Why I Decided To End The Life of My 14-Year-Old Cat

We euthanized Remy, our 14-year-old cat, this past weekend.

I met Remy in late 2001, maybe a few weeks after 9/11. Lauren (my first employee when I launched my own business in 1998, and still a dear friend) and I were walking near our office on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, when we passed a young woman cuddling a cute kitten in her arms (are kittens ever anything but cute?) We stopped to ooh and aah, and learned the kitty was up for adoption since her owner discovered she had a cat allergy.

A few hours later, I went to pick up “Remy” at the dance studio run by her now-allergic owner. That was the name I was going to give my first child, if I had a girl. I had a boy, but still loved the name. Remy was about a year old, her unofficial-looking papers reported.

She was a wonderful cat from that day forward. I remember hearing her cute faint meows for months after I brought her home, as she pitter-pattered next to my bed in the middle of the night. She eventually slept most of the night, but usually made her way to the pillows of houseguests at some point before morning. Whenever she decided to sleep between me and David, on a pillow, her purring was more soothing than any sound machine in Brookstone.

When the vet first examined Remy, he said she must have had an accident because her jaw was misshapen. It didn’t affect her ability to eat. As a matter of fact, she weighed in at 12 pounds as an adult, and Dr. Johnson advised me to put her a diet (she took after me, I guess.)

Aside from two pelvic fractures (one, the result of getting tangled up with a lightweight metal sculpture, which came crashing to the floor with her when she tried to extricate herself from it; the other, from a totally mysterious cause), Remy was healthy, content and extremely independent. She’d go about her business without fussing, and she only meowed when she wanted something she couldn’t get by herself (e.g. jumping over the high bathtub, in later years, to drink from the faucet, or opening up the door to our tiny outdoor space, where she’d bask in the sun and intently survey everything around her, as cats do so well.)

Not a cat who demanded or gave much affection, Remy would sidle up to certain people when she was in the rare mood to be held, stroked or kissed. She loved my nephew, Brian; his mother, my sister Shelley; my aunt Sylvia, and Douglas, my former husband.

Interesting, she appealed most to people who were not cat lovers.

“She was a wonderful cat, the first animal I ever cared about,” Shelley emailed me Sunday, when I told her Remy was gone. And David, who had disliked cats, bonded with Remy as soon as he met her, around 12 years ago. He couldn’t leave the apartment without knowing where she was and that she was safe and sound. Remy was a champ at bringing out his caring side.

We brought five-month-old Rigby, a Norfolk terrier, home when Remy was about 6 years old. When he wanted to be her friend, he’d gingerly approach her to nuzzle, but Remy was not in the least bit interested. She’d hiss at him to get away. Other times, Rigby would quietly watch her approaching from the other end of the hallway, and, as she got closer, he’d suddenly turn to chase her. He’d bark loudly as he began his pursuit, and Remy would let out a wild scream and head for the hills. Rigby always backed off.

Remy stopped looking and acting like herself about two months ago, when she suddenly started to meow a great deal, first mainly at night and then quite a bit throughout the day, and lost the sparkle in her pretty green eyes. At one point, I decided she was once my father, who had similarly colored eyes, but I changed my mind and thought she was a kinder, gentler Edgar, because she had the same piercing look. For those of you who don’t “know” Edgar, he was the Mississippi (snake) charmer with whom I spent 12 years.

When we took Remy to the vet for an exam, she was down to 8 pounds, from around 11 last year. Weight loss and excessive meowing are often symptoms of hypertension and diabetes in older cats, the vet told us. Her blood workup ruled those out, but did reveal a UTI (urinary tract infection). The doctor put her on meds. The infection cleared up and the meowing subsided, but Remy’s appetite was diminishing.

Subsequent blood tests showed she most likely had a type of leukemia that, fortunately, is treatable. Although the diagnosis wasn’t fully confirmed, Dr. Cavanaugh started treatment anyway and prescribed an appetite stimulant. He also noticed that Remy had a loose tooth, which looked like it was infected, so he injected antibiotics and told us to return in 10 days to have it removed.

But something more was wrong, I thought last week, as I noticed Remy’s mouth looking more and more misshapen every day. She’d start eating but would stop within a minute. She’d approach the water bowl, but turned away. Her meowing intensified again. Perhaps the antibiotics didn’t work and the infection had worsened. At least she’d have the tooth removed on Sunday.

