My mom’s cat, Honey, has lived beyond her expiration date. She weighs about 4 pounds and screams “MAAAAA!” all the time. Her fur is falling out in large chunks and everything that made her a worthy companion has left her tiny, twitchy body.
She’s 16. By my estimation, that makes her 15-and-a-half years too old. Yes, there you have it, I hate cats. Oh yes I did.
Right now some of you are screeching that I just haven’t taken the time to bond with a cat. Or met the right cat. That, unlike dogs, cats are individuals—each one with a unique personality—and I’m the lazy one for dismissing them en masse.
Blah blah blah.
Look, I’m not putting them in a canvas sack and tossing them in the river. I think they’re far too delicious for that. All I’m saying is they suck*. Hard. They’re like the Daft Punk of the animal kingdom. They don’t want to be seen or touched or talked to. They want to stroll in when they’re ready to be adored. And sorry, but fuck that.
Why do you think cat ladies have so many cats? Because they keep trying to find one that gives a shit about them. Just one.
So I offered to take Honey in to be euthanized. For free. Not because I hate the animal—because it’s suffering. It screams at night. Whether it’s pain or personal demons that drive her, this cat will scream in my mother’s face in the middle of the night until my mom pets her.
And the cat just shits all over.
But my mom won’t let me bring it in to be put down. Her plan is to just hope Honey dies soon. Like she got the memo or something. In the meantime, my mom will continue petting whatever shrieks at her in the dark.
I’ve begged my mom to let her go, usually explaining how seemingly painless it is, how peaceful it is, and how I’ve done it before.
My wife’s family had a cat named Ashes. He was BAD ASS. He was blue. And he didn’t play those candyass games that every other sofa-surfing poseur plays: “LOVE ME! No, wait, I’m just not ready! I am not available! You simply must understand that I am a complex creature! I am not for the—NOW LOVE ME!”
Domestication was wishful thinking when it came to Ashes. He was an outside cat who just happened to sleep at the same house when he got tired of being the shit. Ashes was the mayor of Scottsdale (the Chicago neighborhood where my wife grew up). He ran that part of town. I’m sure his descendants are out there. Some are probably half-raccoon and part possum. And even when he didn’t set paw outside, he held court out of the basement window, delivering sentences to be carried out by a nocturnal coalition of fanged things.
Of the sentences that he carried out himself, most of those were brought back to the house and left at the doorstep. Not as gifts, but reminders.
Ashes also ran a jazz club called The Ash Hole. I was never able to locate it, but on summer nights you could hear the piano and trumpets muffled. You could feel the percussion. Even if I had found it, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get in.
But when he turned 24, he couldn’t be the mayor or run the jazz club. He’d come home with a few more scratches. He’d sleep in a little bit longer. He’d roam less and lounge more. And it was time.
Jill’s folks asked me if I’d do the honor of escorting him off to his next big appointment. When I picked him up, he glared at me.
“I’m the cat, but you’re the pussy.”
I drove him to the animal shelter and a big-eyed worker who couldn’t have been more than 18 took us into a room with a steel able and injected Ashes twice. I petted him. He allowed it. The worker bawled. Ashes looked at me.
“I’m glad I’m going if you are what passes for a human male nowadays.”
It was very peaceful. And there were many more squirrels eating from the pear tree the next year.
Ashes was proof that I can hate cats and respect them at the same time. Those alleyway hunters keeping the squirrel population in check, those backyard predators fighting for their keep, those athletic prowlers who never asked for your affection and are too busy kicking critter ass to worry about it—those are the cats that are living like they mean it.
Not like Honey. She is done—but she never really did. I’ll be happy to take her and see her escape the suffering that no living thing deserves. And give her those last few moments of “there, there.”
*There are people I genuinely care about who genuinely care about cats. And those are the only sofa-surfing cats I like. So if you like cats and I like you then I like your cats. Fair enough?