Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Last week, I had to do one of the hardest things a pet owner will ever have to do – euthanize an animal. It was esp. hard because he had just started to trust us. A little background first…
We started off with two indoor only female cats (who only had eyes for each other, no kidding). We brought a pregnant stray in, as there was a freeze predicted for that night & she was about to blow. Sure enough, she had 6 kittens the next day. Everyone who saw them wanted one until they were old enough to leave their mom; then there were all kinds of excuses.
Ok, we decided to keep them. Unfortunately, they all started to breed together (but not the two original females, they wanted no part of the males). Then THEIR offspring were breeding & in very short order, we had 47 cats & kittens. Lucky for us, most of them had traces of Siamese in them, so Siamese Rescue in Dallas came down & took most of them for us, put their pictures on the SR website & they were all adopted.
Things were finally back to normal (and smelling much better) when six months later, someone dumped 6 kittens in our yard. Since we have several neighbors with cats, I didn’t want to feed them, hoping they would keep on going down the street. I was out-voted & we started feeding them. Since we didn’t plan on them being around for long, we referred to them by how they looked. One is named Blotchy Face. She’s still here. If I’d known, I would have given her a nicer name. 😛
Well, THEY all started breeding together. After their litters were born, we bought a humane trap (since none of them would let us near them), & took them all to the vet to get fixed and get their shots. Blotchy Face had 5 kittens in the back yard, but moved them after a week. When we next saw them, there were only 3. We named them Orange Baby, Beige Baby & Black Stripe Baby.
After about 6 months, Beige Baby disappeared. We weren’t too worried, since other of the backyard cats had disappeared & then returned. But he didn’t. This was 5 years ago.
About a year/year & 1/2 ago, a beige striped cat showed up in our driveway, very thin & beaten up looking. The other cats not only didn’t chase him off (very obviously a male), they all seemed a bit afraid of him, backing away any time they saw him. Except for Blotchy Face & Orange Baby. They pretty much ignored him. Was this our missing Beige Baby? He was the right color, right size & looked to be the right age. Of course, it could have just been coincidence that this stray found our house (or had it found for him – we’ve seen people dumping their cats in our yard & driving off – thanks).
We weren’t able to catch him to get him to the vet, but since all the other cats were fixed we didn’t have to worry about the females getting pregnant or the males getting into territorial fights with him. So, we tried to get him in the garage with the other garage cats when the weather was bad & otherwise tried to keep from scaring him (he would hide under the car or in the back of the garage if we got too close).
He spent his days lying under the car if it was hot, lying in the grass under the bushes when it was pleasant, & in a box in the garage that was plumped up with old matress pads when it was cold. That was pretty much it. Going by his appearance when he arrived, he’d had a rough life & decided to take it easy, not even wandering the neighborhood. He always had a ravenous appetite & he started to put on weight. His wounds healed & his fur grew back in & he was looking quite handsome.
Then, about 2 months ago, we noticed he was starting to get thin again. He was also getting scratched up around the face. This had us stumped, since we never saw him leave the property & never heard him fighting with anyone. He still had a great appetite & could eat an entire can of wet food by himself, eat what we gave the others to share & then go eat some dry food on top of all that. Unfortunately, it all started going right through him about 4 weeks ago.
One night, while he was busy eating his wet food, I dared to pet him. He flinched & started to go hide, but then came back to eat & let me scratch his ears. I then started scratching his back & that’s when I realized he was literally skin & bones (he really didn’t look that skinny). I was somewhat alarmed, but then decided it was probably worms & we would have to somehow get him to the vet for his various shots.
There didn’t seem to be any rush (since his appetite was so hearty), so he enjoyed our petting & purring sessions (finally), even going so far as to chase the other cats away so I could concentrate on him & I enjoyed gaining his trust. Every night when I would call the garage cats in (I don’t like them being outside at night), he was always the first one in, running up to me for me to pet & scratch him.
Last week, he finally let me pick him up. I almost droppped him, he was so bony & I was afraid I would hurt him. However, we made an appointment with the vet & I got him in the carrier, with little resistence. I put the carrier on the front seat facing me, so he wouldn’t be too scared. I scratched his face through the bars & he nibbled on my fingers. Otherwise, no problems for his first car ride.
When we got to the vet’s, they took us to an examining room where I let him out. He walked around sniffing things & kept tapping me on the leg, for me to pet him (which I did of course). I told the vet to do whatever was neccesary to get him back to health; shots, IV fluids or feeding, bathing him, whatever. She said since he was a stray we should do a blood test first for Feline Leukemia & FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus – like HIV in humans). I said ok. They drew the blood & Beige Baby stayed fairly calm, as I scratched his head & talked to him.
A few minutes later, the vet returned with the results – he had FIV. It is somewhat contagious (to other cats, not to humans), but mostly from puncture wounds, such as when fighting. There is no cure & no treatment to speak of, but a cat CAN be brought back to relative health by treating the symptoms & can live many years with the virus. If it’s an only cat, there’s no problem.
However, we have the garage cats who were afraid of him, the house cats (who never saw him) & the backyard cats that rarely interacted with him. Would they be safe once he was strong enough to get around again & maybe fight with the others?
I had to think quickly & I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to the other cats (making the decision while Beige Baby was licking my leg). I can’t even begin to convey how hard this was to do. He finally trusted me & what did I do? I took him to be tortured (temperature, fecal swap & blood draw) & then killed.
The vet decided to give him general anesthesia first before giving him the euthanizing shot, for the least amount of suffering. I stayed with him the whole time so he wouldn’t be so afraid. It’s a horrible thing to see & even though it wasn’t the first time for me, it’s hard to shake off. I wanted to bring him home to bury him, but the vet advised against it because of the other cats (his decomposing body contaminating areas where they would walk). So, he didn’t even get to be “home” after he died, instead being taken to a mass cremation with other animals.
Once he got over his fear of us, he was a really sweet cat. This is what’s bothering me so. I know it was the right thing to do, since I expected to find him dead in the garage every morning, & it probably would have been a very painful death if we had allowed “nature to take its course”. But still…