I’ve mentioned the passing of one of our families cats at least once since starting this blog. I also mentioned talking more in depth about the experience of realizing there was something wrong, taking care of her, and knowing when we believed it was time to say goodbye.
Katie May had no health issues until a few years ago she was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. We were told that it was manageable with medication which is what we chose to do. And she was fine with that routine for awhile. Until last winter. Her weight dropped scarily fast and she stopped eating. I knew something was wrong but the rest of the family felt it was her hyperthyroidism acting up. The problem is that drops in weight like that don’t just happen unless something has changed. It’s best to check up on those changes just to be safe especially if your pet does have a chronic illness that they deal with. We took her to the vet and found out that she had mid signs of renal failure. And that was just the beginning of more symptoms to come.
I cannot tell y’all how many things we tried. Our vet suggested a wet and dry food for renal failure from Royal Canin. That we could only buy through them. I wasn’t totally buying it especially when they added in dry food for a cat with renal failure. Royal Canin absolutely does not have the best source of ingredients and I barely consider it a step above something like Friskies. We tried it because frankly I did not have a choice as my parents had the last say in what happened with Katie May. But I also just wanted her to eat well at that point. That was a decision I’d have to make time and time again. I wanted her to have the best nutrition we could possibly afford but I also wanted her to just eat. Katie was 10 years old at that time. Trying to get some cats with chronic illness at that age to switch what they eat is not usually easy. Even when we did find something she would like it would only last for a few days or maybe weeks if we were lucky. I wanted to make sure she especially had enough fluids from her wet food and had fresh water available 24/7.
Sometimes we would feed her with a spoon. I also had to try force feeding at some point when she stopped eating any food with meds no matter what we tried to cover it up. But even after the first attempt I could see it was just upsetting to her and I would have to accept that she would not eat food with meds mixed. We would take her back to the vet at least monthly to keep checking up. My parents asked the vet about SUB fluids to give her at home but at that point they said we didn’t need them. Once again that didn’t sound right to me but my parents insisted that they knew when she would need the fluids. The problem is that everyone assumed that because she was mostly acting like normal that it meant she was stable enough. That’s not always true with cats though. They can be incredibly resilient. I also noticed she developed a head twitching, drooling, urinary issues, dry skin etc. A couple more months past and though she would still walk around with me outside she had a tiredness about her that I felt was telling me I need to sit every one down and talk to my family. It happened only after I came home, it was a hot day, she ran out of the house and we could find her for a half an hour. My mom finally found her laying almost completely still. She was very dehydrated. Even then my Dad tried to push that because she got up eventually to meow at the window it meant that if we just try the SUB fluids(that we were FINALLY given)then we could see what happens. I refused at that point. I knew if it kept going on, at that point, I would prolong suffering. Before her symptoms were not good but she was living as well as she could. But in that week something drastically changed and I couldn’t ignore my instinct. Sometimes facing these things is really hard for people but my cat needed me. I was finally able to convince them to start making calls because our primary vet was closed. We were finally able to find a place that wouldn’t charge us a ton just to put our baby to rest and was willing to have us come in that night. The Doylestown Veterinary Hospital was honestly the best place Katie May could have gone to for us to say goodbye. They were so gentle with no rushing and were very informative. The vet told us everything I had told my parents especially within the last month. That she probably would not have been able to make it to the next day even with fluids. She was that dehydrated. We were able to hold and pet her as we said our goodbyes. Death is never easy to accept but that experience made it easier for me because I knew I made the right decision that night.
Making that decision was so important to me because we had another cat, Sebastian, he passed due to our family being misinformed years ago and the fact that our vet at the time would not be honest with us. He is actually part of the reason I started studying. It started off becoming more informed for my own cats so that wouldn’t happen again. It was a very traumatizing experience, I will not lie. He seemed to be doing better. Like they always do. He was looking around for water so I come back with a small bowl and he started meowing loudly and convulsing. It shocked me and I screamed for someone to call the vet. We never dealt with a situation like that and my Mom called the vet only for them to tell us basically nothing. After the call when they basically told us he is going into cardiac arrest and there is nothing that can be done…my memory was fuzzy at that point. He was a cat I grew up with since I was a baby. And I never felt more helpless and guilty in my life because I had no clue what to do except hold him and cry. It’s actually still difficult to talk about and probably always will be. For so long I felt like I had failed him even though I knew I was just a teenager at the time and my family only knew about has much as the average cat owner did then. When Katie May was sick I made it a priority to take the knowledge I had and do as much as I could with it. Knowing that I did what I could for her and gave her the most peaceful passing surrounded by her human family made it easier to say goodbye.
A few points to be made: find a vet that will listen to you. Sometimes working in that field day after day can cause emotional fatigue as well as normalizing or overlooking things. People are not perfect and it’s so helpful to know your cat well and be informed so you can work WITH your vet. Also: building upon your instincts as a cat owner. It’s better to be safe especially when your pet is dealing with a chronic illness. Things can change in a matter of days sometimes. Do what you can to get every one on board with doing what is best for your cat. I hope this has been helpful to anyone and that there can be more honest conversations about how to handle pet illnesses, death and misinformation.
Any comments or discussions are welcome about these subjects. Share your experiences and stories as well!