Sixteen and a half years ago, I got a second cat to keep my first cat, Xerxes, company. Travis (my ex-boyfriend) and I went to the Humane Society in Springfield, MA to look over their selection of kitties.
Since Xerxes was only 6 months old (or so), we wanted to get a kitten that was around the same age. It was September and there were only a few kittens available. There were two that were brothers, one grey striped, large and lanky whose name was Eeyore, the other was smaller, orange and white and his name was Pooh. His coloring looked like someone had spilled a large jar of marmalade onto a white cat from above! We opened the cages up and handled the kittens. Pooh immediately started purring in my arms and between that (I'm a sucker for a good, loud purr,) and the fact that he was actually smaller than his brother decided me. So we asked if we could take him home. The volunteers took one look at us and gushed that we had to take him, since he hissed horribly at everyone else. We were the first people that were able to touch him without being threatened with kitten violence.
So we took him home. We popped him into the cardboard carrier and he purred. We played within him through the carrier holes and he purred. We let him out onto the floor of our kitchen and he purred, with his tiny orange tail held high for hours and hours and hours. He didn't stop purring until he fell asleep on my chest that night. And if I touched him lightly after he fell asleep and stopped purring, he immediately started purring again.
Many years passed. Many trips from MA to NYC and back again. One long trip cross-country to Colorado and here he has been for the last 14 years of his life. He had good times and bad times (destroyed the basement walls). We introduced Dart to him when he was 9. He would go on to outlive both Xerxes (cancer) at 12 and Dart (mysterious fluid in chest) at 7. We thought he was going to be our 25 year cat. Grouchy, but long lived. Turns out that we were wrong.
When I first took him home he had ear mites. For ever afterward he never liked anyone messing with his ears. He lost a lot of teeth over the years to tartar disease, a disease that usually was only a problem for pedigreed cats. Somewhere along the way he developed kidney disease and had to have special food that was extremely low in protein. He hated watching kittens come and go whose food he wasn't allowed to steal. Two years ago he developed a tiny lump in his right rear leg. We had it immediately removed, even though it was benign, but it came back this year in the same spot. We had it removed again and it returned again within 4 months and grew and grew. In the last several months he dropped a lot of weight. He used to be a 20 lb cat. Huge! But with his long legs he never looked as fat as he could have. He dropped down to skin and bones - somewhere under 8 lbs in the end. This last month he developed an upper respiratory infection. The peeing outside the cat box returned with a vengeance. More medications and more visits. Finally, I was ready to let him go, but Eric wasn't ready yet.
We couldn't afford to have him undergo an ultrasound to see if there was anything else wrong. We couldn't afford to pay for tumor removal surgery, and he probably wouldn't have survived it anyway. It's been really hard to watch him fade over this last month, but we did. The vet prescribed steroids in an attempt to pre-emptively diagnose whatever else seemed to be wrong with him (possible intestinal tract infection), but he never snapped back.
Last night Eric noticed he couldn't really stand. We made the decision to take him in to the vet today, while Caitlin was in school. Last night, I told her to say goodbye to Pixel because he probably wasn't going to make it. There was a storm of crying - both hers and Eric's. It took quite awhile to calm her down and get her to sleep. I felt it was a better decision to get her to have the chance to say goodbye than to just sneak him off. I didn't tell her that we had him put to sleep, because I don't think she's ready for that kind of information. Today we didn't bring it up at all and when she asked where he was we told her that he had passed away. She took it very well today, only a little sadness, no wild crying.
Eric and I said goodbye to him at 11:30 am today. The wild crying was Eric's - Pixel was Eric's first cat, really. Xerxes was clearly a one person cat and I was that person. Pixel just as clearly loved Eric. Eric taught him to kill socks, whenever we did laundry. Cleaned up after him when he made messes and even though it angered him, never took it out on Pixel. Let Pixel chew on the ear pieces of his glasses. Pixel would walk around the two of us when we laid down in bed in the magical kitty circle of protection. He would snuggle me when I had migraines. He would lay on Eric's legs when Eric fell asleep on the sofa and didn't feel well.
And he purred.
I've never known a cat that purred as much or as loudly as Pixel did. He held an amazing amount of love in such a small body.
At the vet's office, they were very respectful and quiet. We had a darkened room, a candle, low lighting. The vet installed a catheter in his front leg for his two final shots: one to make him fall asleep painlessly and the other to stop his heart. We petted him and petted him as they gave him the injections. I watched him die. I felt the moment his heart stopped.
Amid the tears, all I could think was this:
Goodnight, Pixel. Goodnight. You were a good boy.