TANYA'S

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO

FELINE CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

 

   

OTHER PEOPLE'S EXPERIENCE OF LOSS

 

"Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears,

but laugh and talk of me

as if I were beside you...

I loved you so -

'twas Heaven here with you."

 

Isla Paschal Richardson

 

 

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Other People's Experiences of Loss


 

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Home > Saying Goodbye > Other People's Losses

 


Overview


  • Below are descriptions bravely provided by several people with a CKD cat of how they realised and accepted that their beloved cats' final hours were approaching. 

  • It was not easy for these people to relive their memories, and I am very grateful to them for being prepared to do this.

  • Remember, with CKD things can look quite hopeless, yet with treatment the cat can make a good recovery, at least for a while; so I would strongly recommend that you shouldn't read this section and decide there is no hope for your cat without first reading the Treatments section. The people who share their stories here had fought very hard for their cats and had used many treatments, but the treatments were simply no longer having an effect.


Other People's Losses



Cara and Maribeth


 

What I am about to recount is purely my own experience, a personal judgment and an accounting of nothing but my own decisions in the final months of Maribeth's life.

 

I too believed that I would not put my girl down unless she was in pain. But I learned in the course of what was ultimately a losing battle that there are agonies other than "pain" that beg for relief.

 

My guiding principle for her care was the quality of her life. In the sense that I am blessed with the means, I could have taken her to the USA (I am in Canada) for more interventive treatment. I might have given her more fluids more frequently, or force fed her, or given her more medications. 

 

But I knew that would have depressed her, made her gag, made her flinch away from me, made her days miserable - and I couldn't do that. Her condition was terminal, I accepted that. My mission was to always and ever make sure she was comfortable and had the best possible quality of life. No one can say what that is for any cat other than his/her own. No one.

 

The IV flush and vitamins and cimetidine and sub-Qs we gave her following her big crash in February 2000 gave her three more months with us. And they were good months - as Maribeth defined "good." I felt it was my job to watch, to assist, to enjoy her. I could have done more, medically. I didn't. 

 

Does that make me a bad person, or somehow lacking in judgment or heart? I don't believe that. I knew my girl - as you know your boys and girls. Some cats can tolerate a tremendous amount of medical intervention and thrive. I am as certain as I am about my love for her that it would have shortened her life, not prolonged it.

 

Maribeth was never in any pain - at least not in any pain as we understand it. But a ruthless assessment of her daily life in the last two weeks showed me that what I knew of my girl was ebbing away relentlessly. It was left to me, her trusted caretaker, to judge when we had turned the corner from caring for her to holding on for me. Seeing that corner looming, and turning it, and doing what had to be done once it was turned, was an agonising process - as you all know or can imagine.

 

I did not enjoy being God, even part-time. It is an ugly, hurtful job. I hoped that somehow the title would be taken away from me - that Beth would slip away peacefully in her sleep, that I would be spared the searing pain of her last golden look at me, of holding her small body close as her life ebbed away, of feeling her brave heart stop beating. But there was no reprieve for me.

 

Still, in my grief today, some part of my brain is sure and certain that I made the right decision. That morning when I came downstairs and she turned, so slowly, and looked up at me - I knew. The best part of my girl was already gone away, and the small frail shell that moved so hesitantly was only awaiting my courage.

 

It didn't feel like courage - despite the hopefully helpful words I have offered so easily to others, and had offered to me as I made the decision - it didn't feel like courage. I was wracked with fear on the brink of that decision - one of the few one makes in life that is irrevocable. The only thing that sustained me was the thought that Beth was counting on me to be as brave as she had been during her fight.

 

She was toxic. If I waited longer, to hope for a sunny day, to see if more fluids or another pill or a different food would work some miracle, she might have a seizure and be terrified. I had promised her - no pain, no fear. "Tell me when you're ready," I had whispered, not really meaning it. I never wanted to hear her tell me that.

 

But there it was, unmistakable. I knew my girl. She and I had been together for almost seventeen years. I knew she was tired, and sick, and - worst of all for me - that there was no hope of her ever being better again. 

 

Should I have waited for pain? I don't think so. I am having enough for both of us. And that's okay. I can take it. My girl is at peace, and eventually I will be too. 

 


Carol and Merlin


 

I knew within three weeks that the time was coming, and in the first few days of September knew he wouldn't make it to the end of the month - why?

