Clinic Stories

A Tornado With Fur

Mr. R had been in a nursing home for 2 years, both legs gone from advanced diabetes, and Mrs. R could no longer live alone. Their home had been sold and there was no one to care for Smokey, their 16 year old cat. Their daughter arranged for me to come to the house and euthanize Smokey. My instructions were to not ring the bell or knock but just walk into the house to avoid alarming him. Never having met the family, I was reluctant to simply walk into their house, but Miss R was waiting at the door when I arrived. As I walked in she whispered, "He’s asleep in the window and hard of hearing. He’s a little cranky, but if you’re quiet you can sneak up on him."

I prepared everything in silence, and holding the syringe in one hand, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck with the other. "Cranky" was an understatement. He howled and hissed, wiggled and flipped, with teeth flashing and nails bared. I couldn’t hold him so I gave the injection in the abdomen to try to sedate him, then let him go. The solution must have gone into his liver because he quickly went limp. I started to shave his arm to complete the euthanasia, but the owner asked me to wait. Mother and daughter petted him and said good-bye, then remarked that this was the first time they were able to touch him. For sixteen years they shared their home with a feral cat, living together but always at a distance.

Since then I have worked with several families with feral indoor cats. Often with time and particularly with declining health, they become manageable and at times even affectionate. Smokey never lost his inner tiger.

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