Love and Loss and The Space In-Between

Kitty had been my constant companion for 10 years. And yesterday he died, cradled in my arms as I told him I loved him, that he was important, and that I’m so very, very sorry.

He died with my consent. And I hate myself for it. Because I didn’t do it because it was best for him. I did it because I am overwhelmed and felt incapable of dealing with his inappropriate urination. I did it because I am “touched out” by having constant human contact with my young children and when I have 5 minutes to myself I didn’t want to be touched, but he would insist, and instead of feeling loved I felt used. I did it because we had grown apart–I have a family now–but he wanted things to stay the way they were when there was no husband, no dog, no preschooler and no baby. He was stressed and unhappy, so he pee’d on my family’s belongings. I was physically and mentally incapable of giving him the love and attention he received when it was *just us* and I grew to resent him.

It was me, not him. My fault. Not his. My inadequacy. My postpartum mood disorder. My heart that was not big enough.

The inappropriate urination started over a year ago. He was pee’ing on the dog bed. We thought it was the dog and crated our poor innocent labrador. Until one evening Kitty did it in front of Mr. MLACS–he was furious. I was angry but stuck up for Kitty. Took him to be examined by the vet and he did have a UTI, which we treated. He was still pee’ing on the dog bed, but less. I took him to be re-examined, and the infection was gone. It was then that the vet informed me that stress can cause UTI’s in cats. She gave me “kitty prozac” (Amitriptyline), which we tried but it made him seem drugged so I stopped using it. I didn’t know what had stressed him out as no particular event had happened. I also wasn’t sure why he was targeting the dog bed, but it seemed mean and unfair to our dog.

Then I became pregnant with LS, and I was very sick and he was very on-top of me, which felt suffocating to me. I was stressed because Mr. MLACS’s job was toxic and we needed to find a better situation. Then when Mr. MLACS found a new job and it required us to move, I had the stress of orchestrating the move while pregnant, while my husband was working several states away, while his crazy toxic boss lived across the street, while trying to stay calm for my preschooler, while trying to make a magical Christmas for her amidst the chaos. Then there was this cat, clawing up my front door when I needed to sell this house, eating my flowers so I had to keep them in a place I couldn’t see them, pee’ing on the dog bed (creating tension with my spouse) and meowing waking my kid up when he wanted to eat. I was so sick of his sh*t. Couldn’t he see how hard I was trying? He didn’t care.

Kitty wasn’t really interested in anyone else but me. He and Mr. MLACS got along ok until he started pee’ing, but Mr. MLACS was angry and Kitty took to avoiding him. Kitty never really bonded with BG and that is my fault, because I had very bad PPA/PPD and kept Kitty (and everyone) at arms length for the first year. So it was just me that he wanted. Only me.

Things hit the fan when we moved from the deep south to the far north this past winter. I was in my third trimester and struggling to settle the new place–a rental that did not feel like home–while also trying to settle my preschooler and find her school/activities/friends so she didn’t feel so lost (and she was highly emotional). I was sick All. Winter. Long. And on top of all that, Kitty was pee’ing inappropriately and hiding. I felt such contempt for him. We started giving him prozac every day, and he calmed down. But things were never the same. Mr. MLACS hated him and blamed me as well. I was tired of the tension in my household. I was just so f*cking tired. Exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. My toddler insisted on sleeping with me, my 9 month pregnant body hurt and I was getting up to pee and/or vomit several times per night. Kitty tried to sleep next to me and when I would try to move him away he would fight me. That made me SO angry–I needed just a shred of personal space, and he didn’t care.

Then I had my baby, and closed the bedroom door. I was bed sharing and didn’t trust Kitty not to lay on her and smother her because she was in “his spot” next to me. I hated keeping the door closed because it made me feel closed off from the rest of my family. BG was used to bed sharing with me and she was very upset that things changed when the baby came, and I wanted to keep my door open for her, but couldn’t. Kitty was obnoxious. He would howl outside the door and wake us up. The moment I opened the door he would run under the bed and hide there all day until Mr. MLACS chased him out at bedtime. I had to keep bedroom doors, closet doors, all doors shut for fear of Kitty pee’ing. Kitty was skiddish and would only make himself known to yowl at me if his breakfast was late. It was not a good situation for any of us. But I kept hoping things would get better somehow.

They didn’t.

We bought a new house and we moved, and Kitty escalated.

