Thursday morning I had to euthanize my sweet kitty, Prince, who has been sick since November. Some of you may remember me mention at time that I was force-feeding him. Although he was doing relatively well with the force-feeding, he wouldn't eat on his own.
In the last few days of his life, it got increasingly hard for him to breathe, so late Wednesday evening we took him to an emergency clinic. An x-ray found that one of his lungs was completely filled with fluid. After spending the night in an oxygen box, in the morning a specialist did an ultrasound in preparation to drain his lung, and discovered that he had a large tumor behind his heart. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to drain enough fluid off to make him comfortable out of oxygen, so we had to put him to sleep.
Losing Prince has been one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. I'd had him for 11 years this month, so he's been with me virtually all of my adult life — through moving out of my parents' house, and back in again, through boyfriends and breakups, through many different schedules as I changed jobs and went back to school.
I found Prince on my 19th birthday, in 1999. I had actually been looking for a kitten, but even in a cage, he had a way about him that quickly won me over. He flopped around on his back and looked up at me with his head upside down. When presented with a finger, he licked it and gnawed on it, purring the whole time. Not to mention he was gorgeous! They didn't have the adoption paperwork, so I returned the next day to get him.
When I got him, the vet said he was about 2 or 3, and he weighed a mere 7 pounds. That was pretty typical for him throughout his life: He ate just enough to stay alive, and always on the thin side, as you can see by how easily he fits into this mixing bowl.
One of Prince's most startling features was his different-colored eyes. I later discovered that deafness follows the white cat, blue eyes genes. I didn't know it at the time, and it took a couple of weeks before my dad suggested he was deaf. He would holler at the top of his lungs everywhere he went, and it never occurred to me why. Luckily, I quickly learned to sleep through it when he did it at night!
I've never known another cat like Prince. He was quirky and personable. He liked car rides. He looked at you so attentively when you took his picture, almost like he was posing. He didn't suffer from the aloofness cats are known for, and was generally pretty obliging.
Prince was with me through quite a few changes in my life. The biggest one was when Michael came into my life. Prince adored Michael from the start (it took getting really sick for Cleo to warm up to him, but then she's pretty reserved in general). He quickly took to sleeping on Michael's chest at night.
However, with Michael came Emma, his big brown dog. Cleo didn't handle it well (she stopped eating and got very sick), but as always, Prince rolled with the punches. He wasn't shy about sniffing Emma right back, or about swatting her on the face if she got fresh with him. There were times when he clearly wanted to play with her, but she didn't know how to read his signals.
Prince was one of those cats you could always expect to find sleeping in some strange place. Sometimes it would just be a few times, and other times he'd make it a favorite spot for a while. And watch out if you dared to leave out a basket full of clean laundry!
Although Prince was kind of clueless and wacky, there was still something regal and surprisingly intelligent about him. I remember when he figured out what mirrors were. I watched as he looked back and forth between me and my reflection in the mirror, and I could see him putting it together. He liked to watch me in mirrors; if I left clothes on my vanity top, he'd lie there facing the mirror, and watch what was going on in the room behind him.
In the last few years of his life, his tolerance for the dogs grew to the point that he was comfortable sleeping in their beds with them. We'd often come home to find him snuggled up on one corner. The last time was only a few days before he died.
Right up until the end, Prince maintained his sweet, quirky, affectionate nature. Even though I'd been force-feeding him since November, we'd often comment on how much like himself he was acting. He still slept in the same places, enjoyed the same things, kept the same routines. He loved to sit in our laps and appeared virtually any time we sat down. Just a couple of mornings before his death, I awoke to him giving my hand a bath as he snuggled up to my side in bed.
This picture was taken on his last morning at home, 24 hours before we had to put him to sleep. Although he'd been having trouble breathing on and off for two days, he was completely comfortable and happy to be sleeping with me.
In the emergency clinic overnight, the staff kept telling me what a tough kitty he was, expressing surprise at how well he was hanging in there, despite the fact that he had only one functioning lung and weighed only 5.5 pounds. The next morning, when I mentioned to the specialist who found the tumor that I'd been force-feeding Prince for the past five months, he was surprised. "You've been doing a good job with him, for him to still be here," he said several times. It was gratifying to hear, but I also know that a lot of credit has to go to Prince for his strong will to live. Other than the fact that he stopped eating, you never would have known he was sick.
I wasn't sure how Cleo would react at him being gone. They were never terribly close, though I did see a few surprising moments of closeness in his last week: She licked him for a moment once, and we came home to find her sleeping on the couch next to him Wednesday evening. But since he's been gone, she has taken to sleeping in his favorite spot on the couch for long periods at a time, something she never showed interest in before. And despite how reserved she usually is, she has been quite needy the last couple of days.
Letting go of Prince was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I have no regrets. I was able to give him five months of life that he wouldn't have had otherwise, and it was good
life, too. There was no question, Thursday morning, that it was the right time to let him go. It didn't make the grief any easier to bear, but at least I haven't had to deal with doubts and regret on top of it.
Sorry for the really long post, but Prince has been such a part of my life that I felt he deserved it. I've had him for so long that I didn't even know anymore what it was like to live without him, but I am relearning it. It will be a while before I get used to not having to schedule my day around when I have to feed him next, or before I stop expecting to see him curled up somewhere, sleeping. But I have 11 years of happy memories, too, and I can't think of a better gift.