We had to let our sweet Fred go yesterday.
Everyone who met Fred loved him. Fred was the calmest, sweetest cat. Unless someone else was getting HIS skritchins, and then he’d walk away in a huff and shake his leg as he did so. And if you stopped skritching him? Nope, he wouldn’t have any of that either, and would lightly bite the skritchin hand. He had the sweetest meow. He loved to be hugged and held, sometimes he’d visit me in the bead room and if the litter box was clean or if he had eaten recently, I’d know he just wanted me to pick him up and hold him. He made eye contact and listened when we spoke to him, and he’d get a Wise Old Lion look about him when he was really paying attention. He got the I Love You Face when he was really happy to get snuggly. He truly loved us, it was obvious. He was very patient with children and visiting cats, and he never put the whoop-ass on little kittens who came to live with us. He would often leave a few bites of food behind in his bowl for the other cats. I never heard him hiss until The Great Enema/Tooth Pull of 2007… after that he hissed at every offense. When Gelly (spawn’s cat) stayed with us for a while, Mo kicked Gelly’s ass and drew blood regularly, but Fred tolerated him just fine and let him chase him around. Fred would act all annoyed and hiss at Gelly, but would often walk back over to Gelly and run away from him, hoping Gelly would chase him again.
Fred was always so polite about food – he would wait patiently until it was time to eat, and would ask nicely, even if he had been waiting way too long for someone to get up and feed him. He never shrieked at us (like Mo) or tried to trip us on the way to be fed (like Nelson and Sugar). His favorite people foods were French fries, raisins and yogurt, and he was still stealing pink cupcakes as recently as last summer, even with his fading eyesight. I lost count of how many times Fred totally slapped Mo upside the head for screaming incessantly when it was obvious they were about to be fed in mere seconds. Even after he had gone blind his aim was still spot on.
Fred was the first cat that was truly mine – the first cat I found on my own and took home and knew I could keep. We found him at some funky dude’s house and very nearly took his sister instead, but she had allegedly been claimed so we took Fred. (We suspect a friend of a friend ended up with his sister and she fared just as well in life as Fred did.) This cat-napping wasn’t planned, so his first night was spent without a litter box. The moment we found one in the garage in the morning, he got right into it and took a long, yellow leak – even without cat litter in it. What a good boy, holding it all night! And never once in his entire life, even when he was sick or injured, did he ever do his business anywhere but the litter box. Thanks Fred!
When we first got him, we thought Fred was a girl. I think it was because he was younger than we thought he was, and his little danglers hadn’t dropped yet. So when we took (her) to the vet to get spayed they shaved (her) belly and thankfully someone figured out this cat was a boy just in time. He ended up being a slightly larger than average cat and perhaps that’s another reason we thought he was a month or two older than he actually was.
His eyesight was entirely gone by late last fall, and he developed pneumonia due to inactivity. I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in gambling at the vet’s office. I think that this cat had a better life with us than he would have if he had been left to his own devices – he got plenty of love and food on the regular, he was kept indoors, he was neutered immediately, and he received medical attention when he absolutely needed it. Like the time he ate all sorts of random crap and couldn’t use the toilet as a result. And that other time when his fang got an abscess and had to be pulled. You know, stuff like that.
But when a cat is 17 years old, can’t see, probably has arthritis, has bad teeth and can’t exercise, well… to keep a sick, ancient animal alive just because a veterinarian has the tools to do so, doesn’t mean you should. I don’t think it’s right to repeatedly restrain an animal and stick it with needles or poke pills down its throat several times a day in the vain hope of undoing what time naturally does. It’s the worst way to make sure you don’t feel guilty for not doing EVERYTHING YOU COULD. I’ve decided that some areas of veterinary medicine are more for the pet owners than the pets. We did the everything-we-could thing with our Shoogs, mainly because we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and we didn’t even know how old she was, so down the rabbit hole we went. And believe me, it’s no better than simply allowing a beloved friend to fade away and being kind enough to end their suffering before it becomes excruciating for everyone. You don’t have your friend anymore, either way. So to let them live their last days in peace and not go broke in the process seems to make the most sense.
And that’s what we had to do yesterday. I knew early that morning as I was preparing for bed that it could be the day. Fred seemed restless, and Mo and Nelson seemed concerned about Fred, which was telling. He wouldn’t go lay down on the futon or in the bed, and that was highly unusual for Fred these days. But that afternoon at about 3pm, I heard Fred coughing and sneezing and gagging in the bed with me and somehow I knew before I even opened my eyes that when I did, what I would see wouldn’t be good. I won’t describe to you what I saw, I’ll just say it was very clear that I needed to gather my wits and take action. Nelson, of all cats, got up into my lap as I was having my tea – he could tell I was sad. Luckily it didn’t take too long to get into the clinic and get Fred taken care of. Poor Fred, sweet to the very end. Never cranky, never bitey or scratchy, just sweet little Fred. I’ll miss his mittens-and-bib, his head butts, his penchant for eating inedible yellow things and just hanging out listening to music. Whenever my husband would play the guitar, Fred would come into the room and sit next to him. I’ll sure miss my very best boy.
Love your fuzzy buddies. Even if they steal your bread, eat your shoelaces and lick every surface in your kitchen. It’s what they do. It’s better to laugh about it and enjoy every minute you have with them.
Thanks for reading.