I'm going to start with the ending, because that is how I would want to read this post. Maybe it's the only way I can write it, too.
Our cat, Ed, died last Saturday, July 30, 2017, after being hit by a car. We took him to the emergency vet, but after looking at the x-rays and listening to our options, we made the decision to end his life. His injuries were serious. They would have required costly surgery to repair, that would not have been easy to recover from, and would have left him likely to develop arthritis. It was not easy. Four days later, it's still not easy. I think we made the right decision, but I will never know for certain. No matter how I rationalize it, I have doubts.
If you're wondering how Ed got out, the answer is we let him out. We took a risk and lost.
Ed came into our lives via the back steps, as an outside cat, a stray. This was 2010. He was a young kitten, somewhere in his first year. He sat out back and meowed, and meowed, and meowed. At the time, we had seven other cats and were certainly not looking to take on another. But this little cat wouldn't go away, despite the fact that other cats seemed to dislike him. Eric was also dead-set against letting him in, so I fed him out back (see picture below). I started calling him Ed. I came home from work one day and Eric told me the little cat had sat on his lap while he was hanging out in the back yard. Cha-ching!
We took Ed to our vet to get him neutered and get his shots, you know, so we could adopt him out to someone else, because like I said, we didn't need another cat. When I told this story in the past, I used to say, "Then he was a $300 cat, so we kept him."
But it had nothing to do with the money. Ed was a sweet, affectionate cat. He loved people and he had chosen us. It must have been obvious to him that we would be suckers (anyone with seven cats is a sucker, trust me), but I don't think Ed would have had a difficult time getting any cat-lover to take him in. He was a sweetheart.
Ed let me hold him on my shoulder like a baby. He"helped" us when we worked in the yard. Where we dug in to pull weeds, he dug in, too. In bed, he settled in between our two pillows and made certain his body touched both of us. He laid on the floor with his back legs out, frog-style, to cool off. He curled up on my shoulder when I was on the couch reading and he nestled himself between Eric's thigh and the side of the chair when he could.
He was cute as shit and I loved him. I know you're not supposed to have favorites with kids, but I think it's okay with cats. Ed was my favorite.
It wasn't all cuddles and cuteness, of course. Ed was a rabbit killer, a bird killer and a mouse killer. We put collars with bells on him and he managed to lose them within 48 hours. He pooped in our garden and the neighbor's garden, and got into fights with other cats. His ears were all notched up by fighting when he was young, and up until his dying day, he had a scratched-up nose more often than not.
He had the most irritating meow of any cat I've known, a kind of grating, high-pitched yowl. When Ed meowed to go out, you wanted to let him out just to shut him up. If you didn't let him out, he continued meowing, paced, clawed at the curtains and the window. Meowed some more. Chased you down and meowed at you. Ed didn't ask, so much as demand.
And boy, was he a cat who wanted to be outside. He came in to eat, then went right back out. He came in and cuddled, then went back out. All cats enjoy passing through the door, but Ed took this to an unprecedented level. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Over and over. None of our other cats had ever come close to anything like what Ed wanted.
At one point, our over-sized garage door broke, kinda collapsed on itself, and because of the cost, we put off replacing it. The garage became a storage shed and we had an old cat tree out there, you know, just because. During that year, possums moved into the garage. One night, I went outside for something and a possum was on one shelf of the cat tree. Ed was on another. Just hanging out with his possum friend.
Could I have kept Ed inside and should I have tried harder? Yes. Maybe.
One of our other cats, Ben, was also a stray who showed up on the porch one cold winter. But Ben is nothing like how Ed was. Ben goes out occasionally, but he doesn't really seem to care about it. If I decided right now that Ben was never going out again, he might be a little annoyed once in a while, but he would accept it and move on. Ed was not like that.
When Ed was "put to sleep," it really did seem like he was going to sleep. After the first syringe, he curled his head into my hand, as he might have done if he was sleeping on my lap and I was petting him.
If you have pets, you've probably thought about what you might and might not do for them if they needed expensive veterinary care. Eric and I had discussed in the past what measures we'd go to to prolong a pet's life. When the cat I'd had since college, Bobo, developed chronic pulmonary disease, we took him to the vet regularly to have fluid drained off his lungs. That added up, but it made him comfortable. When our cat Leroy had a crystallization of his urethra, we paid for that treatment , which involved an overnight stay at the emergency vet. But when the vet at the emergency clinic told us Ed's surgery would run $4500, would require a long recovery, and wouldn't leave him the same, we knew right away the choice we would make. I don't know where the line is exactly, but we were in agreement that that wasn't something we wanted to do.
