Last Friday we had to put down our nearly 18 month old kitty. It was one of the saddest things we’ve ever had to do.
His adoption papers designate him as Joker. We renamed him Gaston, given his exuberant personality. Most of the time, though, we just called him The Kitten. And I, in my cat mom ways, nicknamed him Baby Cat.
He was rambunctious. He tore up wall paint and carpets. I gave up on the Christmas tree last year. Just left the decorations off and let him climb it. (There is actually a big hole in the carpet under the bedroom door from when I locked him in to keep him away as I was attempting to put up the tree.) He also had some strange logic. We have a closet in our house entrance. When we bought the house, the door had no knob so we just left it open for ease of access. Until the day I grabbed a pair of shoes from it. They were soaking wet. Upon further investigation, it turned out The Kitten has mistaken our closest for a litter box. For weeks. (It didn’t smell very strong for some reason, perhaps kitten urine is less concentrated?) After tossing all those shoes and deep cleaning the closet, we installed a knob and kept the door closed. It was never a problem again.
Then, sometime last summer, around his first birthday, he started sleeping more, in stranger and stranger places. He even discovered how to open the lower drawer in our dresser, to climb inside and move from drawer to drawer, until he found a soft one to sleep in.
We figured he was just being a teenager.
Not long ago, maybe 2 weeks, he climbed into a cupboard before I left for work. Ed said he didn’t come out until around 6pm. Soon, Ed (who works from home and sees a lot more of the cats than I can) noticed he had trouble breathing and couldn’t breathe at all if held in certain ways. A few days later, it was obvious he was struggling and it just kept getting worse.
But! He was still eating, still drinking, still going to the bathroom. No diarrhea that we could tell. He kept his routine of waiting for us in the bathroom while we showered, then following us into the bedroom to sit on us and purr as we tried to get dressed. He even did his best to play, taking a few swats at the laser pointer the very day before he passed.
“Oh, he must be anemic or something” we thought, as we brought him to the vet.
During the painful, hour long car ride through the snow, we reassured our panicked Baby Cat (he was neutered in our town so he’d never been in the car for any significant amount of time before) “I know the car sucks, but it’ll be worth, you’ll feel better soon.”
I suppose we were right in that he did stop suffering, but not in the way we intended.
The chest x-ray was not good. The fight to breathe wasn’t caused by nutritional deficiency, or infection, or even obstruction. At least, not really. He couldn’t breathe because his chest cavity was filled with so much fluid that his lungs were shoved into a tiny corner. Whether it was freak cancer or, more likely, the words every cat rescuer dreads hearing (as I discovered later) Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), it was clear: there was no coming back from this.
How long had he been been secretly suffering? Was his sleeping in strange places early signs of illness or just his quirky personality? He preferred the dark, was he getting migraines? Like anyone caring for a vulnerable being, I wanted to protect him from everything at any cost, and here he was fighting for his life while I had no idea. If it was FIP, there’s nothing we could have done, but had we caught it earlier, could we have spared him some pain? He was just so good at hiding it. Even the day before he died, he was playing as much as he could, asking for food, eating out of my hand and sleeping next to my face at night. I wish he could know how proud I am of him and how much I admire his determination.
Speaking of determination, he fought, right up to his last gasping breath. Before the euthenasia, they administer a sedative, something I expect that is similar to midazolam which is what we give humans to relax them before death. It had the opposite effect: he tried to run away from the invisible smothering. His breathing was the worst it had ever been and he panicked like he was drowning. He hid his face in Ed’s jacket until the vet finally came back and ended it before we lost our minds. Our poor little guy, his last moments were that horrible car drive, getting poked and prodded at the vet, and then suffocation.
I try to take comfort in that the rest of his short life was a good one. So many cats die of exposure, of trauma or of getting ripped apart by predators. He was always safe, he has two “big brothers” that he got along well with, he ate good food and was showed in attention. I wish we could have done more for him, he was a good cat, but mother nature is neither fair nor merciful.
We’ll miss him.
Like any doting cat mom, I have oodles of pictures to show and tell, but I’ll put a cut here to avoid stretching out the blog too much.