Our younger cat, Stripey, had a hurt stomach when we came home Monday night. The awful housesitters said it must be something she’d eaten that afternoon — they’d seen her chasing something in the yard — and they said she’d be better as soon as she digested it. She hid in a closet Monday night. Disappeared on Tuesday. Didn’t seem to eat or even drink all week. By Thursday, she was back to being sociable, but she wasn’t herself, not even close. Friday, I finally got myself a phone and on Saturday I finally called the vet.
The vet told me to bring her in right away so they could check her vitals, and then I’d have to wait. Those two hours in the waiting-room made me flash back to all our airport-waiting time earlier this week. Sophie colored in the cat-themed coloring books. Sophie played with the water-cooler. Sophie decided that the waiting room was a race-track, and the other people waiting agreeably cheered her on as she ran back and forth, cheering for herself, “Go Sophie go.”
Then the vet showed me the x-ray and explained that Stripey’s stomach was torn. Apparently Stripey had been in an awful fight with some creature that ripped her stomach open. She had a hernia on one side, escaped stomach gas on the other, and probable damage to her internal organs. I had a choice: opt for expensive exploratory stomach surgery or opt for euthanasia.
I thought about waiting till Ben got back from his weekend trip mountain-biking in Wales. It is his cat, whom he’s had since Texas. But I knew, of course, which option he would choose. So I signed the forms for euthanasia.
When Sophie asked me why I was crying, I didn’t have a good answer ready. Sophie understood that we’d come to the cat-doctor for cat-medicine. She wanted to know why we didn’t just get the medicine and leave. I told her that Stripey was going to have a special kind of long sleep. I told her that it was time to say bye-bye Stripey. I told her that I’d love a hug.
Sophie brought me all the pamphlets in the waiting room, avdertorials for flea-medicine and pet-dentistry, announcing, “It’s your birthday.” Sophie passed me her coloring book and advised me to color in the picture of a girl cradling a cat. Sophie is one astounding two-year-old. It was impossible not to be cheered by her. Still, I was quietly weeping, while reassuring Sophie, “Momma is sad, but Momma will be okay soon.” Sophie pre-crumpled the kleenex for me in her effort to be helpful.
Stripey snuggled on my lap and when they injected the anaesthesia, I could feel her whole body relaxing, finally released from the pain she’s been in all week. When she got the lethal barbiturates, it was actually peaceful. Then they took her off my lap, wrapping her in a blanket, and that’s when Sophie asked, wailingly, why were we leaving Stripey behind in a blanket.
I felt nauseous for the rest of the Saturday. Now, Sunday, it seems unreal, just one more crazy event in my turbulent week. I dragged Sophie to the beach this morning, even though Soph wanted to go to a closer park, because, I told her, “Momma needs some ocean in her head.”
Stripey was the sweetest of cats. Friendly to the point of being sluttish. One giant hairball of love. It’s impossible to grieve for a pet without seeming twee, but it’s also impossible not to grieve. Our one remaining cat keeps periodically mewing, wondering, I think, where Stripey has gone.
When Sophie asks where Stripey has gone, I’m going to tell her, “Stripey is in our hearts.” My friend J gave me that line. But I don’t have many more lines, or many more strategies except to fill my head with ocean and hope that next week will be easier than this one was.