Our oldest cat, Eddy, died last week. He died because we put him to sleep. Eddy stopped eating or drinking much a couple months ago. Then he got real skinny and cried a lot, like it hurt when he walked. Momma said he was probably just sore from being so old. He was seventeen. We read lots of articles online first about cats and their ‘quality of life.’ I thought I knew a lot about ‘quality of life’ because of how much we talk about it for me. But it got confusing for me to think about what happens if ‘quality of life’ is gone.
The days before he died I spent a lot of time with him. I tried to always feed him soft food and I put a heating pad in his bed. I really wanted him to be happy and to not have any pain. Mostly, I wanted to make him better. I asked Momma if we could give him Dilaudid but for cats, because that’s what I always take when I have pain. She said it didn’t really work like that for animals when they got old. That’s when we started reading online about ‘quality of life’. We looked at lots of different sites but they all seemed to say the same thing: if he couldn’t walk much or eat and if he was suffering then the best thing to do was to put him to sleep so he wouldn’t suffer anymore. That was scary for me to think about someone having so much pain that you just kill them.
Momma told me a couple times that the way we make decisions for old animals is different than the way we make decisions for young humans. But I couldn’t really see why it was different. He was part of our family. Still, I didn’t like that he was suffering so finally I agreed that it was the right thing to do.
We have a friend that’s a vet and she came over to our house that night with the medicine. We had done this a couple years ago with our dog – right in our living room, all together as a family – but this time was different for me. Momma held him the whole time and I rubbed his head. When it was over I stopped crying and went to my room. I didn’t come out much or even talk much for a few days. The only time I left really, I would just go down and sit by his grave where daddy buried him.
One night momma finally told me that she was worried about me because I had stopped talking. I didn’t really say anything so that just made her talk more. She kept trying to make me feel better about the way we cared for him and how we helped him not suffer anymore. She kept trying to make it okay. Finally I just started crying and I yelled: “We stopped fighting for him! He was in pain and instead of fighting for him, we just killed him!” Then she started crying and she said she understood. I thought that was weird because I wasn’t even so sure I understood why I was so upset.
The next day I decorated Eddy’s grave. I made a circle of sticks and flowers all around it. There’s a tree in our backyard where I go to think sometimes, or talk to God, I’m not sure which. It’s covered in this soft moss that I like to touch when I’m thinking. Since I had put my hand on that moss so many times I figured a part of me was on it. I pulled some of the moss out from around the tree and then cover Eddy’s grave with it, that way a part of me would still be close to him. I wanted him to know that even though we stopped fighting for him, he would never be alone.