable for all the other cats in her house.

So, my roommate, Steven, and I took our dog to visit Squirt at the animal hospital. They got along just fine. So one winter day in 2003, Sarah brought Squirt to live with us.

squirt at vet

Squirt was four years old.

Here are some facts

Squirt has lived in 9 houses, 7 cities, two states, and with at least ten people since he came to live with me.

When we lived in Rochester, NY and were making frequent long drives, he had his own mobile home.

I took a large cardboard box and cut windows in it. Then I taped tulle over the windows so he couldn’t escape through them, though I left one tiny hole that I could fit two fingers through for scratching his head. I put a small litter box in there, with a plastic grocery bag as a backsplash. I taped food and water bowls down to the bottom.

This is the shit people with no children do.

When he was about five years old he had to have his penis removed. True story. It helps prevent blockages of crystals to have his urethra be shorter and wider. He pees like a girl cat now.

He is generally a cat who wants to be near people but not actually touching them. I can relate.

When we had parties, if someone got up he would steal their seat. He would just sit in the chair in the middle of all the humans like he was totally ready to have a conversation.

We used to have an apartment that shared a balcony. The screen doors on both apartments were ripped. Once, after Squirt had been shaved he snuck into the neighbor’s apartment. They were completely freaked out by this random shaved animal that appeared in their bedroom.

The first time Zach took his shirt off in my presence, Squirt puked on it. Zach will never let him forget it, either.

He loves wearing flipflops

Once, after quite a few drinks, I was standing in my bedroom talking to a friend. Out of the corner of our eye we saw Squirt fall off the bed. Not like he jumped up and missed, but rather he was sitting on the edge of the bed and just… fell over.

There was another time when I was sitting in the dark in my bedroom playing with glow bracelets. I was teasing Squirt with them and he bit down on one. It busted open and he went running out of the room with glowing spit flying back behind him. It was sort of amazing.

One day I was sitting with him on the floor as he eyed a couple of flies that were buzzing around the room. Suddenly, Squirt, who was never even remotely graceful, launched himself into the air. THWACK! his paws clapped together and he brought them to the ground. He held them there for a second like he couldn’t believe he’d actually just caught that buzzy bastard. He lifted the edge of his paw and looked underneath, just to be sure. Then that motherfucking bad-ass ate the fly. And then he did it again to the other fly.

His favorite past time is eating grass and puking it back up.

He used to be semi-famous on the website Stuff on My Cat.

He loves: menthol cigarettes, yogurt, nutritional yeast, and catnip. Oh, and certain scents of body lotion. He used to come up and lick my legs. And if you ate a mint and weren’t careful, he would french kiss you.

I’ve had Squirt longer than I’ve had my husband.

He was born during the Clinton administration (and my OCD brain and its love for symmetry will never forgive Trump for stealing his death in a Clinton administration from him).

I am scared I won’t know when to let him go.

His once 12-pound frame has shrunk to barely 5. At this rate, he will be four pounds next week.

There is a certain amount of denial in our house. But I see the writing on the wall, as we give Squirt what Squirt wants. Does he want some pancake? Give him some pancake. Does he want to pee on a towel in the bathroom? Whatever, we can wash it.

His back legs are collapsing again.

With all his fur he still looks fairly normal but if you pet him you’ll feel nothing but sharp corners. He feels like air.

I cannot imagine my life without him. All the songs I’ve made up. All the lyrics we have changed to include him. The idea of the world not including this cat is almost more than I can bear.

He’s just a cat.

He’s not just a cat. He has been with me my entire adult life. I was 21 when we got him.

I’m scared I’m not going to know when it’s time to let him go. Is it time now? At less than half his former weight and unable to walk without slipping?

But he does still walk. He still gets around one slippery step at a time.  He’s still eating.

I always thought I would just know. I have no idea.

What if he is wishing we would release him but I am being too selfish? He doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but cats are great as masking pain.

This cat cannot leave me. He just… can’t.

Fuck. I’m crying. He’s going to die soon. And it’s going to be empty in this house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments on "My Cat is Dying"

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Bethany
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Bethany

I am so sorry, Rhi. Our beloved old dog died a few weeks ago and his situation was similar– I didn’t know how to make the decision to let him go. In one day he went from “hey, he still gets around and seems happy” to “this is clearly the end.” That clarity was a last gift to us. I hope you find a similar peace. It was still one of the hardest things I have ever been through, which is crazy but unquestionably the truth. I’ll be thinking of you.

Jaymie
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Jaymie
I just had to make this decision 2 months ago 🙁 I got my Daisy girl in 2001, I had her longer than my husband! But she too was 1/2 her weight, only 4 pounds when we took her in. She was having accidents on the couch. She never once cried or acted like she was just in pain so I never thought about letting her go. One morning I woke up and she had another accident on the couch and while I was cleaning it up she just gave me a look and I just knew it was time.… Read more »
Lynda
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Lynda

It is entirely about you and Squirt. You will know. If you don’t know right now, then it’s not time…yet.

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