This post is about Fuzzy, my family’s cat of 15 years. We made the hard decision to put him down this week. It was tougher than I ever imagined.
While I have had the honor of sharing my life with other companion animals, I never received the opportunity to bond so closely with one as I did with Fuzzy (aka Mr. Fuzz or King Fuzzy). He was my family’s first full-time feline, a beautiful gray cat.
Fuzzy was born outdoors, a feral, to a feral mum sometime in the spring. I imagine fresh green grass, a cloudless sky filled with sunlight, and birds chirping, chatting with each other among tree branches on his day of birth. I have absolutely no clue what the day was actually like, but I like to think it was a beautiful kind of day for a cat like Fuzzy to be born.
I met Fuzzy when he was just a few months shy of one. He lived among other ferals under the porch of my best friend’s home. Out of the various feral felines hanging around their property, Fuzzy and his two brothers (Wuzzy and Bear — yes, I know, ADORABLE) were slowly being acclimated to an indoor life thanks to the efforts of my friend and her parents. We were in the 6th grade, a time when we were figuring out what in the hell was middle school, and a time when I was determined that my plea for a pet would finally be heard.
After much nagging of the parents, and a visit to my friend’s so that my mom could meet Fuzzy for herself, there was no turning back. Fuzzy was ours and we were Fuzzy’s.
The stars aligned, as the saying goes.
Bringing Fuzzy home was a highlight of my pre-teen life. His first official spot in our house was my bedroom, where he remained until he was litter-trained and got used to his new surroundings. I remember excitedly telling everyone about my new companion. I even remember that my crush at the time came to visit with a friend just to meet Mr. Fuzz. My heart was full. Life was complete already in the 6th grade.
My family saw Fuzzy through his early years of endless play and through a horrible bout of ringworm that lasted for far too long. We saw him learn to love brushing and loathe nail cutting (always finicky about his left back leg…). We saw as my dad took more interest in him and come to love him as me and my mother did; Dad became Fuzzy’s resident toothbrusher.
We saw Fuzzy often whiz around our house during his crazy energy sprees. We saw Fuzzy chitter-chatter with the birds outdoors, wagging his tail hard against the kitchen chair he was sitting on. We saw Fuzzy refuse to return the toy mice we would throw for him, instead choosing to walk back to us, patiently waiting for us to get the mice ourselves or throw another one.
We saw Fuzzy talk with us as much as he did with his bird friends, meowing, meowing all the time, making his kingly voice heard until his demands were met. We saw Fuzzy gallop to the door every time we arrived home, meowing for petting, meowing to be let into the garage, meowing for food, meowing for even more petting, meowing to say, hello, I missed you.
And then we saw Fuzzy through his worst. A tumor popped up under his right leg a few months ago. He was still the same Fuzzy though, happy as ever, and still healthy otherwise. But the tumor grew fast, bigger and uglier everyday.
Eventually, the cancer took its toll on Fuzzy. He grew slow, wobbly, lethargic. These changes happened so fast, in a matter of a couple weeks. He went from running to the door to greet us to staying curled up in the basement or against the heater, waiting for us to come to him.
He slept ever more. His sleeping style became less relaxed–instead of sprawling out, lengthening his body to claim the bed, he curled up tight, like you see a slug do when it senses danger. He no longer slept on the beds or couches, opting for a spot against a heater or in the basement–a room with all of his kitty stuff, but not a place he often chose to sleep except on hot days.
The vet prescribed him morphine, to help ease his pain. It likely did, but it was hard to tell. He only slept more.
The last four days I spent with him were the toughest. Each day, I watched cancer take away my friend.
The first day, he came to see us, and asked for some petting. He still ambled up the stairs to the kitchen for his bit of wet food, meowing just a couple times, and then eating his fill, which wasn’t much anymore. Afterwards, he retreated to the basement.
The second day, he came up to the kitchen once, and then went straight back down to his chair in the basement to fall asleep. He did find his way upstairs at one point, to shimmy up against the heater to sleep some more.
By the third day, he no longer got up. He did not use his litter box and he did not come for food or petting. I went down to visit him, petting him gently as I knew even this simple, common gesture of affection might cause him some pain. I tapped his nose lightly, a sign he learned from his kitten days as, “I love you.” While he didn’t get up to greet me, he did purr softly, flicking his tail.
The fourth day arrived. He showed no changes for the better. When I went downstairs to visit him, to pet him, he barely purred. His tail never flicked. It was time.
I have never before witnessed an animal being put to sleep. It was an emotionally painful experience, but it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I think because Fuzzy and I seemed to have a mutual understanding that his time had come. But it still wasn’t easy. It was heartbreaking.
I opted to stay in the room with him at the vet office. They placed him on my lap and I held him, pet him, and kissed his soft, gray fur, as tears ran down my face. It was the end. I didn’t want to let go. And neither did he. He knew, and he still had the fight in him, but not enough. He went peacefully to sleep, surrounded by love.
Just like that, 15 years of life came to an end.
While many folks who have animal companions lovingly refer to them as “fur babies,” Fuzzy was never my baby. Yes, he was “Baby Fuzzy,” sometimes, just like he was “Fuzz Muzz,” and “Fuzz Puz” (puz is slug in Croatian), and “Fuzzy Wuzzy.” He had all of these affectionate names, but he was never my baby. He was his sweet feral mum’s baby.
To me, Fuzzy was my friend, my constant companion. And in my book, friends are family.
And so I dedicate this post to Fuzzy, my forever friend. We may have given him a forever home, but what he gave my family was so much more.
Thank you for the wonderful memories, Fuzz. Thank you for the love. May you rest in peace.
With love always,
In memory of Fuzzy, I have decided to mark each anniversary of his death with a donation to an animal rescue/shelter. Today I donated to Paws for Life Animal Rescue, a wonderful volunteer-run organization in metro Detroit that serves both cats and dogs. If you are interested in donating, please visit this link. And if you are interested in adopting a friend, please click here. Thank you.
Feature photo credit: Mr. Fuzz / KP