  •  

  •  

  •  

  • weight was dropping rapidly (it was dropping more slowly prior to July);

  • it was getting harder and harder to get him to eat;

  • the piddling in random places started in July/August - we had put a litter box upstairs in the loo for him late July, he couldn't hold it very long although he did know he had to go;

  • late August he was getting wobbly, shaky jumping up and down off things, shaky when he stood up after a lie down, we tried Tumil K (potassium supplement) and Winstrol (anabolic steroid) they seemed to work for a week then no;

  • harder to give him sub-Q's - physically harder to make a tent - he was SO thin;

  • stopped eating the food he really liked (for the last month and a bit) in the last week, then stopped coming to bed with us - he stayed in the living room for the last 4 days, before then he ALWAYS slept with us, on our pillow. 

All taken together, it was also just a feeling, you know what I mean. He was declining and I knew it and I feel I was enough in tune with him and him with me that I knew when he had had enough.

 


Kim and Shasta


 

Shasta's CRF had progressed into non-regenerative anemia. The last few weeks her ability to jump was gone and her ability to even walk up or down steps diminished rapidly until she could barely even walk - period - or stand up to eat any food from her dish. She had been incontinent for several weeks as well. The last week or two, especially, she had trouble with her bowel motions and had to lie on her side to have them.

 

During Labor Day weekend she took her last short "walk" outside where she rested in the sunshine. That had given me some small hope because she was on Epogen for 3 weeks and I was waiting for her Winstrol (anabolic steroid) to arrive the following week in hopes that both these would lead to a turnaround.

 

The next day, Sunday, all hope was gone. She was totally immobile, had to be force-fed, and could barely breath. My vet reported her red blood cell results from the blood test the day before and it showed the Epogen was still not working. I felt as though Monday, Labor Day, would have been her time but the vet's office was closed. My vet did call me again that day though and I told him that I felt it was time for her and arranged to have her brought in the next day.

 

Monday night I placed her in my bed next to me on blankets and an incontinence pad. I petted her and talked to her all night. She would, on a few occasions, open her sad, tired eyes as if to say "it's time to let me go, Mom." She didn't move otherwise, she was so weak, with continued laboured breathing. It was clearly time as she had lost her fight to live. 

 

She was lifeless and limp as I held her in the vet's office on Tuesday waiting to see him. She opened her eyes only a couple of times, but was so very silent. The vet said her heart was so weak that she went quickly. We know we did the right thing and it was not a day too soon. 

 

The Winstrol arrived the day after. We have her ashes with us and her memory will live in our hearts forever.

 


Cathy and Bill


 

My tiny shorthair tortie female, Bill, has been gone since 21 March 1998. I hesitated telling her story on the CRF List for a few reasons: 

  • she was never officially diagnosed CRF or ARF;

  • my guilt;

  • it's disturbing.

Now, as I said, Bill was never diagnosed with CRF. She had not seen a vet for 17 years (since she was spayed and vaccinated as a kitten). She was very healthy (or so I believed). When Gilda was diagnosed in August 1999 (and I subsequently found the CRF List), it was like having a pail of cold water thrown in my face, with my heart pounding I realized this must have been what killed Bill. She had all the classic symptoms... weight loss, excessive urination (!), excessive drinking, her fur looked terrible. I, like so many others, attributed it to her age.

 

As for the end, it started on a Thursday. I came home from work and she just was not herself. Hardly ate and was not as interactive as usual. Still drinking (a lot) and urinating. 

 

Friday when I came home from work she did not eat at all but had set up sentry time at the water bowl. Just stayed right there. I thought maybe she had a furball and upset stomach (this had happened before). I gave her some furball remedy (something like Laxatone I think). Intermittently she would let out a pitiful cry (reinforcing my belief that she needed to throw up that furball). As the evening went on she stopped actually drinking but started lapping at air above the water bowl but not drinking. She did settle down in her usual spot before I went to bed. I do not know if she was still urinating.

 

Saturday morning I awoke to find her sprawled out on her side at the front door (not a spot she would ever be, there is a draft there). She meowed to me but was clearly not well. She tried to get up and staggered a few steps and laid right back down. I tried to hand feed her but she wouldn't eat or drink.

 

I took her to the vet an hour or so later. By then she was barely responsive, I even thought she had already passed. She did respond to my voice and turn her head to me but it was like she was not seeing me. I would say she was near comatose. It was an effort for her to lift her head. Just that quickly. (I should note she had had a similar episode in January, not the near comatose, but the not eating, general malaise, and rebounded on her own).

