It is not a pleasant decision to euthanize your cat. It's hard to take your cat to the veterinarian's office when you know you won't be leaving with him, and it's hard to have your cat destroyed when you sense there must be some alternative to it but you can't figure out what it is.

We used to have a cat. But he wasn't really ever what you might call a good cat.

When my wife and I got married we decided to wait to have children. In the meantime, my wife decided that she wanted an orange cat. We spent a little while looking in pet stores and animal shelters for cats that were completely orange, and one day, a litter consisting of five orange kittens arrived at the pet store in the mall where I was working at the time. We bought the most short-haired of the litter and took it home, along with the requisite new cat accoutrements -- space-age litter box, clumping kitty litter, overpriced (and as it would turn out, unappreciated) cat toys, cat food, and the like.

We loved the cat. We took tons of pictures, of him sitting in boxes and peering out suspiciously, of him pawing at the puck while watching a hockey game on television, of him standing on a chair beside my wife watching her as she washed the dishes. We took him to Stratford, Ontario one year when we saw Romeo and Juliet, and he enjoyed the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at. We loved the cat. We spoiled the cat.

Once a year my mother-in-law comes to visit for roughly a month. Unfortunately, she's not very surefooted and often would accidentally step on the cat. The cat responded to these incidents with quick and decisive territorial aggression. Pretty soon we bought my mother-in-law a spray bottle for houseplants to defend herself with. Once the inefficacy of this defense (particularly on the gentle mist setting) was established, we bought her a water pistol, which she took to referring to as her shotgun.

The cat came to react suspiciously to all visitors. This was surprising, but there was also a bit of a quaintness to it, because he remained unflinching is his affection for my wife and me. He would lay on our laps, and fall sound asleep, purring loudly. Sometimes we could have conversations with him and he would meow in response at appropriate times with question mark sounds.

Eventually my wife became pregnant; we were very happy. But as the pregnancy progressed, my wife gradually became less nimble and the cat viewed this as requiring quick and decisive territorial aggression. My wife started to feel uncomfortable around the cat.

We took the cat to the vet. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis and we were given an array of free samples of cat food that was reportedly easier to digest. But in the course of administering care to and diagnosing the cat, the vet asked us to leave the examination room so that they could give him a shot. My wife and I waited in the waiting room where, after a little while, we heard an eerie wail followed by shouting. Then we were asked back into another room where I was given a pair of huge arm-length thick leather gloves and told to extract the cat. We learned afterward that he had bitten the vet's assistant and that she had to go to the hospital. We sent a cheese basket to apologize. It was well received, but my wife started to feel afraid of the cat.

We began to wonder what to do. We couldn't give the cat away to a stranger, because he didn't like anyone but us. We didn't think that we could trust him in the house with a new baby. My wife didn't want to be alone in the house with the cat when she stopped work. We went back to the vet to ask about medicating him. At first, nobody wanted to help us, but finally one of the more stalwart veterinarians agreed to see us. She was happy to prescribe some pills (which were no treat to give to the cat), and she counseled us that perhaps the cat's quality of life wasn't terribly high, having to be so aggressive all the time, and for this reason that euthanasia might be the most humane option.

Finally we had a baby boy! He weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces. On the day my wife and son were to come home from the hospital, I was preparing for their arrival by moving some of the requisite new baby accoutrements around in our living room. The cat took exception to this and attacked me, creating what so far are permanent scars on my arm.

My decision was made. It wouldn't be right to bring a new baby home to an environment that posed such a threat. The cat lived in the basement until the veterinarian's office was open, and then I made the appointment to have the cat euthanized.

My brother took me; my wife was still recovering from the delivery. Our cat had to be sedated before he could be put to sleep. He was given an injection, and the life disappeared from him. Just a few days before, I had watched amazed, in awe, breath fill my son's body with life and now I was helplessly watching this stupid, irascible, cat die. We had taken years of photographs of him, he used to lie on our bed vigilantly with us when one of us was sick, we used to let him smell things he wasn't familiar with just as a courtesy; and now -- what a waste! -- we were killing him. It was awful; it was very upsetting. And I felt greater anger with the uselessness of this than I had felt joy over the birth of my son, and I felt further anger because of this.

But now I have a son to take pictures of, and to watch hockey games with, and to take to Stratford, and even to talk to.

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