This past weekend, Laura and I had the sad task of putting our 17-year-old cat Natasha to rest. It was a decision we made together and knew was for the best, but it was still sad.
17 is a long life for a cat and for the great majority of it, Natasha had a healthy life. She did slow down in recent years, but it was only the recent 4 or 5 months where we noticed significant changes. Our vet (the wonderful Dr. Bebko at The Cat Clinic) shares our view about assessing quality of life and not taking drastic measures for such an elderly pet. She went downhill very fast after she stopped eating – he gave her a rallying series of injections and fluids to make sure it wasn’t a matter of infection. But it was not – it was simply her time.
We don’t regret trying some modest measures. During that week, Natasha received her first official kitty massage which she really enjoyed. She said good-bye to the other pets, or they to her. We both had time to sit with her and she even wobbled unsteadily into her favorite spot – a bit of sunshine on the floor. It was pretty much the best it could be.
Personally, I think it is a myth or an exaggeration that animals die peacefully in their sleep. Statistically and medically, it is unrealistic and unfair to wait for that moment. There’s no way for it to be pleasant to make this decision, but it is necessary. Now our job is to make sure her littermate and lifelong companion – also 17 – is going to be okay.
Natasha and Boris were rescued kitties being fostered through Animal Friends. Laura adopted them from their foster home in 1997. They adapted to me and to the dogs moving in to their home in 2005. Natasha was a reverse calico – always a little skinny, but very sweet and gentle. Her favorite thing to do was sit on Laura – her lap, her laptop, her papers, her book, whatever. Natasha took a nap on Laura’s netbook and we had to buy a new screen (we took it out of her allowance.) She was fearless and persistent. If there was cooked chicken anywhere in the house, she was investigating even if it meant climbing onto the hot stove. Sigh. She was a bit reticent around newcomers, but not unfriendly.
She loved the sun. In the middle of July, I’d find her in the attic (no AC up there) sleeping with her stomach turned up to the sun streaming into the window. She loved heat. In winter months, she and Boris decamped to the dog beds near the heater vent, moving with great reluctance when it was time for the dogs to use their beds. During her final months, she just slept with the dogs.
I’m not one to equate pets to people, but I do believe that our pets are part of our family. We make a commitment to love them and care for them and make these sort of ultimate decisions for them. Grieving and mourning is a natural part of the process of losing a member of your family. I’ll miss Natasha quite a bit. She crept into a hole in my heart that I didn’t know existed and now it is empty once again.