My feline companion, Kato, passed away on Wednesday morning, August 12, 2009. He was 17 years old. He had been diagnosed on Saturday with chronic renal failure, a swollen spleen, and a urinary tract infection. He was having trouble with balance and walking because, according to the vet, his kidney failure was affecting his brain.
The decision to euthanize Kato was extremely difficult, but it was the truly merciful thing to do. Over the last four days of his life I had been giving him fluids from an IV drip bag subcutaneously. He would sit very quietly and patiently as I injected him and administered the fluids. The fluids were only keeping him alive each day; they were not healing his kidney condition, which would only worsen if he remained alive.
Kato was put to sleep at Cat Care Hospital in Marietta. My dear friend Cathy was present, and so was Michael, my ex-partner and still good friend. It was a very difficult and emotional time, but it was also a sacred time. I was very grateful for the presence of my friends as we let Kato go, and for the prayers and well-wishes of other friends I had shared with over the last four days.
On Tuesday, the day before, Kato continued to perform his ministry as a feline massage therapist. I wrote about this in 2003, in the article Ministers in Fur [click here to read it]
for Whosoever.org. On Tuesday morning he noticed a wound on my leg where I had banged my shin while working out. He sniffed the wound, then stood up against it for a while, purring - even though he was having trouble standing or walking at that point.
On Wednesday morning, before taking him to the vet, I carried him in my arms and took him for one last walk through the woods behind my apartment. He did not try to get down from my arms - he knew he was having trouble walking - but he looked around intently at the trees and birds and butterflies. These are the woods where Kato spent many happy hours hunting and exploring. Only last week, he had brought me a mouse. I was working at the computer and did not notice the mouse in Kato's mouth when I let him back inside. When Kato started meowing proudly and I saw the mouse (still twitching) on the floor at his feet, I let out a surprised scream. Kato calmly leaned down and chomped the mouse one time so it stopped twitching, then looked up at me as if to say, "Is that better?" [Carl McColman says Kato brought me presents of mice, chipmunks, and birds (and once a garden snake), because he felt sorry for me and was trying to teach me how to hunt.]
Kato also sat in front of the TV for a while on Wednesday morning, purring as the jazz music channel played. As Michael and I took him to the vet, we played the CD of Kato's favorite song, "St. Thomas" by the Sonny Rollins Trio (1959). I've written before about Kato's love for classic jazz from the 1950's and 1960's. He especially loved extended drum solos (there's a great one in "St. Thomas"), including Mickey Hart solos in Grateful Dead songs. He also loved Trevor Harden's CD, "Parachute." Kato would not tolerate Bob Dylan, though - he would meow loudly at the speakers till I turned off Dylan's music.
I know it will take me a while to go through the grieving process. It feels strange coming home to an empty apartment. Kato was with me for over seven years. Kato was fully aware that he was winding down over the past four days, and he often sequestered himself in a corner (on his catnip scratcher) or under my bed. He always came out when I called him, though, and he was very affectionate to the very end, nuzzling my beard and purring as I held him in my lap.
I believe in the Communion of Saints that transcends death (and space and time), and I believe that communion includes our beloved animal companions. I can easily imagine Kato now nuzzling the beard of St. Francis, or sitting in the lap of St. Julian of Norwich - or enjoying a heavenly jam session with Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Kato lived a long and complete life, and I will always be grateful for the companionship, joy, and healing presence he brought into my life.
Labels: Cats, In Memoriam, Kato