This isn’t very lyrical or poetic. It’s just a remembrance of my cats.
I just dropped my cat, E.J. off at the vet to be euthanized. She was just beginning to get sick. She threw up virtually every night, usually at the same time. She’s had bad bouts of diarrhea every few days. To her credit, she always made it to the litter box. She was getting sick in the way that older cats get sick. She was winding down. E.J. was 16 or so. I can’t remember the year I got her, but I remember the job I had, my favorite song, my favorite outfit, my boyfriend (Hi, Frank; too bad we didn’t work out. We could have been divorced and acrimonious by now).
I had another cat, Lucy, who I had to put down last year about this time. She made it to the ripe old age of 19. The last two of her years were tough. She had one thing after another happen to her: kidneys, urinary tract, thyroid, digestive. I spent a ton of money on Lucy. Money that I didn’t have. Money at a bargain rate of 17% interest. If the vet had told me when they gave her that first antibiotic shot for her very first urinary tract infection that it was gonna cost me thousands, I’d have said “Put my girl down; she’s lived well,” and felt lucky to have had her around me for so long.
I first got cats because I hated coming home to a house without another warm being in it. I got Lucy with her littermate Ethel. Yeah, cute, huh? When they were first born, they completely hung out together and I couldn’t bear to break them up, so I took them both. They were a riot. I’d let them out of the house in my safe neighborhood in the morning when I went to work and they’d meet me every day as I drove up after work and we’d trundle in the apartment. Lucy was a big muscular cat and she kicked a lot of ass in the neighborhood while I was away. We’d all sleep together, Lucy and Ethel curled up in their fetal position comfort in the crook of my hip. If I had an overnight guest and he objected to the cats sleeping with us, I’d remind him that the cats lived there; he was just visiting and would be out early. This I said giving the hairy eyeball. He usually decided all three pussies were worth it, as well he should have.
Ethel must have eaten poison or something because I came home one day to only Lucy greeting me. A neighbor told me Ethel was dead under a bush. I wrapped her up in one of my best towels, put her in a box and called Animal Control and they came and took her. Lucy was bereft without Ethel.
A girl at work brought in some kittens to be adopted and talked me into taking E.J. E.J. stands for Ethel Junior. E.J. was a petite long-haired cat with Yoda ears, lots of mouth and claws, and was fearless. Lucy did her best to ignore the teeny-tiny E.J. when I brought her home, to no avail. They became friends and were so funny to look at together: Big muscular street brawler bitch Lucy and her mouthy energetic sidekick, E.J.
I was never the kind to take pictures of my cats and plaster them up at work like they were kids. We lived together. That was all. I fed them and we occupied the house together and slept together. Except for the last year when E.J. lost her mind and wouldn’t go outside without Lucy, they were indoor/outdoor cats. We lived our lives knowing that we had each other.
Right now is the first time in 20 years, I’m at home without animals. It’s sad. Really sad.
When I took E.J. in to be euthanized today, the vet was totally unprepared. The front office staff didn’t know what I was there for. Everyone was all chipper and sing-song-y. I had to stand there with my doomed cat for a good 20 minutes while they got everything together. It was awful. And I feel awful because I don’t have the money to find out what was wrong with my cat and maintain a chronic condition, like I did with Lucy.
I came home from the vet today, threw out the litterbox that for the past year has bedeviled my sinuses, all the paraphernalia and medicine and treats, scrubbed again all the spots all over my house that she threw up, vacuumed the hair away and sat down bawling to write this.
Poor E.J. As much a victim of the economy as I.
I have a vitriolic screed going on in my head about veterinarians and shelters, but don’t have the heart to express it right now. I came home from the vet today, and threw everything out, but I know I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning wondering why E.J. isn’t crying for her food and feed the space E.J. used to occupy, realize what I've done and set my hands on the countertop and cry for a good hour or so because I feel selfish and I killed my cat because I couldn’t afford her any longer. If Lucy or Ethel or E.J. were here when that happened, they'd quiet down for a hot minute and wrap themselves around my legs to comfort me...before they started yowling for their food.