Our cat was part of our family.
Just over sixteen years ago, I got a cat for my son. We’d just moved into a new house (where we still live) and I wanted him to have a pet. Cats are independent, pretty low maintenance, and he loves cats. Win – win, right? So I went to the local shelter and brought home a rescue kitty, I can’t even remember what we named him though. He died in my bedroom doorway within days.
I went back to the humane society and looked for another tabby cat as close to what he looked like as I could find. That’s when Chloe found me. She climbed right up into my arms at the shelter. I brought her home and she was as much my cat as she was my son’s. She lived a good long life and we were lucky to have her.
She was mostly a house cat. I’m not much for the outdoors, and neither was Chloe. She’d lay in the sunshine on our front porch, but in all the years she was with us, Chloe only left our yard to go to the vet. She did love to snuggle though, and she spent as much time in my lap as she did anywhere else in the house. I’ll miss looking down and realizing she’d snuck into my lap without me noticing again.
It was hard to let her go.
Last weekend, Chloe went to hide in our basement, which was not unusual for her. What was different was that she didn’t want to come back upstairs. I took her food and water, and checked on her all weekend. But she hardly budged except to use the litter box. Monday morning I found her asleep at the foot of the basement steps, like she wanted to come upstairs but couldn’t make it.
I brought her up, tired to get her to eat or drink, but she was in a daze. She was walking, but unsteady on her feet. I took her out for some fresh air on the front porch, but she seemed confused. She kept walking in circles, no matter where she wanted to go. One side of her body was stiff compared to the other. I’d seen that before in people who’d suffered a stroke.
Off we went to the vet. They did bloodwork, which all came back healthy. Chloe was dehydrated, and just really old. They gave her fluids, and sent us home with antibiotics. We hoped she might snap out of whatever was wrong with her. But that didn’t happen. We watched her slowly deteriorate over the next three days. She stopped trying to walk, even to use the litterbox. We held her, snuggled her, and said our goodbyes.
Yesterday, we knew she was suffering. She purred in our laps, but even that was an effort. I’d never had to put a pet down before, so I struggled with the decision. Eventually, we were back at the vet’s office, but this time, in a small room with a couch to say our final farewell.
It was terrible. One minute she was alive. She was tired, but awake. The next minute, the vet injected a small vial of bluish sedative-laced ‘medicine’ in her leg. Within seconds of the injection, she relaxed and seconds later, she was gone.
Loss is impossible to adequately prepare for.
I knew I loved Chloe, but I was unprepared for the flood of memories and emotions that overwhelmed me. From her first moments in our home, to her last breath in my arms, she was a good companion, for my son and for the rest of our family. I don’t think I’ll have another cat. We’ve taken in strays before, but they were mostly outside cats, we never had another house cat like Chloe.
It sounds a bit silly to write about how much losing Chloe affected me. But it made me think about how I approach loss and grief in my writing. It’s difficult to write about emotions you’ve never or rarely felt. While I don’t wish loss or pain on anyone, I have a new appreciation for making difficult choices when faced with no good options.
I have a fresh wound in my soul that I couldn’t have prepared for, even though I knew Chloe was old and wouldn’t live forever. She’s gone, but she’s also still in our minds, and our hearts. So, as long as we keep those memories alive, she isn’t entirely gone either. Like losing the people we love who live on through us, Chloe is still here for a little while longer.