This past Saturday, I came home and found my cat Moses beside my bed. He was lying on the ground in an unusual manner, his rump sticking out from underneath the bed. An odor of wet excrement wafted up from his location. This wasn’t new. He’d been having stomach issues for the past several months, a revolving door of constipation or diarrhea. And although it wasn’t my favorite job, I grabbed the pet wipes and tried to pick him up to wipe his rear end.
I picked him up and he whined. I put him down and looked at him. His sides expanded and contracted at a fast pace. A worrisome pace. I stood there for a while, took a deep breath, and picked him up again. He grabbed at my bed but I held him against my chest and took him to the den where there was more light so I could see.
Once I made it to the den, Moses meowed in pain and squirmed in my arms. I bent over to lay him down on the ground when he swiped his paw at my face and dug his nail into my nose. He ran from my arms and I went to the bathroom. I’m very anal about my face so I flipped on the bathroom light to see the damage. It felt like his whole nail had gone through my nose but once I inspected it, it was more of a deep scratch. I put some alcohol on it and then went back to Moses.
He was in the dining room and hiding underneath the dining room table, his breathing labored again. My stomach tingled now. I knew this wasn’t good.
I went to reach for Moses and he whined again. And then he looked like he was trying to throw up, his bony shoulders rising as he retched. I stood up and walked from the living room to the dining room, my stomach vibrating now, like a cell phone buzzing in my bowels.
Ohgodohgodohgod this is it.
I went back to Moses and he had drool hanging from his mouth. I’d never seen that before. My own breathing became labored. I didn’t know what to do.
I went into my parents bedroom and…and then I didn’t know what to do again.
“Mom, Dad…” I started. Mom woke up. “I…uh…Moses. It doesn’t look good.” And the buzzing in my stomach shot up into my throat. Out of nowhere, I started sobbing.
“I know,” she said. “He was really sick earlier today.” She got out of bed and I covered my face. The tears came in short, stabbing bursts. “We tried to call the vets we knew but they weren’t open,” she continued. “No one answered the emergency numbers we called.”
I stood to the side as Mom moved past me to check on Moses. I paced the den again and tried to collect myself. I thought I had prepared myself for this moment. He hadn’t looked good for a long time. There was always a piece of me that worried it was going to happen soon, that he didn’t have much longer. But I tried to shrug it off. He was old. He wasn’t as quick. He had some tummy troubles but he wasn’t in terrible shape. It was just old age at work. He was okay. He was okay.
But he wasn’t.
Mom wiped the drool from his face and then he shot into their room. He went into their closet.
“Will the vet be open tomorrow?” I asked through my hands.
“No, they won’t be,” Mom said. “And you know what they’ll do if we take him.”
“I know,” I said. “I want them to. I don’t want him to suffer.”
“I know,” she said. “I know. He’s been on the edge of your bed ever since you left this morning. And now he’s in the closet. He wants to be alone. He knows it’s time. All we can do is leave him alone and let nature take its course.”
My tears came stronger, surprising me with their strength, their insistence.
My dad chimed in. “Just go to your room and try to get your mind off it.”
I kept repeating that I didn’t want him to suffer. I pictured my cat in the closet, each breath belabored and bringing pain. And I pictured it lasting all night long. It broke my heart.
I went back to my room and turned on my TV to drown out any outside noise. If he whined or cried in the night, I didn’t want to hear it. Why couldn’t this have happened when the vet was open? She could have ended his pain. Why was he going to have to suffer? This isn’t how he should go, not slowly, not painfully. It was cruel. He deserved so much more than that.
I went to my room and cried. After a few minutes, Mom knocked on my door.
“You want to wrap him in one of your old sleep shirts?” Mom asked. “You know he liked to lie down on them.” When my mom did laundry and folded my pajamas, Moses liked to jump on the bed and lie down on my shirts. He always liked fresh laundry.
“So, he…did?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Mom replied. Then she began sobbing. I went to the closet and picked out one of my shirts and handed it to Mom. Then we hugged.
“He waited for you to get back home,” she said.
I went back to my room because I didn’t know what else to do. I felt like I should have asked if I could help with anything. But I didn’t want to help. I didn’t want to see him or touch him. I immediately wanted to distance myself from his body and his memory. It was the self-defense mechanism of ignoring something until it goes away that kicked in and took control.
I sat down and cried again. I had to pee but I didn’t want to walk outside, didn’t want to know what was going on. I grabbed a cotton ball and put it on my nose to soak up the blood from the cut. I hated the last interaction we had was him clawing me in the face. I wasn’t mad, though. He must have been hurting.
My parents went back to bed. And I sat in my room. Eventually, the tears dried up and the ceiling fan stuck my eyes with cool dryness. The blood on my nose coagulated. And Moses was left to lie peacefully in one of my shirts, something he always enjoyed doing.
The next few days were weird. My mother had to go to work and I don’t know if that was good or bad. I’m guessing it was good. It helped get her mind off of things. While she was away, Dad and I put away Moses’ litter box, food dish, toys, and cat bed. She came home later on and she seemed sad but overall okay.
I still walk into the house and expect to see him. I come home from work and look directly at my bed to see his fuzzy body curled up in sleep. I still walk carefully in the dark in order to avoid stepping on him. But he’s not there. I know he died but I don’t know that he’s gone.
14 years. My mom adopted him when I was a teenager. And now I’m 30. Moses was my bed buddy and pal throughout my 20’s. He watched me grow up (and goof up). His presence was so ingrained in my life that now it feels like I’m missing an appendage. I’m always looking for him, always reaching for him in my mind’s eye, and I’m always brought back to the realization that he is no longer.
I keep trying to envision his transition. What happened after he closed his eyes? Where did he go? Where is he now?
He’s not my old man anymore. He’s not hurting or in pain. He is somewhere I am not. And this is both good and bad. I only hope that we were good enough for him, that he enjoyed living with us, and that he is still around somewhere, in some form, in perfect health. And happy.