There comes a time in every pet owner’s life when difficult decisions have to be made.
Althea and I experienced one of those Monday morning when we decided to send our cat CJ to the rainbow bridge.
It was a painful decision, but it was the right one to make. We had gotten CJ when he was just a tiny kitten in October ’97. We figured he was about six weeks old, so we picked September 11 as his birthday. Based on those numbers, he was 78 days shy of his 22nd birthday when he reached the finish line of his life.
CJ has never been a big cat and had never had a huge appetite. We had noticed in recent months that he was having memory lapses, times when he would cry out in the house having apparently forgotten where he was.
His eating and drinking had decreased in recent days and he hadn’t peed in more than four days. It was obvious that his kidneys were failing, so we made the decision over the weekend that Monday morning would be the time if he lived that long.
We made the necessary arrangements with those fine folks at Animal Clinic East on Gunbarel Road, so that was first thing on our agenda Monday morning.
The process was quick and painless. He weighed all of 4.7 pounds on the final day of his life. In a matter of minutes, CJ’s suffering had ended and we were on our way home to put him in his final resting place.
Now I need to give you a little background information about this cat.
Althea and I started dating in October ’97. I was living with Jerry Wade at the time and he had a big gray cat named Max. Althea quickly fell in love with Max.
I was by my ex-wife’s office at UTC a few days later to pick up my son Michael for our weekly visitation. A couple of guys who worked with Terry named Collin and Jignish had found this tiny gray kitten at a car wash eating soap suds. When I saw him, I knew immediately that I wanted him as that would be the ticket to Althea’s heart.
I took him home that day and the rest is history. We named him CJ for obvious reasons.
CJ’s been around the block a few times. He’s been a brother to three dogs and at least three other cats, but he survived them all.
He was an inside kitty from the beginning as Althea didn’t want to take a chance on him running away if given the chance to go outside. He did have a couple of outdoor experiences that were somewhat funny later, but not so much at the time.
In the early days when we were still living in Ooltewah, I’m guessing that Althea was away for weekend drill with the Army National Guard. I was home alone and decided to let CJ out for a few minutes. I guess he went wandering around the yard, but as the hour got later and later and time for me to sleep, I decided to let him spend the night outside.
That would have never happened if Althea had been present.
I’ll never forget how glad CJ was to see me the next morning as he had spent the night in the chair on our front porch. He had a newfound respect for indoor living as he was quick to get back inside for something to eat.
Another time when we moved to our current home in Murray Hills, I let CJ out for a few minutes. Again, he went exploring, but Althea was home and she wasn’t going to rest until he had been found.
There’s a huge culvert that goes under the road in front of our house and that’s where we found CJ, just sitting there in the entrance to that dark tunnel like nothing was wrong.
CJ never had any trouble getting used to other animals in the house. Benji was a dog we had when we first got CJ and it didn’t take him long to establish boundaries with an animal probably 10 times his size. Benji come up nosing around and almost instantly, CJ swatted him across the face with those sharp claws.
Needless to say, Benji never made that same mistake again.
Elvis was the next dog we got and he was a darling basset hound. He and CJ became buddies as well. Then in November 2010 after we had to say goodbye to Elvis, CJ got to be friends with our current dog Sweetheart, an easy-going beagle mix.
We got a couple of cats along the way, but none of them lasted. Thelma and Louise were the first two, but they didn’t exactly fit in with everyone else and we had to find them another home. Digger was the last cat we got from Nancy Randolph, Althea’s dear friend from the Army who had breast cancer. She made arrangements for all of her dogs and cats to be adopted and Digger is the one we got.
I have had dogs as pets my entire life and never thought I could fall in love with a cat, but CJ changed all of that.
I still say the day we buried Elvis on that hot July afternoon in 2010 was the saddest day of my life.
Today was a sad experience, but not on the same level.
Elvis was the dearest pet I ever owned and his passing was totally unexpected as he was only eight and in the prime of his life.
At the age of almost 22 – that’s about 104 years for a cat – CJ had lived a full and happy life. Most cats don’t live that long, but most also don’t receive the tender-loving care that CJ benefitted from. We started referring to him as our antique kitty in recent weeks.
I’ll admit that I shed some tears this morning, but they were happy tears as we were writing the final chapter of a life well lived.
I would tell you that we have plans to get another cat, but he’s already on the scene.
About a year ago, a tiny black kitten started coming around. He was wild and wouldn’t let us get anywhere close to him. Since that time, he loves the Fancy Feast diet his mama has him on an he has developed some trust with us. He even lets us scratch his back at times.
Since he is jet black, I named him Sambo. That’s probably not the most politically correct name for a black cat, but it’s perfect for him.
He still has some rough edges to be smoothed, but he’s next in line and we’re confident that he will become a positive member of our family. He already loves Sweetheart, so that’s a step in the right direction.
We’re just hoping he can be half the cat that CJ was.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)