The moment Dr. Cavanaugh looked at Remy’s mouth Sunday morning, he knew something more was indeed wrong. Turning to me and David, he told us that Remy had an “aggressive malignant tumor” on her jawbone and began to explain our options. He’d recommend an oncologist, who would probably take xrays and a biopsy. Depending on the results, part of her jawbone could be removed, along with the tumor. However, it was likely the tumor would return in short order. “Is she in pain?” I asked, of course knowing the answer because she was trying to tell us she was in distress ever since she started meowing a couple of months ago. “Yes,” Dr. Cavanaugh answered. “But we could give her pain medication.”

At that moment, my decision was made. We needed to stop Remy’s pain, but not
with pain drugs.

David would have prefered to take her home to prepare himself, but I couldn’t deal with that so I emailed my son, who also has a 14-year-old cat, and asked his advice. He agreed with my decision, and David also came to terms with it.

Dr. Cavanaugh gave Remy a sedative around 10:45 am Sunday, then inserted a catheter into her leg that carried the drugs to peacefully end her life. I couldn’t bear to be in the room. David told me she looked liked she was asleep. He cried, something that I’ve seen him do only once since we met, when Remy was around 2 years old.

All I could think of Sunday was Remy’s meowing during the last two months, as she tried to tell us she was in pain a great deal worse than any of us suspected. I am upset at the thought that we weren’t doing anything to help her, despite the antibiotics, appetite stimulant, leukemia drug. Although her mouth didn’t show any outward signs of cancer until last week (except, in hindsight, the loose tooth), the tumor obviously was causing her great suffering. I now realize that when she’d sit completely still, on the top of the sofa back, facing the wall, it was probably the only time she felt less pain.

My heart aches picturing her in that position and imagining what she was feeling.

Rigby, in the meantime, seems a bit lost since David and I returned to the apartment Sunday, absent Remy. He sniffed around her carrier and watched me empty the litter box and gather up her belongings. Crazy as it sounds, I think Rigby and Remy must have derived some comfort from one another, even when they fought like cats and dogs, and that they probably socialized when we weren’t home.

I wish Rigby and I could tell each other how we feel.

  • Geri,
    I’m so sorry that you had to say good bye to your sweet Remy. What a wonderful long loving life he enjoyed with you. I praise you for your decision to let Remy go. We had to do the same for our Gracie last summer. It was heart wrenching, still is. I have to remind myself and I’ll pass this on to you. It is the ultimate act of love that we give to our friends to allow them to pass with their grace and dignity. Hug to you my dear. Lisa

  • Diana Moscoso

    I am so sorry about your kitty. In May I had to put my 17 year old cat, Figaro (Figgy, for short) to sleep. I had him since he was a few days old. Everyone always commented on his looks,saying he was “handsome”. He was a tuxedo (black and white) with long hair, but was mostly white with black only on his head and tail, and green eyes. He was an inside cat for the most part. He was healthy for the most part. He started having allergies a couple of years ago, which resulted in him sneezing with bloody muccus. It was disgusting, but I dealt with it. The vet recommended medications and special hypo-allergenic food which was very expensive. There was never a definitive diagnosis. I followed the treatment anyway. Then in the beginning of the year, he began to show signs of arthritis in his hind legs. It became hard for him to jump up on the couch or the bed. He would always have hair balls, which was normal, especially for a long haired cat. One day he vomited blood. I panicked. Took him to the vet who said it could be cancer or it could be something else like an infection. More medications were given. He got physically weaker and weaker. I finally had to face the facts when the vet said during a telephone call to let her know he was not doing better that I needed to think about putting him down. I spent the weekend just holding him as much as I could, but letting go often, knowing that touching him was hurting him because he would complain by meowing in anger or wanting to bite. The following Monday after the vet said he had what looks like cancer, since his gums where white and that was a sign of a low white cell count, and that there was nothing more to do for him, I decided he had suffered enough. He was ready to go. I wasn’t ready for him to go. It was so heartbreaking but I was there with him to the end. He was not the sweet kitty I had known, he was angry (always had the white coat syndrome, hated the vets’ office) but I know that was because he was not feeling well. I said goodbye, but I will never forget him. I never comment in blogs, but seeing your comments here, I wanted to share my story with you. My boyfriend brought home another tuxedo kitten not too long after that, and at first I was a little hesitant to allow it because I thought it was too soon. It has been a good thing, though, because he fills the void that Figgy left. I realize now seeing how active and energetic this new kitten is, that my Figgy had become and old man way before he got sick. Figgy had a good, long life, and was loved by many people. Especially me!

