Mike and I each spent about an hour petting Sweetheart before we took her to the vet. They gave her a sedative and a painkiller, I held her in my arms, and she was very calm and relaxed when she passed.
We’re having her individually cremated and will be sprinkling her ashes in a friend’s rose garden – I wanted to sprinkle them somewhere where she was happy (she lived with me at my friend’s house for two years), and where we could come and visit from time to time.
We love her and miss her terribly, but it’s a relief to know that she’s no longer suffering.
And, as a friend said, on the whole hers was a happy cat story, certainly better than she could have expected before she met me. Born in a semi-feral cat colony, she was one of the smallest kittens, so when the food was put out (by the irresponsible neighbors hosting the cat colony as “pets” without spaying/neutering them), she got pushed away by her bigger brothers and sisters and often went hungry. After awhile, another neighbor and I noticed that she wasn’t getting her fair share, so we started putting out food on a plate just for her. The bigger cats soon noticed, and tried to push her away again, so I would stand over her, defending her plate against the other cats, just so she could eat something.
She soon started coming up to me, though she was still quite shy around people, and one afternoon I finally convinced her to let me pet her. After a few minutes, she jumped into my lap, and to my surprise, she stayed there for the next twenty minutes (until I really, honestly, sorry-I-can’t-stay-longer had to leave). After that, she came to me often for attention, but I couldn’t take her in because my then-husband objected.
Six months later, I split with my ex-husband, and was preparing to move to San Francisco. I had planned to take her with me, since she had come to depend on me for food and attention, and her future in the cat colony seemed pretty dim. Then I realized she was pregnant. She was such a tiny, thin kitty, and such a young one, that it had never occurred to me that she might be pregnant, but the neighbors she “belonged” to had never had her spayed, so she must have gotten pregnant in her first heat. So I wound up not only with her, but her two kittens as well, when I moved. After she finished nursing, I had her spayed, and found good homes for her kittens with a friend (who still loves and cherishes them).
She quickly settled in with me and The Fuzz (my other cat). She insisted on sleeping not just with, but on me, leaping on me when I got into bed and curling up on my chest for a good chin-scritching before letting me go to sleep. When I tossed and turned in the night, she would wake up, do a little dance to stay on top of me, then go back to sleep. It didn’t matter what I did in the night; I always woke up with her curled up warmly on top of me, or snuggled up right next to me. I didn’t have the heart to keep her indoors when she had lived outdoors all her life, so I found a place to live with very little traffic, where she could go outdoors without getting run over. As a semi-feral kitty, she was a Mighty Huntress indeed, often bringing back mice and other small game. I did my best to admire them and her, even when stepping on half a mouse in the bathroom at 3 am.
When I lost my job and my boyfriend, and left for Southeast Asia, I left her and The Fuzz with my brother and his wife, who promised to love and cherish them for the six months I thought I’d be away. For the first two weeks of my absence, Sweetheart spent every day sitting by the window waiting for my return. It broke my heart when I realized how deeply I had hurt her by leaving, but there was nothing for it but to keep her there. I had no job and no permanent place to live. For a year and a half after I got back, I was unemployed and living with a friend, so there was no way to bring her and The Fuzz back to live with me.
Fortunately, I did eventually get another job, and brought them home to California. I remember our first night back together – I had wondered whether they would even remember me, after two years, but they made themselves right at home, and Sweetheart leaped onto me the moment I got into bed, and started kneading my chest with her paws, purring and insisting on her nightly adoration before curling up to sleep on me. We were back together. I promised her, with all my heart, that I’d never leave her again. (And I never did.)
Seven more happy years. She spent her days sunning herself in the garden, exploring the neighborhood (always in a carefully chosen, low-traffic area, since she was unhappy as an indoor-only kitty), or being petted and adored by me and Mike. She still slept on me at night, but on the rare occasions I was away, she would snuggle up to him instead. She had the occasional companionable dispute with the Evil Other Cat (the neighbor’s), usually over ownership of the backyard fence. She had a human, her human, who catered to her, adored her, and who could be pressed out of bed at 5am just to feed her breakfast. A simple squeak brought her all the attention she wanted. She had two people wrapped around her furry little paws.
And then, when it was her time, she passed away quickly and almost painlessly. Up until a week before her passing, she was still walking in the garden, lying in the sun, leaping effortlessly up onto the neighbor’s roof. And during the short time of her illness, she had two humans working around the clock to make her final hours as comfortable as possible, and let her know how loved she was. And she left the world painlessly, relaxed, in the arms of her grieving humans.
Surely, heartbreak and all, that’s a good cat story.