Friday, December 11, 2009

Tired Boy

Just got back from spending the entire day at the vet's office. My oldest cat, who is around 16 years old, hasn't been looking good lately, so I wanted to get him checked out. I figured maybe he had asthma or high blood pressure or something. Something he needed a pill for.

So the vet looks at him and says she needs to run a battery of tests. That unless it's worst-case scenario, they'll just go slow and gently give him tests and X-rays throughout the day. You know, unless he's got that big tumor in his lung or an enlarged heart or something catastrophic like that, in which case they'll contact us right away and have a Talk.

Within twenty minutes of leaving him there, we get the call to come back to the vet's office.

He has congestive heart failure. We can keep optimistic, give him some pills and see if they make a difference in the short-term. An emergency cardiologist will give a more specific prognosis, with a list of suggestions. But the overall idea is: he's quickly nearing the end of his life.

I have so much history bound up with this cat (Thomas). He's been such a good cat. I have three cats, and none of them purrs as loud or as strong as this one. It's ironic that he's dying of an overly large heart.

Sometimes you have conflicting emotions regarding pets. Part of you is like: this is an animal. This is not a human. This animal is old. This is the natural process of life. Be rational about this.

And then part of you is like falling apart. It's all about the cat. And it's all about all those years of life you've spent with the cat. It's about an era of your life quickly closing up. It's all about one of the few consistent elements of a large section of your life possibly disappearing.

He's lying down now on a pile of comic books. Cats love lying down on comic books. They're smooth and cool. I've prepared him a bowl of food. He's not eating it. He looks completely drained and exhausted. He's been looking utterly exhausted for a while now, for weeks. The most spry I've seen him was when we came to pick him up today, while he was in the oxygen tank. He was like: here I am! Take me home, please. Let me gesture more so you don't miss me and perhaps forget to take me home.

I had adopted him as a baby from a man giving away kittens on a street corner. The old man cautioned as he handed me the gray kitten: "Don't be one of those people who'll take home a kitten and then abandon it when it's no longer cute." Now, the issue is how to make Thomas's end-of-life the most comfortable and secure.

I'm glad me and Thomas have made this journey with each other.


  1. It's not weird at all to have bonds with pets- they've got feelings. I hope you can enjoy the time you've got left with Thomas. Seize the day.


  2. Oh wow - this brought tears to my eyes. We also have three cats and one - who is 10 - is THE cat -- the one who is always wanting to interact with us, being on our laps, head-butting, purring his head off. I am not going to be prepared to deal with the day he's not ok anymore. And one of my friends just had to put her dog to sleep, who was also old and seemingly had a stroke.
    Hang in there. Good luck.

  3. Anonymous8:35 PM

    Oh Val, I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully you can make Thomas's time as comfy and warm and treat-filled as possible. My thoughts go out to you.

  4. I have been there twice, with my beloved Bailley and Sinbad, who were both loving and wonderful cats.

    May it give you some solace to know that you have made as much of a difference in Thomas' life as he has in yours. You have provided him with love, food, a clean place for his litter, play, warmth and security. You have done, and will continue to do everything possible to ensure his life is comfortable and noble.

    My thoughts are with you in these difficult times.

  5. As a fellow cat owner who's been through a similar experience, my heart goes out to you.

  6. This post is breaking my heart.

    I'm so sorry, Valerie. My girlfriend and her family had a cat for 22 years. I only knew her for about 6-7 of those years, but her loss is keenly felt. There is some consolation to knowing she's not in pain anymore.

    I hope he's comfortable in the twilight of his life and you cherish the time with him and the memories after.

  7. Anonymous2:34 AM

    I'm sorry to hear that, Val. My five year old dog is going blind.

  8. Thanks for the kind words, all.

    Thomas is enjoying the extra treats and pets we're giving him, but it seems like the most important thing to him right now is just normalcy, normal routine. Cats in general seem to really cherish normal routine. Our other two cats were kind of disturbed by the hubbub yesterday, and the feeling that something wasn't right, so special attention has to be paid to them too.

    Pets really end up becoming like family members, this integral & essential part of the household energy. Personally, my cats have contributed to me feeling more human.

  9. Anonymous10:53 AM

    i'm so's the hardest thing. we had to put down our 16 year old cat a few years ago - she basically had dementia. i hope you have some special time let with your cat.

  10. My sympathies, Val -- I have a cat with an oversized heart, too, and while he's done all right with medication and some diet adjustments, I know we probably have more years behind us than ahead. I think maybe he knows it on some level, too; in recent years, he's become the most cuddly of our cats and the only one who consistently comes over to sit on our laps.

    That said, just before he was diagnosed, we really did think we were going to lose him, and he really did seem to be giving up...but the meds brought him right back to his usual self. I don't know if your boy will respond the same way, but I sincerely hope he does.

  11. About a year ago, I took in a neighborhood cat whose owner had a personal crisis and had to move away suddenly. The cat in question, Clancy, had been a passing acquaintance for a couple of years, thought I'd never known his name. On talking to his regular vet (and his fairy godmother, who arranged for him to come live here), I was shocked to learn that he was actually 16 years old! Having just turned 17, Clancy is still spry and healthy, but I do worry about his age — and the fact that he's experienced some kidney problems and currently is on prednisolone to help his breathing.

    Here's hoping Thomas is able to adjust to some changes and enter into a new phase of his life, just as Autumn's cat has and (to a lesser extent) Clancy has.

    That said, I am now getting off my ass and putting up the Christmas tree. Clancy really enjoyed it last year, and if there's one thing worth remembering, it's to enjoy things while we can. Thanks, Thomas.

  12. My cats are like my kids. It takes a lot to get me emotional, but losing one of them would do it guaranteed.

    Hang in there and enjoy the time.

  13. People who are responsible pet owners such as you understand that this is more than just an animal, it's an individual living being that's become a part of your family and your life.

    We parted with our eldest cat Lucy almost 2 years ago. She was just over 20 years old and 18 and half of those years were spent actively hunting at our rural home before she was diagnosed with thyroid problems.

    I wish you comfort and strength while you help your feline friend through this.

  14. Congrats, Val! Need an artist? Robin still gets royalties now and again from Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe or somesuch...

  15. I'm sure I've said this in person to you a number of times. My heart goes out to you. My babies are now 17 and 12 and I know it's only a matter of time. I'm sure Thomas knows how loved he is, and that's the most you can do for such a precious companion.

  16. Part time reader here but just want to send along my good thoughts to you and a few pets Thomas's way.

  17. hermosurita! I love your cat!

  18. I just gave my kitty a hug after reading that. Be happy he had such a great life with you. At the end all you really need to say is 'he was a good cat'. I know how helpless you can feel especially when you can't do anything for a friend that did so much for you by just being there. Its the risk you take when you choose to bring them into your life. The pain is worth it if the alternative was never having him in your life in the first place.

  19. Our cat Berry had the same problem, and it was so difficult to deal with, the idea that he's gone. We miss him very much.

    The idea that its an animal doesn't make any difference--you love it unconditionally, period.

    Enjoy the time you have with Thomas. He looks like a wonderful kitty cat.

  20. demoncat12:53 AM

    the best thing you can do for thomas is make the upcoming end of his journey as good as the begining for that is the one things pets ask of us in the end that we make sure their last days are peaceful and pain free.