Earlier this week, I did something I know I had to do and had been putting off for weeks because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – I surrendered a pet to the post animal shelter.
Since then, I have asked myself over and over whether it was necessary and whether I was a mean person for doing it. Each and every time, I have ended up feeling like the scum of the earth despite the answer being “Yes, it was the right thing to do.”
Bear has been with us since February 2008. I have blogged and talked about Bear incessantly. He came to us at just under a year (about 9 months old) and as wild as the day is long. At first he would run and hide when he heard strange external noises (the doorbell, the lawn mower) and that was fine because he had learned that we (my husband and I) were his family and we would never hurt him.
Last August, when my parents came to stay with us for our wedding, we were all surprised at how quickly he made friends with them as well. Even after the upheaval of Nala arriving and herself adjusting to us and him and the house. But he grew to like my parents, to come out and say hi and get an ear rub from Dad. It was a beautiful thing.
Then after we were married, we had to move. And that was stressful for him, I think. He hid for a whole day. But that was expected – all the new smells, new sense of space, new everything except us. And that helped a little I think … that we were still there with him, still loving him.
He was fine for months until he started stealing food. I had to rig the kitchen counters to be an automatic remote alarm so that when he jumped onto the counter the falling soda cans would startle him and he would learn not to jump on the counter. After we heard the cans fall a couple of times, I figured he had learnt and moved them.
Well, he hadn’t learnt and would still jump onto the counter to steal food – and this is with food in his bowl, by the way. In case you were thinking “poor kitteh is actually hungry – why don’t you feed him?” Frankly, it only hit me while writing this post that his behaviour had started to get a little off the minute we left the first house we lived in. He would chew on stuff … especially cardboard boxes. Again, with food in his bowl. We put up the Christmas tree in December of 2008 and he chewed on the branches (they are plastic).
Hubby and I thought maybe he just didn’t like that brand of food – we changed it 3 times. We knew he liked wet food, we got him more. I even tried feeding him more often, put out more food at a feeding – that only made him put on weight, it did nothing to alleviate the chewing and the stealing. We tried everything we could think of – it made no difference.
Bear developed a wailing kind of cry during these days – a caterwauling like you hear wild cats doing. Hearing it would make anyone think he was in pain and distress. It drove me nuts because I knew that I was doing just about everything I could for him. I fed him, I cleaned up after him, I made sure he had water, was warm and safe.
It was during this period also that we realized that if we missed feeding them by a few hours, Bear would puke his food up and run scared for the rest of the day until hunger drove him out later for more caterwauling.
I think the final straw for Bear was the 3 day drive from Kentucky to Texas. Once he got here, he was as neurotic as I’d ever seen him to be. Where before curiosity drove his need to get into every door and cupboard, now it seemed almost pathological.
He developed his first UTI evidenced by his frequent trips to the litter box and eventually his peeing on everything but in the litter box – including the furniture. It if hadn’t been so tragic, it would have been funny – furniture covered in paper, doors closed, cupboards reinforced with things to block his access … the vet told us that they do that because they associate the litter box with pain.
Ever after being treated, he was erratic and the caterwauling became his standard cry. The stealing became worse, he would leave the food in his bowl and take food off the stove, out of the sink … even out of the garbage. He would run away from me and from hubby with no known trigger. He would hide all day and seek to get through every single closed door he could find – even the exterior doors.
There were days when he seemed fine, however. Days when he would sit either at the open back door of the house or on a chest in the spare room staring outside, or just sleeping in the recliner. When he would be affectionate and friendly, playful. These days we would think “it must just have been a phase, he’s ok now”. But it would never last long.
And this is at the root of our reasoning – with this kind of erratic behaviour – stealing, sneaking, running scared today and affectionate and playful tomorrow … well, he wasn’t happy and he was making us unhappy. There weren’t a lot of choices for us. We couldn’t afford to care for him anymore – both financially and emotionally, he was getting to be unmanageable. And a friend suggested that as well as he was right now, this was the best time to get him a new home rather than waiting for him to get sick again.
We discussed it – over and over and over. We wavered from one position to the other. It was especially obvious to us when we had to board them both while we went North to say goodbye to hubby’s Grandfather. When we got back, his UTI had returned, he had lost about 3 pounds and he was caterwauling like you wouldn’t believe. Once home, he seemed to get better, but the caterwauling, the stealing and running scared continued.
It was driving me nuts – as a light sleeper, having a cat sit on your legs in bed and caterwaul at 3am is not happy days. Even locking them out of the room did nothing to help, he would sit in the small closed hallway and caterwaul outside the closed door anyway.
I guess when I think about all these things and put them down in writing, I realize that there really wasn’t much we could have done. Without the means and money to care for him, we were actually going to be doing us all harm – Hubby, Nala and myself – by fooling ourselves into thinking “he’ll be ok”.
The last straw was him puking his breakfast up onto Scott’s favourite chair. For weeks, I had been setting alarms to wake me to feed them on time, and one morning I was off by an hour and even that was too late. Hubby was gone all day and half the nights too sometimes, I was alone and at my wits end. With the upcoming deployment, this was just not something either of us wanted to have on our plates on top of everything else.
So, off to the shelter I went. I know there were other options: we could have found him a new home ourselves. We could have tried harder with him, I know. And this is probably where my guilt and depression now stem from – knowing there were other options, and I chose the easy way out. Except, that I personally could not in all conscience knowingly inflict that kind of erratic behaviour on anyone else.
Maybe I was wrong and I will rot in hell forever. Maybe. I know I can’t get out from under the dark, evil cloud of the whole thing. I know it was the right thing to do, but that isn’t making me feel any better.