Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dealing With A Cat-Astrophe

The High Cost Of Dead Pets, Or, Mourning Becomes Eclectic

Betsy Cat has been mouldering in the grave for 2 weeks now, so I suppose I ought to go ahead and get this written. God knows I've been avoiding it for a while.

Losing a pet really, really sucks.

From my POV, aside from a generally shitty outlook on life and a temporary retreat from both the meatspace and online social worlds, there's been some other troubling aspects of Betsy's demise.

It seems that part of my personal grieving process involves stuffing my piehole with whatever's close at hand.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at Ground Zero...


The last visit to the vet was about as crappy as you can imagine. Poor Betsy was so weak she had trouble standing, and even though I had her in a big box, she kept trying to poke her nose out to see where we were going. She had to know it wouldn't end well. Every other car ride she'd ever had was to the cold white room where all the people wore lab coats & rubber gloves.

I had to wait in the lobby while they did the exam. Pehaps 30 minutes passed before the vet summoned me to the room to lay out the situation. I spent that half an hour (and indeed much of the last two weeks) thinking of all the things I might have done to improve Betsy's life. Better food, more brushing, maybe on occasion a whole fish or a bucket of mice...

The vet said that it was not uncommon for cats to adjust & compensate for their advancing health issues, and have little or no outward signs of distress until they get to the Point of No Return. Betsy was her usual self on Monday, looked out of sorts on Wednesday, and on Thursday night could barely totter to the water bowl. I was told that this rapid decline was not out of the ordinary, and in a cat of Betsy's years, was a sign of a systemic decline. Everything fails at once, as it were.

The veterinarian let me know that if I was willing to give the OK, they could use every treatment and therapy currently available to try and pull Betsy out of her steep dive. OTOH, the vet said, her heartbeat was irregular, her breathing was extremely labored, and there was a better than even chance that the cure would be worse than the disease. Basically, the treatment would probably kill her. Kind of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario.

What clinched it was when the vet said that if it was her cat, she'd recommend putting her down. I'd pretty much assumed that would be the end result, but hope springs eternal...

The worst part of the entire process, even more wrenching than the 3rd & final syringe being injected, was that stupid form I had to fill out regarding disposition of the remains.

People, please, please, PLEASE make your post-death arrangements in advance!! I can't even imagine how much worse it would be trying to make that sort of decision for a parent, spouse or child while struggling with the fact that they're cooling on a slab as you sort through the paperwork.

In this case, I had several options. I could have Betsy cremated and put in an urn for $175. I could have her cremated with a bunch of other dead critters and get a scoop of ashes out of the pile for half that. I could choose "unspecified disposal" for $105.

There was no option for "wrap her in the bathtowel she loved to snuggle on and carry her out in the box you came in with".

So, since I planned to bury her in the backyard, I had to get their $24.95 cardboard cat coffin, and took her home that way.

(BTW, I don't want to sound critical about the vet's office. Everyone was 100% professional & caring in their demeanor, and each person there has a heart that's four sizes too big. I got a nice sympathy card signed by the entire office a week later.)


If you have to dig a grave, having the temperature well below freezing is both a help and a hindrance. I didn't break a sweat, but my fingers had a hard time gripping the shovel for the final foot of soil.

The other benefit of the frigid temperatures was that I could park Betsy in the garage overnight, and not have to tuck her in amidst the jars of pickles and cottage cheese in the fridge. As practical as the garage/morgue was, my thoughts were constantly on how cold that garage must be, and how she would frequently use me for a heating pad on cold nights.

I buried her in the far corner of the back yard, opposite the greenhouse. Pookie Cat is very much a homebody, and would rarely do more than sniff at an open door. Betsy Cat, OTOH, took every available opportunity to escape the confines of the house, and would often be found, bedraggled, muddy and quite unhappy with her current predicament in that far corner. Since that's where I usually found her out back, it seemed a good location to plant her.

Now, Pookie Cat's a pretty good cat, as cats go, but she's not Betsy. Betsy was never very far away when I was home, and usually sat & yowled at me to go lie down on the bed so she could get her ears skritched. If I was horizontal, usually she was too, superimposed on my back or side and shoving her head under my nearest hand to get the skritching started.

After years and years of that, it leaves a pretty gigantimous hole in your life when there's not a furry limpet attached to your epidermis.

And I haven't dealt with it all that well...

As I mentioned earlier, Project LOLA was an early casualty. While I haven't gone completely apeshit, and remain pizza, ice cream and fried 'taters free, I haven't been shy about a second helping of whatever I'm eating, and more than a few burritos and sandwiches have been consumed in the name of comfort and well-being.

Oh, I know quite well on an intellectual level what's going on. I'm feeling blue, and self-medicating with my drug of choice. That it comes in a McDonald's wrapper and not a plastic baggie or glass bottle is just the luck of the draw. A very similar thing happened the last time I attempted to lose a lot of weight. After 8 months of dieting and 50+ lbs removed, the contract I was working on folded, and one of the best jobs I'd ever had was over in a flash. As the job collapsed, so did my resolve, and the end result was where I was in September of 2009.

The problem, now as always, is not intellectual but emotional. My brain's always been three jumps ahead of my heart.

I'll get back on the wagon fairly soon. I've come too far to fuck it up now.

As long as I'm cranking out 1000+ words, let me add my sincere thanks to everyone here and on FB for your word of sympathy and support. They mean a lot.

Please don't drop off a kitten, however! I'd enjoy it, but Pookie Cat would have a conniptious fit!