My cat Molly

Look. This is going to be a mushy post. About a cat. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, and especially don’t comment. I’m not particularly interested in your disapproval right now.

About eight years ago, I was living in Toronto in the basement of the mother of my boss. My roommate at the time had a cat, Casey, a big bruiser of a tom, but rescued another — a kitten she found at a shelter, who as it turns out was the runt of her litter.

Molly was a very tiny cat, and even full grown, still looked about half Casey’s size. She was very skittish around people at first, and pretty much refused to be picked up. Ever. She adored having her tail pulled though. When you pet her, she’d turn around and practically demand that the pet run all the way down the length of her tail, when she’d coo and turn around and ask for more. She’d hardly cared for much more socialization than that though, and spent much of her time hiding or sleeping on tall things.

When my roommate and I both left Toronto, she left first, and I sort of inherited the cats for what was supposed to be a short time. She quickly started seeing someone who was very badly allergic to them though, so she asked me to keep them. By that point, I’d grown attached, so I accepted the responsibility.

I’ve had them every place I’ve lived since then, including when Jodi and I got an apartment together. Molly didn’t go into her first heat until she was almost three years old, just after we’d moved in together. She changed from a very silent cat, to a fairly vocal one, even after we had her fixed. We introduced Jodi’s dog Ginger to our family. Molly was terrified of Ginger at first, but we eventually started catching them sleeping balled up on the couch together. Molly had mostly come out of her shell, but really only to Jodi and I. She still backed away from visitors — and Jodi’s friend Sara especially, given that she had a propensity for picking up and molesting cats.

Over the years, Molly developed some interesting and adorable quirks. If you say her name — her pet name, “Kitten”, or her real name, “Molly”, she’d trill in response, or come over to see what was up or if there were pettings. She developed a fondness for plastic, though she’d usually lick it more than bite. Packing tape, plastic bags, whatever was handy. But she especially loved wrappers from those individual cheese string snacks. She’d steal those right from the garbage if she could.

She also took to running laps — when she got into a mood, she’d simply sprint up and down the house, making that adorable trill noise when she started, often launching from what seemed like a dead calm stop. She’d stop to come visit for pettings if I called to her. Casey had, lately, now that we’d gotten him to lose a lot of weight, taken to racing with her, wrestling with her, trying to ambush her when she ran by. He was never very good at it — she could move like lightning.

Any time I was leaning forward on the couch, or standing near enough to someplace she could climb, she would hop up on my shoulder and simply sit there. If I said “hey, if you’re going to ride around on me you’ll have to pay the toll”, she’d trill to acknowledge that I was talking to her. If I’d then make a kissy noise, she’d lean her head into my face to pay the kiss toll. She’d sometimes proceed to rub her face on the corner of my glasses. The whole thing sounds like projection of my interpretation of events, but that’s exactly how it went. Exactly like that, every few weeks, for many years.

And when I put my feet up in the recliner, it was literally seconds before, no matter where she was prior, she’d hop up and take her spot laying on my crossed shins. Not my lap, because that’s usually where my laptop was when I was in the recliner, but she’d go for the lap instead if it was unoccupied. And pretty much only when my feet were up. It was like her signal to come splat.

On Monday night, despite having had a full day of playing and silliness, she started vomiting that night. She vomited through most of the next day, acting wobbly and lethargic and barely finding energy to crawl onto my lap. She was completely uninterested in food or water. I had an overnight, and she laid splatted on the couch beside me. She still responded to pettings and to her name, but wouldn’t move around much, nor would she try any of the food or water I tried to give her.

We took her to the vet yesterday morning at 8 am, as soon as they opened. They gave her an X-ray to see if there were any blockages, but there weren’t. She hadn’t eaten a cheese string wrapper, as was my initial thought. They did notice that one of her kidneys was malformed — extremely shrunken. The next test they did was to check her blood. What they found was that she was in full renal failure — her blood urea nitrogen count was so high, their machine couldn’t read it.

