Sunday, March 6, 2011


I had to put one of my cats to sleep on Friday. Moonshine was just a couple months shy of his 14th birthday. And I feel like I failed him. Even with multiple reassurances from my vet that he beat the odds and that we did everything we could for him, I still feel like I failed him. He was just a kitten like a couple years ago, how could he possibly be old enough to have heart disease???

And how could I not know that he had it? How could I have focused solely on his thyroid problem and completely missed the heart disease diagnosis in January of 2010? On the one hand this gave us a full year of normality. Well, normality and twice daily medications. On the other hand it made his decline seem so sudden and shocking.

Moonshine was given to me as a one year anniversary present by an ex-girlfriend. Another friend had given me a kitten for a college graduation present a couple months earlier (a little fluffy male bundle of orange fur which I named Sunshine) and that kitten desperately needed a playmate. Or rather, I needed someone other than me for him to play with in the middle of the night and while I was at work. Enter Moonshine. Who hide beneath the pedals of my ex-girlfriends car. He was a master at hiding. Even I couldn't find him in my own house at times he was that good.

Sunshine and Moonshine were literally night and day from each other. Sunshine is orange, Moonshine was black. Sunshine is outgoing, Moonshine was timid. Sunshine trusted everyone, Moonshine trusted few. Sunshine is a lot like Ms. Ex and Moonshine was a lot like me.

When Moonshine was a kitten he had an awful time controlling his tail. I just don't think he understood how it worked. He'd often walk around with the tip of it bonking him on the back of his head. His lack of tail control caused an unfortunate incident with a candle when he was a year or so old. Singed cat fur smells awful by the way. Thankfully he was no worse for the wear once the fur grew back.

He also loved to play fetch when he was little. He'd bring me a toy and I'd throw it in my tiny apartment and he'd chase after it and bring it back for me to throw over and over again. He outgrew this after a while, but it was adorable and the closest I've ever come to owning a pet who actually fetched. What about Maggie you say? I mean, she is a dog after all. Go ahead, I dare you to get her to play fetch with you. Go for it. I'll give you $100 if you get her to play.

Moonshine saw me through five moves (one interstate) and three girlfriends. We lived in six different homes together (three apartments, one townhouse and two houses). He and his brother Sunshine have been there for me for my entire post-college life. They were a constant no matter what else was going on in my life. When the bottom was falling out and my world was collapsing around me, they were there. They were steady and the same and normal. And even though you know when you adopt an animal that someday the day will come when you will lose them, I honestly thought that day was still years away. 13 isn't old for a cat to me. I really thought I had another 4 or 5 years.

Instead of an outright purr Moonshine would start off by making this grunting noise which would then lead into a deep purr if he was really happy, a deep purr which still had a grunting quality to it. I'd often call him my little grunty boy because of it. He was a sneezer (allergies maybe? Who knows. None of his vets over the years was concerned about it). And he was a puker (again no vet concern there) which the dogs who appeared later in his life LOVED! Maggie woke me many a night by vaulting off the bed to go clean up some puke. I think she was afraid someone else would get to it before she did if she didn't go get it RIGHT NOW! What she doesn't understand was that no one else in the house wants to eat the kitty vomit. Yuck!!!!

Speaking of dogs, Moonshine hated the dogs. HATED them. He ran away from home for a few days after Ms. Ex and I got our first dog, Joanie (who lives with Ms. Ex now).

My dad called Moonshine squat walker because whenever I moved into a new place Moonshine would squat walk through it until he got settled in. He was a very cautious kitty and would hide every time the door bell rang. Just in case. And he was an excellent judge of character. If Moonshine liked you then I knew for sure that you were a good person. I'm going to miss bringing people over and seeing whether or not he'd let these new people pet him.

Like me, Moonshine loved a good thunderstorm. When I first moved to CT we lived in a third floor apartment with a tiny little porch. At the first rumble of thunder Sunshine would dart under the bed to hide and Moonshine would beg to be let out on the porch to watch it. It didn't matter to him that it was raining and he might get a little wet, he was bound and determined to watch the storm.

