I’m not a cat person. I never had a cat, never wanted a cat, and never loved a cat. Until Minnie.
And I never had to put a cat down. Until Minnie.
Minnie was born outside David’s office about twelve years ago. Like me, David wasn’t a cat person, but Minnie charmed her way through the door and quickly became the office cat. For the first few months, the employees got a kick out of her. But when she started walking on the keyboards, nuzzling them during meetings, and purring during conference calls, they decided it was time for her to go. David was single at the time and thought it might be nice to have another soul in the house. So off they went, David and Minnie, into the sunset.
There is no better description of the relationship that transpired other than to say that Minnie was Little Orphan Annie to David’s Daddy Warbucks. And as the years went by, the two of them bonded over dinners and movies, just a girl and her dad. That is, until I came along.
To say Minnie wasn’t fond of me in the beginning would be an understatement. I don’t think she even acknowledged me until David and I had been dating for about a year. (Nothing like your laundry basket full of clothes smelling like cat pee.) I was invading her territory, and she wasn’t having it. To add insult to injury, I was a package deal. I had Nilla. Minnie and Nilla were the same age, but Nilla was a sixty pound Golden Retriever. As if one blonde female invading her space weren’t enough, Minnie had to deal with Nilla too.
Over the years, my love story with David evolved as we dated, moved in to together, got engaged, and were married. And somewhere in the midst of all that, we adopted Finn. We didn’t know it then, but Finn would be the one to bring us all together. He loved Nilla, and he loved Minnie. He followed them around, pestered them, and did irritating things like any little brother worth his salt would do.
And right before our eyes, our furry ones became a family.
I’m not going to sugar coat this. Minnie was a pain in the butt. She scratched our furniture and tore up our sofa. She walked everywhere she wasn’t supposed to but wouldn’t go anywhere she was wanted. Countless times, I came home to find her lying on the keyboard of my laptop. I don’t even want to know how many emails she sent on my behalf.
Minnie absolutely lived up to her name. Even if she put on winter weight or was retaining water, she couldn’t tip the scale past seven pounds. But her small stature didn’t stop her from living out loud. On any given night, you could find Minnie roaming the halls of our house talking some gibberish. She sounded like an old crazy woman rather than a cat. After months of interrupted sleep, thousands of dollars at the vet, and a clean bill of health, we bought Minnie a $10 collar that emitted pheromones similar to a mother cat. I couldn’t believe it, but the collar worked and Minnie stopped roaming around the house complaining all night. Turns out that Minnie just missed her mom. Grudgingly, Minnie decided that I just might do, and I began waking in the middle of the night to find Minnie curled up between my arms.
Once we dealt with Minnie’s separation anxiety, she was in full Minnie mode. She was running and jumping, and quite literally hanging from the rafters. She used up at least one of her nine lives the day she landed in our crystal chandelier. By the way, in case you were wondering, cats do not always land on their feet.
Fear of using up all of her nine lives may be why in recent years Minnie started acting like a dog. She ran with them, she cuddled with them, and she ate treats with them. Minnie even learned to sit on command. “Stay” never seemed to register with her though.
Just before David and I were married, Minnie took her dog-type antics a step too far. During the breakfast rush, Minnie ate one of Nilla’s arthritis pills. I wasn’t sure how bad that was so I called the vet. Because cats don’t process those types of drugs well and because Minnie was well, mini, they were worried that her kidneys would shut down.
Just when this cat and I were starting to get along, she had to pull something like that. She wasn’t going to die on my watch. So off we went to an internal medicine specialist who said that Minnie would have to stay in the hospital for a few days while they gave her fluids and monitored her kidney values. It was touch and go for awhile. David and I drove forty minutes to visit her each night until she was released. That was the first time I cried about Minnie, little did I know it wouldn’t be the last.
Last October, Minnie went to the vet and passed her blood test with flying colors. No worries there, Minnie would out live us all, David and I joked. We laughed that we’d be forever plagued with stinky litter boxes and torn up furniture.
After a business trip two weeks ago, David and I returned home to learn from the pet sitter that Minnie was not eating like she normally does. We didn’t think much of it until we were holding her in bed later that night, and she had trouble breathing. We rushed her to the emergency vet and waited for the test results. The blood work came back normal, but the chest x-ray showed an image of what appeared to be her two lungs filled with cancer.
We were in shock. Couldn’t it be something else? An infection, maybe? She had seemed fine. Truly fine. She was running and playing and being her normal pain in the butt. The vet told us that this is what cats do. They hide their illness for as long as they can, and they compensate for it. When they can compensate no more, they fade quickly. Through our tears we asked what we should do. The vet estimated that Minnie had less than a week to live. We would have to decide when to end her life.
Not wanting to believe the diagnosis, and holding onto the two percent chance that Minnie didn’t have cancer but had a bacterial infection, we took her back to the internal medicine specialist who helped us before. Two days later the cancer diagnosis was confirmed and so was our role in helping Minnie gracefully get to the end.
We spent the next few days close to home and closer to Minnie. We gave a lot of thought to how we could make the last few days of her life everything Minnie would want them to be. We gave her all the treats she wanted and spent a lot of time outside. Minnie and I spent many hours on the back porch. She laid on my lap, big green eyes looking out over the water. With each day, her eyes flickered a little less, and with each night, her breathing became more labored.
It took every ounce of her energy to breathe, and she gradually refused to eat. She whittled down to a little over five pounds, 5.14, in my estimation. I could feel every bone in her body and her pink tongue had turned a dull beige.
The vet told us we’d know when it was time. Never having put down a pet before, I wasn’t sure I would know. After watching her decline for three days, our moment of knowing arrived. David and I looked at each other and knew.
When David and I were alone with Minnie at the vet’s office, I told her everything that came to my heart. I told her that she was a pain in the butt, that she filled me with a love that I didn’t know existed, that she would be the only cat I ever loved, and that nothing would be the same without her. I told her that she would always be Finn and Nilla’s sister (and third musketeer), and that we would see her again. I told her that in heaven she could tear up all the furniture she wanted and hang from all the chandeliers. I told her that she wouldn’t need her special pheromone collar because her cat mother was there waiting for her. I told her that most of all, I was honored to have been her mom and that I would miss her every day. Every single day.
The vet gave her the shot and within seconds, Minnie was gone. I never gave much thought to how much a soul weighs. But I can tell you that once Minnie’s soul left her body, there was nothing left of her. What remained on that table weighed nothing. She was gone – all 5.14 pounds of her.
Minnie’s food bowl and litter box are exactly where they’ve always been, and we won’t be replacing the sofa anytime soon. I’m still not a cat person. But then again, Minnie was always more than a cat. Minnie was a game changer. So I plan on keeping my promise to Minnie. She will keep her place in my heart as the one and only cat I will ever love.