I will begin with a video I made of Kitty's short but sweet life.
Holding the power of a life in your hands is not easy.
We experience this in a mild sense when we decide to squash an ant with our shoe or swat at a fly that is buzzing around the kitchen. Even when we whiz by and take out a squirrel on the road.
But what about when that creature is more than an insect or a nut-collecting nuisance? What about when it is a friend, a companion, and the one who greets you every time you walk in the door?
I had Kitty’s life in my hands over the past couple of weeks… and I didn’t like it. The stress of deciding “when is the best time” overwhelmed me. At first, it almost consumed me.
Shortly after Kitty’s emergency clinic visit, she improved quite a bit. She was a lot slower than normal, but definitely still had “Kitty-isms” that were true to character: chasing the laser pointer, “nursing” my hot pink blanket, running to the ice maker, and eating & drinking heartily.
As days went on, her breathing picked up quite a bit, but she still seemed happy to be alive. Towards the end of that week, her respirations were quite labored, yet she still had a little perk left in her. My parents were returning that Friday evening, and my goal was to make it until then.
I can’t explain it, but it meant more to me than anything else to have them see her before she died. Kitty stayed with my parents (and I) for the first few months of her life.
I can still remember the day I “asked my Dad permission” to let her live at home with us until I moved out. He was not too happy.
“I guess it’s fine, if that’s what you have to do,” he told me.
I felt guilty and happy all at the same time. My mom and I were excited.
The silly part is, Kitty loved my Dad the most. Probably… because he tried the least. And I would be lying if I said he didn’t love her, too.
Kitty slept in our basement room, which is also my Dad’s closet/shower room. Early each morning, he would be downstairs getting ready, and Kitty would come running up to my Dad, stand up on her hind legs (like a squirrel) and beg for my Dad to pet her.
Funny… because she didn’t like it when anyone else tried to touch her.
She would chase his shoe laces and weave in and out of his legs.
She would also spend a lot of time with my Mom during the day. My mom and I share a mutual affection for cats, so she loved it. Except when Kitty would walk across her kitchen table, try to eat off our plates, bat at her center pieces, and climb our Christmas tree. Then she would yell, “Kitty! OFF MY TABLE!”
We all enjoyed her. She was a bundle of energy and full of life, and always had us laughing.
Even after I moved out, Kitty and I would come visit… a lot. Usually, when I came over for a quick dinner or to spend the evening with my parents, so would Kitty. She was always with me, and my parents were always delighted to see her.
Because of the fun times we had together and how special she was to them, I really wanted them to see her.
My parents flew in late Friday night, and returned home just minutes before I had to go into my 3rd shift job. Kitty’s breathing had stayed pretty labored, so I had scheduled an appointment for Kitty to be put down that following Saturday morning.
As I scooped Kitty up and placed her in my car to go see my parents, my emotions were at the brim. I kept looking over at Kitty and thinking that this would be her last night. I would let her sleep at my parents’ house so she wouldn’t spend her last night alone.
I gathered Kitty into my arms and walked inside. As I did, it was instantaneous—I was sobbing. My Dad saw me and gave me a huge hug and told me not to cry.
That made me cry more.
They were so happy to see Kitty. Her side was shaved, as were her two front legs, and she was thinner. But Kitty sniffed them and greeted them, and my Mom calmed my tears.
“Taryn, we’ll take her in tomorrow morning, and if it’s too soon, we won’t put her down.”
So I slept that night.
And like usual, Kitty woke up early with my Dad and wanted him to pet her. She purred (she doesn’t purr for anyone else). She ate for my mom and sat in front of our back door and looked outside—her favorite thing.
We took her into the vet. Our vet is SO nice. He patiently listened to all my doubts.
What if I put her down too soon?
Is it too soon if she still seems to have a quality of life?
Is she in pain?
Is it possible that it’s not FIP, but something else?
Would she really be eating and drinking if it was towards the end?
He assured me that she was not in pain. Likely… discomfort. But not pain, and that she DID still seem to have a quality of life.
Without telling me what to do or “swaying me one way or another,” as he put it, I gathered from him that he thought I should wait. At that point, I was almost ready to do it and get it done. But my vet and parents were listening to me when my emotions clogged my logic. They explained that it would make me feel better to know that “it was time,” and this time… it didn’t seem right yet.
So we took Kitty home.
For the next few days, Kitty stayed with my parents, mostly. Her breathing stayed about the same… labored, fast… but consistent. She still sniffed around, ate and drank.
On Tuesday, she seemed to slow down quite a bit. I was beginning to think that the end was near. By Wednesday, she could hardly walk 5 steps without stopping to catch her breath, stooped over so she could concentrate on breathing. When we presented her with food or water, she would walk up to it and hang her head over the bowl… she wanted it… but she didn’t have enough air to partake.
It broke my heart.
I had been taking her outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. She LOVES outside and now that she had slowed down so much, it was much easier to keep an eye on her. However, on Wednesday when I did this, while she tried so hard to enjoy it, she was very obviously struggling. At one point, she tried to lie down, but stood right back up and resumed her “I can’t breathe” position.