So I talked to our new vet here. She said Kitty was not happy and would probably be better off not living with us. I started writing to pet rescues and shelters. He’s a beautiful cat! Very loving! Playful! Just has his teeth deep cleaned to the tune of several hundred dollars! He just…pee’s inappropriately because he needs an owner to be mutually obsessed with him and I’m not that person anymore…

I didn’t hear back from anyone. I didn’t have time or energy to follow up because *moving* for the 2nd time in 6 months with a small child and infant was more than I could handle. Plus my milk supply tanked from the stress so I had to worry about feeding my baby. And BG has had summer camp daily and speech therapy 2x per week. I have been feeling like I am drowning. Not showering, not taking care of myself. Kitty was so far down on my list.

For his part, Mr. MLACS had been banging around and yelling about throwing the cat outside or even shooting him, but when I told him I was looking into shelters he backpedaled and said “But he’s family, we couldn’t do that”. Which felt very unfair to me–so we should keep him on principal and you’ll continue being a dick to me and the cat when things go wrong?? But then Mr. MLACS also stepped up and has been feeding kitty 2x per day and crushing up the prozac and mixing it into his dinner food and scooping the litterbox.

However, with the last incident Mr. MLACS locked him up in the basement bathroom. And I just said “Ok”. I didn’t fight. Normally my stomach is in knots when Mr. MLACS informs me of Kitty’s bad behavior and consequences. But this time I just felt…nothing. He stayed there for a week and I never visited him (Mr. MLACS continued to care for him). I don’t know what was wrong with me but my emotion for him was just shut down. I know it is at least partially postpartum mood disorder on top of moving and struggling to parent 2 small kids 24/7. My nerves were just shot. Mr. MLACS was shocked and I believe disturbed that I didn’t take up for Kitty the way I always had. Completely out of character for me. I am fiercely loyal. But apparently, I have limits and Kitty had reached them. I spoke to the vet pleading for a solution and she offered humane euthanasia.

I broached the topic of humane euthanasia with Mr. MLACS and he said absolutely not! He went out and bought Kitty a new cat tree, came home and let him out of the bathroom. And Kitty ran to me. Meowing. Rubbing all over me. I just wanted nothing to do with him. I petted him out of obligation.

That was Friday. The next day I saw Kitty basking in the warmth of the sun, looking content, and I felt happy for him. I saw a glimmer of hope.

On Sunday I woke up and Mr. MLACS said “He did it again”. He had pee’d on BG’s teepee again.

And that’s when I knew he had to go. I couldn’t live with him anymore.

I thought “This must be what it feels like to fall out of love and want a divorce”. I never understood how a person could betray someone who loved them and was loyal to them. But here I was, feeling trapped in a life with this cat. I wanted to see him happy with someone else. Not me.

I tried to re-home him with people I know. Shelters didn’t answer their phones. But then I had an epiphany…he would never be happy at a shelter anyway. Would I want him to live like that? No. Could I put him outside? No. We live next to a busy street. I would never want him to die alone and in pain by being hit by a car.

I didn’t want to euthanize him, but I felt I had no other option.

I thought “I feel trapped and powerless in this situation, even though I have a choice. This must be how abused women feel in their relationships”. I had always judged and never understood.

It appeared that I had a choice–to love and accept him as he was, or to euthanize him. But it was not that simple–I have a family. My family deserves to live in a peaceful house. The tension of waiting for Kitty’s next episode and the inevitable fallout was hurting us all–especially Kitty.

I had the vet over and she assured me euthanasia was the right thing to do to spare Kitty undue stress and a potentially cruel end to his life. She also validated that I had put forth a sufficient amount of effort and suffered enough myself on Kitty’s behalf. She could see how much I’m struggling in this season of life–with my decision– and she had compassion for me.

I did not want to be make this decision. I felt guilty and ashamed. Yet, I knew that things couldn’t go on this way, with my entire household suffering.

I had to put an end to to it. And it seemed my only choice was to end Kitty’s life, in the most gentle and dignified way.

I scheduled Kitty’s euthanasia for the next day. I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was in the twilight zone…How had it come to this? Was I really doing this? How could I?

Each night after the kids are asleep I sneak downstairs to pump milk for LS and do chores such as washing bottles/pump parts, dishes, and laundry. I thought I should go be with Kitty, but couldn’t bring myself to do it–to stir up both our emotions. Instead, I clung to my routine. I was alone with my thoughts for the first time that day, and suddenly I was overwhelmed with grief. Sobbing over my sink.

I didn’t sleep much that night.

