Our Kittle is going to the vet this morning, for the last time. He is the oldest of our 7-member pet family, although we’ve never known exactly when his birthday is. He’s our feral cat, born as one of a large litter to a mom who did the best she could to find a safe place to have her babies, by the lake next to the library across the road from where we were living at the time. The kittens learned quickly how to fend for themselves and began scattering around the neighborhood looking for friendly handouts, which is how Kittle came to us.
We saw this young cat on the stairwell outside, and my daughter urged me to put food and water out for him. He ate and drank ravenously and then made himself at home on our patio, napping behind the broom in the corner. He stayed most of the rest of that day, and when we fed him again, he purred and nuzzled our hands and expressed an interest in coming inside our apartment. It didn’t take long for us to decide to invite him to stay, but a bath and a trip to the vet were in order first. The kitten that looked tan and brown before a bath was actually white and grey, and despite his cheerful demeanor was quite ill, infested with four types of worms and possibly feline AIDS. Thankfully the AIDS test was negative, and a round of antibiotics and deworming medicine, plus a special nutrient-rich diet, improved his status considerably. The vet said without treatment she’d have given him maybe 2-4 months to live, so he now had a new lease on life. She also said he was about 9 months old, so counting backwards would have placed his birth date sometime in October of 1998.
Now that he was well, he began living life with a vengeance. Always ready to play, always ready to eat, his energy level was exhausting. He was full of fun and while he was too active to be a lap cat, he sometimes stopped long enough to cuddle next to us and purr for short intervals. Unfortunately, his being active and endlessly curious nearly caused us to lose him again.
While bringing in groceries one bright breezy winter day, the door to the apartment had not been closed firmly and a strong breeze blew it ajar. From the window I could see Kittle poking his head outside, and called to another family member to close the door, but it was too late. He darted away and we ran after him, calling and coaxing, but the sense of freedom after living in the small apartment was too tempting. He ran and ran until we couldn’t see him anymore, though we looked everywhere we could think of for hours afterward. When it got too dark to see, we gave up and were sad about the loss of our Kittle, and planned to look again the next day.
Later that night he appeared outside the front door, but when we put out food and water for him he scampered away. We were encouraged that at least he remembered where we lived and that maybe he’d return again. We didn’t see him the next day, but the next night I saw a paw reach up and scratch at the screened window, and when I opened the front door, he meowed and came inside. We gave him a bath, over his loud protests, and he never again tried to run away. We also made sure all doors were closed securely from then on.
He seemed deliriously happy to be home, but over the following months, and particularly when we moved to a new house in a quiet neighborhood, he began to brood and spent long hours perched on the picnic table on the screened porch, staring at the woods out back. He seemed perfectly well, but it occurred to us he might be lonely. My daughter acquired a new kitten from a litter at her boyfriend’s family’s home, and Kittle perked up immediately, making it his job to show her the ropes and also give her a hard time, all in fun, of course.
Over the ensuing years, because we had plenty of room and rather soft hearts (and heads), we acquired more pets; first another abandoned kitten, then a puppy, then a pet store kitten, then two tiny puppies, bringing our total to 7. The Kittle was our elder statesman who presided over all, and the rest of the pets always appeared to respect his status in the household. He was happy and healthy and active and very much loved.
However, after years of good health, he developed a growth in his mouth, which seemed to come and go at first, but then it stayed, and because he didn’t show any symptoms of illness and didn’t complain about this growth which surely must have been bothering him, we didn’t even notice it until one day we were playing with him on his back, and as he opened his mouth to play-bite, there it was. How long had it been there? And then it would go away again. We were getting ready to move across the country and we would have the vet see him there. When we did, the news was grim. The treatment, even if we could have afforded it, would only prolong the inevitable. He had oral cancer, to which cats usually succumb quickly. We grieved at that time, but were determined to make his life as happy as possible for as long as possible. So for the past year, he has still been king of the household, still playful, with a good appetite, still affectionate and did his best to keep himself clean, though it was getting harder as the growth began to bleed regularly.
We read that when it’s time to make the decision to help a cat pass on peacefully, he’ll let you know. In the past few weeks our Kittle has slowed down considerably. He eats very little now and no longer feels like playing. He spends most of his time lying in a corner nest of boxes, which affords him some privacy and a quiet place to rest. The other cats and our dogs sense it’s best to leave him alone. He has lost a considerable amount of weight, and his quality of life is now very poor. It’s time.
So I called last Friday to make an appointment for him with our kindly vet. At 11:30 today my daughter will be taking him to the vet for the last time. He’s been such an important part of our family for such a long time; he will be greatly missed. May our dear Kittle rest in peace…