Also like me, Moonshine adored olives. I could never open the olive jar without him knowing it, no matter where in the house he was when I opened it. I always saved one or two of the olives I was eating just for him as a treat. They weren't a daily thing, but he LOVED them. I knew he was really really sick when he would no longer eat the pieces of olive I offered him.

Between the two cats Moonshine (who was found on the street with his mother when he was just a little kitten) was the better hunter. While I love my Sunshine dearly, he is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Moonshine is such a good hunter that one time he even brought me a mouse from the basement with the trap that actually killed it still attached. He was really proud of himself that evening.

Maggie was terrified of Moonshine. Probably with good reason. He would sit on the dining room chairs and swat at her when she walked by. He was black and blended into the shadows so she never saw it coming. Quite a few times he trapped her in a hallway in the house. All he had to do was sit in the middle of the hall and look at her and she'd flat out refuse to walk around him. I had to rescue her from him quite a few times. Even after all that Maggie would still try to get him to play with her on occasion. Maggie might be an eternal optimist.

Over the last six weeks I watched Moonshine get sicker and sicker and weaker and weaker. He had fluid drained from his chest cavity twice. The last week of his life he was barely going through the motions and weighed about a third of what he weighed in his prime. I watched him like a hawk to see if he was still breathing. That's exhausting. One morning last week I couldn't find him in the morning when I got up. When I did find him in the basement he didn't respond to me calling his name and I actually asked him, out loud, "Moonshine, did you die?" But he hadn't. He was just in the in between. Not quite here but not quite there either. He spent quite a bit of time there during his last week or two.

Moonshine never got as much attention as his brother did. Or the dogs when they came. Part of the reason for this was because I was really really allergic to him, the rest of it was because affection was always on his terms. He hated to be held (and I have the scar on my left wrist to prove it). His idea of snuggling was sleeping on the same couch as you. Later in life he finally started sleeping next to me on the couch, actually touching me. I still have guilt that he didn't get as much attention as the others. I probably always will.

I am now thankful for the ridiculous winter we had. I am so grateful for all the days when it was too snowy to do anything but sit on the couch because I got to spend quality time with Moonshine in what I didn't realize were the final weeks of his life. He would sit with me, next to me, as I knit or watched movies. And he'd purr that grunty purr of his and we were both happy.

It's the silly things about him that I miss most. The house is so quiet without him (and he was a pretty darned quiet cat). He used to meow every night after I got in bed. A lot of the time it was just as I was drifting off to sleep and I would get so annoyed. He was playing with his favorite green catnip sock and would find the perfect spot to meow so as to maximize the acoustics of the house and make it as loud as he possibly could. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I miss that meowing now that it's gone even though I'd have to yell at him every night to get him to stop. He stopped doing it a few weeks ago when he got sicker. I even miss him scratching his claws on the sisal rug in the entry way even though I'd yell at him for that too.

I also miss him meowing when it was dinner time. He wore a tiny little watch under all that fur and no matter the weather he always new when I was supposed to be giving him his dinner. He'd be meowing right now actually if he were still with us. And even though he was the smaller of the two cats and the definite beta he would push Sunshine out of the way and eat both dinners some days. I loved to watch him do this and assert himself for a change.

I know have far too many litter boxes and food bowls and food for one cat. And the house feels unbalanced, lopsided if you will. The energy is all wrong. I miss that little guy terribly. He and I were a lot alike, well, as alike as a cat and a human can be. I didn't think losing him would affect me as much as it has but I have been a wreck for weeks now. And while I am relieved that the waiting is over and that he's no longer suffering his loss is palpable to me. It physically hurts.

I'm sure there's a ton more I could write about him. Like how he would follow me around the house if I were on the phone and beg for attention, meowing quietly at me if I didn't give it to him. Or how he would hold a grudge and was cold and calculating and would take revenge on Sunshine hours or days later by a vicious sneak attack for one offense or another. He was a unique little guy.

I know putting him to sleep was the right thing to do. I know there was no other option. I know it was the kindest, most humane thing for him. I know he beat the odds for his diagnosis according to my vet. I do know those things. But it doesn't make me feel any less of a failure to him. It doesn't make me miss him any less. It doesn't make the void any smaller or put the house back in balance. I hate how all this feels. They just aren't with us long enough.

Rest in peace Mr. Man.

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