It feels very adult to put down a pet. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
But first, your husband wraps the cat in an old beach towel and hands him to you. You tell the kids to say goodbye. (Of course you’ve read all about how to explain death to your 3-year-old. Keep it simple and be honest. He’s not coming back.)
And then there’s your own grief. I wonder what the books say? How are you supposed to feel about a cat? Is this what it feels like when a person dies? I just burst into tears in front of complete strangers. I’ve never felt these emotions before. He lived in my house for 12 years. He was my first baby. I fed him and bathed him in the tub. I injected him with insulin twice a day. I scolded him for peeing on the kids’ toys. I rubbed him, oh did I rub him. He loved to be rubbed and cuddled. Then I, alone, put him in the passenger seat next to me and drove him the three miles to the vet. There weren’t a lot of words; just, “It’s time.” And in a few minutes he was asleep. I kissed the top of his head and touched the white patch under his neck, and walked out of the room.
My cat’s name is Id. He was born in September 1996 and lived with his first owner, a neighbor of mine, for four years. When the neighbor, a dentist, moved to Japan to serve in the Navy I happily adopted Id, a Russian Blue, and his “brother” Ego, a Maine Coon in 2000.
“What are your cats’ names?” was always a very awkward question. “I didn’t name them! I adopted them.” But many people love their names – Ego and Id. According to Wikipedia, Ego “is the organized, realistic part” of the psyche as defined by Freud. “The id acts according to the “pleasure principle”, seeking to avoid pain or unpleasure (not ‘displeasure’) aroused by increases in instinctual tension.” I think that definition is fitting; Id kept things simple. If he liked you, he rubbed against you for hours. If he disliked you, he stopped in his tracks to hiss or urinate on the floor. Unfortunately, this earned him a reputation as a “scaredy cat” or a “wuss” or a cat that is not a people person. Quite the contrary, I say, but perhaps he was just a Mama’s boy. Incidentally, Id’s medical records say his real name was Mouser. Indeed he caught several mice in his day. He proved that he could hang with the big boys.
In fact, he was a BIG boy. In his final days he had dropped quite a bit of weight. It’s hard for me to remember how plump he was in his prime. “That’s the fattest cat I’ve ever seen!” friends would exclaim. I like to say that he was healthy and happy and extra cuddly. The nickname “Butterball Boy” caught on quickly.
Ego, Id and I moved around a lot. Ohio, Illinois, Washington, D.C. And several apartments in each state. The boys would often spend “summer camp” at my parent’s home in suburban Cleveland. They loved the large yard and neighboring woods. I am forever grateful to my parents for watching them anytime I was in transition or living with a roommate who was allergic to cats.
Ego, Id and I together experienced the start of my career, the marriage to my husband, the birth of my two babies and the purchase of our home in Chicago – the place we finally “settled” into to raise our family. As we were starting this new life, Id, closing in on 16 years of age, began declining in health. We put much energy and money into treating his ailments but it never seemed to be enough. He passed away on Thursday, December 27, 2012 with me by his side.
Driving home alone was sad. Coming home to two cat bowls was even worse. As I write this, Ego is fast asleep behind me on the bed. So should Id be. Id, I will miss your rubs and squeaky cries. I will miss your beautiful coat with its grey translucence. I could see silver on the tips of each strand of hair. I loved the small white patch on your neck; my husband called it your bowtie and said you were always dressed for the prom. I’m sorry that the kids took over the house. I hope they were never too mean to you. I hope I gave you enough love and attention. It doesn’t seem enough right now. I hope you enjoyed resting each day in the sunlight on my bed.
Growing up we had many – MANY – cats and dogs. Indoor cats, outdoor cats, adopted cats, shelter cats and at least two dogs that I remember. They are all gone now and it occurred to me just this morning that it was the duty of my father to wrap each animal in a blanket, drive to the veterinarian’s office and help them pass on. My mother and siblings and I would say goodbye and leave the hard part to my dad – the man of the house, the ultimate adult who took care of us and sheltered us from the sad reality of death. He would come home and move on with his day. We never spoke about what happened at the vet’s office. Today, it was I. Alone. All 34 years of me doing what I had to do – taking away the pain of my cherished pet, the boy who brought me such joy and companionship during our 12 years together. Goodnight Iddy, sleep well my sweet boy.