Over the weekend, our sweet 10-month-old-boy Newt died. We brought him to the vet thinking he had worms, but he ended up having something called FIP, and we unexpectedly had to put him down. We only had him for two months. Apparently, FIP affects 1 in 5,000 cats. What an unlucky boy. As Brooks said, he’s just one of those cats who’s born fucked.
The vet staff were super nice and sympathetic. When the veterinarian broke the news it hit us like a wall. The doctor left to give us some time to decide. Brooks immediately teared up and said he couldn’t be the one to put him down because of a past experience with losing a favorite cat. Mechanisms I’ve developed over the years whilst working with animals kicked in, and I put off crying and told my honey that I’d take care of it.
I felt like my dad; he was always the merciful one to put down sick pets for us kids. Whether I was a jaded kid who didn’t care, or a college kid paralyzed by grief, or a diseased adult too sick to take care of myself let alone a sick cat, my dad always stepped up to take care of dying creature companions. So I returned the kindness and did it for my beloved. Afterwards, Brooks said he regretted not being there with me, but I told him it was better that way because I could say goodbye to poor Newt without feeling self-conscious.
Humans like to talk to dead bodies (that’s why we have wakes). After the vet said Newt’s heart stopped beating he left me by myself. I had a good cry, the kind your body is grateful for later. I spoke to Newt’s dead body, too. I said sorry, of course. But I wasn’t just sorry that he was a young, innocent creature who had to suffer and die so early in his life. I also told him that I was sorry that I don’t know the result of death.
I’ve been in an existential crisis with death for years now, ever since my grandmother died. I hate all the uncertainty, that’s why I spend a lot of time thinking about it, trying to solve it, and always arriving at the conclusion that our brains are too tiny to understand consciousness and death. Nihilism, requiring no imagination, is too boring for me.
Brooks and I try to keep a good sense of humor while we grieve. My sister Elizabeth helped. When I told her about Newt’s death and Ripley’s deworming she replied with, “Did Newt drown in her cryo tube? You should get Ripley a chest x-ray. It might be a queen.” Me and Brooks also joked about how the sweet laid back cat died while the wild one that wakes us up at 5:30 every morning is just fine.
When I first met Newt I immediately fell in love and wanted to take him home, but he was paired with Ripley. The people at the shelter said they were bonded, but we figured out later that bonded sometimes means “these two cats can tolerate each other and we need to push as many cats out the door as possible.” So we took her too even though I watched her try to escape from the shelter, falling off the ceiling and hitting her head on the way down.
She spent about 60 seconds looking for Newt when we got home and then immediately forgot he existed. And she is loving all the extra attention we are giving her in our state of grief. I do have to say she is biting and scratching us a little less, though we still get at least one new wound a day. When we first got her she wasn’t socialized much, but as time has passed she’s become rather affectionate. Today she took a nap with me (because I’m not getting enough sleep due to her early morning meowing) and she wrapped her arms around my hand and fell asleep like that.
As I said goodbye to Newt’s dead body I told him I’d put him in the next Alchemist’s Theorem book. I already know when he’ll show up and how many crazy toes he’ll have. Ripley won’t be in the book, though she will try to write herself in while pacing back and forth on my laptop whenever I try to work.
Rest in peace my Newter Booter.