I begrudgingly awoke and stumbled through the day feeling anxious and tense. I needed mental and physical space but got none, because I was laboring to calm and soothe a cranky teething baby and to service a demanding preschooler. I was also sleep-deprived and in pain, hobbling around on a sprained ankle while struggling to run my household.

The vet couldn’t come while BG was at summer camp in the morning, so I had asked Mr. MLACS to leave work early and take both girls out of the house. Late in the afternoon it suddenly occurred to me that I might want to prepare…what would I wear? I would probably never want to look at those clothes again afterwards. I was going to wear some old sweats, but then I saw my pink fuzzy bathrobe and I knew that was it–I would cuddle myself and also cuddle Kitty in my fluffy robe. I wasn’t hungry but I made myself eat an early dinner of leftover thai food (my go-to comfort food) because I’m breastfeeding and mourning cannot include skipping meals. I had sort of hoped Mr. MLACS would come home early enough that I could go spend time with Kitty before the vet arrived, but he came home just in time to load the girls and leave. We didn’t tell BG what was going on. I didn’t see any good coming from that.

The vet arrived and I cried as I handed her my debit card to cover the expense of Kitty’s euthanasia and cremation. I find dealing with money for services when someone dies feels unnatural, especially in this case–I was paying her to end my cat’s life.

I decided there needed to be music, and fumbled with our tv until I found a soft jazz station. Then when there was no more time to waste, I shoved a bunch of Kleenex in the pockets of my fuzzy pink bathrobe and led the vet downstairs to the bathroom. I opened the door and he meowed from under the sink. He loves women so he immediately started rubbing on the vet’s leg. She petted him, and I kept hoping she’d say she would keep him and that we didn’t have to do this.

Instead, she gave Kitty a shot of sedative. When he seemed woozy I scooped him into my arms and cradled him like a baby, stroking him and kissing him like old times. My tears fell like rain onto his fur. We moved into the playroom. I had to sign a waiver and then I nodded that the doc could begin. She quickly shaved a spot of the fur on his paw, inserted and IV, and gave him the injection.

I sat on the couch, rocking him. Through sobs I said to him that I loved him, that he was a good cat, that he was important, that I would never forget him, that I was sorry I had not loved him better–the way he deserved. I said to the vet “If only I could just hold him like this all the time, maybe he wouldn’t act the way he does”, and she gently said “But you can’t”.

She asked me if I wanted to keep a tuft of his fur, and my genuine reply was “I’ve lost so many people–both my parents and all of my grandparents–and physical things don’t matter. All we really have are our memories.” She nodded.

She placed Kitty in a blanket, offered her condolences and left.

I collapsed on the couch and aching sobs arose from my soul.

I hadn’t cried this hard about either of my parents. But this was different…

Kitty loved only me. He was my first baby–my son. He came at a time when I needed him most, just after my Mom died. He was a gift from God.

And then it dawned on me…

Jesus was a gift from God–his only son. He gave only love, and yet he was treated poorly and killed. Now I know my cat is not Jesus, but when I drew this parallel I felt closer to God.

I realize how flawed I am as a human being–that I couldn’t make room in my heart and my household to love Kitty better and that I ended his life. That when tested, I have limits.

I realize how many times I’ve judged people, but this experience has humbled me.

I know I had to do this. It was part of God’s plan for me to bear this burden, learn and grow from it. Kitty’s life and death was not in vain.

But when Mr. MLACS says “It was the right thing to do”, I beg to differ. It wasn’t “right”.

I have to ask God and Kitty for forgiveness and seek redemption.

RIP Kitty Mow. I love you. I’m sorry.

XOXO,

MLACS

Resurrection

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“As the legend goes, when the Phoenix resurrects from the flames, she is even more beautiful than before”–Danielle LaPorte

In 2017…I lost my house to a fire, my health to Crohn’s disease (and subsequently my colon to a colectomy, my hair to Stelara, and my mind to Prednisone), and last–but certainly not least–I lost my husband to a SCA (sudden cardiac arrest).

Luckily, I got them all back.

My house has been repaired, my health recovered, and my husband resurrected.

And I lived through it all, with as much grace and courage and dignity as I could muster.

I have scars, both inside and out.

But I feel so proud of myself.

So at peace with myself.

Strong. Confident. Determined.

I have walked through the flames.

I will rise from these ashes.

More beautiful than before–not in vain–but rather, a beauty of essence. Of spirit. Of soul.

In 2018, I will emerge, radiant.

XOXO,

MLACS