This is a long post that I need to write to get this out of my head, and to remember. It’s not going to be suuuper coherent because I don’t think I can go back and read it all just yet, so please forgive me the misspellings and mistakes. This was a very very difficult process, one I hadn’t dealt with since we lost Mecca, and I wasn’t really prepared for it because in the space of a single week our little girl’s kidneys failed, she got sick, and then we had to choose to let her go. I’ve been trying to write about this for about two weeks now.
First, though, a bit about her. She was the least talked-about kitty because she mostly kept to herself or slept with Taylor, and didn’t seek attention like some of the other camera fields we have. I want to remember:
- The tiny floofed feets, and the big back rabbit feet that looked like she’d borrowed them from a big sister.
- The way she always looked warily up at the ceiling fan every time she woke. When we installed the fan, replacing an old one, she’d been asleep on the bed, and woke to have a much bigger, scarier ceiling fan.
- How she followed Taylor everywhere, snuggled with him everywhere, and would forget her wariness and twine about your ankles to be fed. I admit, sometimes I made them wait a tiny bit longer to eat so I could pet her a bit more.
- How she snuck up on to Tony’s side of the bed when his alarm goes off in the early morning for some nether-hour cuddles.
- The way she would so fiercely try to snatch fish flakes out of our fingers, never biting us, even though at most other times she’s wary of touch.
- How elfin her little face was. She was always the smallest and fuzziest of our kitties, and she had huge, inquisitive eyes that took everything in.
- Her pink pink nose. She was a monochromatic cat but her little nose, lined dark, always stood out.
- How she slept constantly on the baby doll bed we got at Pottery Barn.
- If you dropped something on the floor, something small, she would inevitably find it in the middle of the night, and look at you with reproach as you took your lipstick/wedding ring/watch battery back
- She would make these squeaky YYYY-OW! meows to her toys as she carried them around the house at night. About an hour after the lights went out, she would be on the prowl and carry her “prey” around like a trophy.
- She fetched toys, but only certain very light ones, brought them to your vicinity, and if you were so kind as to throw it again, would scamper down the hall after them at top speed, “sweatpants” flying.
- She was always tiny tiny tiny, never over 9 lbs. Our cats average 15 lbs, so her light weight was different.
- She was afraid of Kiki, but also liked to goad her, so you were never sure whether it was Kiki’s temper or Yaya’s prodding that started the fights. She was also a “joiner” and rushed to see what the excitement was if other cats were tussling.
- She was Daddy’s little girl. Very much so.
Friday morning, Jan 25, Tony said, “I think there’s something wrong with Kia.” She constantly licked her lips and made gagging motions, but hadn’t eaten anything, so nothing would come up. We tried to feed her, but she wasn’t interested in most treats, and would not play with string or any other toys. That, we knew, meant she was sick.
At my urging, Tony brought her in to the vet, just to see what’s up, and they ran a blood test that showed her kidneys were failing. The blood tests can be very subjective, and show false readings, so the vet wanted to keep her over the weekend on IV fluids and medications to see if that helped.
Ya was afraid of pretty much everything and everyone, and had to be put in an isolated cage away from traffic, with a towel over the door so she wouldn’t be too scared. We found out later that she was not eating, and on Saturday, we went to visit her again, give her a fresh t-shirt he’d slept in to snuggle with, and hopefully feed her something. He was able to feed her some fish flakes, then wet cat food, and she bit his finger pretty badly in the process because she was so hungry, so we switched to spoon-feeding her little bits of wet food.
Other caged cats were crying for attention in the rooms around us, and I am so sensitive to those sounds. So hurt by their lost, scared meows, but I knew I had to focus, pay attention to the burdens I already had. Our vet does a lot of work with rescues and shelters, and if I went into one of those rooms and a lonely, unloved, scared shelter kitty cried at me I would not be able to stand it, and someone with established health problems would become my 6th (7th? 8th?) cat.
So I’m going back and forth to the kleenex box, trying to keep my shit together. Tony was feeding Ya, and then suddenly she had a seizure. A bad one. It was a shock, and we don’t know if it was her first, because they weren’t watching for seizures. The tech on duty called the veterinarian on call and in whispered tones discussed it. I could tell by the way they behaved that this was a very bad sign. I tried to be optimistic right along with my husband, to believe that she could pull through.
