Adieu, Whiskers

Before leaving for Italy I decided to agree to something my wife has wanted for years: get a kitten.   I’m slightly allergic to cats, and didn’t want the hastle of constant sniffles and having an animal afoot.  But I was going to Italy for ten days, missing Valentine’s day, and started to seriously consider giving in.  Then Ryan, on the way home from swim lessons, said “daddy, open the window, I see a star!”

I opened his car window and he said, “star light star bright, the first start I see tonight, I wish so much for a kitty.”  That cinched it.  The next Saturday, February 7th, Natasha and the boys picked out Whiskers (aka, Whisky) as our pet.  We got a good litterbox, cat toys, and of course cat food.  Whiskers had just been neutered, so he was a bit lethargic that first day.  They told us he’d perk back up in a day or two.  They also told us not to declaw him, saying that would be inhumane  — sort of an ironic claim just after they’d neutered him!

Anyway, he didn’t get perky.  I left for Italy the 12th, and Natasha e-mailed me during the trip that she took Whiskers to the vet and he was definitely sick.  They thought maybe feline leukemia.  The tests for that came back negative, and Ryan became especially close to Whiskers, who slept in his room, often on his bed.   Whiskers ate, liked to be petted, and seemed to tolerate the boys fine (though Dana was sometimes rough on him, and Ryan liked to carry him places), but Friday things went downhill fast.    Whiskers started acting disoriented, dragged his hind legs, and then vomited large amounts of blood and other stuff.  Gross.

He simply was too sick to survive.   Friday night we put him to sleep, driving an hour to Lewiston to a place to do so, Natasha taking him in while I went to Jokers (a pizza place with a kind of playground) with the boys.  Our first pet lasted just short of three weeks.   The boys knew Whiskers was going to the vet, but assumed he was going there to be taken care of.  We had too break the news on the way home that he had died.   Surprisingly, there was little crying.  Ryan was more curious than anything else — what happens when you die?

Natasha talked about kitty heaven.   Ryan was very concerned about the body — where was Whiskers now?  I told Ryan that the soul is what makes us alive, and that while the body would be buried, Whiskers’ soul lives.  Ryan got intrigued by that, and I explained how there are different worlds, and Whiskers went to another world, and that he might even come back to this world as another kitty.  I told Ryan he might look someday in another kitty’s eyes and know that it is Whiskers in a new body. 

We didn’t talk about Whiskers as if he were gone, but just in a different place.   The boys were sad, but seemed content with the idea that Whiskers was OK, just no longer in this world.   And you know, he got a lot of love and attention for the three weeks he was with us.  I think Ryan, Dana and Natasha really connected with him, even if I was off to Italy or avoiding too much time with him thanks to my allergies.   I also am proud that I was honest with Ryan.  I believe in souls, other worlds, and reincarnation.   I believe that death is a transition, not the end.  I believe we’ll know the spirit of Whiskers in the future.  Still, it’s sad to lose our first pet.

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  1. #1 by Lee on March 1, 2009 - 19:48

    Sorry for the loss of the pet. My wife is actually allergic to cats too. We keep our cat out of the bedrooms and vacuum the room that has carpeting daily and it seems to keep things okay for her. We also have a dog. Pets are so good for kids and for those hard life lessons about death and dying.

  2. #2 by helenl on March 2, 2009 - 15:52

    Sad.

  3. #3 by henitsirk on March 3, 2009 - 05:15

    I think you handled that well. The first cat I ever had was brought home by my (future) husband in our first home. I had only had dogs and always wanted a cat! Little Max must have had something quite wrong because he was unable to keep any food down and had to be put to sleep. Eventually we ended up with 4 cats, but I’ll always remember that little one.

    It’s hard with really little kids, because they get so sad, but then it’s easy, because your words can be really simple. When we had to put our elderly cat to sleep recently, we were quite up front with our kids, as they could see the cat was sick. We also believe in reincarnation (primarily for humans; animals are slightly different in that I don’t think they have individual souls per se) and so we have already talked with them before about heaven being a place to rest before you come back again. I think kids appreciate being talked to about these things, in words they can understand.

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