Her kidneys, malformed as they were, were probably working overtime her entire life to keep up with the workload. Her being the runt of the litter, this sort of thing was terribly unsurprising. And it meant that our options were extremely limited. We could try to keep her alive for a few days to flush her kidneys, keeping her in pain the whole time. Even if that worked — and the prognosis was very dim — she’d have to have daily subcutaneous injections of drugs to keep her alive thereafter. She’d probably never run around again being a fool like she always had, we’d have to keep a close eye on her diet and her lifestyle despite both of us working fulltime jobs, and we couldn’t just hand off duties to someone when we travelled.

I made the decision that it wasn’t fair to her to try to put her through hell for any longer than was necessary out of selfishness, that we had to euthanize her. Right up to the last, she’d taken pettings from me and responded to her name, even through the obvious pain, even while trying desperately to hide from the big bad doctor who kept running tests on her and drawing blood and what have you.

The euthanasia took her quickly. The vet asked if I would like some time with her. But she was already gone… all that was left was meat and fur. I couldn’t bear to touch her after she was gone. It was too much.

She was my cat. She loved and trusted me, and I feel like I was forced to betray her at the end. I wish there was more we could have done for her. I miss her so terribly.

My cat Molly
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70 thoughts on “My cat Molly

  1. 4

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your dear, dear cat. You wrote about her so beautifully. Amazing how much we love our pets, and miss them so much when they are gone. You did a great kindness, relieving her of suffering. Don’t forget that, despite your nagging doubts. We lost our last cat 9 months ago, and I still miss him every day. The grief is just as real and painful as for a human companion. Thanks.

  2. 5

    Our final duty to our pets is to put them down when necessary. And it’s fitting to grieve at their deaths just like for any other family member’s death.

    You have my empathy, Justin. We had to put Hammerstein to sleep recently. She was my cat (or rather, I was her human) for 18 years. I’ll always miss her.

  3. 6

    A beautiful piece Jason, I am sorry for your loss. The bonds we form with our pets are astounding. Euthanasia does not seem like a betrayal when facing painful terminal illness, try not to get down on yourself.

    Grieve for your close companion, then open your home to another rescue. Molly cannot be replaced, but another can use the love you have to give.

  4. 7

    I had to bury two old cats a few years back. And no, what you did was not a betrayal, even though you’ll probably inevitably feel like it was for awhile. I felt the same way at the time.

    What matters is, you gave her a happy and comfortable life while she was here.

  5. 8

    There was no betrayal, quite the contrary, though I know exactly how you feel. I’ve had to go through this with four cats and a couple of dogs over the years, and it _never_ gets any easier, but eventually, you do get to a place where that feeling of betrayal doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming. You did the right thing, though it was a terribly hard thing. Big hugs and lots of sympathy sent your way.

  6. 9

    Jason, I’m so sorry.

    Crying here. Molly sounds like a treasure, and you write about her so movingly.

    I once made the opposite choice, and put off euthanasia for a while for a dearly loved cat friend. I felt guilty about that, after. We’re liable to feel guilty no matter what we do, because the decision is ours and it feels weird to have power of life or death over a being you love. But–you did the right thing. You really did. And you gave her a happy life.

  7. 11

    I’m so sorry, Jason. I’m a cat lover, and well know what loving and wonderful creatures they can be, and how much joy they bring to a household. And I’ve had to euthanise a pet cat before, out of love and mercy, and know how hard it is.

    Hugs from me, my girlfriend, and our cat BB.

  8. 12

    My sincere condolences. Kidney problems have been the bane of several of our cats.

    Frst there was Princess, suddenly, with kidneys only 10% normal size. She was 3 yrs old, always the most cheerful and trotty of cats. Vet said the kidney size indicated a congenital problem.

    Then there was Tigger (seen in the rat-cat pic of Madison, hiding under the chair on the lower left). At 15 he got, and hid from us, a fight wound in his armpit that went septic before he let us know about it. That took all his vivacity, and he spent the next 3 yrs in a steady decline. Kidneys finally took him too.

    But the most painfull personal loss for me was Madison, the reason for the blog url. Read that, I’ll not go into details here. Only to say we spent so long with palliative treatments for his renal problems because he maintained his wonderful personality for that time – had he declined we would not have persisted.

    I still sorely miss Madison. And probably will for the rest of my life.