We left in a daze, went to a BBQ, which helped us relax a bit, and we returned the next day (no seizures), and waited for the verdict from Monday’s tests. We went into the vet’s office in the later afternoon and they told us she wasn’t going to make it. We decided to bring her home, to spend some time with her family and to help her have one last good week.
They left the IV (catheter?) in her arm and her paw heavily bandaged to her elbow so it wouldn’t pain her or get anything in it. That was what truly drove home to me that they knew without a doubt that she wouldn’t make it. I wanted to rip it off of her, and I hated the thought of her little soft soft footie all wrapped up tight in there, knowing that bandage would never come off of her again while she was alive. She didn’t seem to mind it at all though, which is very uncatlike. This was hideously bittersweet. She didn’t hate it or have to spend the rest of her life in the Cone of Shame. She didn’t fight it, and acted like she’d always walked with one completely stiff leg. But she also was not behaving like I remembered her to behave, which means that things had really changed, and this was inevitable. They left it there so they didn’t have to hurt her or fight for access for euthanasia.
I didn’t really talk about all of this because I knew Tony was fighting his own battles, coming to terms on his own with what was going on, and the last thing he needed was a big sloppy mess of a wife sucking all the air out of the room. I woke Monday morning terrified that she had passed in the night, afraid that the day would pass, I would get distracted and forget to notice her, and I would look down and she was having a seizure again. So I devoted the rest of the day to holding her.
She never really wanted me to hold her, shied away from me, tucked her tail if I did manage to capture her and pick her up. But Tuesday she just slept on me all day. I held her and talked to her and petted her little nose, and she wasn’t afraid, she did not shy away, she did not flinch from my touch. I could a blanket over us both and as long as she could see around, she didn’t mind a bit. She liked the warmth, I guess.
I cried a lot those two days, holding her, knowing what would eventually happen and fearing it would happen horribly. She had very little dignity left, and would wobble when she walked. If she was put (or jumped) to the floor, she didn’t land properly, and would slump pathetically. The bandaged paw didn’t help with traction, but she was also getting progressively weaker. She would wake and I would bring her in to eat, wait with her and give her water, then take her to the litter box, where she dutifully did her business.
Wednesday however, she didn’t wake to urinate and I did not notice that she’d had an accident in her sleep until I stood up with her and felt the air on the damp spot. I had been making every effort not to move or disturb her, but it hadn’t occurred to me that this would happen. More than the wetting of my shirt I was upset that her urine had absolutely no discernible smell. Her body was keeping all of the poisons in her blood, and the urea was not being expelled. She was slowly being poisoned from the inside.
This led me to start panicking in my head about how this would go down. I didn’t want it to end badly, I wanted her to have some tiny shred of dignity left, to go peacefully, and the longer we waited, the less likely that would be. I could make oblique statements to Tony, but she was his cat first, and I felt that he wasn’t completely ready yet to face this. I had waited too long, to put Mecca to sleep, and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t let it get that bad before I did what was right, and eased them out of this world with love instead of waiting for them to be tortured by their condition before I, the healthy one, was “ready” to make that call. We decided eventually that Thursday was the best day to do it. We even discussed maybe seeing if the doctor thought it was a good idea to run the tests again, you know, just in case. But when the time came, we didn’t ask.
I held her every chance I got. For hours. I was saving up Yaya cuddles for the rest of my life. And I didn’t want to regret not holding her as much as I could. We gave her whatever she wanted that last day, let her feebly play with toys, sit in the sun on Tony’s lap and touch noses with Kona, go out in the grass and roll around if she wanted to. Then we packed her in the car and took her to her appointment.
These appointments are surreal, really, because you know what you’re there to do but none of the other patient-parents are. People come in to pick up flea medicine for their pets, get their puppy its annual exam. I struggled not to show my feelings, to let my tragedy bleed into someone else’s day.
