I had to put my cat, Yuji, to sleep on Saturday. It was a choice I had been struggling with for months and it did not come easily on Saturday, either. Yuji was a beautiful long-haired, buff colored cat. He was very shy and skittish and had been from the moment we adopted him. He spent his first hours at our house hiding under a shelf, hissing at us. I thought he would mellow and relax as he got used to his new surroundings, but that was basically his personality in a nut shell and it didn’t change much over the last nine years.
We adopted him during our struggle with infertility. My cat, Kiki, had gotten sick and I’d had to put him down. I decided that our other cat, Fritz, needed a new playmate and I needed something to mother. I had never had an orange colored cat, so I sent out feelers to see who was available for adoption. It was fall and there weren’t a whole lot of kittens to choose from, but I got a call about a beautiful, light orange colored kitten and arranged to meet him. He was more blonde than orange, and very pretty. Even though he hid and hissed at us, I was smitten and agreed to adopt him.
He became more friendly, at least toward me, as time went on. He was never a cuddler and was extremely particular about who he chose to let near him, but I knew he loved me in his own, stand-offish way.
It was pretty clear from the get-go that Yuji didn’t want anything to do with our twins after they were born. Our other cat at the time, Fritz, didn’t mind them petting him and crawling around after him. Yuji freaked out and hid under the bed until the kids were safely back in their cribs. That’s how he dealt with them for years. He made it very clear that he didn’t like kids – not our kids, not neighbor kids, not any kids at all. They made him very nervous and he would hiss and swipe at them if they would happen to wander into whatever room he was in. They were much too loud and unpredictable for Yuji’s delicate sensibilities. He mainly slept under the bed when they were around and came out at night, once they were sleeping.
We brought Yuji and Fritz with us when we moved from Los Angeles to Portland in 2003. Fritz became very ill shortly afterward and had to be put down. Yuji was an only pet for a short time, then we adopted George. George is a kids’ cat. He loves to be involved in their games and is tolerant of being picked up, dressed up, covered up…whatever the kids do, he rolls with it. He just loves being included. Yuji and George got along very well. Yuji even did well when we adopted our dog, Nico. I was so worried he would freak out, but it turned out that he really liked the dog and tolerated her much more than the kids.
In recent months, Yuji’s physical and mental health took a turn for the worse. He had always had a sensitive digestive tract and could only tolerate one kind of food. This year, though, even that food didn’t agree with him and he had constant diarrhea. I had taken him in for every test on him and his poop the vets could think of. No bacteria or parasite was at fault. At the same time, his mental health took a dive. He stopped taking care of his fur and became matted and dirty. He didn’t allow for much brushing or hair care and was looking very shabby.
Most distressing to me, was that he began peeing where he shouldn’t. I first caught him peeing on the floor in December when he peed on the Christmas tree skirt, right in front of me. I knew this was his way of telling me he wasn’t happy. I took him back to the vet where he was tested for infections and kidney problems, but nothing was found. As the months passed, he became worse and worse. The peeing was intentional. I tried treating him with oral anti-anxiety medication. After the first two days, he would see me coming, growl and hide under the bed. Oral medication wasn’t going to be an option. His weight dropped, his behavior became worse, and I came to the end of my rope. He wasn’t a happy cat. He wasn’t well, although we couldn’t determine exactly what was wrong with him. After months of struggling with what would be best for him, I decided to put him down. My 8-year-old son said Yuji is now in a place with comfy beds that are always in the sunshine and a giant, always clean litter box just for him. I think that is exactly what Yuji’s vision of heaven would’ve been. Quiet, sunny, solitary and clean.
Yuji is not the first cat that I’ve had to put down, but he is the youngest at age 9. My oldest, Missy, lived to be 18. My next oldest was Tina, who died at 17. Then there were Al and Baby, who both died in their 15th year. Kiki and Fritz were both around 13 when I had to let them go, although their true age wasn’t known because they came into my life as full-grown strays. I will pick up Yuji’s remains in a couple of days. His container of ashes will be placed with the others in our “kitty shrine.” Rest in peace, Yuji Beech.