    But we do now have two charming Siamese half-brothers employing us. Not substitutes, different. And the older, Sonny, not too bright either. When his half-brother joined us Sonny tried to keep up with him. Tera-bits I’m convinced is so fast he teleports. I have a flash picture of him in which he is blurred. But Sonny kept bouncing off walls trying to keep up, and we recently discovered with the vet’s help that at some time then he crashed into a wall so hard he fractured his skull. It is healed now, but of course not perfectly, and the fracture line is quite clear to the touch.

  9. 13

    We put off euthanasia for our cat too, and it was probably a few days too long. You gave her a soft and pleasant end to a joyful and loved life.

  10. 14

    Oh, Jason. I’m so sorry. Losing a kitteh hurts like hell. But you did right by her. You didn’t let her die in agony out of some misguided idea you were giving her more life. I just wish it wasn’t so damned emotionally devastating to do the right thing.

    Love and hugs, my dear. I’ll be here if you need a shoulder.

  11. 15

    Hugs to you. The innocent love of pets is so pure, isn’t it?
    As to betraying that love with euthanasia… NO. I have done it both ways: euthanizing a pet who needed it, and NOT euthanizing a pet who needed it. I will NEVER forgive myself for the latter… her death was protracted, painful, miserable and lasted many more days than I thought a body could endure. Now I understand the mercy and responsibility of euthanasia.
    Believe me, you did the right thing, the the most loving thing you could have… you took her pain to yourself.

  12. 16

    I am so, so sorry. Losing a pet is always a special kind of agony, but it sounds very much like you did the loving thing. I reacted about the same way when I had to put my dog down. I thought that I would want to be in the room with her a moment more, but I just couldn’t stand it. Just my clumsy way of saying that I’ve been there, and I empathize.

    Best to you over the next while.

  13. 17

    So sorry to hear this. You gave her what she needed for eight years, and I’m sure that putting her to sleep was what she needed at that time. Not what you needed, what she needed.

    I sympathise deeply.

  14. 19

    Can’t say more than what has already been said. You didn’t betray her. Sounds like she lived a happy life with lots of love, and that’s really all of us, and our furry companions, could really ask for.

    I’m gonna go home and give my kitty an extra hug tonight.

  15. 22

    I’m so glad I got to meet her, and I’m honored that she accepted me as a substitute “her person” on occasion. I’m going to miss her. Casey is a dear–to everyone–but there’s something special about the aloof ones who let you into their lives.

  16. 23

    I had to put my buddy kitty, Sarge, down two months ago. I still think of him. He had a blood cancer around his stomach that was keeping him from eating. On his last day he still jumped up on the bed to kneed my head and purr. I brought him outside, his favorite thing, and held him in my rocking chair. He jumped off me to chase a chipmunk. His energy almost made me consider postponing THE appointment, but I knew he was hurting and wanted some last moments of fun. I knew he wouldn’t last longer and it was my duty to release him. When we drove to the vet I talked to him about the good times we had and what a great kitty he was. My vet is awesome. He gave Sarge the seditive then left the room because he knows how his presense affects his patients. I held him and petted him until he went under. He went quickly after the final shot, a sign that he was ready to go.

    We’ve been fighting his cancer for a long time, but it won. We thought we had it beat when the tumor was removed in November, but it was a drug resistant variety and came back. He was still his usual self up to the end and always friendly. He was the first cat I adopted making him more special to me. I felt relief when it was over. He wasn’t in pain. No more daily meds or worrying about him. I know it may appear bad but those who have been where I am will understand.

    You did right, as painful as it was Molly loved you and needed you there at tne end. Thank you for loving her and making her life worth living.

  17. 24

    You have my sympathy. My wife and I have two cats, both with health problems. We are trying to keep them both healthy and as happy as possible for as long as possible, but I am afraid that I don’t think that will be very long for one of them.

    I’m not looking forward to facing the decision you made. I hope I do as well as you did.

    Hold on to the good memories.

  18. 25

    I’m sorry for the lose of your furry family member. I don’t think you betrayed her at all. You were gentle and respectful to the end and if she could have said so, I’m sure she would have told you the same.

