Last week wasn't the best week in our house, as we had to put our cat Boomer to rest.
Boomer was my companion for a little over fifteen and a half years. When he came into my life, I wasn't looking to be a cat owner to another cat. I already had one, and had recently lost a second one. A girl I was seeing at the time also liked cats, and I must have mentioned something about missing the other cat, because as a birthday present she decided to get me a kitten!
I was a little shocked, but the moment he walked in, laid down on a pile of blankets next to the couch, and fell asleep, I was hooked!
(For those who are wondering, the relationship only lasted a few more months, but by then the cat was part of the family!)
Boomer got his name because, as a kitten, he loved jumping up and down off furniture and made quite a loud thump, or BOOM, every time he hit the floor. And so was Boomer!
As Boomer grew from a kitten to a cat, there were a few characteristics that became evident. First, the cat loved to eat more than any other cat I knew. Second, he was not as friendly as most cats. He pretty much turned into a one-person cat. Luckily, that person was me! Third, he developed a pretty well known temper. If he didn't like you or what you were doing, he would have no hesitation to hiss at you.
As I mentioned, Boomer loved to eat. So much that without realizing it right away, I soon found that I had a big old fat cat! He weighed in around 20 pounds, and I knew at some point that this was not the way it was supposed to be. See, having two cats previously, I figured all cats were the same in that if you gave them a bowl of food, they would take what they wanted, and come back later when they were hungry. That worked pretty well, until Boomer came along.
Turns out he had the appetite of a dog. If you filled up the food dish, he would simply empty it. I knew that I was filling it more frequently, but never realized until the vet alerted me that he was way over his weight.
So, Boomer got to go on a diet (and so did the other cat, much to her chagrin *lol*). Feeding was limited to several small meals throughout the day. After that, Boomer got back closer to his ideal weight, normally around 10-11 pounds, although he scavenged for food as much he could. He would go through the trash can, beg for food at the table, and would always scour the kitchen for crumbs or droppings. We only made the mistake of leaving bread within his reach a couple of times, because he would literally eat a hole through the bag and eat himself a couple of slices!
Fun & Happy Cat
From the telling so far, it might not sound like he was the happiest or fun cat. But he really was. While easygoing or lovable weren't the first words that came to mind, he really did enjoy life. He loved me and anytime I sat down on a couch, he would wander over, jump in my lap, and get a few minutes of petting time in. When the weather turned to the winter, he would spend many a night at the end of the bed keeping my feet warm.
He loved looking out the back window. We have lots of squirrels and he always made sure they weren't getting into too much trouble. He'd also chatter at chirping birds.
As a kitten and young cat, he loved to play. He would chase toy mice around until he ran out of breath. He'd actually stand there and pant. As he got older, the playfulness waned but never fully went away. He'd still get bursts of energy and a toy mouse was always at the ready.
When he was a kitten, he got a little stuffed hedgehog as a gift, and he loved that throughout life. He would pick it up and carry it around the house, meowing at it, and Hedgehog always seemed to be near where Boomer was.
Around the age of 3, Boomer began having some issues with going to the litter box in that, well, he couldn't. He suffered from constipation and this plagued him throughout his life.
Some of the early episodes were rather unfortunate and probably scarred him. One time, he was coming back from the vet and they'd treated him, but he hadn't gone by the time he left. Unfortunately, he didn't make it home and was in his carrier in the car when disaster struck. Only it got worse. When I got home, I realized that I'd left my keys locked in the house. Here was poor Boomer, covered in a smelly mess, only wanting to get inside, and he couldn't. Hosing him down while I waited for someone to bring me a key technically helped him out by getting rid of the flies that he was attracting, but he sure didn't see any positives!
Thankfully, we had a vet that, after the initial problems developed, was able to really help us manage the problems. Special diet and medicines really helped. Over the next twelve years, I became pretty good at spotting when a bout was coming on, and we managed to get in front of things.
Every episode ended pretty quickly and he was back to his normal self.
This Time Was Different
This was the routine for over twelve years and it went well…until recently when it didn't.
I won't go into the messy details, but essentially a few weeks ago he had an episode that was worse than normal. He got straightened out and seemed to be back to his normal self, except that unlike every other times, he didn't start going again on his own.
We had a few different treatment interventions, and made some adjustments to his diet and medicine, but nothing we did ultimately brought him back to ‘normal'. It just kept getting worse, and even after getting him to go, the level that he bounced back and the time which he stayed well before starting to decline again all was going in the wrong direction.
It Wasn't Working
After a few weeks, I could see just by looking at him that it wasn't working.
I had a heart-to-heart with the vet and they put it in a very meaningful way. Basically, they pointed out that all of the medicines and food and everything else we did was designed to assist his body in the function of going, but that the body still needed to do the work. Essentially, the medicines and diet couldn't take over and make things happen.
I looked at my cat and realized that, although he fought a courageous battle for over twelve years, he wasn't going to win the fight this time. I also remembered a conversation years back that I had with my vet, when he first started getting sick. At the time, I asked how long a cat with his condition would be expected to live. She said that it could vary, but that between 10-12 was pretty normal. I always kind of kept that in the back of my head. When he made it to past 15 and 1/2, it comforted me to know that he got quite a bit of, maybe, ‘extra' time.
Final Time With Him
I talked to the vet and talked to my wife and we made the heartbreaking decision that nobody ever wants to make, but that pet owners must eventually face. We scheduled the appointment for the next day.
Once I did that, I made the decision that I was not going to wallow in sadness. Instead, I wanted to give him a great day. And we really did have a great time together. He got a few more sits in my lap. He got to eat as much and as often as he wanted. I gave him two plates of macaroni and cheese, his favorite ‘people' food.
He went to the door wall and found a perfect square of sunshine to lay in and take a nap. Before we left, he went up on his blanket and lay down. I sat next to him and started petting him and started talking to him. I told him how much I loved having him as my cat. Then, I was just talking to him about things I remembered throughout his life. He fell asleep. It was a blessing to get that opportunity to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking to take him in a couple of hours later for the visit that you know he won't be coming back from. But really, those last 24 hours will be time I'll always treasure.
In Almost Twenty Years
I've had three cats over the course of nearly twenty years. Losing Boomer was the first time that I didn't have a cat still waiting for me. Losing him meant companionship and the routines and everything else that you just get used to.
We're going to take a little time and decide what we want to do as far as getting a pet. We haven't ruled anything out or made any plans one way or another. This is a new chapter in our lives, and we'll see how the story plays out.
For now, though, we all miss Boomer, though we are already making sure to cherish the memories above all else. He's no longer here but he'll always be part of our family.