Saying good-bye to an old friend

Why do we torture ourselves by adopting animals? We know that we will outlive them and that there is the inevitability of heartbreak. We know they are a luxury that costs money, limits our living environment and mobility and that create innumerable sanitary and health issues. Yet, we still do it.

We convince ourselves that the companionship and love we feel for another creature makes it all worthwhile. In the meantime however, we trap these animals in a domestic world, in which none of them should truly exist. We imbue these animals with human characteristics that do not exist. Now, I am not one of those who believes that animals cannot feel affection. I know that they do and it’s not that different from what humans feel.

I’ve heard the argument that dogs cannot smile, but they can certainly demonstrate happiness, excitement and loyalty. I refuse to believe it’s nothing more than pack behaviour. Animals are more complex than our science has been able to yet determine.

I have had pets of the usual types. I’ve had several dogs and cats in my lifetime, fish, hamsters and even small lizards. I currently have a single Oscar, named Schindler, who is 3 years old and a beautiful specimen. We have a mixed breed, black lab named Ginger, who is 11 and just starting to show signs of her advanced age. We also have a strong, long-haired male cat, Smoke. It’s this cat that prompted my post.

Smoke is 12 years old, now. He’s one of the most affectionate cats I’ve ever encountered. When strangers, especially kids enter a home, most cats scurry away. Smoke doesn’t. He jumps up on the strangers laps once he’s made himself known and rubbed against them a few times. Granted, that’s not terribly unusual, but how about this? My wife runs a day care. There are usually two or three children around, mostly toddlers. Smoke will sit on the floor, in the middle of their toys and let them maul him. He loves it. He loves the attention. That is not normal behaviour for a cat. He doesn’t get into things he’s not supposed to. For 11 years he was very clean.

The only time he urinated outside his litter was when he wanted to tell us that his litter was too dirty and even then, he’d pee in the bathtub drain. You would smell it within minutes, but there was nothing to clean up. Run the water for a few seconds and it was done.

He’s never gotten into garbage, jumped on counters and very rarely has he ever shown any interest in house plants. He was exceptionally well behaved.

Then, we moved. That was the unfortunate turn of events that we cannot undo. He didn’t handle the move well. He started to lick the fur off his back. We treated his nerves. We bought him a calming collar and got that under control.

He started urinating outside the litter, all over the place. We treated him for possible dehydration. We bought him higher quality food, wet and dry. We introduced a second litter, upstairs. We treated him for urinary tract infection. We put tin foil over the places he was urinating, kept replacing the calming collars. We used pheromone sprays to prevent him from scenting or spraying in various places. Those were a complete waste of money. We bought a high quality cleaner to eliminate the odours. It also uses a different set of pheromones to prevent resoiling. While it is excellent at eliminating the odours, it doesn’t prevent resoiling. I have a high quality carpet cleaner and have repeatedly cleaned the landing and steps where he soils.

He will also urinate in the floor vents, if they’re not covered. Those are easy to clean, because they a solid surface. The carpets of course, are much more difficult.

We gave him more attention and tried everything we could to relieve possible stress. Nothing has worked. He continues to pee outside the litter, rarely in. Last night and today were the last straws. He tried jumping up on my lap. I was eating and shooed him away. He tried again, so I shooed him once more, made a short hiss sound and pushed his butt away from me, so he would stop. He knows not to climb on us while we’re eating. This isn’t something new. He immediately went to the kitchen and urinated on the floor vent. That was pure spite.

This morning I came downstairs to find that he had urinated in the middle of the floor, where our dog bed normally sits. This was a full bladder release, not scenting. This is no bladder control issue. This is strictly behavioural. We can no longer have him destroying our living environment. My wife has been suffering from migraines caused by either the urine smell or the cleaning chemicals. The house either stinks from one or the other, at all times. I’ve now started suffering from dizzy spells and migraines when I wake up, each morning. If I stay at home, it bothers me all day. If I am at work, I have no problem, whatsoever. I have no doubt the issue is the chemicals we’ve had to introduce in order to counteract this behaviour.

The only thing left is to get him fixed, but as everyone has told us, that rarely works. His “happiness” is causing health issues for my wife and I. We’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money trying to save this cat. He’s healthy and well balanced in every other respect, which makes this such a shame. I believe that because our son is deep into his teenage years, the stress from the move 10 months ago and the plethora of smells from other cats in the neighbourhood now that we have a dozen new windows, are just too much for him to handle. I have no doubt that what he is doing is strictly behavioural. We’ve tried to find someone to adopt him, without success. Nobody adopts adult cats, let alone one that isn’t fixed. So, we have to put him down.

Our hearts are broken. We love him dearly, but we cannot stop his abhorrent behaviour and it’s having serious health implications for the rest of us. There is also the fact that as daycare providers, we are responsible for the health and well being of other peoples’ children. We were afraid that this would be the end result, once he started, but fought to avoid it, as long as possible. 10 months is long enough. The monetary expenses aside, we’ve tried more than enough things to put off the inevitable.

While cats are wonderful animals, they were never meant to be domesticated. It’s not fair to them. If you own a farm, or country home, you can allow them a greater sense of freedom and that is a much more reasonable living environment for them, but city living is not. I will never again own a cat. It breaks my heart that we have to do this, but he’s left us no other choice. We will spend two more weeks with him, enjoy his company as long as possible and then euthanize him. This is the inevitable conclusion to every pet owner’s cycle and it is never easy. If the animal is sick and suffering, you don’t want them to endure more than they need to. Smoke isn’t, but the outcome is the same. He will be missed.

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2 thoughts on “Saying good-bye to an old friend

  1. What a tragedy. After all those years of having him, you put him down. I can’t imagine that- that would give me major guilt. It doesn’t affect me too bad if they die of sickness or age, but when I’m deciding to end their life, it absolutely kills me. So sorry.

    • It is. He’s healthy and relatively happy and the decision we’re making almost feels like it’s because he has become inconvenient for us, but that’s just not the case. The way the chemicals and smells have started to affect our own health has made the decision somewhat easier, but only in a selfish way. It will still be very difficult to do. I only wish we could find a better home for him, instead.

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