 

The putting to sleep: vet examines quickly while taking history. Says she's gravely ill. Recommends euthanasia. I already knew on the way there that she wouldn't be coming home with me again. Vet had a bit of a tough time finding a foreleg vein, said she was pretty dehydrated. Did find a vein and injected (I don't know what) while he listened to her heart. Surprisingly, I was very calm (I knew I needed to be for Bill). Well, whatever he injected didn't have the necessary effect (Bill was calm throughout). Vet said sometimes the cat's system has become so used to fighting off toxins (kidney failure?) that the cat will fight off the (unknown) injected substance. He then quickly drew up another syringe of I believe the same substance. He told me he would be injecting it directly into her heart. I watched (still amazingly calm) as he inserted the syringe in her heart. He withdrew the plunger and I watched her heart blood come back into the syringe and the syringe actually pulsated with her heartbeat before he gave her the injection. That was it. [Note: this is not the standard method of euthanasia; see what happens during euthanasia.]

 

I can't finish now, I'll try and write again in a day or two

 


Ila and Merlin


 

With a sad heart I write that my magical little boy, Merlin, died at 2:25 p.m. on 13 September 2000.

 

After seeing no improvement upon returning home from the hospital the previous day, I found the courage to help him get the peace he deserved. I actually felt a sense of relief when I called our vet and arranged for her to come to our home to "put Merlin to sleep."

 

I have always dreaded the thought of euthanasia. For those of you who are currently struggling with this enormously difficult choice, I want to let you know a little about our experience today.

 

Merlin ate and seemed to enjoy small amounts of baby food today, he slowly walked around the house, settled in a sunny spot on the carpet, circled by our three other kitties.

 

When the vet arrived with a technician (vet nurse), I placed Merlin on a pillow, on his favorite sunny window sill, gently talking to him about this great journey he was about to begin. As I was talking to him and caressing him, the vet put a catheter in his front leg, he hissed a little. Next, she flushed it with saline. When Merlin and I were ready, the vet injected the anesthesia. I had my head close to his and my hand was on his heart. I asked if he was gone, I didn't feel a significant change in the way his body was moving. He had died in about 15 seconds. He didn't jerk or gasp, as I had feared. Merlin's transition was peaceful, quiet, as he deserved. 

 

Things felt a little surreal for me afterwards. Merlin was my soul mate, I always told him he was the love of my life.

 


Jo and Yoda


 

I don't know if I can get through this but I will try. It has been 15 months since we had my beloved Yoda put to sleep. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, and I still grieve.

 

Yoda developed CRF at age 15. For three years we managed the disease very well, with Hills prescription food and sub-Q fluids twice a week. He was healthy, happy, active, and a very bright eyed boy. The only way you would have any clue of the diagnosis was a very slow weight loss, about a pound over the three years. Since he was a chunk anyway, it was not noticeable.

 

Steve and I retired and were going to spend the winter in Texas and take Yoda with us. We took him in for a good checkup before we left, and since his creatinine was up a little, our vet had us increase the fluids to three times a week. Everything else looked pretty good. 

 

While in Texas Yoda developed heart failure and then had a stroke. Actually, that was when I found a CRF list, looking for info on heart failure. We found a vet in Texas, kind but not real up on things. He helped us treat as best we could. We made a horrible three day drive back to KC with a very sick cat. The next day we went in for an already scheduled visit with our own vet, and ended up with an emergency thorocentesis (tapping fluid off the chest) and a trip to the vet hospital. Yoda now had hyperactive thyroid and cardiomyopathy with heart failure.  

 

Now Steve and I had to accept that "good care" might not be enough. We had the "quality of life" discussion with our wonderful vet. He was more than willing to be supportive of the new complications, and pointed out to us how good Yoda still looked and how bright his eyes were. It was decided that we would manage Yoda with medications, very CAREFUL administration of sub-Q's (50 cc's three times a week), and thorocentesis to remove the excess fluid from his chest when he had difficulty breathing. Obviously, treating CRF and heart failure is very difficult. Yoda had four thorocenteses in all, over a three month period.

 

Steve and I then had to really sit down and talk. Because I was on a CRF list and very active, I knew that we would eventually have to make the decision. We decided to evaluate based on the following quality of life criteria. Basic things, eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, able to use the litter box and get around a little. In Yoda's case, we also had to add being able to breath comfortably. Then we added "higher" things, talking, purring, and his wonderful bright eyes (tears flow).

 

Basically, he required a considerable amount of care. Often I had to "encourage" him to eat, usually by hand feeding him. I tried every kind of cat food imaginable. He had pills several times a day, and balancing the fluids and heart was an ordeal. He developed constipation, which required more trips to the vet and meds. I monitored his eating, his breathing, his heart rate. 