Our house has french doors between the living room and the front bedroom, which we use both as a guest bedroom and an office. I'm typing this facing the french doors, and directly on the other side of the doors is our couch. Just a couple days before Ed died, he was standing on the back of the couch looking at me through the doors. He appeared impatient, as if he was wondering why I wouldn't just open the doors for him. I tried to tell him he needed to come around, but cats don't listen, so he just looked at me, all wide eyed and adorable. Eric was sitting behind me and he commented that Ed was the cutest cat.
It's funny, because I think of Ed as a mostly white cat, but when I look at him in these pictures, I see a mostly brown cat. Ed was white on the bottom and brown-and-black speckled on top. His legs were white. His chest was white. His toes were black. I think I registered his coloring most often when he was walking toward me or laying on his back.
The question I keep coming back to is this. Making the decision to end Ed's life made sense to me, but is it the decision Ed would have wanted us to make? Of course there's no way to know. My gut tells me the answer is yes. I don't think Ed would have been happy, and I'm not sure we would have been as happy with Ed. But it's the what-ifs that get me.
Oh, Ed. The day he died, I spent eight hours repainting a room in our house, a project we'd already started. I needed to keep busy. The next day, I ran 4 miles, walked the dog twice, and cleaned the entire house. Everything I did, I thought, the last time I did this, Ed was alive. Or, if Ed was alive, he'd be here now. I didn't stop thinking about Ed.
The third day, I noticed that the other cats seem calmer without Ed around. Although Ed lived here for seven years, the others never really accepted him. They were jerks then and they're bigger jerks now. I had to feed Ed in a different area because they wouldn't leave food for him. Ed was liable to get smacked down (literally) by any cat whose path he crossed when he was inside. That, I imagine, was part of the reason he wanted to be out so much. But he kept coming back. He wanted to be in, too.
The night before Ed died, I came home from work about 11:30 pm, my usual time. Eric was already in bed, but when I told him I wanted to sit outside, enjoy the nice weather, and have a drink, he agreed to join me. Ed and another one of our cats, the part-Siamese Alfie, came out with us. Ed and Alfie got into a spat on the sidewalk by the parked cars and I went down and yelled at them. Alfie looked appropriately chastened. Ed continued the spat for a bit, then let it go. Eric and I sat down on the front porch. The next time we noticed Ed, he was in the yard across the street, in front of the neighbor's house, a yard he's been in many times. Another cat was there, one we hadn't seen before. It looked and sounded as if they might fight, but they ended up just kind of hanging out on the grass over there. That's how we left Ed that night, hanging out with a frenemy.
The next morning, our neighbor woke us up, calling to tell us that Ed was howling in distress against a fence a few houses down.
Ed, what bad luck brought you to that point? I will never now what exactly happened, how his instincts on how to stay out of the way of cars failed him. After all, as a friend said, he was a "city cat."
Even city cats make mistakes, I guess.
If you have a cat and your cat is not hell-bent on going outside, keep them inside. But if you have a cat like Ed, I understand why you'd let him out. Would Ed have eventually settled in if I'd never let him outside again? I don't know. The situation was complicated by the fact that we were letting some of our other cats outside, although none of them did (or does) want to be out as much as Ed did. I honestly believe Ed's happiest moments were when we were all outside, hanging out on the deck or gardening. If I went outside, Ed was there, ready to spend time together.
Once when he was young, Ed followed me all the way around the block. He took the path the mail carrier takes, across lawns and closer to the houses, rather than on the sidewalk, but he stayed near me. After that, if he started to follow, I took him back and threw him in the house, to keep him safe.
Of course it was temporary. Keeping anyone, any pet, any thing, safe, is always temporary, or maybe an illusion altogether. But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying.
The house is quieter, as the remaining cats (four now) don't care to go out nearly as much. Also they get along for the most part. They were united in their hatred of Ed, and they are showing no signs of needing to find a new target for those feelings.
But I miss Ed. The last time I wrote a blog post, Ed was still alive. With every day that passes. though, there are fewer of those firsts. With time, the trauma and tragedy of that day fades, and happy memories gain hold. Pain yields to love.
As much as I love the idea of Ed purring in the sun for eternity in some sort of pet heaven, I believe he'll best be remembered in memories, in pictures, and in these words.
Thanks for reading about Ed.