Thursday, March 20, 2014

Yesterday I had to end the life of a perfectly healthy young cat.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  Maybe we shouldn't have named her after a song that might have been about mind altering drugs. 

I had to.  What else was I going to do with her?

She was cute, petite, pretty, fluffy, and volatile.  She'd be purring and cuddling and affectionately vigorously smashing her head into my cheek, and then turn around and hiss and growl like the devil at somebody else.  She went after the dog a few times and I was concerned about his safety.  They used to play.  It devolved to the point that Dobby chased Lucy across the room, looking for fun, only to have her turn into a screeching dangerous monster.

Back when they were friends.  

My house was full of stress.  One by one, all of us humans got worn down by the constant pressure of keeping track of where she was and what mood she was in.

I tried.  Please believe, I tried.  I worked on behaviour modification, which is extremely difficult with a cat.  I tried medication.  She gobbled up her pills, and in fact, I was able to pick her up and pry open her little mouth and pop that pill right down her throat.  It seemed to help.  A little tiny bit.  She still had a hate on for the dog though.

She wasn't always like this.  When we got her, about five years ago, she was a scared little skittish kitten.  I hadn't ever had a female house cat, and it had been a looooong time since we had a kitten, so I waited for her to grow up and settle down.  She never did either.  I could handle sharing a home with a cat who isn't friendly to strangers.  I could handle a cat who would rather be looked at than cuddled.  I maybe even could have tolerated her mood swings.  But then she started getting violent.

And... this isn't my house.  I have to be respectful of the other people I live with.

So what were my options?  Take her out to the barn?  I'd take the risk of her attacking my beloved barn cats, Moe and Dice.  And, probably have her end up having a very difficult end. She'd always been an indoor cat, no outdoor survival skills, and we live next to a busy highway.

Take her to the pound, like where we got her?

They can't take her.  They're full to capacity.  Plus, we live out of county.  Plus, they can't take a cat with that many issues, and will therefore be hard to adopt.  She'd spend years in a cage, waiting for someone to choose a cat who may or may not turn vicious without warning.

Let her go?  To fend for herself?  Maybe become somebody else's problem?  End up in the pound as a stray?

Try to give her away to someone without telling them about her problems?  Have someone come back and tell me how she ripped open their hand and then what, I pretend she never did that before?

I had only one option left.  I took her to the vet clinic, tears rolling down my face, and had her put down quietly and with as much dignity as possible.  I'm sure it was the only quiet thing she ever did in her five years of life.

Call me crazy but I am sure she knew what was up.  She got really heavy when I picked her up and put her in the crate.  She was tense and heavy as we sat on the couch waiting for the vet.  I told her it wasn't her fault.  None of this was her fault.  I don't blame her; I really believe she couldn't help it.

We were told at the shelter she came from that she was part of a massive confiscation.  There were like, 20 dogs and 50 cats pulled out of a house.  Or 10 dogs and 30 cats.  Or 40 dogs and 100 cats.  Either way, I can't help but wonder if she missed out on some important socialization, with other animals and humans, or if she had some invisible problem on account of her mother being her sister-cousin. I don't know.  It's no use blaming the animal hoarder, or the shelter workers who didn't euthanize the whole lot of them right away.  She looked fine.  Sometimes she was really sweet and charming.  Other times she wasn't, and she got worse, and what's the point in analyzing it now?

This was harder than I expected.  It's not like euthanizing an animal that's old or sick or injured.

Dobby is agitated today.  It doesn't matter that the cat wasn't a good buddy to him anymore; he's a dog, everybody is a potential friend.  He knows she's gone and it bothers him.  He's had some solid cuddling today and he'll get more.  He and I will both need it.  I'll miss the cat chatter.  She was talkative.  I'll miss those occasions when she liked to be petted.  I'll miss the breakfast purr.  I won't miss the unpredictable moods and the sinking feeling of dread when the devil growling started.

Goodbye little cat.  


mugwump said...

I'm sorry.That was a tough, loving and responsible thing to do.

Auntie said...

I am very sorry to hear that news but you did the right thing. No doubt whatsoever.

Auntie said...

I am very sorry to hear that news but you did the right thing. No doubt whatsoever.

Auntie said...

I am very sorry to hear that news but you did the right thing. No doubt whatsoever.

Auntie said...

Sorry, Heidi. I'm not sure why my comment came out in triplicate!

Heidi the Hick said...

Dorothy, maybe I needed to hear it over and over. (Thank you.)

And thank you Mugs, for saying it was a loving thing to do. It felt awful. She was getting harder to love. I'm trying to remember the good times.

And, telling myself this doesn't make me a bad pet owner.

Cindy D. said...

Oh wow, I know that had to be hard. I am so so sorry. I agree with Mugs, it was the loving thing to do.