 

Yoda loved to go to our lake place. When we were there he loved to go outside and under the porch. We were able to take him to the lake several times those last few months, and he insisted on going outside and lying in the grass in the sun. I knew it wore him out, he was always worse when we got home, but it seemed to me that it was a real joy for him. 

 

As to the decision. He had his fourth tap and did not "bounce back" as well as before. That is when the constipation got worse. He really started fighting being fed. He was short of breath again seven days after the tap. We had a holiday weekend (the 4th July), and decided that if he was not better we should consider euthanasia The night before I tried to hold him and talk to him about what we should do. He wouldn't purr, he wouldn't let me hold him, he went and hid.  

 

The morning we looked for some sign. He had eaten some dry prescription food, good. He wouldn't eat the baby food from my finger, bad. He was terribly short of breath after coming out of the litter box, laying on the floor. Worst of all, his bright eyes were no longer bright. We had two choices, another tap (it was not even two weeks since the last one) or euthanasia. We had no guarantee that he would even live through anaesthesia for the tap, and we opted to say good-bye and be with him.  

 

Again, it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. The list wisdom is that the cat will tell you when it is time. With Yoda the signals were there, but somewhat mixed. Up until the end he had been very brave and courageous. Watching him make himself walk again after his stroke, leaning against the wall and furniture, taught me lessons I will carry the rest of my life. He was so good with all the treatments, so good at the vets. He purred. Until the fourth tap, then he seemed very angry, and oh so tired.  

 

I don't know if I will ever be comfortable emotionally with the decision (tears are really flowing now). I know rationally we did the right thing, that he did not WANT another tap and that he was fighting to breathe. 

 

This has been very long. There is no way I can briefly say how we made the decision. I don't know how you will be able to read all of these and do something with them. I indicated the main criteria that we used. I do believe that talking with your vet, laying out some guidelines, and thinking about "it" ahead of time is a very good idea. Which is why I have spent the time (and tears) to respond. 

 


Julia and Albion


 

My girl, Albion, only suffered with CRF for six months before I had her put to sleep. It was a hard six months. She was never a terribly hardy cat, and I was on a crash course of learning everything I could about how to care for a CRF cat. While there are some things I would probably have done differently if I'd known then what I know now, I'm not convinced it would have made a lot of difference. It would only make ME feel better knowing I'd done everything possible.

 

Albion lost weight fairly rapidly from the beginning. She never completely lost her appetite, although toward the end she wouldn't eat very much. I chose not to force feed her because she had always been pathologically afraid of being restrained (it took two adults just to give her sub-Q fluids, and she only weighed 4 lbs at the end), and I didn't believe that binding her to force feed would be much of a quality of life for her. She did love sitting on my lap (always did, even when healthy), and would eat a little if I pretended to eat off the spoon and made yummy noises.

 

Toward the end, she became profoundly incontinent. She'd just release an entire bladder full of urine without seeming to realize she did it. An extremely fastidious cat, it obviously upset her to be lying in her urine without the strength to get up and move. We layered towels in the couple of places she still lay on to sleep, and just changed them whenever they were soiled. The vet verified that she didn't have a urinary tract infection, and also that her urine was essentially so dilute it was just water - her kidneys weren't working at all, really. The anaemia was getting seriously out of control, and her numbers were climbing without coming down.

 

The deciding moment, though, was when my partner and I were giving Albion her fluids. I always handled the actual injection, and my partner held Albion in place and petted her and cooed to her. While we were administering the sub-Qs, my partner suddenly burst into tears. "She's just skin and bones! It feels like I'm holding onto a skeleton!" She looked at me and said, "Please, I don't want to starve her to death. It's just too cruel to just starve her to death."

 

We'd talked a lot about when would be the right time to make this decision. It's really rather arbitrary - a CRF cat isn't going to "get better." In the end, CRF cats die, and the decision to put to sleep is simply a decision about when that's going to happen, at what point you no longer want to let it get any further down the road. But there's hardly a single point where you "should" do it. It depends on what you're willing/able to do, and what your cat can forgive. 

 

I'm lucky enough to have a friend who is a vet tech (vet nurse), and we had already talked about her coming to my home to put Albion to sleep when the time came (Albion also hated leaving the house and going anywhere in the car). I contacted my friend the next day. We made an appointment to meet at my house at 4pm that Friday. 

