I have been thinking about you, and about writing this letter, for a long time. One thing that had been holding me up was that I didn’t know how to characterize our relationship. You were not my “fur child.” I was not your “mother,” or even “your person.” You were a member of the family, but none of the terms for familial relationship quite seem to apply. You were my dearest, softest, purriest, most wonderful furry-friend-family-person-cat.
You were young when we brought you home, not more than a year old. You were a “used” cat. A family with children had kept you previously, and they had not taken good care of you. At the shelter they told us that you had had to be treated for a broken tail and a tack in the roof of your mouth. Poor thing.
Hearing that story, I thought at first that you must have been abused, but you never acted like an abused cat. I suspect that what really happened is that you fell victim to your own worst instincts. Knowing you, you tried to sneak into a room that was off-limits, and you got your tail caught in a closing door. You were always doing things like that. And I wouldn’t put it past you to eat a tack. You were always trying to eat things that were bad for you. Those people should have been more careful with you, truly. But even as careful as we were, I have to admit that there were a few times when I had to pull stringy things out of you. Both ends, Mojo. Both ends. You really were your own worst enemy.
When we got you home from the shelter, several things caught our attention immediately. For one thing, you were loud. You made so much noise just breathing that we could always locate you by sound. We thought maybe the tack in the roof of the mouth had caused nasal damage, but later we wondered if you were part Bombay. You looked like a Bombay, and they’re known for their snuffly breathing.
You also had stinky breath. Always. No matter what you ate. But in time we learned to live with it, even to like it. We also liked the heart-shaped patch of white on your lower abdomen. It was adorable. In one of my favorite pictures, Faithful Reader is holding you and pretending to paint that patch of white on you with a paintbrush. And of course, we loved your laid-back personality.
But you couldn’t stay young forever, and you eventually developed some age-related issues. By last December your digestion had gotten so bad that you had to be surgically cleaned out. You came back from the vet with one leg shaven (a “chicken-bone leg,” as I called it), and though you seemed fine emotionally and mentally, your body never quite recovered, even with medication.
By the end of January, you had decided that you were ready to die. You moved yourself into my office and could not be convinced to leave, even though we’d already moved everything downstairs for your convenience. So we moved everything back up and into my office. Not that it mattered. You weren’t eating or drinking. You were throwing up bile. You were not happy to have company. You were trying to die.
We were willing to let you die naturally, because we knew it was what you wanted, but Death didn’t come for you. That’s when I decided that I had to take responsibility for your death, just as I’d taken responsibility for your life. In the wild, you would never have lived so long. A longer life isn’t worth much if the end is spent in suffering.
So I forced the situation. I called the vet. I put you in your carrier. Then Faithful Reader and I took you to the vet’s office, and we asked them to put you out of your misery, because I insisted. Me.
I still feel awful about it. I still feel that you could have lived several more months, maybe even longer, if we’d only been willing to give you more treatments. But, just before the procedure, after you had been sedated and bundled up in a blanket, you looked straight up at me several times, as if to tell me something. I didn’t know what it meant. I’ve thought about it many times since, and the only meaning that fits is “Let me go.”
I wasn’t ready to let you go, but I did, because I loved you. I will always miss your snuffly breathing, and your bad breath, and your deep purr, and your soft fur, and how you used to say “hi” whenever I passed by, and how you always jumped in my lap when I was sad, and how you were always there, always yourself.