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For a number of years, I had a cat named Silca, a beautiful tabby with the biggest green eyes.

She was a problem-child though: she couldn’t get along with the other cats; she attacked my wife often, out of nowhere; she peed all over the house. We tried everything, including anti-anxiety meds, and keeping her kennelled while we were out (letting her out when she could be supervised). The only other creature she could tolerate was me; it was very obvious she loved me, but she’d even turn on me on occasion.

This went on for over 5 years (since I moved in with my then-fiance, now-wife), and to some extent for the 2-3 years I had her before I met my wife.

Eventually, we realized that it couldn’t continue, and we looked into no-kill facilities.

There’s a no-kill facility here in Utah that takes in all sorts of animals. Most are socialized and homes are found; but aggressive animals that cannot be trained or socialized (and hence are unadoptable) are isolated … essentially caged for the rest of their lives (albeit in a large cage; think large dog kennel for a cat).

So we made the very painful decision to put her down. We didn’t abandon her at the SPCA, or do it in the sterile/cold environment of the vet’s office.

The vet came to the house, and gave her a sedative; she fell asleep in my lap, purring and happy. And then the vet gave her the shot that stopped her heart. There was a reflex-reaction where she arched her back before she sunk back into my lap, but all-in-all it was quick and painless for her.

And we still think she is better off than being sent to a no-kill facility, caged up, where she wouldn’t have gotten nearly the love and attention that we paid to her. We honestly don’t think that she would have accepted anyone else, and would have felt abandoned by me if I left her somewhere.

It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, and I absolutely feel like I ultimately did the right thing.

That was in July 2004. And I don’t think I ever really got over it. I still have her ashes in a cedar box on a bookshelf in our living room.

Now, one of our other cats is very sick.

Touloue is the best cat ever. He’s the sort of cat that when a welcome stranger comes into the house, within 5 minutes, Touloue is in his/her lap, head on their chest, looking up at them with big “I love you, now pet me” eyes. He’s extremely intelligent (for a cat), he protects his territory from invasion by other cats, and has absolutely no concept of a person’s personal space. If he wants to sleep on my face, then goddamn it, he’s going to sleep on my face!

He’s 17, and has a fast-growing nasal neoplasia tumor. The prognosis isn’t good. The vet indicated that it would be possible to excise the tumor, but he would still need very expensive radiation treatment. Even then, his chances of survival for more than a couple of months are not high.

So we have opted not to proceed with that course of action. He’s being treated with prednisolone, a steroid, to see if that will help reduce any inflammation and improve his breathing. It will also help with any minor discomfort he may be feeling.

Eventually, we’ll have to make the decision of when to have him euthanized.

The problem is that he doesn’t appear to be in any pain. He’s active, eating, as playful as a 17-year old cat can be, and still very loving. Because of the tumor, he does have a few problems breathing out of one nostril, so he’ll have sneezing fits every so often.

When he can no longer breathe out of either nostril, and has to start breathing through his mouth (which cats apparently hate to do), or when it seems like he is in pain, then we’ll make the decision that it’s time.

For now, all we can do is love him and make him as comfortable as possible, and try to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Touloue has been with Kim for 16 years, since he decided to move in with her on her 19th birthday. In that time, I’ve lost 3 cats, including Silca. Each time was a gut-wrenching experience, and wrecked me for days.

I’m not sure I’m ready to go through that again. I’m pretty wrecked right now as it is, and it could be weeks or months before we really have to the decision, depending on how well he responds to the prednisolone.

But at least I’ve got that experience, which I’m not sure that Kim does.

All I can do in the meantime is love him, try to spend as much quality time as I can with him, and try to prepare myself emotionally … and then be there for Kim when it’s time, because I’m sure she’s going to need me as much as I needed her when we put Silca down.