Yesterday, at around 1 O'Clock in the afternoon, we had to put my cat of 11 years, Jackson, to sleep.
He had always been a very healthy cat for his entire life...he was very big
for a cat (not fat), very fit and muscular, and was always an outdoor cat even once we moved to the city. He liked to be the boss outside, the king of the wilderness and the streets, but inside he was the most mellow and laid back cat you could imagine. He put up with everything...you'd never hear this cat hiss, nor would he bare his claws or teeth, unless you did something serious to really
piss him off. And he was always specifically my
cat. Of the three we have, Skittles has been bonded with my brother ever since my parents separated (before that, it was my father), and Beast is my mother's baby as she was raised by her from a week old, bottle fed and everything...and Jackson was always mine. He was my best friend and my roommate, and at night we slept together with him as my pillow. He was literally the best cat you could ever possibly ask for.
However, a few months ago...we noticed that he was starting to lose a great deal of weight, and for a cat his size it was particularly alarming. He never lost his appetite (the quantity of food he ate was a bit less than normal, but he still ate with the same frequency and definitely
didn't lose his enthusiasm for the various meats we were giving him as treats), but touching almost every part of his body, I could feel his bones. As we became worried about this, we took him to the vet, for an extremely disappointing visit (we're never going back to this clinic again), as we learned absolutely nothing about what the problem was despite spending almost $300 for the visit. That was about a month ago...not knowing what else we should do, we just...waited it out, and hoped he might recover.
Two days ago, however, I walked into the kitchen - where he had been laying to stay cool as we had a bit of a heatwave earlier in the week - at the right time to watch him trying, and failing, to stand up. He fell down 3 times before giving up and laying back down...his back legs would just not support him. Still, he went outside later that day, and every time I watched him walk he seemed to be managing just fine...well, 'just fine' as in, 'no different than he has been these past two months he's been sick'. But I had gotten very worried about it, and my mother ended up calling another nearby clinic to get him an emergency appointment. That appointment was yesterday.
In the back of my mind...of course, I knew that if he wasn't getting any better, we might have to put him down to end his misery. However, I wasn't preparing for that to happen so suddenly...and so unexpectedly. I wanted time to prepare myself...but instead...I was prepared to get him a visit at a different vet, and hopefully - unlike last time - get some answers as to what might be the problem, and then we could see where to go from there as far as the treatment went. As we rode together in the backseat of the car, I told him, "it's okay, buddy...after they look at you, we'll go right back home and you can lay under the kitchen table again in your little strawberry box*". I wasn't lying, to him or myself, to try and soften the blow...I honestly...thought this was going to happen.
Unfortunately, this vet was
competent and thorough...and caring. Unlike the bastards at the other clinic, these guys ran every possible test they could after finding out his symptoms, and we'd even brought them a stool sample which they tested as well. The kicker is, for all this, it cost less money
than the visit to the other clinic who told us jack shit. So you see why we're switching vets for the future (and my mother intends to write an angry letter to the other clinic while she writes a thank-you to this one for doing everything they could). Sadly...they discovered that the problem was incurable. I forget the exact name of the problem, as I was too distraught, but it was described as, essentially, the feline equivalent of AIDS (not feline leukemia). And even though the other clinic was a bag of dicks, we were told that even had they found out about this problem a month ago, there would have been no difference. Once he got this virus, it was too late to do anything. The cause would have most likely been being bitten by another cat...and as an outdoor cat, and in the city, there are
strays in the neighborhood who he interacted with. For reference, a month ago at the first vet visit, he weighed in at 11 pounds (he's usually closer to 15-20...as I said, he was a large
, muscular cat). Yesterday, he weighed 7.8. No wonder his legs couldn't support him standing easily...and he struggled jumping up onto surfaces he'd normally have no trouble with. His body was literally failing, and there was nothing that could be done.
When they told us this, Jackson was already asleep - they had to knock him out in order to draw blood, because he was fighting them insistently the whole time. They even...ended up tearing his skin and fur, accidentally, while holding him down, as his skin was so thin they described it as being like tissue paper. So he was unconscious when this news was broken, and I was given the most difficult decision of my life - do they give him an antidote to wake him back up, and have us take him home where he would no doubt not last much longer, probably be suffering, but be in his own home...or should they put him down now, while he was already there, and already asleep? I couldn't handle this. I ended up running out of the room and going outside, where I called my mom and just basically flipped out over this whole, unfair situation. I was not so selfish that I actually wanted to bring him back home and let him suffer and die...but how could I say 'okay, kill my cat'? Especially when his last memory of me was that I brought him here, and shoved him off to a room where - for the second time in a month - strangers grabbed him and poked him with needles and the like? What was he thinking at that point? I heard him crying from the exam room, and I just shouted back 'it's okay, Jackson', but what must he have been thinking? "Why are you letting them do this to me?" And then, he was unconscious...and I was supposed to just let him die like that...?