 

The hardest thing was the sub-Q fluids on Thursday night. It was very hard to realize that, after six months, this was the very last time I would be doing this for her. And yet I wanted to take good care of her up to the end. I didn't want her to feel any worse than she already did just because I knew it was going to be over soon. So we gave her the medications and the palliative care right up to 4 pm.

 

Immediately after, I kept not wanting it to have happened. It wasn't that I thought I'd made the wrong decision, or that there was anything else we could do. I just didn't want ANY of it to have happened. I didn't WANT my cat to suffer for six months, and die in my arms! Knowing that it was the right thing made it easier, I guess. But it didn't make it any less sad. 

 


Linda and Snowball


 

In the weeks before Snowball's death he was doing fine except for high phosphorus levels that we could not get down. With stronger and increased amount of phosphorus binders he became a little wobbly but I thought that was due to the extra medication. The vet said to try the extra phosphorus binder for two weeks, and if that didn't work we would go back to the regular amount and not worry so much about the phosphorus.

 

A CRF listmember suggested that a stone in Snowball's ureter could cause this situation - high phosphorus with a seemingly normal acting cat. My vet doubted this, but took an X-ray; there was a stone in Snowball's ureter and several in his kidney. Removing a stone from the ureter is expensive and risky microsurgery performed at a vet school. But with the other stones in his kidneys which could move into his ureter at any time, this surgery is not recommended.

 

The vet put Snowball on IV for a day hoping there was a chance that the stone would move. It didn't. When we went to the vet the next day to see Snowball, it was obvious that he was tired and ready to go. Our vet asked if we wanted another day on IV, but said it was unlikely that the stone would move. We made that terrible decision to let him go. I couldn't bring myself to stay with Snowball at the end (I would have relived it over and over). Sandy, Snowball's favorite vet tech (vet nurse), was holding him and kissing him as he left.

 

Our vet himself had had stones in his ureter, and said this was extremely painful. So even though Snowball didn't seem to be in pain, he probably was. One day of IV with the chance of getting rid of that stone was worth it - another day with little chance of changing the situation was not worth it for Snowball.

 

By the way, the list member was devastated; he thought removal of the stone would be fairly easy surgery. As he said, "I like being right, but this is horrible".

 


Maureen and Binnie


 

Binnie was definitely in End Stage Renal Disease, his creatinine was in the 9s (international: in the 800s), I don't recall his urea (BUN), but he had high phosphorus, calcium, potassium, hypertension and was anaemic.

 

Until three days before his death you would not really know he was sick, if you didn't know him. The first signs were a slowing down... where he used to run upstairs after his sub-Qs, he would walk to the stairs and look up before climbing them. His breathing became a little laboured, nothing I could really put my finger on since he purred constantly. He stopped eating and the morning he became really sick I tried to force feed him and he started open mouthed breathing. I called the emergency vet and debated bringing him in (as opposed to bringing him to his regular vet), but then Sunny, one of my other cats, had the first of a series of seizures, so I grabbed both of them and off we went.

 

The emergency vet drained Binnie's chest and gave him some Lasix, a diuretic, which should have made him "pee like a racehorse", but he didn't, not at all. I took him (and Sunny) to the vet the next day where they drained another 150 ml. 

 

I was told to stop his fluids and wait for bloodwork which would be ready the next day. Sunny continued to have seizures a couple times during this period. The next day, there was no bloodwork, as the lab failed to pick up, so we had to wait another day, with no instructions on what to do. Binnie would not eat, and for the first time in his life he tried to hide under the bed from me. He drank once during this time and was not peeing or eating, his breathing was normal but he would not move about at all. 

 

The following morning, I was getting ready for work and Sunny suffered another seizure, so I stayed home. Binnie died while I was on the phone with my vet getting the lab results. I had no idea he was going to die on his own like that. His urea was 64 (US: BUN 179), creatinine was 872 (US: 9.8), phosphorus 5.78 (US: 17.9).

 

Fully half of his bloodwork was out of the normal range, high or low, though I don't know how much the fact that the blood sat out all night had to do with it. Sunny stopped having seizures the day that Binnie died.

 

I think the 'toughness' of the kitty has a lot to do how fast they seem to go. I think that like Thomas, Binnie was a very tough fellow and compensated well for his illness. There just reaches a point, sort of the straw that breaks the camel's back, where they cannot compensate anymore, then all hell breaks loose. 

