A few days ago, I wrote this. Kept it “private”:

Mongo the cat is sleeping next to me, in his usual curled fetal position, paws touching my leg. A few minutes ago, he was awake, exposing his tummy and under-chin again. It’s a sign of trust, however misplaced. His breathing is less labored, but still a little shallow. The thing with pet companions, they’re your responsibility. I wonder if he’ll bounce back from this episode. Sick and old tom that he is.

For some weird reason, I’m reminded of M. Perhaps because we just watched Skyfall a couple of days ago. If you’re old and grey, would you rather get shot, or die in bed of a languishing sickness? (Not that the feisty M’s anywhere close to doddering.)

Would you rather know that you’re dying, or prefer being addled and unaware?

I’m a coward. I think I’d take quick death before pain and anguish and wasting away.

The funny thing is, the survival instinct’s a jealous (and usually optimistic) bitch.

And we really have very little choice, in the end, do we?

I wrote this before I left for the vet today, Nov. 19:

I took Mongo to the vet yesterday. On the taxi ride, he was fractious as usual, and comforted by being let out of his carrier and sitting on my lap. Long ride, relatively peaceful, but stressful for him.

At the vet, he clearly did not want to be there. They poked and prodded and X-rayed and IV’d. Whilst the needle was going in, he fought it, looking beseechingly at me to end his torture.

He doesn’t understand why, obviously, he has to be transported, and treated, and caged with the rest of the animals. Dogs behind bars yapping at him.

He’s gone to the vet for shots before, he’s boarded at the vet when no one could take care of him for me (the last being two years ago, because I didn’t go home to Bicol for Christmas in 2011, so…), but this is different. He really is sick. Strongly against treatment, but sick.

I’m the bad guy here. The signs were there, flashing, neon, screaming: “Something’s wrong. This is not the false alarm of his kitten-hood.”

Never mind the vet’s “He’s old” to my “What caused it?” Cats have lived up to 16, more than double his age.

Behold the repentant human.

I was at the theater when the vet called in a panic to say that Mongo had “crashed” (bumagsak) when they had changed his fluids, and was in critical condition. I visited him, he was lying prone on a heated blanket, and he was unresponsive to me, and my sister too.

The vet comes in at 1pm today.

I need to write. There are fees. The vet has already given me a disclaimer, in so many words, that they can provide all the best what-hey-ho but he could still die.

So I write. And wait.

And here we are. I just came from the vet, was told by the vet that Mongo wasn’t responsive to treatment. I was told that he would die either way.

I was told that he wasn’t in pain pero “nahihirapan” (was having a hard time, ergo, suffering).

Eyes, open and aware. Lungs, fine. Heart, great. Kidneys, malfunctioning. Appetite, “he still swallowed kanina (a while ago).”

I was told that it wouldn’t make a difference if we keep him on at the clinic. I was told there was no hope of recovery.

So what can you do? Euthanize him in an environment he hates? Lying prone and unresponsive? Or take him home and let him die there? Get him home, see if he bounces back (yeah right) and if he doesn’t, have a vet do a house call to kill him. (Like they do that. And I live in Bicutan, where nobody wants to go.)

If no vet will euthanize him at home, then I’ve just sentenced him to a natural, slow death in a familiar environment.

He started responding when we got him out of the clinic, he drank when he got home, and drank again.

He started eating… and couldn’t continue. This is a cat who loves his food. He lifts his head and tries to eat but can’t. Hence prescription entry #3 of “Sugar water: Give orally 6ml 3x1day if not eating.”

He weakly tried to follow me around. (Before the vet episode, I watched him try to jump chairs that he used to scale so easily, and now failed to, drunkenly.) He peed on himself in the carrier already; he peed himself on the bed. This will happen again.

I brought him home so I could torture us both.

My grandmother nursed her husband, her eldest son, and her middle son, until they died. Separately. I don’t know how she did it, thrice. Because nursing was her vocation, because they were hers. I cried once, when my uncle turned his head away after relieving his bowels. There is no dignity in the sickroom. Just love and pain.

My lola was strong, obviously. She endured cancer treatment, but it cost her, it accelerated the deterioration of her mind. She died with dementia. (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, similarly, beat cancer only to develop dementia. Announced just this February, he will never finish his autobiography.)

I wasn’t strong enough to put Mongo to sleep at the clinic. Sentiment ruled me: I couldn’t let him go. I couldn’t let him die there.

(I was in Manila when my dog died in Bicol; she wasn’t allowed to die at home, she was sent away, to die with strangers.)

So: Amoxicillin (3x1day for 14 days — will he live that long?!), water, sugar water.

