We lost Sylvester today. Sylvester is a semi-feral tom cat who first appeared about 3 years ago. Initially he would just dart in through the cat-flap late at night and scarf down the food we’d left for Tigger and other visitors. You couldn’t touch him, but he seemed to like me sitting about six feet away and singing quietly to him. After two years or so of this I thought I’d try to tame him. I started getting closer to him and about six months ago stroked him for the first time. He liked it. After a few weeks of tentative handling he started to follow me & butt his head against my hand. One day I heard a rusty rumble: Sylvester, after perhaps a decade in the wild, had remembered from his kittenhood how to purr.
But all was not well. Toms get into fights: and about two years ago he lost an ear. After he had become tame – and he was a very affectionate cat, spending a long time each day stretched out with his face pushed into the palm of my hand or rolling over to have his tummy rubbed – Mum & I took turns trying to clean up the remains of his torn-off ear with warm salt water. But it just kept being re-infected. Unlike most cats he couldn’t jump up anywhere – I thought perhaps one back leg, held awkwardly, had broken and healed years ago. Then, a few weeks ago, a swelling started to appear beside the remains of the ear, and his back legs became very doddery. A visit to the vet was called for.
The news was very grim. Sylvester had diabetes. That would have needed two injections a day and an enforced restricted diet – very difficult when Smudge, our little ginger, is so fussy and needs to be coaxed with food. But for better or worse the decision was taken away from us when further investigation revealed a massively swollen kidney and at least one tumour.
Two days at the vet’s without me had turned Sylvester feral again: they said they could barely handle him. This morning I went down there and had a consultation with the vet. He took me into the kennels to see Sylvester. When the cage door was opened he hissed, cringed and spat, but within three minutes some Dreamies, some crooning and a few gentle strokes had reminded him of who I was, and once again he butted up to my hand and purred like a firehouse. I was crying and telling him how good and brave he was.
Andy the vet was very calm and sympathetic as I picked Sylvester up and cradled him in my arms. Sylvester is a big, muscular tom: the sedative took several minutes to take effect, but finally he lay still. Then came the second, lethal injection.
I am glad I had the courage to be with my Sylvester every moment of his final journey. No months of agony in a body resistant to all painkillers; no weeks of agony as nutrition is withdrawn; no days of agony while hydration is withdrawn. I hope to God someone does the same for me when my time comes.