We buried Grandpa last week.
He was the older of our two cats that I’ve mentioned before. His real name was Arthur and he was more than 16 years old. I’ve called him Grandpa for probably the last five years when he began to slow down. He was a rescue cat who was a mile-a-minute in his earlier days. It was his climbing the cages at the animal shelter that prompted our daughter Clara to pick him.
But he had become mostly just fur and bones over the last year and really started failing in his last days. He mostly just wandered around or slept. He had trouble walking. His was a talker and now even his meows were weak. We weren’t sure how to handle it. Do we just let him suffer until he dies or have him put to sleep?
A friend who works at the pet clinic we take the cats to told us “you’ll know when it’s time.” Well, it’s tough because you don’t want to have to make the decision. But we soon knew he would only suffer more the longer we waited.
So Catherine took him to the vet when he stopped eating. It was her turn. Many years ago, before the cats, we had to decide what to do with our aging dog Goldie. I took her in to be put to sleep. In that case, it was definitely time. She had arthritis so bad you had to be careful where you touched her. The kids were young then so their safety became a concern.
It was different this time. The kids are grown and gone. Clara has her own rescue cat and dog. She also has done volunteer work at the rescue center where she got them. Reid also had a cat when he lived at home but we had to give it away since it peed in the house. A wonderful friend took her in and it thrived living outside at their country home.
Now we are left with one nine-year-old cat, Mimi. She knew Grandpa was failing so intentionally left food for him. She even used a paw to slide a treat over to him. I saw the two of them curled up together, probably for the last time, a couple days before we took him in. I think she knows he’s gone for good.
Some might say that it was just another orange tabby cat. Cats and dogs come and go all the time. But anyone who has had pets knows what it’s like to lose them. An uncle of mine used to always have a dog on his farm but after his last dog was run over on the highway he vowed never to get another one. It was just too hard to deal with.
Any pet can become so much a part of a family that it’s hard to part ways. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s a cat, dog, bird, turtle or snake. Arguably, caring for pets is good training for kids. The typical short lives of pets, compared with humans, can create a beginning-to-end experience that kids can learn from. I’m sure our kids know that a part of their lives is now gone forever.
There are many stories from his younger days when we called him Arthur. In our old house we had a climber built up from the basement, where their litter boxes were, to a first-floor corner closet in the TV room. Every day as I was reading the paper I’d hear him climbing up and just as he appeared I’d scrunch the paper together and he’d race off in terror. It got to the point where he’d race through that room even if no one was there.
One time when we couldn’t find him, Catherine located him in one of her dresser drawers sleeping. She had closed him in. How he loved to escape outside to eat grass and vomit it up later in the house. He had some health issues over his life. Some years ago he chose a long holiday weekend to get sick, requiring a $1,000 stay at a pet clinic out of town. After I picked my jaw up from the floor, I told Catherine that he will be allowed to expire if this happens again.
Ironically, while I waited at home for Catherine to return from the pet clinic, I received a notification on my iPad that our credit card had just been used there. The amount of the charge was enough that I figured Grandpa was gone. Technology is impersonal that way. But the finality of it didn’t really hit me until Catherine got home with tears in her eyes.
It was the right thing to do but it still hurt. I asked her why it took so long for her to get home after I received notification of the charge. The clinic had her pay before any final decisions were made so that it would be easier on the way out. She had Grandpa in the car in the cat carrier. It was eerily still now, not shaking from the typical movement and the cries of “let me out of here” that we were used to.
We buried him at the family summer place in Wacouta. He’s probably climbing all over and eating all the grass he wants now in cat heaven.