My Cat Willow Is Dead Because I Am Autistic
In the early afternoon of April 25, 2022, the second of my two cats was put to sleep at our local, neighborhood veterinary clinic. Willow passed in my arms after being given pain medication and an anesthetic before being given the final, fatal doses of whatever it is they use. Today came after months of slowly losing control and use of her back legs due to what all the available evidence suggests was some sort of neurological problem that in more recent weeks spread first to her tail and then to her bladder. While my original, difficult decision was to seek out a special needs re-homing, none of my outreach to overburdened local organizations bore any results. When the issue spread to her bladder, the demands of any potential avenues of care breached the limits of my physical and psychological resources. Somewhere, there are people who have taken care of cats in similar situations. I could not find any in time. It was neither hyperbole nor metaphor when I told people in recent days that if the demands increased even just a bit, I would end up in the hospital. It is true for most everyone that life is a struggle between one’s resources and the demands upon them, both chosen and circumstantial. When you’re also autistic, you struggle not just with those typical demands, but with the atypical ways in which they impact your brain, and with the additional demands of sensory processing, social communication, and executive dysfunction—as well as with the anxiety, anger, and other mental health stress that come with and from all of these things. Most of the forty-six years of life prior to my autism diagnosis were fraught with feeling a failure and a fuck-up. It took diagnosis and therapy to let go of that shame and guilt. The reality, though, is that Willow is dead because I am autistic. She is dead because there were no more resources available to meet her demands. She came to me five years ago after her previous family had expanded and she wasn’t taking to the addition of other animals. They surrendered her back to a shelter, where I found and adopted her. She’d already been rejected by one family, and it already was hard for me just to consider giving her up to still another in order for her to get the care she needed. In the end, there wasn’t time to make that happen. Willow is dead because I pushed as hard as I could, and it wasn’t enough. She deserved better.