Maybe I was selfish, but the compromise was that they woke him up...and let me spend some time with him. I held him while he lay on the table, and calmed him down (not that it lasted), and let him know that...we wanted to help him. I wish I hadn't said the words "I'm sorry" more than "I love you", but I know I did. But I really think that...he was able to understand, in the end, when I had a chance to be there with him...and so I told him I was never going to leave him again, and stayed right in the room holding him the entire time. I just wish it could have been as easy as you'd like to think - stick the needle in, and he falls asleep forever, in peace. But no...it couldn't be that simple. He got rowdy again after I'd calmed him down, as the doctor returned, and had to be sedated again since the previous stuff had worn off. So they put the little gas mask on him to give him the sedation drug...and not once, not twice, but three times
I watched Jackson grab the mask with his paws and yank it off his face. He was struggling the entire time. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, they removed the mask and obviously deemed him sedated enough...clearly they were wrong. When the doctor finally injected him with the needle, even that wasn't enough...he was still breathing. More than that, when he went to inject more, Jackson started spazzing the fuck out again, still very much alive...he was fighting this to the very end and it was absolutely destroying
me. It wasn't a nice, peaceful 'he's just going to fall asleep forever' like you might see in the movies. He was a fighter until his last moments, and I just wish to God that he had mercy enough to let me cat be at peace for his last moments...maybe then, I wouldn't feel like an absolute monster for being there and letting them do this to him. Maybe then, I'd feel like he understood that this was for his own sake, so he didn't have to continue suffering, wasting away and losing even more weight until his body completely gave out. Maybe then I wouldn't feel like I betrayed my best friend in the very end, and that he died hating me.
Even so, I held him the entire time, even for several minutes after it was over, and it was just me left in the room. It felt like a dream. Even once he was gone, he felt the same to me...I continued to hold him, and touch his paws, and it really did just feel like he was asleep. I couldn't bare coming to grips with the fact that he'd never wake up again...and that when I went there earlier that morning, I hadn't planned to return home without him by my side. ...my dad ended up taking his body back to his house (where we lived up until 3 years ago), where some of our previous pets (mostly birds) had been buried. I would have loved for him to have been buried here, but we don't own the apartment so we couldn't exactly go digging holes in the yard...plus, that house had been his home for most of us life until the past 3 years, anyways. When we finally got back to my
house, I just sat outside under a tree for hours. I didn't want to go into the house and come to grips with knowing he'd never be with me again. Knowing that my room was only mine, now, and I'd be sitting there all alone. I finally came in around 5 PM (we got back around 1:30), and have just been a wreck every since...as have all of us. My brother didn't get home from work until about 8 or 9 at night, and my mom had to break the news to him, as well...he said he had even started to suspect that might be the case, since no one texted him during the day to update him on the results of Jackson's vet visit. My brother tries to be a tough guy and hide his emotions with anger, but my mom told me that he couldn't stop the tears once she'd told him about what happened. Even my father could barely open his mouth about the whole situation without breaking down.
And today has just been more of the same. I can only distract myself for so long before he comes back to mind, or encounter something that reminds me of him. How can you help that, when this cat has been as big a part of your family as anyone else, for the past 11 years? I'm in my 20's. I've known this cat for literally half of my life. Anyone who thinks this sort of thing is an overreaction and something easy to move past, fuck you, because you've obviously never owned a pet - let alone for this long, or one you were so close to. I didn't just lose 'an animal', I lost my best friend, who understood and comforted me better than any human ever has. This house, with 3 human and 2 other cat residents inhabiting it, just feels empty and lifeless without him. This pain is no less than it would be if a human relative were to die, and is in fact far worse than something like a grandparent or aunt/uncle who I didn't interact with that much. Sure, you feel sad, but it's not the same as someone you have seen every day of your life for the past 11 years. Jackson was my family...and we're all struggling to find a way to live our lives now that he's gone.