Saying Goodbye to My Cats

I’m catless.

For the first time in about 13 years, I don’t have a cat living with me.  It feels a little weird.

Our family cat lived with me during my first 2 years of law school and after he passed away during the summer of 2000, I headed straight to the local humane society and found Wally (named after former Minnesota Timberwolves player Wally Szczerbiak – go ahead, laugh, I know you want to).

A blue-eyed Siamese, Wally knew he was beautiful and expected everyone to shower him with affection.  After dragging him from Minnesota to Chicago with me, I started to feel guilty over how much time he spent alone while I was at work or out with friends.  So in November 2003 I decided he needed a friend.

Wally and Leo
How cute are they??

Enter Leo – named after Leonardo DaVinci since I was reading the DaVinci Code at the time.  As an orange tabby, it was love at first sight.  And to my great relief, Wally and Leo soon became best buddies.  I could spend hours watching them wrestle, fight, cuddle and clean each other. It was hard to imagine I would ever be without them.

Then I started dreaming of my big trip.  For a long time I didn’t even think about the fact that I would need to give them up; it was too hard.  But as time went on and my plans started to take shape, I realized I would have to find new homes for them.

And then fate or destiny or some force of nature stepped in.

A few months ago, I realized Wally was not his normal self.  I was changing the litterbox much more frequently.  I was refilling the water bowl multiple times a day when it used to never run dry.  Wally felt a lot lighter when I picked him up and I could feel the bones of his spine jutting through when I pet him.  Finally, to knock myself out of denial, I stepped on the scale with him and realized he had lost about 5 pounds.  Something was definitely wrong.

A trip to the vet confirmed my worst fear: Wally had diabetes.

Wally the weekend before he was put to sleep.

Even if I wasn’t leaving on this trip, that would’ve been a hard diagnosis to take.  But my plans made it even harder.  Sure, I could try to take care of Wally for a few months, but what would happen when I left?  It was going to be hard enough to find a new home for two older, but healthy, cats.  Who was going to take in a 13 year old cat with diabetes?

I talked to my parents and cried.  Then I talked to my brother and cried some more. I knew deep down that the logical thing was to put Wally to sleep, but I felt like I was a horrible, selfish person to even consider it.  My dad reassured me that, while I may have done some  selfish things in my life, this would not be one of them (thanks Dad!).

I talked to the vet and explained the circumstances.  He very kindly, but unsuccessfully, tried to find someone to foster Wally. And then he called me at 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night (seriously, how many vets do that?) and concurred that it was best to go ahead and put Wally to sleep.

I spent one last weekend with him and then took him in on Monday afternoon.  The tears started rolling before I even got to the vet’s office, but the staff was wonderful and it was almost a relief when it was finally over.  The vet assured me again that I did the right thing.

And then I went home to Leo, my sweet orange tabby who didn’t understand why his buddy for the last 8 years wasn’t coming back.  Seeing his confusion and loneliness was almost as hard as saying goodbye to Wally.

Wally and Leo sleeping
Wally and Leo in the earlier days.

I hoped that the silver lining in putting Wally to sleep would be that it would be easier to find someone to take just Leo when it was time for me to leave.  Luckily, I was right.

When I sent out an email to friends, looking for a possible home for Leo, my friend Patty responded almost immediately, saying that she and her boyfriend Brian had been thinking of getting a cat to be a companion for their dog Jack once their baby came.  A few weeks later, I took Leo over to Patty and Brian’s place to test the waters. To our great surprise and relief, there was no hissing, growling or snarling – just some tentative stares and curious sniffing.  So a couple weeks after that, I packed up the litterbox and the cat food and pushed an unhappy Leo into his cat carrier to make the trip to his new home.

It seems like the ideal situation.  Leo has been starved for animal companionship since Wally left, so I am hopeful that he and Jack will get along well over time.  And I am relieved that I was able to find a friend to take Leo instead of resorting to a random person on Craigslist or, even worse, leaving him with a shelter.

Leo's new home
Leo adjusting in his new home.

I am sure once I hit the road, I will barely give Leo a second thought, but while I am still here, sitting in an apartment that gets emptier every day, it feels very quiet and lonely without him.

21 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to My Cats”

  1. Aw, I’m so sorry! I would be a mess without my pets. They complete me and never fail to make me happy on hard days. So sad when you have to say goodbye.

  2. I am really shocked at some of these terrible comments on here. I do understand how you felt it was best so your cat did not suffer. I am glad you found a home for the other one. I must move from my home to an apartment and have 3 cats I need to find homes for. It is devastating. I love them because they are my best buddies. This is one of the hardest things I have done in a long time. I had to put my dog down when I was 15 and it took me years to get over that one. But at least these lovely cats will have new homes since they are not ill in any way. Thank you for sharing your story and shame on the persons who made “holier than thou” comments to you. They should not judge others when they have not walked in their shoes. Take Care 🙂

  3. My heart just broke. I am so sorry. I hope Wally rests in peace. I don’t even know him and I just teared up. :'(. I can’t describe how I feel now. When I saw the picture you posted before he was put to sleep and those innocent eyes I just… started to tear up. My cat is leaving me today because my parents think that she smells and there is no convincing them. She was so close to me. At least she isn’t being put to sleep. You did the right thing though Katie, even if it doesn’t seem that way to some people.

