My cat of sixteen years passed away about four hours ago. It’s been nothing but difficult these past few hours. I’m filled with longing and hurt, and sadness, mostly. I loved Inky tremendously. He was with me through thick and thin, big and small – the birth of my daughter, the death of family members, the deliberations of relationships, and the demise of jobs. I feel like I was punched in the stomach right now, ready to throw up my memories and not willing to let them, or him, go.
He was born around October 31, 1992. He came to me through the window of my apartment in Albany, New York, where I was going to graduate school. In fact, he had already made a name for himself. The landlord upstairs told me about a cat and I expressed little interest. When he came around once and then twice, I took him in and kept him. And I’ve had him ever since, with the exception being when my then girlfriend took great care of him while I was studying in Poland.
He was a gorgeous friend. I spent the day with him, lying with him, holding him, petting him, trying to imagine what life would be like without him and I couldn’t. Now I can’t imagine what life was like with him. It’s as if the swinging doors of existence only swing one way. I find it so strange, so appalling, and so grotesque that I don’t know what to do with myself.
He had cancer for the past 10 months so, mostly in his paw. It led to a very circuitous track of looking for a vet that would help him and diagnose him correctly and act like they cared. In the end, I found that vet, and he administered the dose of drugs that gave him the lethal push into the ether.
I was with Inky all day, as a I said. He slightly resisted going into his cage before we left the house and, in the car, I looked back a few times to see his bright, green, lovely eyes looking at me. I think he knew what was happening, kind of. The cancer had gotten to his lungs and chest and he was wheezing and breathing heavily the past four days. Yesterday, he came downstairs to my office and let out two sounds I hadn’t heard before; they were something like a cry of pain and a call for help. I believe he was having trouble breathing coming down the stairs to see me. He plopped himself down and I attended to him. In the end, he was a supremely smart cat, often understanding what you said. He would wag his tail at me in approval today and he got up the energy to purr with me when I lied on his side with him.
But I have questions. Lots of questions. Did I put him down at the right time? Could it have been tomorrow? Was he really in pain and how much? Could it have two or three days from now? Why so soon? And why couldn’t we just hold on to him for a while?
More generally, why does all the literature say that feline euthanasia is painless (which I’m sure it was today) yet we don’t administer it to ourselves? Inky’s last tiny little meal was a bit of tuna from a Fancy Feast can. Did that animal who died to feed him suffer?
Even more generally, where is Inky right now? Is he in the stars as I imagine or in the nowhere that scares us all? What happened during his transition from here to there? Could I have done something, earlier in his life, to have prevented this from happening? What kind of world do we live in that this is what moves me?
I recognize that I’m grasping at many different straws here. This post is mostly an attempt at publicly acknowledging my grief, which is shared by my wife and child and others that knew and loved Inky. He was adorable. Sweet. Smart. Truly wonderful to behold, hug, and love.
Postscript: I found these two quotes to be helpful:
As to “ending his suffering” – one may and should do so as soon as the animal has no chance of recovery and is only suffering – (source: “Code of Jewish Law” E.H. 5:14).
Once an animal is dead, burial or cremation is permitted – (source: Exodus 22:30).