The worst part about allowing a cat to adopt you is the heartbreak of letting them go. But, ultimately, that is a time we all must confront. For our part at Abbeywood, each of us can identify the different eras of our lives by the name of the cats that kept us company. And while each kitty’s name brings the smile of loving memories, it also brings the sting of loss.
So, other than acknowledging the painful truth that everyone needs to prepared to let go, what is the point of this post?
Well, the point is that letting go is hard. It takes preparation, and planning, just as any other difficult event does. So, how does someone plan to let a beloved friend go? Sometimes the answer is thrust upon us with a dramatic illness that demands a swift resolution, or a terrible accident that leaves us with no alternatives. But how do you decide to let a family member go when there are no obvious answers?
The hard truth is that there usually isn’t any clear indication that tells us that the time is now. If we are lucky, our cats will live long, luxurious lives, and it will only be at the very end that we have to make a very tough choice. The answer in how to make that choice is hidden in the best part of knowing our cats: as healthy kittens and adults.
Like anyone or anything, there are certain activities and situations that our kitties love. Think back on your cat’s behavior, and you can probably identify certain things they absolutely love, and how they behave in response to those things. For example, does your kitty love:
A glitter ball, which they chase at every opportunity?
Fresh chicken/fish/other, which they devour no matter how much food they’ve had?
A luxurious stroking along their back, which makes their chest thrum with a deep, satisfying purr?
The key in making that final decision easier is to make it far, far in advance. Once you’ve identified your feline friend’s favorite thing, it becomes very simple: when that thing no longer entices them to joy, then it is probably time to let them go. If you say that in advance, to yourself and others, then the final decision tends to feel less like an actual decision, and more like a recognition of reality.
It is a harsh truth to mention, but it is also worthwhile to consider the cost of healthcare, and factor it into your planning for the worst case scenario. Just as with humans, there are no guarantees in treatment, and costs can escalate rapidly, especially in emergency scenarios. Not only does everyone have the right to set a budget, but indeed we all have the obligation. It is extremely difficult to make a choice about how much is reasonable to spend under the stress of being confronted with a sick pet. At some point, making sure they are comfortable in their final moments must become more important than investing money in the mere hope that there is a solution. Love isn’t necessarily spending every cent you have. Love is showing you care by taking care of them as best you can, which can include a peaceful death.
Pookie cat was Dr. Ubatuba’s cat from her college days. She was fearful, and usually only came out to be petted at night, as she purred on Dr. U’s chest in bed. So, her marker of enjoyment was coming out at night and purring while petted. When she stopped coming out from hiding at night for pets and purrs, we knew something was wrong. When she still didn’t purr, after treatment for what ailed her, we knew she wasn’t enjoying herself any more. Tough as it was, we said goodbye, and let her go while on her favorite spot in the bed, getting petted luxuriously.
Mona was Seth’s best friend in some dark days when living alone. She loved chasing glitter balls, and could be coaxed into fury with any sound that resembled kittens in distress. When she no longer looked up at the sound of a ball skittering across the floor, and no longer cared about the sound of kittens, then we knew she was far beyond just being tired. She was simply past the point where she could be happy anymore.
In the end, it was still terrible to say goodbye. But the fact that we had realized well in advance of those terrible moments exactly how we could tell that our beloved friends were not just sick, but physically unhappy…that made it much easier to make the decision to let them rest.
Euthanasia is a terrible thing for us as pet lovers, but it can be a genuine gift: a literal good death for our constant friends. This is a cold comfort, but it is infinitely preferable to the suffering of a bad death. There is absolutely nothing that can make it easy, but knowing the signifiers that tell you when your friend is no longer enjoying their time with you can let you make those choices in advance, which can smooth the edges off an awful decision.
In the end, regardless of the considerations of time, and energy, and money, we at Abbeywood know that those decisions are mostly made out of love, with all the intimate knowledge that love brings.
We’d prefer to help with the journey, but we’re also here for the destination. And we’ve all been there.
Rest in peace, Mona, Pookie, Thoreau, Mariko, Violet, Piggie, and all the others. We miss you!