Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sad Kitty News

We had to put GirlCat down today.

Yesterday, she wandered out of the laundry room (which is rare) and lay in the living room all day, looking not well at all. As we discussed it, we thought that she'd probably been even more lethargic than usual lately - we both felt like, suddenly, she was much slower to look up and say "hi" when we went into the laundry room, and that we'd even had to go "poke" her a bit to make sure that she responded.

Then, she had some diarrhea (right there in the living room, with no effort to get up and move) and later Shrike saw some blood in it.

When I took her in to the vet, she was making no effort to move around and get comfy in the carrier, or fight with the vet or anything. Her body temperature was 89' (!) and her respiration rate was very slow.

We went ahead and did bloodwork, in hopes of finding something fixable, like an infection, but there was nothing like that, and the vet said that based on what she saw, if she had to put money on it, her best guess would be some sort of bowel cancer.

The only "treatment" she could recommend would be fluids and maybe antibiotics, in hopes of getting her strong enough to maybe survive a biopsy, which would most likely involve opening her up, just to confirm a terminal cancer. All of which, of course, just seemed cruel and pointless, and something that we were not about to put her through.

So, we went ahead and did it then.

Shrike was at work and I had Peeper with me, but she did great. I was wearing her on my back when we went in, so that I'd have my hands free to carry the cage and so that she'd be contained. She picked up a very large Elmo book in the waiting room, and spent the first part of the exam bonking me on the head with it.

At some point when the vet was doing her initial exam, I sort of half-way noticed that Peeper was breathing loudly, but didn't think much of it. Then she dropped the book. The vet tech picked it up and started to hand it back to her, but said, "She's asleep back there!"

What a relief. She stayed asleep during the discussion and through a couple of phone calls to Shrike and until after the decision had been pretty much made, although we were still waiting on the blood work.

When she woke up, I moved her to my front (and figured out that the new carrier is infinitely more comfortable if I criss-cross the straps in back, rather than doing a "rucksack" carry, with them just over my shoulders) and she nursed off and on and got okay with being awake, and stayed there until we were done.

When it was a certainty, I explained - as best I could - to Peeper what was going on.

I told her that "Kitty is very, very, very old and her body's been working for a very, very, very long time and now it's very, very, very tired and very, very, very sick, and it's going to stop working soon. She feels really bad right now and her body hurts. We don't want her to hurt any more, so the kitty doctor is going to give her some very special medicine - different from any other kind of medicine that we take - and it will make it so that she doesn't hurt when her body stops working. Her body is going to stop working because it's all used up, and the doctor is going to give her the special medicine, so it won't hurt any more while her body stops working. Then she's going to stay here, because her body's going to stop working. We're going to tell her bye-bye, and we're going to miss her and we're going to be sad, and that's okay to be sad, because we love her. But she won't hurt any more."

When the vet tech took GirlCat out the start her IV, Peeper, got upset, but I assured her that she'd be back in a few minutes, and then (see above rambling desperate attempt to explain euthenasia to a two-year-old).

When she came back in, they left us alone with her for a while, and we talked to her, and Peeper petted her and kissed and hugged her (with some prompting) and "read" her Elmo book to her, and then the vet came back.

The vet was wonderful, through the whole thing. When I was making the decision, I asked what she would do if it were her cat, and she said that, being a vet and knowing what signs to look for, she'd always actually put hers down before they got this close on their own, which made me feel better about it.

She also asked me a hundred times, if she asked me once, right up until the last moment, whether I needed more time to make the decision, or if I wanted some more time with her before she did it, or if I wanted her to try to get her a couple more days, so Shrike could be with me for it.

I realized this evening, that she always phrased it like that, "Do you need some more time?" and never asked, even at the moment, "Are you ready?"

I really appreciate that, because it's a lot harder to say "No, wait, I'm not ready!" even if you aren't, than it is to say, "Yes, I need more time," or even, "No, go ahead and do it" - as hard as that was.

I think that, as hard as it was, really, once I got past the uncertainty of whether it was really time or if I was giving up on her too soon, my biggest concern was Peeper and how to explain it to her, and how upsetting would it be for her.

The vet had asked me whether I wanted to be with GirlCat when she put her down, or if I wanted her to do it in the back, and as much as I felt that I owed it to her to be there, I did get the vet's promise that it would be "peaceful" before agreeing to allow Peeper to witness it.

And it really was.

When the vet came in, we talked about it a little bit more, and she asked again if I needed more time, and I told her that we were ready, and I petted GirlCat while she gave her two injections in the IV, and then I waited and watched. And didn't even notice when it happened.

Just moments after the second injection, the vet asked me, "Did you feel her stiffen just a bit there?" - I hadn't - "That was the end of it." She listened for a heartbeat and confirmed that she was gone.

I think the vet stepped out again for a while, and I went over it all again with Peeper, and told her that Kitty's body has stopped working now, and she doesn't hurt any more and we're going to leave her here, and so on all over again.

When the tech came in to see if we were ready for her to take her, I told Peeper that we needed to say bye-bye, because we wouldn't see her anymore, and I think she gave her a kiss and I know she waved and said, "Bye-bye."

I was relieved that she didn't say her usual "See-YA!" because I don't think I could've handled that.

I wasn't handling it all that well, as it was, but I think that, in a weird way, as much as I would not have chosen that arrangement, it was sort of helpful to have Peeper with me, because I did have to hold it together at least on some level, and I had to stay calm - crying, of course, but still somewhat in control.

And I am so proud of how she handled everything. Of course, she doesn't understand what happened, but she was so cooperative through the whole thing (once we got past the "I just woke up and I need goody, and they're way on the other side of Mama!" point) especially considering that I was upset and that had to have been upsetting and confusing and frightening for her, and I was so relieved that she accepted it when I told her that we had to tell Kitty bye-bye and she wouldn't be coming home with us, especially after how she reacted when they took her in the back for the IV.

Of course, when you have kids and pets you know you're going to have to deal with this at some point. We'd hoped that it would be much further down the road, but we knew that it probably wouldn't be, just given the kitties' ages.

And I know it will only get harder the next time, and the others, because she'll be older and will understand better what's going on and - and I feel sort of like a jerk saying this - because she's got more of a relationship with the others.

GirlCat spent most of her time in the laundry room, close to her food and litterbox, and Peeper didn't get to interact with her much.

And, honestly, GirlCat spent most of her time in the laundry room and probably hasn't had much quality of life to speak of for a while. I suspect she feels better tonight than she has in years.

At least that's what I have to tell myself.

Rest in Peace, Nikeaux. We love you.
March 28, 1997 - November 24, 2010


  1. So sorry to read about GirlCat. I've been through putting several family pets to sleep, and it's hard. You did good explaining it all to Peeper though. But she might still look for the cat at home, even though you explained it all so well to her, because she's only two and they don't understand about permanence at that age. A big bowl of ice cream definitely helps on days like that. I had to have my beloved labrador retriever put down at the beginning of July. I know what you're going through.

  2. Aww, that's so sad. Choosing to let them go is so hard, even when you feel it's the only option. Hugs.


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