I have always lived my life accompanied by animals. Since I was a kid, my parents educated me and my sisters to love animals and to respect them. We grew up with cats, parakeets, dogs, turtledoves, fish, guinea pigs, and even an iguana. But my heart was decided to give itself to cats.
Since Tuca, the first house cat, an adorable and beautiful Tabby, who loved to sleep on the aquarium lamp, many cats have blessed my life. And I remember each and every single one of them. From the cats in our backyard – a siamese who terrorized the neighbour’s cats a and a tortie which we all thought was a boy, just to figure out, years later, that she was a beautiful girl, to my own cats – born in my backyard and the ones I or my family picked up from the streets, where they were abandoned.
Living in my own home, I had decided I didn’t want cats. Then, my life as a politician meant that I had to travel a great deal and that meant not being at home. And I didn’t want to have animals that I couldn’t be there for. But life decided otherwise.
From the eight kittens born on my backyard, who I called Sherlock, Miss Marple, Poirot, Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Nyota and Scotty, and their mother Branca, to the five kittens I received inside my house – Arthur, Preta, Nina, Blacky and Sebastian – my house has always been filled with life. The neighbours cats even made my backyard their own because, yes, I built an outdoor hotel for them, complete with cublicles for each, with their own pillows and blankets, fresh food and water everyday.
But, as of late, my heart has been broken time and time again. I have lost so many cats that my heart has shrunk to a pea. Over the years, Tuca, Sherlock, Kirk, Branca, Tommy (my mother’s cat) my cat in my parents’ house, Louis, Princess (my neighbour’s cat), Dennis (an outdoor cat who adopted me) and yesterday, my Preta, all died of cancer. Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. I am so tired of this disease. Cancer has been my own personal nightmare. And the feeling that there’s nothing one can do makes it all the worse. I gave them all the love and comfort possible, all the best food, water and medical care…and still they keep dying. I know that death is a part of life. But my heart feels so bruised that sometimes I feel I can’t take any more losses.
Preta was a big part of me. My friend, my over-the-top dedicated companion. The place she always wanted to be was near me. She was mine and I was hers. The FelV diagnosis hit me like a rock. Leukemia. My world just faded to black when the vet gave me the news on the phone. And I had to make the most grueling decision. I had to put her to sleep. When I got in the car afterwards, I have never screamed as loud. I wanted to scream her death away, I wanted to scream my pain away. All the hurt came out of my lungs, my heart, my throat. Today, my house feels empty. I still have my beloved Arthur, Nina, Blacky, Sebastian and Missy. But she is missing. The place where she sleeps is empty. Never again will she sleep on my neck, as she adored to do. I will miss her forever. The four years of love she gave me were beyond anything I could ever hope for.
I decided not to prolong her life because I did not want her to suffer. She would live her last months closed up in a cage at the veterinary, subject to all types of tests, needles, radiation, just to give me, Marta, a few more days with her. She wasn’t even given a year to live. And the few months she would probably have would be plagued with tumours, infections, weakness and anemia. I decided I was not important. I decided she deserved to die peacefully, with me looking into her eyes and telling her that I would love her forever. With no pain, no suffering. I gave her dignity, for as much as she took a part of my heart with her.
Whenever you have to euthanize an animal, don’t leave them alone for the vet to do it. Suck it up, find the courage, and be at your friend’s side all the way, to the end. Don’t let the cold walls of the clinic and unknown people be the last thing they see. Let it be you, holding them and telling them that you love them forever. They deserve as much. If you love them as much as I do, your heart will be forever broken. But it will find the capacity to love others and nurture them, as they truly deserve.