29 votes

I had to put my best friend to sleep today

Tags: pets, grief, loss

Olly never liked people very much. He was rescued at ~9 months old wandering around the streets in my hometown. Because of this, and perhaps his past, he had an aversion to lots of commotion, people he didn't know, or unexpected noise. But between all of that, he came to trust me, and placed his faith in me—his twelve year old owner. He grew up with me, as I went through high school, then university, a few jobs, and more.

My furry companion, who at night would sleep on my bed, curled up, paws covering his eyes (but only after licking my hand with his raspy tongue for minutes on end) and during the day would wander outside—safety assured, away from any main roads, with lots of high grass to wander through—or lounge under the sun in the front yard.

He always had to be the boss—have things his way. A large, well-built 6.5kg ginger-tabby who was neutered much later than you'd normally neuter a kitten. This bossiness extended to the neighbourhood competition. He didn't like other cats much, either. This would lead to an occasional, emotionally painful (for both of us) trip to the vets to treat a scratch, or bite. A 20 minute drive in a cat box, as he meowed and sobbed his head off—telling us in no uncertain terms, "let me out!".

And do you think he'd ever let you pick him up? Not a chance. Everything has to be on his terms! But in between his assertiveness, he shared his love for me, bumping his head into mine, gently touching my face with his paw on occasion, being a part of my life as I was a part of his.

Unfortunately, none of us can escape the forever ticking of time. 13 good years pass. For the past week though, he started becoming more introverted, would sleep more—and eat less. Taking this kind of cat to the vet is a judgement call that you don't make lightly. Do you cause stress and anxiety, making him trust you less for weeks on end, make him spend more time outside, away from your watchful eye? Or do you visit the vet less frequently, but still proactively, if you know something is definitely wrong?

I made the latter decision last night, taking him to afterhours. The triage indicated a heart murmur, and a blood panel indicated parameters that might be indicative of mild renal dysfunction—to be followed up at the proper vet tomorrow. So he was sent home, with some precautionary injections, and an appetite and hydration boost.

Sadly, I never got that opportunity to take him for a follow up. He slept with me that night, but his condition deteriorated rapidly this morning. I rushed him to the proper vet, watching him helplessly tremble and vocalise his scaredness. I can't help but cry as I type this. The staff told me it was time. I knew it, and in some ways, I think he did too. I'm glad I got to give him the opportunity to fade away peacefully.

I don't have many frames of reference to compare this part of my life to, but it seems to me this is the most pain I've ever felt over a single event. You might be able to get another cat, but you definitely can't get another Olly. A part of my heart is forever gone. I'm a believer that the pain doesn't really go away, you probably just learn to cope with it more, to focus on the years of good, and not the hours of bad. I really hope I can do that, because he was my best friend.

I love you, buddy. I hope you're at rest now, and I'll miss you always. 🧡

5 comments

  1. bhrgunatha
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    So sorry for you. Loss is an awful and inevitable part of life. The bond between person and pet can be as varied and as strong and meaningful as between people. It's always painful losing such a...

    So sorry for you. Loss is an awful and inevitable part of life.

    The bond between person and pet can be as varied and as strong and meaningful as between people. It's always painful losing such a close relationship and it never leaves you. I still vividly remember the total joy when my parents got our first pup as a kid and I still remember her to this day. All I have left is an old, old scan of a photo and the memories including all the stupid quirks - she went berserk whenever you said the name Bruce. We never knew anyone called Bruce.

    Wishing you well during the ups and downs to come.

    7 votes
  2. ali
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    My condolences. I remember crying like crazy when both my cat (7 years ago) and my dog (2 years ago) had to be put down. I don’t have much to add, other than: I’ve been there, too. It sucks, and I...

    My condolences. I remember crying like crazy when both my cat (7 years ago) and my dog (2 years ago) had to be put down.
    I don’t have much to add, other than: I’ve been there, too. It sucks, and I still sometimes think about my little boy, even 8 years after I’ve last seen him.
    For what it’s worth, at some point maybe you can open your heart again to another cat, I have 2 now, I love those cuddly monsters.

    RIP Olly

    5 votes
  3. kfwyre
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    I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing Olly's story with us here. Your tales of his bossiness made me smile, and I am so happy he had you as a trustworthy, caring, loving human.

    I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing Olly's story with us here. Your tales of his bossiness made me smile, and I am so happy he had you as a trustworthy, caring, loving human.

    3 votes
  4. Deimos
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    Aw emdash, that's really sad to hear, I'm sorry. I'm not an emotional person in general, but pets are definitely one of my weak spots. Thanks for sharing the story—you saved Olly from a bad...

    Aw emdash, that's really sad to hear, I'm sorry. I'm not an emotional person in general, but pets are definitely one of my weak spots.

    Thanks for sharing the story—you saved Olly from a bad situation and loved and took great care of him for his entire life. It's obvious how much you cared just from things like describing the conflict of deciding when to take him to the vet.

    These almost certainly won't help cheer you up, but a couple of things I've come across recently that you might appreciate (in a sad/bittersweet kind of way):

    • The Life and Times of Cerebus Hobbes Welch - Peter Welch (a writer I always enjoy) describes the life of his cat Cerebus, who passed away about a month ago.
    • Crippled Black Phoenix - Cry of Love (music video) - I like this band, and found this music video last week after noticing they had a new single out. I love the song, and have been re-watching the video every day or two, and it still makes me tear up a little every time. It's a beautiful video, and is sad in a powerful, poignant way.
    3 votes
  5. Kuromantis
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    That's very unfortunate to hear. I lost a cat too, and my story is kind of similar. It was also because of kidney failure. For the last week or 2 of her life, she ate by my mom pircing food into...

    That's very unfortunate to hear.

    I lost a cat too, and my story is kind of similar.

    It was also because of kidney failure. For the last week or 2 of her life, she ate by my mom pircing food into her by syringe and the medic said that renal failure had made her lose her appetite entirely. She also injected fluid in my cat, she only walked a little, and the veterinarian had no faith in my cat surviving, and said that her living to be a 4/5 year old cat was surprising, which definitely captures how bad her situation was.

    Every day I returned home, I felt sadder immediately and when she died, I cried a lot, something I didn't reserve for my own grandmother when she died of cancer. My mom said she let a last meow as a kind of last gasp before dying. My mother had to tell me because, by the time I came from school, she was already hard and my mother had already put her in a Nike box and a blanket. After that, we buried her in what was then my grandfather's house, where she still is today.

    So I very much know your pain.

    3 votes