Forgive me in advance because this is extremely personal—but I felt it was something all of us can relate to. So many amazing people adopt senior pets from Purebreds Plus, and we all know that many of them live long into their teens. Some of us raise them as newborns with them by our side for years. Inevitably, the end will always come, but my recent and constant struggle seems to be…how do you know when to say goodbye?
Sasha — a foster who came to us at 12 ½ and that we had for over 4 years was our most recent struggle. She was a feisty ruddy female Abyssinian. When she first arrived she was unapproachable. She was growling, hissing, hiding, just totally unfriendly and mad at the world. After a vet check, resolving her ear infection, and taking care of her bad teeth, she turned into something far better. Over the years she turned into my husband’s kitty. Some of the pictures we have show her obvious affection towards him. He could do almost anything with her and she mostly let him. An occasional complaint, but she trusted him enough to take what he gave her with aplomb. She would lie on his computer work table and let him scratch her tummy while purring and kneading the air. She was never a lap cat and did not like to be picked up or held, but she liked that time with her human, even if she was just a “foster”. As far as Sasha was concerned, he belonged to her. We often wonder how her original owner, who passed, was with her. She did like to go out into our catio when she was allowed out of her room. You see, she never did tolerate, nor ever did get along with our other cats. Even after four years, she would still growl and hiss at our resident cat, even though he never, ever gave her any cause to do so. He always looked very confused by her attitude.
Sasha had been a man’s cat for 13 years and that showed in her demeanor towards women. She would tolerate them but she was clear about her affection towards men. Her health? She had a number of odd episodes over the years, with no final diagnosis. It could be early kidney disease or it could be pancreatitis or something else. She had yearly checkups which she hated and let everyone know it. Slowly her last year she began to decline, sleeping more, eating less, losing weight, and being a little less friendly. She showed signs of discomfort and a second vet exam that year and then x-rays and ultrasound disclosed a number of masses, the largest being in her abdomen. We were able to treat the symptoms for a little while, however the end goal was not to cause her any more pain or discomfort. With extremely heavy hearts we let her go, her pain was no more. In 34 years, I don’t think I have ever seen my husband cry quite that hard.
As I write this I can’t even see the page—my eyes are blurred with tears for all the cats and kitten—who are no longer in this world with us physically whether they were ours or fosters like Sasha. But I can find some comfort knowing we did the right thing for all of them, and comfort knowing that others, like you, have been through this. But I still ask… how do you know when to say goodbye? Our furry friends are conditioned to hide any pain or injury—just as their wild predecessors would do. As their people, we have to look closely to see that something is wrong. Ultimately we have the ability to give them a gift. We can set them free. Goodbyes are never easy, old or young, but we have to be the bigger being and say goodbye when we know in our hearts they are ready—regardless of if we are.
I want to thank you all for being amazing cat parents. And I especially want to thank those that adopt senior pets. They deserve a family, no matter how long or how short their time may be. And you, their adopters, are their heroes.
A Senior Cats Promise….
I might have lived most of my life with another.
But you outshine them with love so much stronger.
I would promise to return all the love I could give,
To you my dear person, as long as I would live.
I would be with you for many or maybe just a few years,
We could share many smiles, you would no doubt shed tears.
And when the time comes that I would have to leave,
I know you would cry and your heart it would grieve.
And when I arrive at the bridge, all brand new,
My thoughts and my heart would still be with you.
And I would brag to all who will hear…
Of the person who made my last year’s so dear.
I wrote this because I know you understand. I am not seeking sympathy, but offering compassion and empathy and want you to know that we’re in this together.
As for me, I still don’t know when it’s time to say goodbye, but I do know it’s important to let them go when they are ready—to set them free.
K.S. – Purebreds Plus Volunteer