Dear all, first I'd like to say how wonderful it is to find such a kind and supportive community during such a dark time.
I had to put my dear cat Toby to sleep earlier today, July 1. We had been together for almost 15 years; I estimate he was about 18. His origin story was fuzzy. What I was told was that his original owner, an older woman, had passed away, and her niece took Toby. She decided she didn't want him, brought him to a bar and asked around for someone to take him (?!). A friend of a friend took him, and after a while she also decided she didn't want him. My friend asked me if I wanted a cat, and I said yes.
Toby came to live with me in November of 2003. The first night, he HOWLED - a panicked-sounding, high-pitched meow. I didn't know what to make of it, but called his previous owner the next day to asked if he meowed a lot. "Oh, yeah, kinda!" she replied. Little did I know! That distinctive wailing would be the soundtrack of my life, until today.
He could be a difficult cat. Often skittish, shy, and of course, the meowing at all hours. I believe that somewhere along the way, before he moved in with me, he was mistreated. He was front declawed, and if his origin story was true, lost his initial owner and was then passed around between people who didn't want him. It makes me very sad.
However, we grew together over the years - I was 20 when we met - both of us softening over that time. He was truly the sweetest, most gentle and loving boy. Not a mean bone in his body. He eventually became more sociable, always wanting to cuddle or sit in my lap. And various roommates, boyfriends and anyone else who spent time with him loved him too. He loved to be picked up and walked around the apartment, his big fluffy paws hooked over my arm, his neck craning to see up high in places he didn't usually go (if anyone watches Jackson Galaxy - Toby was definitely a "bush cat" and liked to remain low to the ground unless he was being held.) He was extremely beautiful, a light gray Norwegian Forest Cat with striking green eyes. He'd start a deep purr the moment your hand touched his head for a scratch session. We spent 15 happy years together.
His weirdness is a big part of why I loved him so much. He was never easy to figure out - indeed, often frustrating - but I knew that we were destined for each other. He was always surprising me with his quirks and I cherished his hilarious and outlandish meowing - even when I was yelling at him to be quiet!
He made quite a pair with my small tabby-tortie mix, Izzy, who passed at age 21 in 2014 (and had been my cat since I was 10.) Izzy was already 11 when Toby came to live with us. Relations were frosty at first, but they were cleaning each other within a few months and subsequently spent 10 happy and playful years together. Now they're back together.
The past couple of years were a slow decline. First some weight loss; a diagnosed thyroid issue; continued weight loss, but not drastic until about six months ago. He'd always been a bit sickly with constipation problems, needing all his teeth removed, some wheezing. In April, he started sneezing blood. I was away for a few days at the time, and my mom, who was watching the cats, said that he was sneezing a lot but nothing else. I got home and noticed splatters of blood near his bed (my mom, bless her heart, is not always the most observant person.) Before I could even make a vet appointment, he unleashed a sneeze with so much blood and mucus I thought I would have to put him down that day.
We went to the vet, they gave him a course of steroids and antibiotics. That cleared up the blood instantly. Six weeks later, early June, it came back. At that point I knew things were really serious. We did another round of antibiotics and steroids, this time with no plan to get off the steroids, which worried me. The bloody sneezes stopped again, but he was clearly in decline from that and/or something else.
So, the past ~10 days have been a haze where part of my brain knows that the end is coming, and the other part is in denial, thinking we can make him better. I didn’t want to believe it was the end. He became painfully thin and lost interest in food and water, despite taking an appetite stimulant. He would only lay on the hardwood floor. I knew it was time. We took him to the vet yesterday and she said he had a large mass in his intestine, which had not shown up in an x-ray on our visit six weeks prior.
I feel very thankful that we were able to let Toby go at home. This afternoon, a vet who performs in-home euthanasia came over and helped us gently and lovingly say goodbye to him. He was surrounded by people who loved him, comfortable on a bed, and went peacefully. I got to hold him and tell him how much I loved him, scratching his ears as he passed.
All that said. The pain is nearly unbearable. I'm of course beating myself about what more I could have done, about all the times I yelled at him or ignored him because he was being annoying... I work from home so needless to say, we spent a LOT of time together. He was famous among my co-workers for "chiming in" during phone meetings (I joked that they should put him on the payroll.) Anyway, I suppose it's natural to wonder "what if" or go through a catalog of regrets after your friend says goodbye. But that doesn't make it much easier.
The common thread I see among all of your touching posts is that there is no easy answer. We must sit with this pain, and know that it helps to talk about our pain with those who understand and can respond with gentle compassion. It does abate over the years. When I had to say goodbye to my precious 21-year-old Izzy four years ago, I really thought I might die of heartbreak. I had to force myself through the basics of life for a few months. I still get sad when I think of her, but it's no longer debilitating.
The pain of losing Toby is, of course, still fresh and will be for a while. I can't compare it to what I felt with Izzy, because I had different relationships with each of them. I like to say Izzy was my best friend, and Toby was my son. He was clingy, sweet and innocent; Izzy was very cool, liked to do her own thing, but sometimes deigned to hang out with me so I could admire her from up close 😉
When I say pain, I mean both physical and emotional pain. My heart literally hurts. The heaving sobs are exhausting. I've been crying for most of the past four days, knowing it was time. I don't feel a sense of relief right now. I just feel deep, searing sadness and pain.
There's a special sharpness when I think about the loss of his physical form. I know he's not in there anymore, but to think of losing his soft, wild fur, not hearing the meows, not having to stand next to him while he slowwwly ate his food so my other cat didn't steal it... his whole presence in my house and in my life. As others have said, the change in routine and the physical absence can be the hardest part of getting through these early days.
Thank you to anyone who has read my long post. I hope you're all having a good evening and that it helps a bit to know that there's a loving community here who understands what you're going through.