After getting the lump on her neck examined last week I started noticing a decline in my cat’s appetite, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I woke up to yesterday morning.
I found Lucy in my bathroom, in the midst of throwing up a pool of acidy green goop. Thinking her food might have turned I trashed it and opened a new can, but she wasn’t interested. I knew her condition was serious when she refused water also, and couldn’t take more than a couple of steps before falling on her side to rest.
Around lunchtime I got a call from the vet saying that the test results on the lump were inconclusive. When told about her condition the doctor advised me to keep an eye on her, and if she continued to refuse food or water to bring her in the next day.
By late afternoon it became apparent that the cat had lost control of her bodily functions, and wasn’t responding to any personal attention. A couple of times she raised her head towards the water dish that was constantly at her side, but she never followed through with a sip. In fact, the only time she sat upright was to have another violent spasm of vomiting.
When her tongue started hanging out of her mouth I called an emergency vet clinic; the receptionist there recommended that I bring her in immediately. The attending vet was concerned about dehydration, so I forked over nine hundred bucks for Lucy to spend the night and get a bunch of tests done. I hardly gave the money a second thought.
Only a few hours later I got the call from the vet, and it wasn’t good news. X-Rays showed a large cancerous tumour in Lucy’s liver that had already spread to other parts of her body. There was also a significant amount of fluid that had collected in her lungs and was interfering with her breathing. The humane thing to do was to put her out of her misery.
My lady friend and I made a final trip to the clinic, and had a few minutes alone with her in an exam room. She was still listless, and the cries of caged dogs from the adjacent kennel couldn’t have made her feel any better. We were interrupted a few times by the receptionist, first to sign a form authorizing her death and then to sign a credit card slip for her ashes. I had a partial refund on the nine hundred bucks and thought I might spread her remains in my parents’ backyard where Lucy spent her kittenhood. Now I’m thinking I might scatter them around my patio — hey, better that than have her stuffed and put on my mantle, right?
Anyway, when we where ready the vet came in and sat down. Lucy kind of sprang to attention for a moment, probably for for fear of another thermometer up the bum. We confirmed the vet that at Lucy’s age there wasn’t really a likely option for successful treatment. We could have brought the cat back home, but instead of being with her until the end we likely would have woken up this morning to find her already gone, having died a slower and more painful death.
And so, on my instruction we started the procedure.
You may have heard stories of two injections, one to put an animal to sleep and another to stop its heart. That’s a myth, I think. What happened with my cat was that a lethal dose of anaesthetic was added to her hydrating IV — the blue fluid in the photo above. Lucy bolted upright with a confused look on her face the moment the dosage entered her body, but collapsed almost instantly afterwards. And not five seconds later, the vet confirmed with a stethoscope that her heart had stopped.
We were left alone again in the exam room and I broke down and cried like I did when my father died. All the awful feelings of helplessness and grief were back again, and the guilt of a murderer added on top, even though I knew I did the right thing.
This morning I woke up without the sound of Lucy wailing for her breakfast, without the stray nuggets of freshly-strewn cat litter getting stuck between my toes on the path to my morning cup of coffee, without her lying contentedly at my feet with her front paws in a ladylike cross while I fired up my computer. I can no longer deny that I’m a cat person, no different or better than the scores of old widows around the world, whose flea-ridden crotch-licking temperamental wreckers of upholstery give them just a little bit of company as they wind down the clock towards their own demise.
And it sucks.