Wanda died tonight. I’m devastated about it and I’ll explain some of the reasons, and not all of them are related to the death, but before we get started, Wanda wasn’t a person, she was a cat.
Well, she was barely a cat – only 8 months old.
The loss of a beloved pet isn’t the direction this article is going to take, so you shouldn’t be expecting that sort of thing, but I’d also like to point out early on in this that if you are one of those people that is saying “jesus, why are you caring about animals when people are suffering?” then you should count yourself lucky you’re not in the same room as me right now. Don’t you have the mental capacity to care about both?
The fact that she died shortly after my fiancée and I had been at a church wedding will become more important as the article goes.
You see, as an atheist Scot who did 13 years of Catholic school in the west of Scotland, and who was brought up in a Scotland where I could steadily see the erosion, though importantly not the eradication, of many of the old and very real prejudices against catholics – (that’d be half my family then), I’m fairly conflicted on a number of issues surrounding catholic schooling, religion and bigotry in Scotland.
So where does the cat come in?
Wanda arrived at our house with her brother and sister as strays even though they weren’t in fact strays. The next door neighbour hasn’t sterilised her cat and lets her reproduce almost in continuation. Apart from the damage this does to the cat herself, eventually, as is the natural thing for a cat, she has to tell the old litter to go away before the next one comes along, and as the neighbour doesn’t leave out enough food for all these cats, the mother (let’s call her Bianca) tends to bring them over here.
This could create a problem because we also have 3 dogs, but we have a system that works.
Because we live in the country, we feel that having a few cats running around isn’t necessarly the worst thing and Bianca brings her kittens here because we leave food out for the neighbourhood cats. Our dogs are trained to leave the 2 house cats we have alone and always do so. The new cats that tend to come and go in the countryside can make them nervous but the garden has a fence and the dogs can’t go roaming. That said, like any dogs, they don’t like it when the other cats jump into the garden. Therefore, to avoid possible problems we leave cat food OUTSIDE at a reasonable distance from the garden so they don’t need to come in. This system works. They don’t come in and everyone is happy.
So Wanda was an outside cat (kitten) and 2 weeks ago she must have jumped on something (not the fence) because she got the most horrible cut. The vet said there was no way it was a bite, it was a clean cut on something sharp.
As I said, she wasn’t one of our cats officially, just an outside one. Nevertheless we took her off to the vet, because the neighbour couldn’t give a shit, and got her operated and stitched up and she recovered. The wound was healing fine but then, maybe because she was still a bit weak after the op, she got a bad form of gastroenteritis which has been killing a lot of unvaccinated cats.
Again, she was taken to the vet and given antibiotics and cortisone. She hadn’t been eating or drinking either so spent 4 days on a drip.
Sometimes it looked like she was getting better, sometimes it didn’t. We spent (my fiancée much more than me) days sitting with her in the Vet’s place. Holding the paw, cleaning the diarhorrea and the vomit off her, changing the antiseptic sheets under her, pulling the paw out from under her a bit so the drip could actually work, and more.
But apparently when we were at the wedding today, and the night before, she had been vomiting black stuff, which was probably ingested blood, and had deteriorated significantly. These were effects of the virus, not the operation.
We hadn’t actually planned to go to the wedding reception anyway, she was going to the vet and I was supposed to go back home and feed the dogs and cats we have here and monitor them for any signs of trouble with this virus. However, before I’d got back she phoned me and said Wanda was dying so I went down to say goodbye in the first instance, and to try and give comfort to my fiancée in the second.
When I got there my good lady was very upset (so was I) and I said and did what I could, we talked about it and then I spoke to the Vet’s assistant who said she could die within the hour or it could be two days. The vet arrived and also said there was basically nothing to be done because the virus had caused all sorts of internal haemorrhagging, so we had a decision to make, which was either to leave her suffering or put her down, shortly before the inevitable arrived.
We put her down and we didn’t hide. We both watched the anaesthetic to remove the pain going in and tried to caress her the whole time. And I watched the second injection. It was quick. Poor thing.
We had given her a house of sorts in the garage, we had given her food and we had tried our best to get her the treatment she needed to survive (should be noted that the vet refused to take any money for the 4 days of drip and subsequent treatment) and I hope we made the 6 out of her short 8 months that she spent with us, winding in and out of our legs and generally searching for affection, as good as possible.
When we got home the two things that had happened during the day began to mesh together.
I’m happy for the new wife and husband and I hope it goes well for them, but here is where the catholic upbringing I mentioned at the start comes in…
In the church my other half (who was also brought up catholic) and I had been making fun of the wayward and overlong discourse of a probably slightly drunk priest and his chat of Adam’s rib (mostly me on this count).
The thought has been in my head since that maybe Wanda’s death was my fault for the lack of faith, for the blasphemy and so on.
Why should that thought be there? I know it’s nonsense – we gave her food, we gave her a comfortable and clean place to sleep, we paid her doctor’s bills, we played with her. We couldn’t have given more. But why do I have the “it’s my fault for not having faith” thought in my head. It’s like I blasphemed and this was the punishment.
It’s insane but it isn’t the first time I’ve had this reaction to a similar event.
Nowadays I can rationally put that thought in the bin as quickly as it arrives, but the fact that it still arrives, and that must have been the work of someone, is the only thing that has angered me today. Everything else apart from the happily married couple has been quite depressing.