  4. Hi, my cat is 14 in April 2014, and has been there for me through thick and thin and is a loving, doting and gentle companion. He has a slight kidney impairment and takes a tablet each morning but is a healthy and happy, energetic cat. I hope to take a year out travelling and will be paying his medical insurance, food and costs whilst away and giving him to a friend I know will treat him well (costing me around £600- £700 in total!) . I will allow that person to keep him if they love him when I return, rather than uproot him again. I know we’re all different but I can’t understand how u put your cat to sleep without even trying to rehome him first. I’m not judging you as harshly as some people have, you did what you felt was best, but I couldnt do it just because he has an illness that is, in fact, treatable? my cat has his kidney problems but deserves the best life as he’s brought me so much joy in mine. I feel I owe it to him to be insured and cared for when I’m away and I also know he’ll bring joy and love wherever he is.

    1. I did try. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to have any friends who would take him. My vet tried his foster network and couldn’t find anyone and I even called the no-kill shelters in the area as a last resort but they were all too full. Regardless, based on what the vet told me, I may have made the same decision even if I hadn’t been planning to leave. He was suffering a lot – the vet basically told me that treatment could prolong his life but he would still be suffering. I don’t know I could’ve handled watching him suffer any more like that. As I’ve said before, it was an incredibly difficult decision that I only made after consulting with both the vet and my family. Everyone agreed I was doing the right thing.

  5. Your beautiful post made me cry. Today I am putting my cat to sleep because of chronic Giardosis. He has been sick for two years and I have caught the bug and one of my other cats….we get better but he never does. So many treatments….trips to the vet…..he just never gets better. He has had bleeding bowels and crys in pain when he has a bowel movement. This is the hardest decision I have ever made with one of my pets. He is still eating, drinking, talking, walking, but I know he is hurting too. Maybe I am just trying to console myself but in 3 different vet consultations they have assured me that the best thing for everyone in my home is to not have an animal with a chronic zoonotic disease. It doesn’t change the heartbreak. I know what you went through deciding what was best for Wally. I am sorry for your loss.

  6. You said you would “barely give Leo a second thought” after you left.

    I remembered my cat every day for the first year after she passed away, and years later still think of her often.

    Please, don’t ever get a pet again. You don’t deserve one.

    1. Thanks for your comment, but you are way off – how dare you say I don’t deserve to have another pet. Perhaps try to not be so judgmental?

      I have had cats my entire life and loved my cats to pieces. I was relieved to find a good family to take in Leo before I left on my trip and it gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t need to worry about him. I knew he would be well taken care of – that’s what I meant when I said I would barely give him a second thought – I wouldn’t be worrying about him.

      And yes, I certainly thought about my cats plenty as I traveled – every time I saw a cat overseas, they made me think of mine at home.

  7. I guess I am trying to understand the importance of The Trip.

    I understand you’d thought about and planned it for awhile.

    Your cat had diabetes which is difficult but treatable. Wally was 13 which is not too old for Siamese which often live to their 20s.

    You tried to get him adopted and failed.

    And you chose to euthanize him so you could take your trip?

    Please confirm.

    1. I don’t expect everyone to understand. It was an incredibly difficult decision and after consulting with my vet, we all agreed it was for the best. His diabetes was very far advanced and it basically would’ve been extending his life in suffering. In retrospect, even if I hadn’t left on my trip I probably would’ve chosen to put him down just to put him out of his misery.

  8. That is a difficult choice, i was offered a position in the usa in 98 and i told my company i would only go if i could take my 3 cats. The company agreed, to pay for the boxes and health checks and flight and all three cats could come with me i was ecstatic.
    I had 1 brown Burmese called bubbles, a blue Burmese called Pepsi and a black cat called Golly.

    Anyway to cut a long story short i brought all 3 with me otherwise i would not have come across 🙂

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  10. This totally made me cry! My parents had to put our family to sleep a few months ago and it just felt awful, but knowing she wasn’t in pain anymore helped. I’m so glad you were able to find a friend to take care of the other cat!

  11. Oh, Katie. You made me all weepy. One of the most devastating events in my life was when I had to put my cat down. I know how hard it is. I’m sorry for your loss…and I know having to give Leo away was tough too. But at least you know he has a new furry companion, so he’ll be all right.

  12. Awww! I had to give up my cat when I moved to Japan, so I totally understand how you feel. Luckily, one of my best friends took my cat & he and his wife totally love her (and have already informed me on countless occasions that I’m not allowed to have her back if I move back to the States). It’s comforting to know she has a good home, but I still feel bad about leaving her.

    1. Yeah it definitely helps to know that Leo is in a good place and Patty & Brian adore him. They took him in early enough too that I’ve been able to go over and see him a couple times before leaving.

  13. Awww Im not a pet person, but I am sure it must be hard. The funny thing about planing a RTW trip is that we have to give up so many things we love, but your right on the road you dont think about them.

  14. I am a softie for stuf like this and your experience has me with tars in my eyes.. Wow… You did do the right thing Katie… You gave your cats a wonderful home, a great life and lots of love for many years.

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