They brought us to what I know is the “extra” room, the one that’s equipped more for this sort of thing than for regular visits. This is where we held my mother’s dog, Cappy, a year ago after he died overnight in the hospital of a liver tumor that no one had seen. This is where they always let me sit for hours with Mecca when she was sick. That room.
So the vet tech came in and helped us weigh her so they could get the dosages done properly, and I hated that, hated putting her down on the cold scale even for a second. As soon as it was civil, I picked her back up. But I knew I couldn’t hold her during the event, because last time, feeling Mecca’s life pass in my arms, and seeing her eyes glassy and empty, I haven’t been able to forget. I asked Tony to hold her during the procedure, and he agreed to.
The veterinarian who’d been helping us was not the primary veterinarian in the practice, and it only matters because Dr. Carver is the vet I’ve been bringing our pets to for…15 years? My mother and I work on the landscape in front of the practice, a bunch of native Texas rose bushes and flowers she thought would do well to brighten up their parking lot. They’re a lot more concerned about keeping costs down than about how pretty the landscaping is, so we offered to help. She’s thoughtful like that, and I help her sometimes, far less than I should if I am getting “credit” for taking care of it, to be honest. We have a relationship with Dr. Carver, and when he helped Mecca pass, he cried right along with me.
I could hear his voice in the hall and asked about him, and the tech said he was busy, had to go pick up his daughter, so he wasn’t technically “in”. I caught his eye in the doorway, and he said hello, unaware of what’s going on, and when he realized why we were there, he said he would do it himself. That was an enormous relief to me, because if someone has to do it, I know he will do it with kindness.
The room was ready and I realized I couldn’t watch it, at all. I kind of slumped into the corner chair, and Dr. Carver told me I didn’t have to stay in the room, but I had to give her that respect, and stay with her until the end. I could not look up, or watch, but sat crying, silently staring at the floor as the procedure began. He gave her the first of two injections, and I panicked. I thought what if this was a mistake? What if we were just doing this wrong or we misread something and we could save her? She’s still so little, there’s got to be something we can do. I should stop this. I should tell him to stop. I felt guilty for not stopping the procedure, for not flipping out because this is the right thing to do. Shhhhh. Just let it happen. It took everything I had to not say anything.
I heard him announce the second, fatal injection in a calm voice and my panic heightened. I was torn between saying something and stopping this maybe I can stop it now, maybe it’s not too late, but I knew it was or why would we be here, we didn’t ask them to run the tests again, there might be something!
Then on the floor in front of me I saw a small pat of kitty poop fall to the tile. My friend, the vet tech assisting the doctor, quickly cleaned it up, and I knew then that she was gone. Gone, gone. I felt like I had failed her, like I should have done something more. They left us alone with her after a few hugs and condolences from them, I sat back down and couldn’t look. Tony asked if I was ready to go. I had promised myself I wouldn’t look at her because I would never be able to forget that experience. I looked up and Tony was covering her face with the little towel she was lying on and I just couldn’t stand it any more. My heart broke. I left the office by the service entrance and went to wait for him in the car.
We had her cremated and her name engraved on the box. Tony picked her remains up not long before Chinese New Year, the time when families must be together. She is with us again, but our family isn’t whole. I’m largely OK in the aftermath. I think I did enough crying that week to last me for a very long time.
We cleaned the house for Chinese New Year and that meant cleaning up her convalescent areas where she would sleep overnight or in the day if we had to do something that required two hands. We got rid of her pills, washed the towels that she had slept on while she was home those few days, and put things to rights before Chinese New Year because we had to. After all, we’d had two pets (Yaya and our ancient hermit crab on 12/31) die recently, and that is no way to start a new “year”. I am glad we had that deadline of sorts to meet, to set everything right. So being busy took the place of abject mourning. I still catch myself and cry suddenly because I’m thinking about her and her sweet, feisty little personality. I’m back in the swing of things now, mostly, because I have to be.
I’ll miss you so much, Yaya貴, and so does Taylor. Pixel is very needy now, and the rest of them are more attentive, more present, and I think it is because of this change in our population. And maybe because they noticed that I need the love too. Today, Valentine’s Day, is the 2-week anniversary of her loss. Goodbye sweet little one, our precious little girl. 媽媽想念你, 小寶貝貓咪.