Two weeks ago today I had to euthanize my cat Larry. This is very painful for me to write and share publicly and I have always tried to avoid letting this art blog become a diary, nothing could be more boring and trite than that. I’ve held back posting this for these fifteen days for exactly the reason that it is personal but writing it isn’t enough. This is a part of my life so intertwined with my art. I find posting this to be my only real outlet for expressing the sadness I feel for the end of the symbiotic relationship I shared with a creature I could never fully understand but was completely responsible for.
I also want to call attention to the abuse most animals suffer as pets. People discard and ignore them as if they are inanimate objects to be played with when bored and they are ignored the rest of the time. Millions of animals are euthanized every year because people feel the need to own other living things. People breed them for visual traits that cause the animals all kinds of health issues and shorten their lives.
Larry has been my constant companion in the studio for the last six years. He was a rescue. He was probably around 6 years old at that time. He and another cat, Burt, were abandoned in an apartment in New York when the owner left the apartment and moved in with his girlfriend. The person who abandoned them had a sister responsible enough to take the cats to a rescue instead of a shelter where they would have been euthanized immediately and they came to us through the rescue as fosters.
We took both of them in since they had been raised together from the time they were kittens and we thought it better to not separate them. Unfortunately Burt was already dying from neglect when we got them and he only lasted a month. He had stopped eating when they abandoned them and was already in late stages of organ failure because of it. Larry on the other hand was 25 pounds and his belly dragged on the ground when he walked. He was unsocial and was quick to bite and scratch. He had respiratory problems from his weight. He liked to lie on his back, probably to ease the pressure on his spine and legs the excessive weight caused him. The first things we did was start to regulate his food intake and try and give him more exercise. Eventually we put him on a strict diet and kept him to two hundred calories a day. To help him exercise, I would grab his back toes when he was lying around. He was too heavy to get me with his front claws or teeth but it forced him to do involuntary crunches with his attempts at reaching me.
Within two years we had him down to 16 lbs. and within two more years 14.5 lbs. (normal weight for his size) where he stayed until he got sick. His respiratory problems went away. He became much more playful and we fostered two other younger cats, Trigger and Sammy for him to be around.
After all of the things I put him through, Larry decided he was my cat. He started to hang out with me in the studio when I painted and would let me scratch him on the head every once in a while. Cats aren’t as domesticated as dogs yet. Dogs have about ten thousand years on cats in that area but still there is some interaction and empathy cats are capable of. Larry liked to play and I could role a ping pong ball at him and he would hit it back to me for as long as I was willing to keep doing it. He liked his catnip and we grew it for all the cats. He also liked to eat the other fresh herbs we had in pots on the deck.
Every animal has a unique personality and Larry was sort of a cranky older guy compared to the other younger cats. We were alike that way and so he was mine. He didn’t like to climb or jump up on things, which is odd behavior for most cats. He didn’t like to be picked up or sit in peoples laps. He was curious and had a sense of humor though. He would sometimes run into the studio like he was being chased (he wasn’t) and then would run back out, and then peak at me around the corner to see if I would follow him. He liked me to chase him and he would chase me back.
Whenever I would leave on painting trips he would hang out in the studio or sleep on my side of the bed until I got home. When I painted he would position himself near me, if I was on the computer in the studio he was close by my side. When I would read at night in bed he would lay on me and I would scratch his ears for him, it became his little ritual, if I lay down to read he wanted his ears scratched.
When he became sick this November I took him to the vet and we found out he had late stage cancer, the doctors said he wouldn’t live much longer and asked me if I wanted to put him down right then. I asked if he was in pain and they said no. After discussing options, I took him back home with some pain meds for any discomfort he might have and kept him comfortable and pain free for about a month. Things almost seemed normal for a few weeks I treated him as if there was nothing wrong with him even though I knew most likely the cancer would overcome him no matter what we did. The last day I had him it was obvious he was in discomfort and I arranged to bring him back to the vet for the last time.
At almost sixty I’ve seen my share of death and disease with my friends and family. For me euthanizing a pet is much harder than the death of a human being. In most cases with people you can explain what’s happening to them, and while that might not ease their suffering, if they are lucid, it does allow them to prepare as best they can for the end of their life. Pets depend on you for care and wellbeing and in the end you are also responsible for their destruction, except you cannot explain to them what their suffering is or convey to them what you perceive as an intended kindness by ending their pain and so they still suffer some confusion at the very last. Larry was a good cat and will be missed.