As pretty much everyone knows, I was forced to put my darling cat Castiel to sleep recently. She gave me an enormous amount of love in her short life and I am finding things surprisingly difficult without her.
First person to say "she was just a cat" will earn the highest level of my wrath. Even if I'm pretty sure you're just trying to be funny.
I have had cats in my life since I was well pre-birth I guess. That may sound slightly mad to the less animal companion inclined people out there but I have the example of Ender ( my beloved silver Tabby) who was around for my pregnancy and through Kitty's early childhood. Ender used to curl up against my pregnant belly and purr. Kitty and Ender loved each other from the moment I brought Kitty home from the hospital. Ender looked after Kitty like a second Mother to her. I have story after story that I won't bore you with.
Cats have been a more reliable source of care to me than most humans. Even the bad-tempered cats in my life have been a greater source of consistency than almost any human. Chester was a bad-tempered piece of work but he was loyal as it is possible to be. And defended me physically on occasion. Lucy was named after the bitch in Charlie Brown, and she was as likely to growl as to purr. But she literally saved my life, and she slept on my bed more or less always. She'd get pissy if I disturbed her sleep, but she wouldn't leave.
I could talk about a dozen other cats, but it'll get tedious pretty quickly for people who didn't have personal experience of those animals. I've always wanted a dog too but never felt I was in a position to have one. I have a preference for cats, but I love pretty much all animals, except humans (present company probably excepted).
I've had a lot of cats that were pretty special animals. I've had all manner of different personalities from boisterous to timid, from love filled to grump monsters. The one thing they all had in common was loyalty. Earned loyalty. People talk about pets giving unconditional love, but I don't think that's true. Especially with cats. If you don't prove yourself worthy of your animal companions loyalty, you won't have it. Simple as that. Sometimes dogs are more willing to just love the shit out of their *master* no matter how much of a dick they are. Cats, not so much. Cats can look after themselves, they don't need to stay, they don't need to spend the majority of their time around you. They choose to. Cas spent so much time with us it was glorious. She was seldom far from my side, and if she was she was probably near Kitty. When I was at my illest she would be beside me offering me comfort. And I did the same for her in her illness.
I hated having to take the decision to take her on the long walk, but she was at best a couple of days from death (the tumour on her heart was either going to cause heart failure or she would slowly suffocate from being unable to oxygenate her blood sufficiently) it would have been a miserable death. So I held her on my lap while we let her take the shorter path.
Having been through all the shitty balls of cancer treatment (well most of the shitty balls, I managed to avoid some of the worst stuff) myself, I was not willing to put her through it, when the odds were well and thoroughly against her. Chemotherapy is horrible enough when it might actually cure you. When the best you can ask for is for it to prolong your life... well it begs the question, why are we so willing to show our beloved animal companions the door when we won't let our own kind CHOOSE the way out when it's the best available option? Of course, this wasn't the point of me writing this... it's just something that has annoyed me from both sides of the fence over the last couple of weeks. It's so easy for people to say "put her down" over an animal that I love pretty much as much as any person, but the same idea does not come easily to our lips over a human. And from the opposite side, people would have thought I was mad if I chose not to treat my own cancer. But most would have also thought it was batshit crazy to treat my cat with an almost identical protocol. Had her illness been something there were reasonable odds of curing (vs not making her utterly miserable) I wouldn't have hesitated. Had my odds been less good I would have said palliative care only. Cancer isn't something I take lightly. It's messed about with my life and the lives of people I love enough that I am well aware of the pros and cons of treatment.
Animal companions, in my opinion, are deserving of the same treatment in our lives as the humans in our lives. We are no less animal than any of our companion animals. And many of us are less human than our "pets". (I'm not a big fan of the term pet, these creatures are not belongings to me. They are friends. I choose to take them into my home and into my heart, but they never really belong to me. I love them, and I believe that they return that love. They can't tell me, but they show me every day.
Farewell Castiel, until we meet again - I hope that my Father has welcomed you into his garden with all the other cats of my past.