Lionel, the younger of my two cats (by a month or two), passed away today at the age of 5. Tyrone and I will miss him.
The doctor called me today and said that, in the specialist's opinion, it was a very bad form of cancer - a non-differentiated sarcoma that, judging by the speed at which it grew up, would be very likely to come back after being surgically removed. The surgery sounded painful and scary, and would have cost Lionel some muscle and bones, plus there would have been radiotherapy afterward, at a cost of thousands of dollars.
When I brought him into the Cat Clinic for euthanasia, the doctor reassured me that I was making the right decision. I stroked his head while he died of an overdose of anaesthetic. I have to admit he didn't look comfortable throughout the process, but it ended surprisingly quickly. The doctor chose a tactful moment to leave the room so that I could be alone with the body - I was getting teary-eyed. Of course I cried! He was a good pet who brought me much joy, and I am sorry that he had such a short life.
Lionel's remains will be cremated and his ashes scattered on the farm where they do pet cremations.
The kittens were still at the clinic and they looked as cute as ever, but I left without adopting one. I think Tyrone and I will need to get used to not having Lionel around before we bring a new kitten aboard. All kittens are cute, after all. Unless every cat in St. Louis suddenly takes a vow of celibacy, I am sure we'll be able to find a successor for Lionel when the time is right.
UPDATE: Tonight's "treat time" in the kitchen, with a palm full of tartar-control Pounce, was remarkably lonely with only one cat to enjoy it. So much of the fun of treat time was giving each cat his fair share, while Tyrone rubbed against me so hard that it was hard to give him any, and Lionel hung back bashfully so that I had to push Tyrone out of the way to give him his. Already it seems the competition has gone out of Tyrone. I hand him a piece, he eats it; repeat. Too soon he loses interest and I am left with half a palmful of Pounce to remind me that I don't have two cats to treat anymore.
In the corner is the catnip toy Lionel liked to rub his face against. I saw him napping with it under his chin earlier this week; perhaps he was "self-medicating" for pain and nausea. Lionel liked music almost as much as catnip. He always used to come out of hiding to sit by the piano and listen to me play. Sometimes he would even hop up on the bench beside me.
I will miss the warm small body that so often stretched out on my chest, the freckled nose and pink tongue that kept offering me kisses no matter how often I refused. The arm of the sofa, the top of the TV set, and my leg will all miss the warm belly of the quirky cat who liked to straddle them, legs sticking out on both sides. He was just one animal out of countless who have been and will be; but these little quirks made him special to me.
When I came for Lionel this afternoon, he was in my bedroom closet, curled up in a basket of laundry. I had to pull the basket halfway out of the closet to pick him up. By the time I came home I had forgotten about this, but when I went into my bedroom there was the basket sticking into the room, with a Lionel-shaped impression on the pile of dirty clothes. It's amazing how such a small thing can trigger so much emotion.