Cats and mortality
I just heard from a friend that his cat has died, as they say in the obits, “following a brief illness.” Losing a pet is always tough, especially when people try to console you by saying something like, “Well, it was only a cat.” There is no such thing as ONLY a cat. Samson probably treated him better than most humans do – I know that’s the way my cats are. There’s a humorous prayer I’ve seen on bumper stickers: “Lord, help me to become the person my dog thinks I am” – cats are the same way, just more subtle than dogs.
I remember when our old cat, Shere Khan, died, we went through something similar to what the friend has just experienced. Shere Khan had cancer, and in the end, all the vet could do was prescribe medication to reduce swelling and ease pain. As he slowed down, he needed more and more care; at the end, he couldn’t groom himself, so we had to brush his coat (he was a longhair) and help him to keep clean. Tadpole was only 7 at the time, but he was a wonderfully compassionate caregiver. Pat’s uncle’s wife was appalled that we would allow a 7-year-old to care for a dying cat -- she thought someone that young shouldn’t know about death, and that we should have had Shere Khan put to sleep as soon as the cancer diagnosis came down. But he had several months yet before his quality of life deteriorated, and I think Tadpole would have been more traumatized if we had had Shere Khan put down and then told Tadpole he had “disappeared” or “run away.”
Following Shere Khan’s death, the uncle and his wife relocated Pat’s grandmother to a new nursing home and refused to tell us where they’d moved her, so we wouldn’t be able to expose a child to her state of decay – never mind that she took great joy in his visits, even if she did with increasing frequency mistake him for Pat or Pat’s uncle as boys, both of whom he resembles. Tadpole also enjoyed the visits, because even as her memory of recent events faded, she could still tell tales of the past. But because of the uncle and wife’s intervention, we didn’t even learn she had died until three months later.
It’s funny – some people believe that animals shouldn’t be spayed or neutered, in order that children can get to see “the miracle of life” when animals give birth (although usually they aren’t to see the birth itself), but children should be spared from also learning about death. In just the Albuquerque area, 18,000 animals are put to death each year, mostly because of litters of puppies and kittens that exceed the number of homes available to adopt them. Some miracle of life. Shouldn’t the kids also learn about the “miracle of death” that so often follows the miracle of life?
Sorry, I got off on a tangent. Back to the friend who has just lost his cat: The Irish have a good idea with the wake. You gather together and celebrate the life of the deceased. Yes, you’re sad that he’s gone, but you’re also glad that you knew him. You remember all of the good times, and his foibles and endearing charms. Samson was a good cat; may he rest in peace.