14 years ago Sharon picked up a tiny, scruffy little farm cat on the same day as she picked up the most scared, shy puppy in a litter of barn mutts. I imagine that when she named them Casey and Finnigan she was expecting something like Mr. Dressup even though it actually turned out more like the Odd Couple. I met Finny when he was already 9 years old so much of what I know of him is second hand but I’ll tell some of it anyway since it’s a bit the story of who he was.
Finny was a big cat. Usually twenty two pounds or so. Sharon didn’t really believe the vet when she was told that this tiny kitten in her hand would grow up to be so enormous but the vet was right. True, he was overweight but even if he hadn’t been, he would still have been a big cat: standing on his hind legs he could easily reach the door knob. He was probably taken from his mother too early because early on, he seemed to think Casey was his mother, nursing on her until her nipples were raw. They were friends then, chasing each other around the house. Casey, with her puppy teeth, accidentally caught Finnigan by the tail a couple times, resulting in trips to the vet for stitches and bandages but otherwise, they were happy together.
I don’t really know when it happened but at some point, Casey’s insecurity and jealousy made her so protective that she wouldn’t really allow him to be too affectionate without being chased away. Perhaps he would have been a different cat if it weren’t for Casey but we’ll never know. When I met him, he was a friendly, good natured fellow who liked to be around people but was content to just sit nearby. I always tried to get him to sit on my lap and cuddle like other cats do but he really just didn’t like that very much.
For a big, strong, fully clawed animal, Finny was probably the most gentle cat I’ve ever known. He didn’t like being picked up very much but other than squirming a bit, he never scratched or bit or got angry. He would lie down for long tummy rubs and even though he didn’t care for being brushed very much, would tolerate it with nothing more than a bit of whining. Even at the vet, he never put up any fight no matter what needed to be done to him. When our young Labrador Retriever Bica joined us after Casey left, he not only tolerated her but even loved her, often holding her head and licking her as if to say, “You’re so dirty, I don’t even know where to start cleaning you.” He had a remarkable tolerance for and even grew to like Gus, Bica’s big goofy Lab friend from down the street, who loves cats and would often lick him from head to toe until he was soaked with dog slobber. Bica and Finnigan were so cute together but they always were aware of the paparazzi so whenever the camera came out, they seemed to know to stop all the embarrassing cuddling. Here’s one of the few images I was stealthy enough to capture.
Finnigan loved food, as you can see by his impressive girth, often begging for treats and sitting by the cookie jar like a dog, looking for a handout. During the last month, however, he didn’t seem to be eating quite so much. “Probably just his teeth bothering him,” we thought since he had broken one of his fangs a while back. We gave him a bit of wet food to entice him and after a bit, his appetite seemed to come back. But still, he wasn’t really begging for food much anymore and it didn’t seem like I needed to fill his dish quite as often.
About a week ago, he pretty much stopped eating. Every morning and evening, I’d check his bowl and it would still be full. Starting to worry we’d give him wet food which he seemed to like but would only eat a little bit before stopping. Starting to worry, I weighed him and found that he was ‘only’ 18 pounds. Hard to tell with a big fluffy cat but you could feel his bones under his fur and to put it in perspective, it would be like me suddenly losing 30-40 pounds off of my 210 pound frame. We took him to the vet to see if there was anything wrong with him and after a full battery of tests, we found…nothing. Our cat is dying but there’s nothing wrong with him that shows up in blood or urine tests. His heart and lungs sounded fine and other than a tiny bit of fever that was gone the next day, he seemed as healthy as can be. Perhaps it was cancer, perhaps his heart was failing, without running xrays and ultrasounds and scans, there was no way to tell. At 14 years of age with a failing body, the vet warned us that just trying to sedate him to do the tests would likely kill him since his breathing was already becoming so labored. We bought him every kind of treat and luxury cat food we could find and put them out like a buffet for him but he wouldn’t even sniff them. Other than urinating once, he hadn’t gone to the bathroom in over a week.
Thursday and Friday we got him some hydration injections from the vet and we had him on antibiotics just in case but by Saturday night we knew. He had been hiding under the bed in the spare room all evening, something he never did, and when I went to check on him, he wasn’t moving. Thinking, “oh no, the poor little guy is dead,” I reached under to pull him out and heard him make a little squeak. As I pulled him out, he struggled and cried a bit and when I put him on the bed, he just lay there and panted. Up until then, he had still looked normal but now, his eyes were sunken and dull. He was suffering and we knew we could either let him slowly die overnight by himself or take him to the vet and make sure he didn’t have to starve or suffocate or die of thirst or whatever it was that nature had in store for him.
Thank heaven for the 24 hour Ottawa Animal Hospital. They let us do the right thing by him and were so kind when we carried him in, giving us a private room to be with him while we waited for a vet. I set him down on the floor and he tried to explore a bit but he couldn’t even walk properly anymore so we just put him on the couch and petted and talked to him while he purred away. Still purring, even though he was so sick. They gave us a blanket and we held him on our laps, the only time in his life he ever sat on our laps without struggling to get away, and we talked to him and stroked him while the vet gave him a sedative to make him sleep. He slept almost instantly and when the vet gave him the second injection to stop his heart, he was gone in just a few seconds. When the vet took him away, wrapped in his blanket, he didn’t even look dead and I thought for a second, “wait….why are we letting them take Finny away?” We stumbled out of the vet, eyes blinded with tears and made our way back home, wishing we could have done more, more tests, more treatments, save him somehow. It was just selfishness though. We knew he would have hated being poked and prodded and living his last days in a cage at the vet.
I cried last night and I’m crying now but this morning when I woke up I knew we did the right thing. He got to go to sleep peacefully with his family rather than slowly dying in pain and hunger. After so many times being woken up at six in the morning because he wanted to be fed, I know that this cat who loved to eat wouldn’t want to live in a world without food.
Rest in peace Finnigan and give Casey our love.
Finnigan Abreu-Warkentin – 1996-2010