If I’m willing to euthanize my cat here, if there’s someone who will administer it, why not there? Because I was in denial. Now, I’m not.

With or without my aid, he will die.

“Indoor-outdoor cats have an average lifespan of approximately 3 to 7 years” I just read. He’s following the statistic.

I don’t know how long he will last. I don’t know how long I will last watching him (already I’m contemplating a harried run to the vet clinic to recant) and giving him medicine he doesn’t want and sugar water he can barely tolerate. I don’t know who will give first — me or Mongo.

I’m never going to do this again. I’m never going to watch another pet I’d raised breathe his way to death. I’ll probably choose that cold clinic, and the puppies gnawing styrofoam in the incubator, and the excitable dogs — big and small — yapping, and the healthy cat meowing for his owner to come take him away. And the tiny, tiny brown rodent, scurrying about.

(And vets that gave a damn, and one nurse who sympathized and tried to act the shrink, while another sang something to the effect na “walang hanggang pagmamahal,” translated: everlasting love).

I neglected Mongo. He wouldn’t be in this fix if it weren’t for me. In denial, in denial, ever-broke, and in denial.

I’m writing this to remind all pet-lovers that if you want to raise a pet, be prepared for his death. Care for him by all means, and give him the best that you can give, but be prepared for the time you have to decide how he dies. And to hate yourself.


  1. Text/Calling up cat people at night asking if they know anyone who would make a house call to kill a cat, and calling up vets before 7am STILL hoping for a second opinion: what they call grasping at straws.

  2. Walking to the nearest clinic, which happens to be a canine clinic not yet open, and upon seeing a super-fat street cat, being told “Ano lang yan, taga-rito lang,” is depressing.

    My cat is lying prone at home, still and breathing, but with dilated eyes. He tries to get up but falls back down. He won’t open his mouth for the dropper. He makes a raspy meow (very, very faint). He seems to have lost whatever fight he had.

    I’m wondering if Mongo would have been better off on his own, on the street, like that fat cat with the shortened tail, than in my so-called care.

  3. A vet accredited by the Philippine Animal Hospital Association and whose practice was established in 1974 has agreed to make a house call to put Mongo to sleep.

  4. I want this fucking year to be over.

  5. Wretchedness is watching your cat chuff and twitch and waiting for the vet to arrive.

  6. Goodbye Mongo.

  7. Several years ago, I watched my dog die, put to sleep at the vet because he was in too much pain. Cried like a fool the entire time because I wouldn’t leave him to die alone. It took a while, he had to be injected twice. Maybe because I didn’t want to let him go. Stupid, but I think he died when I finally said– it’s okay, go. Either way you do it, your way or mine, it still hurts. So, I cried reading your blog, and cry as I write this. I really feel your pain.

    1. He needed only one injection after the sedative. I don’t recommend what I just did. The vigil I mean. I still think he hated the clinic. I still think we felt better that he died at home. But the injection should have come sooner. That’s the thing. You have to make the decision to let go. I never thought I’d do it. Just shows me, huh. I had to. He was dying. I had to help him out.

  8. FROM FB:

    acceptance is easy. doesn’t mean you don’t grieve. or you’re not gonna miss him. or you’re going to look at his accoutrements and not think: he was just gobbling pieces of chicken a couple of days ago. he still has cat food. he still has litter. he has a new carrier that he actually liked better than the old one.

    or he loved high places. and he would always follow me around. up, down. wait at the bathroom door until i came out. greet me at the front door when i came in. he must have been a dog in a past life. or a stalker.

    he liked being underfoot, because he wanted to be where the action was. he was always watching manang clean the house, like a self-appointed supervisor. he talked back. he was a talker.

    or he liked sardines and tuna but turned up his nose at real salmon… but liked cat food salmon. he liked chasing birds. he purred if you rubbed his under-chin. he’d rather use claws than teeth when he got mad or predatory. the couches were his favorite victims.

    he was scared shitless of peds. he chased after georgia and eena and scared them shitless. etc etc etc

    you can go on and on. it always surprises me when newbies say “may personality pala ang pusa.” dogs, cats, whatever, of course they have personality. and they suit you to the bone.

    he was my charming rascal. he made me laugh. he kept me company. he was very affectionate. so of course, it frickin hurts that he’s gone. 7 years was a good run. i still hate 2012.

  9. Reading this broke my fragile heart. Again, I’m so sorry, Jo. You’re very brave. Talk soon. xx

  10. We buried him under a mango tree. Not ideal, but better than the very shallow flower box outside the window. There was wind and shade and sun.

    “For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?” ~ Khalil Gibran

    RIP Mongo.

  11. maye poblete · · Reply

    ok jo

  12. RIP Mongo. 😦

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