today was the saddest day of my life, i think. i can't remember ever crying as long or as hard as i did this weekend. i don't think i've ever made a more difficult decision. after years of trying to be the owner chloe (our tuxedo cat) needed for me to be, i finally had to concede defeat. i had contacted the shelter earlier in the week to talk about what would happen, and she was very honest with me:
If she has a history of litterbox problems, her chances of getting adopted are not very good, since most folks would put a fraction of the effort you did into fixing the problem then call it quits. The litterbox problem is probably caused by the fighting. So if you surrender, what I would do is state that the reason for surrender is that this cat is not getting along with the other cats in the household. Make the recommendation that if the cat goes into another home it is the only cat. The other thing that I would try is to hold off on surrender for about a week and during that time confine the cat in a bathroom to see if the cat will use the box when it’s not having any contact with any other cats. If that is the case, then you can be reasonably sure that the litterbox problem *is*related to the cats.
The reason I’m telling you to do this this way is because during the summer, when our cat population is high, when we get cats surrendered with litterbox problems, they tend to be euthanized quickly since we can’t generally rehabilitate them and there are virtually no adopters willing to take a chance on a cat that pees outside the box. BUT if we know that this is related to being around other cats, we can put the cat up for adoption as an only cat, it will take longer for her to find a home, but it will prevent her from being put to sleep.
i tried for a few more days, and i thought that we could do it. but then chloe bit me again last night (she had gone for a few weeks without an attack, but before that she'd been suddenly pouncing and drawing blood--once incapacitating my wrist for several days just from the squeezing of her jaws), and i cried myself to sleep knowing that i just couldn't do anything else. her fights with jack-jack had increased in frequency and intensity. i don't know how the fights with jack-jack were related to her sudden and vicious attacks on me or how either of those was related to the litter-box issues (peeing outside the litter box pretty much constantly), but the combination of the three was just too much. my migraines were intense and daily and persistent. i had nightmares every night. i had found blood in the cats' room on the floor that had clearly come from a fight, though i never found an injury on either one of them.
i had consulted with two behaviorists who specialize in cats. i had consulted with two veterinarians. and the internet. and books and blogs and videos and jackson galaxy (not personally, just his blogs and video--if you're not in los angeles, he doesn't do in-person consults) and television shows. we built a cat tree. we put up a commercially made one. i tried different litters--corn, wheat, newsprint, silica crystals, clay, and whatever the stuff we use is (world's best cat litter). i tried covered litter boxes, uncovered boxes, automated boxes, regular litter boxes, tall boxes, short boxes, deep litter, shallow litter, boxes close together, boxes far apart, boxes against the wall, boxes away from the wall, boxes inside closets and cabinets, boxes out in the open, lots of boxes, few boxes, scooping constantly, scooping less frequently. we put the boxes on top of rubber mats to protect the floors. we put the boxes on carpet, on hardwood, on lineoleum. we put them on top of trash bags and chux. and chux and trash bags. and different kinds of chux. i tried three different kinds of enzyme cleaners, three different kinds of traditional cleaners, and no-chemical steam mops. nothing helped with the pee.
i had resigned myself to scrubbing floors on my hands and knees every night and replacing the trash bags and chux every night. back spasms be damned. she was worth it.
but the attacks, especially after i had just spent an hour scrubbing the floors where she'd peed, just became too much.
so today, andrew and i drove her over to the shelter. she cried the whole way, and so did i. i cried the whole time i waited in line at the intake counter. and the whole time i filled out the questionnaire. i wanted to tell them how sweet and affectionate she was, that she didn't mean to be mean and just didn't know what she was doing. how she'd be awesome as an only cat and maybe she just couldn't live with jack-jack. sadly, the peeing issue alone was enough to warrant immediate euthanasia, and the biting just cinched the deal.
i asked whether she would be held for a little while or when the euthanasia would happen, and the tech told me that it would be immediate (as soon as she took chloe through the adjacent door). i asked whether i could be with her, but the tech said that i'd have to come back tomorrow for a clinic visit to do that, and i said that i just couldn't do this again. so i said a brief goodbye and left chloe with the very compassionate tech, walked outside, and wailed. andrew was very sweet and brought me home and made some french toast because i had declared that that would be comforting. and i've slept much of the day.
i haven't yet been in the cats' room, though i know that i need to go in there and clean up and eliminate some litter boxes now that it's just little jack-jack. i confess that it is a relief to have peace in the house, not to be afraid of another attack, not to hear animals warring.
the guilt and shame are overwhelming, though. even though i know that i did everything i could, i failed her. so, in addition to all the feelings of sadness with relief that i feel about the loss of chloe, i feel the fear and shame that go with other people knowing that i surrendered my cat to the shelter and the guilt of having driven her to her death.
i'm so sorry, chloe. i'm glad that you're not in pain and fear and anger any more. i'm so sorry that i couldn't be a better mama for you.