Yesterday wasn’t the best day ever. I was stressed knowing our kitty, Merle, wasn’t feeling well, Mon Cœur (MC) was not being a good listener, I was losing patience with her, and I was scrambling to get housework done. I suspected the cause for Merle’s discomfort, and was worried about the financial cost for addressing it.
We’ve had Merle for over seven years, a cat given to us by my father-in-law, since I had complained of mice at our new country home. Merle did not disappoint – he was an avid hunter. He loved the great outdoors, and would often wake me just before my alarm so that I would put him out for a little early morning hunt. He played well with our German Shepherd, the chickens, and the ducks, and kept the mice at bay for me.
He charmed all our visitors that came to the house. Everyone loved his piercing blue eyes, his fluffy, soft coat of fur, and his way of leaning in and nuzzling for cuddles and pets.
He tolerated MC and her tail-pulling antics. He adored empty boxes from online orders, or any empty space for that matter, an empty cooler, holes dug in the garden, the bidet…yes. I assume the cool porcelain was a comforting contrast on all those hot summer nights.
He was often mouthy at the worst times – MC’s bedtime just as her eyes were rolling back and she was drifting to sleep or ten minutes before my alarm would go off, waking me up prematurely just so he could go outside.
Chouchou and I knew something was up, and we assumed that it was like before – he was blocked and needed some help. After trying our usual at home remedies to no avail, we entrusted our local emergency vets to help him again.
The whole drive yesterday evening Merle cried, and my guilt compounded. I had to drop him off and wait in my car. When the doctor called with a prognosis, he said Merle was definitely blocked and it was going to cost in the thousands to fix him.
Oh, and he added that after they fixed him, it was highly possible that this issue would recur. The issue could present itself again maybe even in just a week.
Well, this was the third time we had to take him in for issues of this kind. And it seemed to be increasing in frequency. I had feelings of inadequacy – being unable to properly take care of him. I thought worst case scenario, we’d have the doctors fix him once more and then we would find a better home and better fur parents for him.
Waves of emotions
The last time I took him to the vet for this issue was the day before I realized Millie had stopped moving. I had spent the morning at the vets, with MC, worried sick for Merle, trying to color and keep calm with MC, and not even worried about Millie – she was safe in my womb, after all, I thought.
Last night, after we decided to euthanize Merle, waves of emotions came back, accompanied by thoughts. Was I doing the right thing? I should have brought him in sooner. The last time I was here, blah, blah, blah. This stupid mask is not letting me breathe as I am having this meltdown.
I was able to be with him when the vet put him down, being there in that place and watching Merle stop moving, and the vet confirm that he had passed overwhelmed me.
I felt pains of guilt, waves of relief, and the overwhelming sense that nothing would be the same again. My guilt came from knowing that Kitty needed help and I didn’t address it immediately. I was relieved, knowing that I could now focus more fully on my current pregnancy without worrying about Merle.
Explaining to our toddler
When I got back home, with Merle packaged in a tidy, white corrugated cardboard coffin with a purple flower affixed to the top, and an empty carrier crate, I asked Chouchou if he had told MC.
“I told her kitty wasn’t coming home because he didn’t feel well.” He wanted to spare her being scared, and while I disagreed, we both agreed we would wait until she asked questions. I disagreed because at two and a half, she has already experienced the death of her Poopa (grandfather), unborn sister, and Papa (great-grandfather), she knows what death is and she has handled it with grace and typical toddler curiosity.
No sooner did Chouchou leave to dig the hole for Merle, than MC asked me, “Why is Kitty not coming home?”
“Kitty was sick and hurting and so he went to be in heaven with Poopa and Millie. He is rolling over on his back for belly rubs from Poopa, and twitching his tail at Millie like he used to do to you.”
That response made MC laugh and smile. And it made me feel good to know I wasn’t hiding anything from her.
Five minutes later…”Where is Daddy?”
“He’s digging a hole for Merle.”
“Why?” (This word is her go-to word, and drives me crazy sometimes!)
“Because even though Kitty’s soul is in heaven, I brought his body back to be here at home with us.”
This morning, MC woke up and wanted to go see Merle’s hole. So after breakfast, I grabbed some seeds we had on hand. We went out to where Chouchou had buried Merle, and I showed MC.
Then I told her we could plant catnip or cat grass seeds on top of Merle if she wanted. She chose the cat grass, and sprinkled some on his little kitty grave. I covered them in dirt, and then she asked to go play in her new log cabin.
Our family will certainly miss Merle, and yet we know he’s not suffering anymore. MC and I will continue the discussion as she talks about him, wants to go visit him, or thinks of other questions to ask. We have had other similar discussions with her, and while some might not agree, I feel that I am doing right by MC by being open and honest with her about life.
Death is just one part of life, and although we’ve experienced a lot recently, there are ways to communicate the facts and celebrate the memories of those passed before us.