  19. 26

    Thank you for writing about Molly. She must have been a great companion. I’m a cat lover and have gone through the same thing with sick cats. Believe me, you did the right thing for her. Remember the good times and that you gave her a safe, comfortable life. Hugs!

  20. 27

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My own baby girl means the world to me and I dread the day when I might have to make a similar decision.

    Please don’t think you betrayed Molly. I do a lot of volunteer work to save homeless, abandoned and mistreated companion animals. What breaks my heart is when we see the same animals over and over again, when we were certain that *this time* we had found a good home for them. You gave Molly a forever home full of love. That is the very best thing you could have done for her.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  21. 30

    As others have said, a real betrayal is to allow your pet to suffer. Unfortunately I’ve had the misfortune to have terminally ill cats who “seem” to be quite comfortable yet run off to die. It’s always mystified me how some people can think this is a “good” way for a cat to go, as if just because it chooses to run off and die in some remote place, that it should be allowed to do so. Surely, that is a terrible way for a pet to die.

    I’m very sorry for your loss, but rest assured you did the right thing.

    As an additional note, I’ve just learned that kidney infections are a very common affliction in cats. If anyone’s cat suddenly becomes anorexic, lethargic and doesn’t even drink water, immediately take him/her to a vet, since antibiotics and intravenous fluids can quickly revive them, though left untreated they can die. Kidneys seem to be a weak spot in cat physiology.

  22. 34

    Big hugs. She was clearly a wonderful kitty, and you did right by her.

    The only repayment we can ever hope to make for their years of love, is to not let them suffer at the end.

    Vale Molly.

  23. 39

    I almost didn’t read this because I could guess where it was going. We lost five kitties (three of ours, two of my parents’ that we inherited after they died) within a space of about a year and a half. It doesn’t get any easier. The fact that we kept a couple of them going too long didn’t help.

    I’m going to go sit with one of the new kitties now. On the recliner, with my legs up.

  24. 40

    Sorry for you loss Jason. We had a Toller who got kidney disease after surviving liver disease. It is a mercy to release them from pain. In a perfect world, all our companions would live as long as we do.

  25. 41

    Sounds to me like you did right by your friend, in the end and throughout her life. That’s the best any of us can do. I have an aging Calico and an aging Lab/Shepherd, both of whom have had seemingly serious health scares lately, but pulled through. I’ve been thinking about that final vet visit a lot lately. I hope I have the courage not to dick around when the time comes.

  26. 42

    Ah, that’s such a terrible decision to make, but you did the right thing. I’m typing this with sympathetic tears, because I have been there, too.

    You gave her a good life, and she loved you. Despite all that cat perversity, she wouldn’t want you to feel guilt.

    You’re in my thoughts.

  27. 46

    I’ve been thinking about you, Jason and had to come back to reread your cat Molly. I looked in my book of Cuttlefish verses where I knew I had read something appropriate. This verse was a comfort to me when I felt exactly like this (and perhaps it will speak to you, too):

    Goodbye, Old Friend

    I hope we did what’s best for you
    I know, at least, we tried.
    I took you to the doctor
    And I stayed there at your side;
    I talked with you for one last time
    THen held you as you died,
    I kissed your head, and said good-bye
    And cried.

    (The Digital Cuttlefish Omnibus)

  28. 47

    Damn this reminds me so much of my last cat charis, she died under pretty much the same conditions. As awful as it feels to make the euthanasia call, I know that if I was in that condition its what I’d want.

  29. 48

    Thank you everyone for all the comforting words, sometimes the internet can be a kind place after all. It has been much quieter around here and somehow more … grown up feeling. It’s clear now that Molly was the instigator in much of the cats’ play sessions. Casey seems rather bored now but we’re going to make an effort to keep him entertained.

    If anyone is interested in seeing a few more photos of our precious girl, you can go to her set on my flicker page. There aren’t many there as those are only the ones taken with my canon, there are thousands more on Iphones.

    Thank you again.

  30. 49

    Thanks for sharing this very nice memorial to Molly on your blog. Yes, in the end it seems there is unavoidable loss and pain that accompanies the pleasures we share with the animals that we let into our hearts and homes. My heart goes out to you and Jodi at this time of loss and sorrow.

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