  • I saw Remy’s story and understand your pain. I hope you feel better now that you’ve had some time to grieve Remy’s death. You did the right thing. Remy enjoyed her life with you and no longer feels pain.

  • So sorry to meet you at such a sorrowful time. I have been looking for blogs to link to and follow. I wanted to find people I could relate to. I’m glad I found your blog. I would love for you to visit mine to see if you would enjoy reading it. Thanks, Lisa B.
    http://wrinklesandgrins.blogspot.com/

  • i had to go and grab one of my pooches as the end of this post neared. every day i look at mokie and baloo and feel blessed by their love (and understanding). whenever they were at the groomers, “Groomingdales”, i used to miss the sound of their pitter pattering paws around the apartment or the sound of them snoring–i can only imagine what it feels like when they are gone forever…i know you must miss her.
    xx

  • Yvette Dalton

    Thank you for the beautiful and heartfelt story about Remi. I am very sorry for your loss. RIP Remy. xo

  • Melin

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s very hard to make that decision but it sounds like it was the right and humane decision for Remy. I’m struggling with what to do with my 2 kitties. They’re brother/sister, 18 years old and suffering from general kidney failure. We take them to the vet 3x/week for subcutaneous fluid injections and supplement their diet with several medications. Since we never had kids… they became our “kids”. Even more so because they’re siamese mixes and very affectionate and attentive. Not the aloof cats that you hear about. We love them so much but the male cat, in particular, seems.. at times.. to be in pain. They’re not the kitties they used to be – but who of us is? I think I know what we need to do with our “little boy” (first) but I’m struggling terribly. Crying just thinking about it.

    • Hi Melin,

      I am sorry you are in such a tough situation. I can “see” your struggle through your words. Your love will guide you to make the right decision. My thoughts are with you and your kitties.

      Fondly,
      Geri

  • Jan

    I am so sorry for your loss. Having had numerous rescue fur children over the years I always thought it would get somehow easier to lose them. It never has. The pain that we experience as loss is understandable and the decision is always fraught with self doubt. We have made this weighty decision many times. What is not understandable to me is how we as a society perish the thought of allowing an animal to suffer yet we allow people to suffer-daily. There needs to be a conversation about how people leave this earth. As an RN I would wish to be your cat. Or anyone’s pet who would allow me to perish in peace with a little dignity when there is nothing else that medicine can do for me.

    • Hi Jan,

      I often think about the subject you bring up. I am not going to allow anyone to decide how I should “die,” and intend to take my own life if I ever have a disease that is certainly going to render me one of the “living dead.” I don’t see the logic of waiting until I am completely unable to function on my own.

      It is a horrible subject to think about, but I agree there is something terribly wrong when we let people suffer.

      Geri

  • Lily

    So sorry for your loss Geri. I have been where you are six times now, most recently in June this year. I wish Buddy was still here. But I always remember “‘Tis better to have loved and lost” because we would miss so much without our furry companions, even though it is so painful when they die. You did your best for your beloved cat, even the vet did not diagnose her illness initially. She had a happy home and thirteen good years with you, and love from many people. You gave her a good life, I hope that you take comfort from that.

    • My goodness, Lily, I don’t know how you did this six times. It’s hard taking the life of an animal, when it has no say.

      Thank you for your warm words.

      Fondly, Geri

  • Hi Kate,

    In wish Miss Paws many more years of purring with you.

    Fondly,
    Geri

    • Kate Line Snider

      Geri, I still miss Mo, Miss Paws’ predecessor, who died at age 5 of lung cancer. I even kept his collar. It is nice to know that when these furry people pass away, and your grief for them mellows a bit, it is possible to acquire NEW furry friends. But they are all different.

  • Kate Line Snider

    Aww…Well, sometimes you just have to.

    One of my cats is nearly 14. She is fat, but in pretty good shape otherwise. She has a skin cyst on her neck. we had the option of the vet’s performing a $400-600 surgery to find out if it is malignant, or just watching it. Been watching the cyst for about a month because they could do nothing about a malignant cyst! It has shrunk some, and Miss Paws is doing fine. If she were in pain, it would be a different story.

    But I know you will miss your cat dreadfully. If you feel bad about the euthanasia, just rest assured your pet wouldn’t want you to be in pain, either.