Again… it brought me to tears.
I phoned my vet… knowing it was the day. Unfortunately, my vet was not in on this particular afternoon. It made me very sad, because everyone at that office knows Kitty so well, and the sentimental part of me wanted the vet who had been working with her to carry it through.
However, after observing her a little bit more, I knew I didn’t want to wait until morning. I phoned another local vet and made an appointment for later that afternoon.
My mom came with me. On the way to the vet’s office, I rode with Kitty in my lap. She was inside her carrier bag. I unzipped the front and stuck my hand in, petting her. Typically, Kitty did not like to be pet but as she had grown more ill, she learned to love the comfort. She rested her little head on my hand and let me stroke her, enjoying every moment.
We walked into the vet’s office, and everyone was nice and accommodating.
The vet there was young, and was so compassionate and kind. He asked all about Kitty—her history, her diagnosis, and then proceeded to explain in great detail the whole process of putting her down.
He brought in a blanket for her to sit on while it was done. My mom and I held her and pet her the whole time. It ended up being too hard to find a good vein in her back legs, because she was unable to breathe when they positioned her a certain way. The vet suggested that we give her a sedative to relax her so they could do what they needed to do. Another friend of mine (a fellow cat lover!) had suggested this to make it easier, so I gladly agreed.
He explained that the sedation would take a few minutes to work, so he injected it and then left the room so we could wait with her.
And this was the saddest part.
Almost immediately, Kitty started panting out of her open mouth—something I had never seen her do. Clearly, she was gasping for air. My mom was supporting her and felt her front legs wobble and then eventually give away.
“Just lay down, Kitty,” we both told her, soothing her as much as we could.
My baby, my black & white fluff ball who was the strongest fighter I knew, who would never in a million years lie on command… she laid down, and gave up.
All it took was something to relax her, and all of the fight came right out of her. She laid on her side and struggled to breathe.
“This may finish her,” I said, tears rolling down my cheek.
My mom’s hands were resting lightly on top of Kitty, feeling her little chest rise and fall. Her normally quick, short breathing turned into a slow, labored breath every 1-2 seconds… and eventually… no breathing.
My mom and I stood above her, stroking her and whispering soothing words, while our salty tears dripped onto her beautiful, soft coat. It was a special time. I knew Kitty was dying in our arms, and without the aid of euthanasia.
In that moment, it was proof to me that it was the right time. The one thing I struggled to wrap my mind around was letting her go too soon. But I knew with all of my heart that this was her time, and she told us by slipping away once she was relaxed enough to stop fighting for us.
I can’t describe to you the mixed emotions that I felt. I felt sadness for losing her, but relief for knowing she was done suffering. Watching her deteriorate each and every day was horribly hard. I tried to mask it as best as I could… much like Kitty masked her difficulty with breathing. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want her to have to get to the point of suffering, but I also knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t wait long enough to see she had no way of improving.
And somehow, God gave me the perfect timetable to accomplish the balance.
I am so thankful for the prayers, support, and understanding of so many cat and pet-lovers as this all unfolded.
Kitty took her last breaths, and shortly after, the vet walked in. When he realized what had happened, he apologized profusely. However, I was relieved that it happened as it did. He ended up giving her a little bit of euthanasia to ensure she was truly “gone,” since he still picked up a faint flutter of her heart from time to time. He returned her in a special “coffin” box, perfect for us to bury her in.
My mom and I drove home in quiet tears. We exited the car and sat out on our front porch. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon—sunny, blue skies, and in the 70’s. We sat outside and pet Kitty’s soft fur for awhile, and reminisced about her short but sweet life.
My Dad buried Kitty in my parent’s backyard. I request she be buried there, just several feet away from Belle (and Whiskers).
Most people are either a “cat” person or a “dog” person, and I have concluded that regardless of which you prefer, we all somehow have a special connection with our domestic pets that is unexplainable. It can only come through loving care, and while animals are not children, there is still so much emotional energy invested. So much so, that at the end of the path, it always ends in tears.
I was only able to enjoy Kitty for 8 short months. However, in that little amount of time, I could write a book about her. My friend told me, “No two cats are the same. Some people say: Oh, that’s just a CAT. But you will never meet another Kitty.”
I won’t. And for awhile, it will be hard to put up with any kitty that ISN’T Kitty. Time will help heal my sorrow. God does not let this go unnoticed, and I am convinced that there is a reason behind this circumstance.
My cousin pointed out a beautiful thought to me… that we can’t always know or even come close to fathoming why God works the way He does. But it is so interesting to note how He so often parallels death with life… the death of someone in a family with the birth of another, attending a funeral today and attending a baby shower tomorrow, and the death of my Kitty with the flourish of kitten season.
We serve a beautiful God who wants us to enjoy His creation… and that, I will continue to do. The hardest part about loving is losing… but oh, to think of how much we gain in our Eternal Home! J
Love you all!