We made the horrendously difficult decision to put our Xena to sleep yesterday. She was sixteen and was in my life long before hubby came along. We had a history together. When I moved to my second apartment and learned that cats were allowed, I decided to become a first-time pet owner. I acquired her sister from a coworker who was looking to place a kitty in a loving home. She was a cuddly little runty thing and only 9 months old. She was gray with white feet and face and I instantly fell in love and named her Zoe. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving little Zoe alone all day while I was at work, so the very next day I went up to our local APL to find her a sister. I remember getting there and there weren’t many cats out but was told there were several new kitties being cared for and fed and I could come back in a couple hours to see them.
I went to lunch and came back, looking at all the cages and interacting with all the kittens. I came across a trio of the prettiest light-colored calicos. One was crazy rambunctious, one was very shy and not interested in interacting, and the middle one was somewhere in between. I knew that she was the one I wanted to adopt. After taking care of the paperwork, I remember coming back to find that she was the only one left of the three in the cage and that her sisters were adopted. I was so sad seeing her waiting there all alone that I couldn’t wait to get her home.
I put her in the carrier that I had purchased for “small/medium” pets and got a good laugh when I realized how big it was for my tiny kitty. Every time she tried to walk as I carried it, I’d feel her slip as the carrier became unbalanced and she’d slide into one of the walls. She was the tiniest little puffball.
Once I got her home, Zoe let it be known that she was not happy. It only took 24 hours for her to rule the roost. She would wrestle the new kitty or chase her away, but kitty kept coming back for more. Within a few days, they were fast friends. I still struggled with a name for her but when I thought about how tough she was and how she could almost make it to the top of the bed in one leap, or would climb the back of a dining chair like a ladder and with one shaky outreached paw, try to reach the table to see what I was working on, I decided to call her Xena. She was my brave little warrior princess.
Oh how I wished there were smart phones back then. The silly stuff my kitties did would bring me such joy. Watching one of them wait behind a corner for the other one to pounce, which would launch the unsuspecting kitty three feet into the air. Or the time that Zoe put a shoestring into her mouth and then scooted backwards so that Xena would chase it. OMG, it was the most precious thing ever. Or the time that Xena wanted the rest of my milk and wedged herself into my drinking glass to lap up the last drops. It was literally a kitty in a glass. Oh, how I miss those days. They were there through all the breakups, quitting of awful jobs, and when I moved from an apartment I loved, to a condo I didn’t (just so I could be a responsible homeowner).
When it came time for me to move from the condo to my husband’s house, things snapped in Zoe’s little brain. She became so hostile to poor Xena, growling and hissing and making sounds I’ve never heard before. We let them both roam the house so they could distance themselves but it wasn’t working. Zoe began peeing and pooping over everything that we had to confine them both to the basement as it was the only good spot for their litter. We tried everything, even kitty prozac but she kept getting worse. She would pee in her bed, then curl up and sleep in it. We’d go through this daily. She had a wild look in her eyes and didn’t seem to care that we were there. One final day, as I pulled turds out of her fur, I decided this was no way for her to live and the vet agreed. We had to let Zoe go so that Xena could have a better life. It was an awful, awful day.
Xena seemed to adjust to being the only kitty and we were a family of three from that point on. She moved with us to our new house and adjusted just fine. She was always such a sweet and sensitive cat. I felt like a pretty good pet owner until the past few years when human health and human things took precedence. I sometimes felt like I neglected poor Xena and took advantage of how self-sufficient cats can be. In the past six months, my husband and I started noticing she was getting bony and at first chalked it up to her getting old. We’d never owned a pet into the geriatric years and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
Then the past two weeks I really noticed a change in her and how skinny she looked and I felt awful. Like an awful, horrible pet mom. I took her to the ER last week and after they ran tests, they at first thought kidneys, but then decided it was thyroid first, then maybe underlying kidney issue. They also found three masses that were most likely cancer and warned us that it wouldn’t be worth putting her through anything drastic at her age. I felt horrible and wanted to try to make her feel better so I agreed they could keep her overnight to give her fluids and see how she does for them. Her tests were slightly better the next day and they sent us home with thyroid meds. The plan was to bring her back in three weeks to see if there was any improvement.
The first day she ate great and administering the meds went ok. But each day after that, the eating seemed to be getting less and less. With our vacation approaching, I started thinking about what she could handle. Boarding her would have done her in, leaving her with family to check-in on her and administer meds, would have done her in. I was all set to ask my brother to stay with her the entire time but hated the thought of putting that guilt on someone else if she took a turn. We monitored her closely the rest of the week and it just became more apparent to me when she moved so slowly, almost limping. It was difficult to get up and down from a reclining position, something she was doing more and more of and in places she normally didn’t lay. I couldn’t bear the thought of coming home to a dead kitty, wondering if she suffered all day until she passed.
So we did the humane thing and said goodbye last night. It was the hardest thing. Even more difficult than our Zoe. At first I felt guilty for keeping her around for our sake, to then feeling guilty for putting her down because it seemed convenient. The guilt on both ends of the spectrum was unbearable. Everyone has said we did the right thing, but it’s so hard to feel that way. Every time I wanted to change my mind, I’d watch her slowly deteriorate another day. I miss her dearly.
Last night I kept waiting for her to walk past my chair to be petted. Last night I soaked my pillow in tears. This morning I could barely go downstairs where it was eerily quiet, knowing she wouldn’t be there to greet me. I’m not sure I could ever own another pet after this pain.
So now it’s just me and hubby, just us two.
Goodbye, my sweet Xena. Go and play with your sis, she’s been waiting for you.