The Last Night

An unvarnished account of the death of my beloved cat.

I was sitting at my computer desk, tabbing between news articles and social media, when Kelsey came back into the room.  

“I don’t think Fin’s doing very well,” they said.  

I got up to investigate.  Sure enough, there was Fin, standing in the hall near the bedroom, his body tense and contorted as though he were about to hairball, shit on the floor, or both.  He didn’t look up at me, opening his mouth and exhaling hard, as though trying to vomit, but only a small drop or two of liquid came out. 

With a coo of reassurance I bent down to give him a pet.  He smelled bad, a combination of the aforementioned bodily functions.  He had always been a sweet-smelling cat. 

He took a step forward, crouched as though to shit again, and tensed hard.  I thought about moving him to the litter box, but he seemed to have enough problems without an emergency airlift.  I let him be.  After a moment, a single drop of liquid defecation fell out, and he walked further down the hall. 

Fin was 19.  I had been with him since he was five weeks old, and he was a fixture in my life, my loyal companion.   I knew he was getting near the end of his life, just chronologically.  Over the past year, though, I had seen him visibly decline.  He stopped jumping, even to get up on the bed.  His vision had plainly clouded, and he often bumped into walls while navigating across the hall.  

Kelsey and I did our best for him.  We bought a small cat bed to place next to ours, and next to the radiator, so he would have a warm place near us to sleep.  We put additional cat beds in every room of the house, and put bags of treats in places we spent the most time.  I intended to spoil him rotten for whatever time I had left with him. 

I went to clean up the mess, and saw that his tail had dipped into it, spreading it to other parts of the floor, and to his fur.  A bath was in order; I gave it to him.  He stood in the tub, miserable and helpless, as I poured cupfulls of warm water over his fur, cleaning him as best I could.  Kelsey brought a big towel, and I wrapped him up in it, sitting down on the toilet lid and cradling him like an infant. 

He looked so small and helpless, worlds away from the sharp-pawed rascal of his youth.  

He hadn’t eaten, so I tried to give him some of his favorite food- tuna water- through a small syringe we used when he needed medicine.  He resisted it, having no appetite.  I managed to get several squirts of it into him despite his lack of cooperation, but a few minutes later, he retched it back up.  His breathing was labored.  I was worried he might die in my arms. 

Fully nine years earlier, I almost lost him.  He had a major illness, vomiting up bile and refusing food.  I took him to the vet, and they couldn’t find the cause.  When medicine didn’t help, I didn’t know what to do; he wasn’t eating, and there was no obvious cause.  He was weak, and could hardly stand on his own.  

A follow-up visit to the vet determined that he had an intestinal blockage, which was removed by minor surgery; it was a whole almond.  After weeks of nursing him back to health, he recovered.  I felt like I had been given a gift, more time with him.  

I checked the clock; it was nearing one in the morning, technically it was now New Year’s Eve.  I had no work during the day, so stayed up with Fin for several more hours.  He didn’t improve, nor did he decline.  His breathing was unlabored, but he wouldn’t eat, and would barely open his eyes.  I just kept petting him gently and keeping him warm, and company.  

Finally, at 4am, I decided to go to sleep.  I placed Fin in his bed, next to the radiator, still wrapped in his towel.  He purred a little bit; he always did like laying in a warm bed.  I crawled into my own and fell asleep.  I could hear him gently snoring as I drifted off. 

I slept reasonably well, a side effect of going to bed exhausted, but not for very long.  At 7am, I woke up, absolutely certain that Fin had died.  I can’t tell you how, but I knew.  I was sleeping on the far side of a king-sized bed from his, and Kelsey was fast asleep between us, so I slowly got out of bed, circled around, and went to his side. 

There could be no mistaking it.  He was still, cold, and utterly lifeless.  He was still wrapped in the towel.  I scrunched up my face with emotion as hard as I could, but silently, not wanting to wake up Kelsey just yet.  I picked up Fin’s body and took him into the bathroom, washing off the few parts of his fur that had been soiled since his bath the night before.  Then, I took him into the library and sat with him.  

I was whispering to him the whole time, though I can’t remember what I said.  I probably thanked him for being such a good cat to me, and for all the wonderful times we had together. 

I laid him out on the coffee table and wrapped him up completely in the towel.  Then, I went to the bedroom, woke up Kelsey, and told her that Fin was gone. 

Over the next hour, I made a half-dozen phone calls to the closest people in my life, activating my support network.  Kelsey took care of the arrangements for Fin, whose corporeal form left us a few hours later, in the care of a sympathetic vet.  New Years Eve was a hard day, full of many tears and fond memories of Fin.   

It seemed fitting that Fin would choose that day to leave us.  His name, after all, means “end” in French.  He left along with 2020, a challenging year, but his memory will be with me for the rest of my life. 

-AG

Published in: on January 28, 2021 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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