Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Life is about choices. Some of them are forced upon us by circumstance. Some of them are made impulsively, some willfully. And sometimes, there is no win to the choices we make.

This is Max. He's been a part of our lives for 11-12 years. He's a loving, loyal friendly little cat with a purr like a tractor, and is always in the room with his people. If some of us are upstairs and some of us are down, he would wait in the middle. Since our daughter arrived, he's guarded her fiercely, and would spend many hours hanging out in the rocking chair in her room while she napped in her crib. He was patient with her chubby fingers, and would just wait for me to extricate him from her toddler grasp. Never once did he snarl, claw or snap at her. He curls up on her bed at night and tries to help her go to sleep. Sometimes even he gives up when she's carrying on and comes back downstairs with us, but most of the time, he waits until she's asleep.

Max has a past. We don't know all the details, but he has a bump on his nose and when we first adopted him, if you moved your hand to quickly, he would flatten and cringe. He was also terrified of being hungry. He's gotten over those fears over the years, but he still reacts to any changes in the house. His way of comforting himself is to pee on things. He peed on a lot of things.

Over the years, we've replaced carpets, briefcases, sports bags, backpacks, shoes, clothing...At first, he would pee on anything plastic that was left on the floor. He peed in a friend's car seat when she brought her newborn baby over to visit and I forgot and left it on the floor in the hall. He peed on my best friend's suitcase, camera bag and toiletry bag. He peed on toys in Laura's room, on papers in the basement and seems to have a particular hate for junk mail. Over the years, we've warned guests to leave suitcases in the bathroom with the door closed, or to drape them with things that smelled like us so that Max didn't take matters into his own hands.

He's been checked by a vet. We're using low ash food for crystals. I've had an animal communicator in. I've had an animal behaviourist in. I've used Rescue Remedy, I've used specially blended herbal drops. I just about set fire to the house with Feliway diffusers. I've used $18 a bag litter that lasts 2 weeks...when the stress level goes up, so does the level of cat urine.

He's squatted in front of me and peed on the carpet when the litter was clean. He's left a 6 inch puddle of pee beside my chair. He's peed on more floormats than I can count. He has a hate for cases of water, bags of salt for the water softener and Christmas gift bags.  When we were toilet-training our daughter, they were both peeing on the floor.

And then Max started peeing on furniture. First, he jumped on a small end table my mother-in-law gave my husband and peed all over my paperwork on it. Then he jumped on the coffee table in the basement (another gift to my husband from his mom) and peed on the papers on it. Then he peed on the cushions of the deacon's bench on the landing. And a few days ago, he peed in a little wicker chair, ruining the cushions and my daughter's backpack, and a bag that had all of her homework for the year in it. I can sew new cushions, but the trend is alarming. Floors are one thing; furniture is another.

My husband is already stressed trying to work full time and deal with his mom's health. His dad has some health issues too. He'd run out of patience with Max 5 years ago and tolerated him, barely. Peeing on furniture ended his tolerance.

I run like a madwoman to the basement multiple times a day to scoop the litter as soon as anything shows up in the box. I live in terror that he will peed in my antique upholstered chair-the one we spent $1000 on last year to have  re-upholstered (after Max decided it was the best scratching post in the house) and then slipcovered to protect it from kitty claws. I have nightmares about the leather furniture. We'll both be on the curb if Max ever peed in the Lazyboy.

We've had a lot of stress in the family lately, and as my mother-in-law's health deteriorates the stress will only get worse. I work from home, I take care of our 5 year old daughter full time, I take care of my 83 year old mother, who is still pretty self sufficient, but doesn't drive anymore. I am checking in with my in-laws on a daily basis, and I have responsibilities to my church, my friends and my extended family. Most of the stress in my life is out of my control. I'm trying to lessen the impact of stress that is in my control. I can't do this anymore.

I feel like I've failed Max, although I'm out of options. I can't stand the stress or fear of him destroying furniture. Replacing backpacks is one thing; Upholstered furniture, or god forbid, beds, is another. We've tried everything. I'm not going to surrender him to a shelter. He's been through that once, and I'm sure it was for this reason. He's too old for someone to adopt him. So I made the only decision left and called the vet.

I've been trying to prepare our daughter. Max is her best buddy and this is going to devastate her. I've been warning her that Max is sick and I have to take him to his doctor. We've had a couple of deaths in the family/friends circle lately, so she knows that sometimes people don't get better, and they become angels. While not theologically correct, it makes sense to a five year old. Still, this is going to be really hard on her, and a prelude of things to come when the cancer wins down the road.

I believe that animals have souls. Now I know that it's not in the doctrine of the Catholic faith, so don't report me to the Pope. But God made animals, and God gave them the ability to love, and it's beyond my realm of comprehension that He didn't give them a soul, maybe not in the same vein as a human soul, but a spirit nonetheless. (I also believe that all living things have spirits).If that makes me a flake, I can own that.

So Daddy, later today, a dear little black cat will arrive in heaven. He's a good boy, loving, loyal and protective. Could you keep an eye out for him? Aunt Catherine, you always liked Max, so can you help him find his way? And Max, thank you for your loyalty, your companionship, your trust and your faith that we would take care of you. I love you very much, and I hope that you find peace now. I hate making this decision and I hope you'll understand and forgive me. I'll miss you my dear little panther cat.

Just don't pee on the angels' wings or in God's chair, okay?


Jane Langille said...

RIP Max. Lisa, this is a heartfelt account of a difficult but necessary family decision. We had to say goodbye to two guinea pigs after 5 and 6 years and have special painted stones in our garden as a memorial.

Christine Peets said...

Sometimes it sucks to be an adult and have to make the tough choices. This was not an easy choice, but it was the best for you, your sanity, your household, and yes, for Max too.
Max is at peace now, and I hope you are too.

Divawrites said...

Thanks. It's been a tough week, and I miss his furry face beside me while I'm working.

It was the only decision that could be made, but it was still awful.