Undercover Sandy Cove-r said...

Oh, Heidi, so sorry that you had to do that. I know how difficult it is to have to do it to a pet who's old and ill, or just ill. It hurts a lot more when they're young. You did the right thing though. Amazing how something who weighs all of 5 pounds soaking wet can hijack your peace of mind and place your health and safety in jeopardy. Something must have triggered such violent aggression. You hit the nail on the head when you mention the rescue group not euthanizing. It's like I say about human healthcare - just because you can keep someone alive doesn't mean you should. Lucy is in a good place now. You did the best thing for her. When you're ready, you will find Dobby another buddy.

Sarah Bishop said...

Twice my family has had to euthanize perfectly lovely young animals who like your cat were tempermantally off. Unlike humans you can't send a mentally ill animal for therapy and fix the issues. Management only takes you so far. The risk of accident is too great. You did the right thing. The responsible thing. And as Mugs said, the loving thing.

::hugs if you want them::

Heidi the Hick said...

I have to admit, I'm relieved at the understanding from all of you... there could have been some harsh criticism. I'd like to think we're all reasonable people here. But this topic can really upset people.

Thank you.

Phyllis - this line: "Amazing how something who weighs all of 5 pounds soaking wet can hijack your peace of mind and place your health and safety in jeopardy. "

This is exactly why I held off so long on making that final decision. Who would have thought? And she wasn't always like that, but she was getting worse. Ugh.

Sarah, wow, you've been through it. Maybe I had some sympathy for the crazy cat, being crazy myself. At least I never stabbed anybody.

Well, there are a lot of critters in the world that need attention. We can't save them all. I did what I could...

Anonymous said...

Hi Heidi,
I still follow your blog even though I closed mine down a few years back (Olly Unglued).
I believe you did the right thing for everyone regarding Lucy. I haven't had any luck with female cats, and prefer a male. Last summer I spoke with a vet who had an interesting theory about it. When we have our female cats spayed they kind of mentally hit the hormonal wall, much like if you or I was to have our overies removed and not be given hormone replacement therapy. It was the best explanation I had heard on the subject.
Terri (Olly)

jules said...

I'm so sorry Heidi. It must be the hardest thing we human companions have to do for our furry friends. We had to do the same with our newish dog on Wednesday as well. Behaviour problems that couldn't be controlled: cat hunting.

I'm so sorry.

redhorse said...

If it's any consolation, the cat whisperer says the only cats he's ever know who behaved this way had big medical issues, like a brain tumor. The mother/sister/cousin could be it too.

I had a rescue dog about 12 years ago that I put down. I really loved that dog, I had taken him to a couple of behaviorists and my vet trying to figure out what was wrong with him. He was really sweet and funny most of the time, but then something in his brain would switch off, and he didn't seem to understand what was going on around him, but he would attack other dogs, humans. At first it didn't happen much, then it was almost every day. I just couldn't leave him with the vet or a behaviorist, for more testing or treatment, he had already been through so much. Early in our relationship I had made up my mind I would do everything I could for him, whatever it took. Then one day at the vet, after he had been given tranquilizers, had torn up my arms (I can still see the scars from that day) and I had refused to have him put down for months when everyone told me to, I realized he was suffering. I knew I wasn't going to be able to figure it out, and that I couldn't have him treated anymore. It wasn't fair to him or the vet, and something clicked in my head and I asked if they could put him down right then. I stayed with him, and I grieved more for him than for any of my animals. I'm crying now. It is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. I wish I could tell you a good way to handle it, but I haven't figured that out. I will say I believe you're wrong that she was perfectly healthy. You just don't know what was wrong with her.

Heidi the Hick said...

You know what redhorse, I think you're right. She may have been physically healthy but there had to be something terribly wrong with her brain. If there was a way to find out, I couldn't spend the money to treat it. Isn't it awful when you realize there's nothing else you can do for that animal? I often wondered if Lucy was suffering. Well, she isn't now. Maybe we don't have answers for how to deal with this kind of grief but it helps to know I'm not alone. I I stayed with her too, just like you did for your dog. I felt it was the least I could do.

Jules... Having said that, I wish you hadn't had to go through it too. I'm sorry for your loss.

Hello again Olly! You know, we got a female cat this time because I wanted a different cat from our Nigel, who was basically perfect and would be a hard standard for the next cat to live up to. At first I figured I just wasn't used to female cats. Then I wondered if all female cats are kind of nutty. I'm not going to say I'll never get another one but I might be more cautious. Oh who knows. I tend to fall in love easily...

Paul Tee said...

Sad, sad, sad...
The hardest choices are those you know you should make but don't want to.
Check out http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/parenting/why-one-mother-gave-back-her-adopted-son-163800330.html
I know it's not the same, but the soul searching and regret that goes with it, is.

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