We had to put Louie down last week. Louie was the male of our “twin” black cats. We picked up Louie and his sister Bella as kittens from a friend of a friend in the Spring of 2006.
As everyone knows, losing a pet is a very tough thing. It really hits hard. Many talk about the unconditional love of a pet. It changes the feel of the whole household. This time, being older, I’m finding losing Louie is bringing back every loss of my life. It is like ripping the wounds open again – fresh feelings come back. My father, my sister…
Louie was not the most charming cat. When we first set eyes on him, he and his litter mates emerged from their early home in a closet. He came out, took a look around, and went right back into the safe hideaway. Bella was a different story. Loving, very cute, willing to be held.
Louie never wanted to be held. Even his beloved “cat Mom” my wife Starlet could not pick him up without soliciting a not very attractive whine. Despite this, he was a very charismatic and interesting cat.
He always greeted us at the door. He was amazingly physical, looking like a baby panther. He could jump from our dining room table to the top of our six-foot armoire and walk on narrow shelves with delicate objects on them and never knock anything down.
He was my armchair buddy. He liked to watch sports, especially my favorite teams the Warriors and the Yankees. He would wedge in between my right leg and the arm of the recliner or flip over on my lap (which he otherwise did not do, unlike his sister who is upside down all the time), or tuck right under my chin on my chest.
Some issues emerged when he was very young. Our vet told us he detected a heart murmur, and we would keep an eye on it. This seemed to resolve and not present later problems. The vet also detected signs of an overly active thyroid.
Late last Summer, Louie began to lose weight, have abdominal tract issues, and not look all that great. We reviewed the treatment options for feline hyperthyroidism with the vet and elected to put him on Methimazole which would be administered twice a day via rubbing the compounded transdermal gel inside his ear. His cat Mom took care of this and he tolerated it well.
It seemed this therapy was working. He began to gain weight and his coat looked much better. All the while, we were monitoring his thyroid hormone levels, doing urinalysis and hoping for the best.
After getting to a better threshold and over a period of six months, he began to decline again. Because this happens over time, you do not really have good awareness of what is slowly changing in his life. However, after making the decision it was very clear Louie had changed a lot.
He was just a shadow of his former/real self when he would play high-speed chase with his sister, bound up and down the stairs effortlessly, and show amazing agility. He stopped greeting us. He no longer played actively with his sister or his cat Mom. There was no jumping and he clearly labored going up and down the stairs.
Earlier last week, I looked at a few excellent cat websites asking Google the question – “How do you know when it is time to put a cat down?” The sites pointed to the things mentioned above and talked about if the cat appears to be struggling, he is probably worse than you think. Cats are very good at disguising pain and being good soldiers. Consulting with your vet is recommended, along with keeping track of the cat’s behaviors. One site said, “it is better to do it sooner, rather than later.”
At our meeting, the vet said he didn’t think preserving Louie for a few more weeks would improve his symptoms and would increase his suffering and ours too. We ended up agreeing it was time to put him down.
Our friends have helped and supported us in making Louie’s last days more comfortable for him and for us. There is an emptiness in the house. It will take time for things to feel normal again.
Yes, losing Louie is very hard. We are trying to turn the experience into making memories richer and valuing the good things while they are happening. It seems all losses point to appreciating the friends, family, and good things in our life even more.