When I met my wife, Ginny told me about her two Siamese cats, Moya and Leia, so I guess I knew what I was getting into right from the start. I’d lived with cats previously and wasn’t in any particular hurry to resume the arrangement. I’m fond of animals in general, but like most guys, I’m a self-proclaimed dog person. Cats don’t seem to really care whether you’re there or not, as long as there’s plenty of food and somewhere to poop.
Moya (named after the sentient vessel from Farscape, ’cause my wife is an awesome fem geek goddess) was the elder of the pair. She was a calm, quiet cat who mostly kept to herself, but she had no qualms about hopping up in your lap and demanding a good scratching behind her ears once in a while. She also favored those long strokes that started at the top of her neck, down her long back, and ended with a little twist of her tail.
Despite looking very much like her counterpart, Leia was the polar opposite of Moya. She was high-strung, skittish, and seemed to be in a constant state of terror. The only time I ever saw her was when she emerged from a hiding place to find a better one. I swear, for the first 6 months of our marriage, I was convinced we only had one cat.
Over the past 4½ years, those cats have become part of the tapestry of our growing family. They greeted us when we returned from our honeymoon, welcomed us when we brought Logan home, and found their favorite perching spots in our first house. Late at night, when I was downstairs in the kitchen making a bottle for Logan or a snack for myself, the two of them would come prowling into the room, like the pair of Velociraptors from Jurassic Park. Depending on my mood, I’d sometimes address them as “cat 1” and “cat 2,” or sometimes “cat” and “other cat.”
Logan just started to really become aware of our pets and recently took to calling them by name. Moya even occasionally put up with him, sitting without much protest while he patted her on the head and stroked her fur in that awkward way that toddlers do as they’re learning to interact with pets. Last night, I noticed them playing in the upstairs hallway, and something just didn’t seem quite right. Even after he moved on to the next distraction, she just laid there. When I picked her up, I could feel her spine and hips. Her breathing was shallow and her skin felt doughy. Looking in her blue eyes, I saw her pupils were dilated. And she felt cold. I called for Ginny.
I scooped Moya into my arms and carried her over to her bed. It was immediately apparent that she’d already urinated there. I found another spot in the laundry room, and a black spot behind the chair. While I laid with Moya on the couch, Ginny checked the web for an all-night vet or pet clinic. Ginny and I changed places, and I fetched her carrier. We wrapped Moya’s fragile frame in a soft towel and laid her inside. It was almost 9 o’clock, so I was elected to shuttle her to the vet while Ginny got Logan to bed. I promised I’d call with any updates. While I put on my shoes, Ginny quietly said her goodbye. I think she had already made her peace with it.
Four hours later, the vet told me that between her dehydration, low body temperature, abdominal fluid, and elevated white cell count, Moya likely had an end-stage organ failure. He couldn’t know for sure without more extensive tests, but her prognosis was poor. He told me we’d be lucky if she made it through the weekend. I was floored. I hadn’t noticed her going downhill. Of course, Moya could spend days just laying on the arm of the couch, so I hadn’t really noticed a change in her behavior. But this was it, that decision that every pet lover dreads. After many updates and phone conversations with Ginny, we made the decision to end her suffering and help her find peace.
The tech brought her out to the exam room wrapped in a warming blanket, so I could have a final moment with her. She stretched out on her side, with her paws crossed in front of her, but she hardly moved. Her gaze was fixed on an imaginary point across the room. I gently stroked her fur, kissed her tiny head, and scooped her up in my arms one last time. We sat there alone for several minutes and I said my goodbye. As I gently rubbed between her ears, the vet administered the dose, and within a few minutes, she was gone. I headed home with an empty carrier and a heavy heart.
I know it’s just a cat. But I was overcome and wept like a baby.