The Hardest Thing to Do
Sometimes doing what’s best for a cat is the hardest thing to do, like with C. This is her story.
C’s mom passed away suddenly in August.
Last week, with the help of a compassionate veterinarian, I held C, a physically healthy, middle age tortie, as she went to be with her mom. She was ready and went peacefully, with relief.
When C’s mom passed away, she was left alone in their house under the guardianship of caring relatives. Right from the start, C was angry at the world, lashing out and retreating from anyone who approached her. C never had been a cat that showed herself when people visited her mom. Some did not even realize she had a cat, except for the cat food bowl on the kitchen floor. C was bonded only to her mom and even they did not have the most affectionate of relationships. C just was not a cuddly cat.
For six months, C’s mom’s family tried to cajole and make friends with her with no success. They asked a couple of cat-savvy friends to spend time with her. One even stayed overnight a few nights in the hopes that C would approach her while sleeping. C rebuffed all efforts.
The family called agencies all around, asking, begging, for advice. In desperation, they set a trap for her in the house. Now, this is a very small house, but even so, they would barely even see her, only knowing she was there because the food was disappearing and there was evidence in the litter box. C refused to go in the trap, even when it was her only food source. If they did happen to see her, she would hiss and growl in fear.
With a deadline looming of needing to ready the house for market, they grew more distressed about what to do with C. They postponed contractors coming to the house to begin work. They widened their reach of asking for help. Early last week, that reach came to Lizette, a FieldHaven volunteer. They tearfully described their situation to Lizette, who came to me for advice.
We spent some time gathering more information while Lizette spoke with the family. What emerged was not a hopeful picture: C was clearly a cat who was living an unhappy existence. Even in her own home without her mother, she had a colossally ingrained fear response to anything, human or otherwise. As we unfolded the layers of the situation, it became apparent we needed to consider the option of euthanasia.
I do not ever like to give up on a cat. I believe that we can find a place for a cat where they will be happy. We all have this vision that cats will always be happy in our homes. However, I have learned that what we think of as a “good” home for a cat may not be what is good for that cat. Some cats prefer to be outdoors, completely away from humans. Our job is to find the happiest place on earth for that cat.
For C, where could that be? She was living in terror in her own home. How could we even begin to think of taking her out of that home? Anywhere unfamiliar would only add to her terror. She had never lived outside, with other cats, or with more than one human. Several humans over the past few months have tried to befriend her in an effort to show her that she could accept another human in her life. Nothing even began to break through the wall of terror she was encased in. They could not even touch her to get her in a crate or carrier.
Lizette spoke to the family about euthanasia and that letting her go wouldn’t be giving up on her or letting C’s mom down. It could be the kindest solution for her. We told them that we would oversee the process for them if they chose to do that. They considered the decision, talking to their cat savvy friends. With a tearful, yet with some sense of relief, they agreed euthanasia was the hardest, but kindest decision.
I could not imagine taking C from her home. As terrified as she was, taking her out of the house would be dreadful for her to have to go through. I asked a veterinarian I know in the area if she would help.
We met at C’s house. When we quietly went into the room C was in, I found her hiding in the furthest corner of a closet, scrunched into a ball of fear. I sat down next to her and reached my hand out to stroke her. She hissed, growled, and tensed into a knot of terror. When I wrapped her in a blanket and carefully brought her out of the closet, I could feel her give over to the fear.
C’s journey to the bridge to be with her mom was peaceful. She was ready. I cried for C as we sent her on her way, but there was also a sense of honor of being able to release her from her life full of terror.
Every day I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be an advocate for cats, to be able to be their voice and help find the best outcomes, even when the outcome is heart-tearing, like with C.
May you be at peace with your mom, C.