Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dead Cat Walking

We never meant to have four cats.
Some things just happen.

My long-term cat, Fritz, was used to roommate cats, and when I moved out on my own, he became insufferable. He was on me all the time; following me around, talking to me, sitting on me, and generally making me crazy. I decided he needed a cat of his own.

Enter: Max.

Max was an adorably tiny and spastic kitten, and Fritz took to him right away. He was also the cleanest kitten in the world as well as the most interactive cat toy ever purchased. While he did keep me up and get into a lot of things around the apartment, he was good for Fritz.

Sometime in 2001, I agreed to watch a friend’s cat while they were away working in Colorado. During the time they were gone, I moved into a house, bringing my two cats and her cat, Hazel, with me. They returned from Colorado, everything was busy, and it was September when she said “Do you want to just keep her?” By that time, I was totally attached to her, and so was Max, so I said yes. Just like that, I had three cats.

In 2004, I met Pete. Pete had a cat. In the fall of that year, we moved her in, in anticipation of Pete’s move a month later. Bang! Four cats!

She never adjusted. She hated the other three cats, who only wanted to sniff her over a few times and check out her litter box. She was a screaming, hissing mess, and she would not use her box if any of the other cats used it. Since you can’t explain any of this to a cat, and she was peeing on the bed, on pillows, on the rug, and pooping on the floor, we had to put her litter box in the guest room and close the door. Because she was not getting along with the other cats, and she needed access to a litter box, we had to put her in there too. The guestroom became a studio apartment for an old, grumpy kitty: food, water, toilet, bed. If she were a tormented artist, it would be interesting. But she was just a cat who had become convinced that she was the only cat, and the awakening to her misapprehension was rude.

It’s been three years, and it’s still the same. She’s our Flower in the attic. She hisses at the other cats when she comes out; she slinks around like a victim and Hazel and Max chase her because it’s irresistible; she won’t mingle with them; and she wants to stay in her room. We recently returned from a two-week trip in Ireland, and Asia seemed to be having new issues. Yesterday at a trip to the vet, we found out that either her kidney disease has progressed, causing an ulcer under her tongue, or it’s a tumor, and she is probably in quite a lot of pain. We decided to put her down this week, on Thursday.

This is a strange and new thing for me. My childhood cats died in my parents’ house, after I had left for college, and Fritz is now 18. I have never had to euthanize a pet. I feel a strange mixture of relief and sadness, not to mention a bit of guilt. Asia has been the casualty of my happiness. Pete pointed out that she would have gotten sick anyway, if she had never had to move into my house, and I know that it’s true. I also know that we did everything we could think of to make her comfortable and to fit her into the life of the house, but there’s this nagging feeling: her life certainly would have been better had Pete never met me. I felt bad for her then, unable to adjust and be content in her new surroundings. Here she was, happy in her apartment with her person all to herself, all that time, and then I come along and steal him away.

How’s that for anthropomorphizing?

I know it’s silly, and we don’t really have any other choice. That part of me feeling relief is going to be so happy to have that room back; to be able to clean it out and leave the door open; to be able to have guests; to not have to clean cat pee out futons and comforters.

Until then, we are living in a house with a cat who is under a death sentence that we prescribed. I can’t look at her without thinking about it and feeling terrible in many ways. I brought her out to sit with me on the couch for awhile, but it wasn’t making her happy; I was only doing it for me. Because I could not do anything for her, I could not seem to do anything. I didn’t want to clean or knit, read or write. I sat on the couch and watched “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Bachelor,” two things I have never done in my entire life and which certainly did not make me happy. I was not reveling in the decency and loveliness of my fellow humans. It was a bit of a rude awakening.

I guess that is how Asia has felt for three years.