Losing a pet is never easy. And deciding to put one down is even harder. I know, because I’ve just done it for the fourth time. The first animal I ever had to put to sleep was a stray I rescued in the dead of winter. I thought she was a kitten and I named her Pipken. Upon taking her to the vet, however, I found out that she was actually not as young as I thought, just small. And she was very, very sick. The vet recommended putting her down right then. I had never put a pet down before, and had actually only lost one pet in my entire life. That was traumatic and very difficult for me. I thought I was rescuing her and getting a new pet, and to leave there with her little soft body in a box was something I’ll probably never get over entirely.
The next time I had to put a pet down was my cat Tony. His full name was King Anton Fluff of the Brooklyn Jungle. I had him for 15 years. He went into kidney failure and we spent two weeks trying to save him, but to no avail. When the time came, I couldn’t do it and my husband was the one there in his final moments. I was pregnant with our son and so emotional, I knew I couldn’t handle it. After that, was our Bruno. I’ve written a previous blog about that experience if you’d like to read it, I’ll link it here: https://berkanalynx.com/2017/11/10/the-love-of-an-animal/
A week ago we had to make this decision again. For our cat Humphrey. We got him as a kitten. He was a wild little black fluffball back then. He grew up to be the most affectionate and sweetest cat I’ve ever known. Humphrey loved everyone . He was always quick to jump in a lap and settle in, purring at full throttle. He let our children carry him around the house. He snuggled in with them at naptime. He liked other cats, liked dogs, and loved people. He learned to use the dog door and would go in and out as he pleased. Because of this, he made friends with all of our neighbors as well. They would call him over and give him pettings and treats. We were known in the community by some as “Humphrey’s family” – he was that popular. We noticed a change in him over the last couple of months. He didn’t seem exactly himself and he had lost some weight. We attributed it to aging, but in reality, he was only 9 years old. For us, that’s young. Our other cats lived to be 15, 16 and 19.
I decided to take him to the vet a week ago when he wouldn’t jump up onto the bed. We thought perhaps he had hurt a leg while outside. He was still eating and drinking, but seemed to be in pain, so we didn’t think anything serious was wrong. His blood work came back to reveal that he was severely anemic and in kidney failure. His mouth was also full of ulcers, and they were surprised to hear that he was still eating and drinking. I was given some options. We could take him somewhere for a blood transfusion, or we could choose to start medication for the anemia. We would switch him to a special food. We could start infusions for his kidneys. I would take him every other day to the vet where they would insert a needle and flush him out. If, after two weeks, it was helping and his blood work came back better, then they would teach me how to do the infusions at home. I could buy the needles, tubing and fluids from the vet. And every other day, for the rest of his life, I would treat him. I said no.
We chose the treatment for Tony. For two weeks I feel like we tortured him as he rapidly declined. I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice. And even if the treatment helped this time, what kind of a life is that for him? As a cat that can use the dog door, there was also a zero percent chance I could keep him on a special diet, or that I’d be able to find him when it was treatment time. Especially if he knew it was coming. We feared that he’d run off and hide if he didn’t feel well and die somewhere out there, in pain and alone. And so we chose for him. We chose a painless, comfortable death where he could be safe and warm in my arms when he went.
Again, not easy. But I have realized something this past week. His death was a little easier for me than Tony’s or Sadie’s, because I didn’t allow him to suffer. I regret not putting my other two cats down sooner. But I kept them going because I didn’t want to be without them. A selfish choice, but I didn’t think so at the time. Now I realize that they don’t see things like we do. And that living a life of pain and illness is not necessary. As a pet they are afforded a luxury that wild animals are not. They can be put down peacefully instead of suffering a long and painful death. When I was trying to figure out whether or not it was time to put Bruno down, I read an article by a gentleman who said that animals don’t know time as we do. We see it as a week more with them, but if they are suffering for that week, what good does it do them? He said he’d rather put his pet down a month before he would have to rather than a week too late. That really resonated with me.
And so, this time, it was different. And while still upsetting and sad, it’s not as devastating because there is no guilt. There is no memory of him suffering. There is no doubt that I did the right thing. Aside from that, we still look for him to run to us when we get home. I still expect to see him sleeping on top of my basket of clean laundry, and I still wish he was here. I loved him so damn much. He was honestly the best cat ever. And I do believe in Heaven, or at least an afterlife that allows us to be together again. Until then, I will miss him. But I will be happy that he was able to live a good life, and die a peaceful death.