My little 20 year old puss finally drew her final breath last night; I'm not going to lie and say it was a peaceful moment because for me it was the most horrendous thing I've ever experienced, but for her it was quick, painless and her little spirit was set free (if you believe in such things - alas this past couple of weeks has made me realise more than I ever did that such things no longer exist). We are born, we exist (live) then we die. It's that simple. There was no white light beaming down on her, there was no sensing of her spirit leaving her body; it was just the end. Nothing more, nothing less and while I am utterly devastated at how quick it all happened (just a few weeks ago she was my fluffy, purring smelly cat) I take heart from knowing if it wasn't for me she'd most likely not have survived and made it to 4 weeks old, for when I came across her the rest of the litter she was a part of (along with the mother cat) had all perished. The people who had the mother cat just dumped them all and left them to defend for themselves. I saved her that day although in reality I think she saved me for I was a lost soul wandering with no real direction when she entered my life. I take comfort also from knowing that she only ever visited the vet's twice in those 20 years (other than for jabs and when she was neutered). The first time was just over 3 years ago when she had a touch of cystitis that most likely would have cleared up on it's own but I wasn't going to take any risks. The second time was 2 years ago when I'd missed one of her claws (I used to trim them for her each week) and it had begun to grow in on itself. The vet that day checked her all over and said what great condition she was in for an 8 year old and commented on how well she was looked after. When I pointed out she wasn't 8 but 18 he looked directly at me, said "bloody hell" before turning to the cat to say "you've definitely been one hell of a pampered puss". I take comfort from all of that as I sit here trying to stop even more tears from flowing - I honestly didn't know it was possible for a human being to produce so many tears, and I've lost my Dad, best friend and boyfriend over the years.
I do/did feel guilty that maybe I could have done more for her even though I know I did all I could. She wasn't in pain, she never suffered and right up until the minute before she passed she'd been wrapped up in a blanket on my lap with her head resting on my chest. It's weird because I have a photo in front of me (on the picture wall I created at work) and there is a shot of her I took just 4 weeks ago. Looking at it I thought would make me cry (again) yet it's had the opposite effect for I look at her in it and see my pampurred puss, then remember how she was just yesterday and it's as if I am looking at another cat. That oddly brings me comfort. In the photo she looks fluffy and alert; in reality she'd not looked that way for a couple of days, in fact she reminded me yesterday of some kind of zombie. I think then I knew it would happen before daybreak today and I'm so glad it happened when she was with me and not after I had gone to bed when she would have been alone.
My whole retirement plan was to be the "crazy cat lady" living in the family home surrounded by cats with the curtains always drawn so that the neighbourhood kids would dare each other to run up the path and knock on the door. I now realise there is no way that will happen. I can never put myself through this pain again no matter how empty my life and home may feel without a cat in it. The one thing I couldn't bring myself to do was bury her though; my Mum (bless her) did that for me. I had considered cremating her originally - had always planned to do so - then Mum mentioned about how all the other animals we've had are buried in our garden (I feel for whoever owns our house after we've gone for there are all manner of animals out there) and when I looked at what there was of her to be honest there wasn't enough to cremate and I know the bones don't burn and couldn't bear the thought of those being ground down, so agreed to her being buried in the garden. If Mum had not said she could do it I would have had to do so but when she said she was ok to I was so relieved. I hated the thought of putting her little cold body into the ground then putting soil on top of her. Silly really for her body is of no use to her now but I just couldn't do it. I'm also glad I chose not to have her cremated now, partly because I have no idea if they would have done her alone, if I'd have got parts of someone else's beloved pet back at the same time. I also like that she's close by.
Isn't it weird how an animals death can affect us though? I honestly believe I've cried more in the past 2 weeks over my cat than I did over my own Dad dying and I loved that man so very much. I think part of it is because a human can tell us how they feel, talk to us about their wishes. While we may be powerless to stop anything that is something which makes is easier (not really easier but that's that only word I could think of) to deal with it. An animal can't tell us how they're feeling (unless of course they are in pain at which point they'll make enough noise to let us know). I have no idea if my cat wanted to carry on the way she was (I assume when she refused food she had decided "enough is enough" yet still her little heart kept beating which gave me a false hope she was going to get better and wanted to keep living. Had she been human she would have been able to tell me how she was feeling. That's been the hardest thing, the whole not knowing if what I did was right. I just have to tell myself she got to be over 20 in my care so I can't have got it too wrong and from that I am today able to now sit here and tap away at the keys without any tears spilling onto the keyboard. If I'd been an awful 'cat mummy' she'd never have made it this far and as I said she was at home, surrounded by love and well cared for. I could have done no more.