I had been preparing to lose him for five years. We adopted him in 2005–I had recently lost my childhood dog, I had been hanging around the shelter for a pet loss support group, and I brought home the cat that had been there the longest (4 years). The day we adopted him, they told us he had a heart murmur, and offered to let us back out. We read up on it, and it didn’t look good (for an adult cat, as it’s most often associate with cardiomyopathy–kittens can outgrow them), so we resolved to bring him home for however long he lived. They warned us that he was very very shy (probably why he wasn’t adopted before). Our only goal was to get him out of the shelter and comfortable in a home.
It took about 2 months to get him and my girl used to each other. Two adult cats, and Lucy wasn’t nuts about other cats. My ex and I would trade off who slept in the bedroom with Felix and who slept on the couch with Lucy. We went very slowly.
It took about a year to be able to pet him.
It took a long time, but he became a very, very snuggly little pup.
We never expected any of that.
In July of 2009–less than a year of being in our house–he wasn’t eating. He’d try to eat dry food, and he’d “jump” as if he was afraid of it. It was stomatitis: http://animaldentalspecialist.com/feline-stomatitis/ The vet who saw him (not our usual one–we just grabbed anyone we could get to come to the house….years before, we had been told to avoid bringing him to the vet because he had literally panic attacks from being kenneled) wanted to test him for feline leukemia virus, and I rolled my eyes, because he tested negative the day before we adopted him.
It was positive.
Some cats can manage stomatitis with steroids, but now Felix was immunocompromised, so our only option was to have each tooth surgically removed (not pulled–carefully removed in such a way that there was not even a tiny chip left). I wasn’t sure he’d survive the recovery. For months, I handfed him tiny “meatballs” of wet food every 3 hours (even overnight).
He did survive, and two months later, he even started eating dry food.
In February of 2011–as I was stuck in labor and delivery with another bleed–he underwent PU surgery http://www.michigananimalhospital.com/page/421567612 . They biopsied what they removed even though there was no way it was cancerous–penile cancer is pretty much non-existent in cats, and he didn’t look “right” back there for so long that it would have killed him by then.
It was cancer. Ex and I decided that if he needed further treatment (radiation), we’d decline. It wasn’t worth putting him through it.
The margins were wide enough. All we had to do was have a $900 sono every 6 months to check for cancer regrowth (and to check his heart–things were starting to look a little funky in there by then as well).
He was definitely eating less before I moved on May 20. I noticed it, but he always was a sensitive boy, and I had prepared myself for two stressed cats. He was hiding and eating little after we moved. I was keeping an eye on it, but not nearly enough, obviously. On May 23, he refused any breakfast (I continued the practice of handfeeding him breakfast; I felt it was especially important after my husband left, just to help him feel secure) and his thyroid meds. I was officially on alert.
When I came home, he hadn’t eaten, and his breathing was more work than it should have been. I called my ex, and he sort of blew it off. I called my vet (at the end of the Friday of Memorial Day weekend), and she said she couldn’t tell if it was serious or not. She said I could bring him in first thing in the morning (he was due for his shot of the experimental, immunomodulater drug we had him on anyway), but she knew me, and she figured I’d take him to the ER to be checked out. I decided if he ate, I’d wait until morning. If not, I’d take him to the ER. He ate a little. I didn’t like the way his breathing looked (you could see the area underneath his ribcage working too hard). I decided to grab my daughter and him and take them as soon as she ate dinner.
Eventually I gave up on her eating, packed a dinner, and went.
As soon as they took him back, he had a panic attack. They put him in an O2 cubby and asked for permission to sedate him. The vet was very worried–she “felt” something (which she saw on x-rays), and she didn’t like the way his liver looked. He had just had a physical, full bloodwork, and sono in February, so I assumed it was them being overly worried/making money. They wanted to keep him overnight and do a sono in the am. They drained fluid from his chest to keep him comfortable, and they sent a sample to the lab to be analyzed.
All the while, I was going back and forth with my ex, who was visiting his girlfriend. I worried that they were going to roll their eyes at his drama queen ex.
I was in denial until I heard back from the vet at 8:30. She felt it was cancer in his chest. Euthanasia was now an option. Over the next couple hours, I pulled out of denial, and it became clear that the best thing for him would be to do it as soon as possible. My ex was coming back from NH anyway, so we met right at the hospital.
I was scared.
I had read all about it, watched videos of it, I knew what to expect. But I was still afraid I’d lose it.
I didn’t. It was perfect, actually….even beautiful. We visited him for a little while–he had eaten, an he was still in good spirits and curious enough to consider jumping off the table. I held him and told him I loved him. I asked him to visit me in dreams. After he was gone, we got paw prints for both of us. I carefully cut samples of his fur (had to include my favorite place–the black spot on his hip). We kissed him a little more, and then I asked my ex if he was ready to leave. I gave him two more kisses–on his tail and on his head, turned around, and walked out.
Always having to prove to myself that I won’t fall apart, I went straight to do a chore (grocery shopping). As soon as I walked in, I saw roses. Felix loved roses…he ate them. My ex used to buy them for me, but we eventually had to institute a no-rose policy in our house.
I bought a dozen.
Apart from a couple kind of unnerving (but not unusual experiences when I was in bed, I did too well for a while. When I finally got the call that his ashes were in, I realized that picking them up was the last thing I’d ever do for him, and I crashed. I haven’t told anyone (until now), but I’ve been sleeping with his ashes. Maybe not healthy, but what else am I supposed to do with them? It’s all I have.
My only regret is that I put him through a move. He was obviously sick before the move, but I was extremely stressed, distracted, and sick (not real sick like him, just a cold). A move is downright traumatic for a cat. I wish I had euthanized him before the move–that would have been what was best for him.