Thank you everyone for your comments and hugs. I’m actually feeling a lot better about it all, now that it’s all over. When the vet gave Ming the injection, and I heard him take his last gasping breath and then was still, I felt such a feeling of relief – the stillness was such a contrast to the last couple of days that I realised how much he’d been suffering, and knew we’d done the right thing in ending it.
The vet agreed too, and in fact thanked us for deciding to put Ming down and not wanting to prolong his life just for our own sakes. He said given his age and the symptoms, it probably was cancer, and that there was a 95% chance that any treatment he could have given wouldn’t have achieved anything other than more distress to Ming, so we definitely were doing the right thing. That’s what we’d been thinking anyway, but it was nice to have a professional confirm it.
We stayed with Ming, stroking him and talking to him, while the vet gave him the injection. I’d never seen a lethal injection given before (it’s the first time I’ve had to have a pet put down – usually they’ve been killed by cars, or have just crawled off and died on their own before we knew they were sick), and was amazed by how quickly it worked – the vet had barely started to push down the plunger on the syringe when Ming stopped breathing. I still can’t work out how the poison can make its way round the body that quickly – biology can be a fascinating thing sometimes! I’d like to say I saw the light go out in his eyes, but that light had already been out for a couple of days, really. All there was left was fear and pain.
Afterwards, we brought his body home and buried it in the garden under a standard rose he used to like to sharpen his claws on. In summer, when the roses bloom in a shock of pink, we’ll look at them and remember our good friend Ming.
[P.S. For those who might be confused about the Mim/Ming thing, Fuzzle (his original owner) named him Mim as a kitten, and that’s what I first knew him as, but when she moved into a new flat a year or so later, one of her new flatmates couldn’t get her tongue around “Mim”, and kept mispronouncing it “Ming”. And as his adult personality developed, Ming seemed a better fit to his volatile and aggressive nature (everyone always assumed he was named for Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon), so the name stuck. By the time I came back from Britain five years later, even Fuzzle was calling him Ming.]
My only regret now is that we haven’t been able to get hold of Fuzzle to let her know. She’s been travelling overseas for the last eight years (so much for the 6 months she originally told us when she asked us to cat-sit Ming and Saffy!!!), so changes address and phone number frequently, and (through a tendency to lose phones and forget passwords) often doesn’t even keep the same mobile phone number or email address. We’ve tried phoning the last mobile number we had for her, but it didn’t work, and we’ve tried emailing what we think is her most recent address, but had no response, so don’t know whether she’s received it or not. We can’t even contact her family, as they’re similarly nomadic.
Ming and Saffy have been living with us for longer than they were with her anyway, so I suppose they’re technically more our cats than hers, but I know she’d still like to know. Hopefully we’ll find a way of getting in touch.