 


Lizz and Fuzz


 

My Fuzz left me on February 12, 2000. Fuzz had been diagnosed with CRF, and seemed to be holding his own for a month or so with sub-Q's and Winstrol. He would eat only a mouthful or so of food a day, but beside that he was hanging in there. On a Friday evening we noticed Fuzz sitting in the "meatloaf" position, he didn't move. I got down on the floor with him that night and looked into his eyes, I think I knew then that it was time to set Fuzz free. The next morning we found that he had lost control of his bladder, and at sometime during the night had passed a dark, thick, tarry bowel movement. 

 

It was clearly time to say good-bye. I drove to the vet with Fuzz lying in my lap, blinded by tears. My wonderful vet checked Fuzz, then looked at me and said, "What do you want to do?" It is an awful, wrenching, gut-twisting decision to have to make. I couldn't make myself say the words "let him go". I just couldn't. Finally I said to the vet, "what would YOU do were this YOUR cat?" His answer came quickly, "I'd let him go." So I nodded my consent. As the vet and I had talked, one of the vet techs (vet nurses) had gently bathed Fuzz's furry pants, she said she didn't want him to go to the Bridge like that. Somehow that small act of kindness just did me in. All of us held a paw as the vet administered the shot that would end Fuzz's suffering. The vet had to wipe his eyes several times. And then, almost instantly, Fuzz got his angel wings. It was a peaceful and love-filled passing. 

 

As I sat there and cuddled his poor, broken little body I felt a sense of peace, a sense of knowing I had made the right decision. He was sick, he was in pain and he was tired of the fight... I did the right thing. But it hurt. Oh God, it hurt. And now, 8 months later, it still does. But I still know I did the best, kindest and most loving thing by my Angel. My precious Fuzz.

 


Mike and Ziggy


 

We lost our cat Ziggy to CRF. With him, the issue of when it was time to let him go wasn't that difficult. He went from his usual self overnight to not being able to hold his head up. He managed a couple of small spurts of energy, but by the time we arrived at the vet we knew he would not make it. He had stopped trying to look around and had begun shivering a little, something he had never done during the year he fought with CRF. The Vet felt he was already gone when he gave him the injection, but that his body had just not quit yet.

 

If I had any advice for people on when to decide I guess it would have to be to watch your cat. A majority of the people I have spoken to say that their cats let them know in some subtle and not so subtle ways. Also to try not to project their emotions onto their cat when making the decision. Our wanting to have our beloved pets with us as long as possible is noble, but even the hundreds or even thousands of dollars we may spend for more time with them, may be only to make ourselves feel better, and not really in the interest of our little loved ones. We actually made our good-byes twice before the end, and in a small way that helped. A friend has had her cat recently diagnosed, and she already has planned what to do when it is time, even though it is most likely years before it might happen. Accepting and addressing the inevitable is a major part of dealing with the decision. I know I make it sound easy which is not my intent, I am a 37 year old man who spent most of the night crying when Ziggy went, but I hate to think what it would have been like if I hadn't made peace with his condition in the first place.

 

We began going to a very caring vet the second time Ziggy crashed, who explained that one of the effects of the disease was the production of chemicals in the body that keep them from feeling much if any pain in the progression of the disease. He, along with our first vet, felt that Ziggy was beyond any medication or treatment. He felt that sub-Q's would possibly extend Ziggy's time with us, but not benefit his quality of life. We were told to take him home and enjoy each other while we could. He was very frail and down to about 6 pounds, from over 19. He suggested we may wish to try pedialyte (a vitamin supplement) to help keep him hydrated and help him keep up his energy. A short while later I called the vet to tell him I thought Ziggy had gained a little weight. I was told not to get our hopes up, but that he was surprised to hear Ziggy was still with us. He said if Ziggy still was around in a month to call and make an appointment. It actually took a few months to call back because Ziggy was eating like a horse, playing with his toys and gaining weight. When we finally did get him in, it was still bad news. His kidneys were still over 90% failed and his urea and creatinine were off the scales.

 

But he was back over 12 pounds and was as close to his old self as he was going to get. The vet still felt that he was beyond medication, but because he was eating and drinking about 2.5 large bottles of pedialyte every two days, he did prescribe some medication to try to stimulate red blood cells. The only thing we can attribute his condition to was the pedialyte. Right up to the week before he passed it was all he would drink. I think that was one of his ways of telling us it was time. We thought of taking him in then, but he was still eating and wasn't displaying any other symptoms of discomfort or pain. Maybe if we had, he would have had another couple of weeks if he had gotten an IV. But I think in the end that really would just have been selfish on our part. He had lived a year longer than anyone gave him a chance for and had one of the best summer vacations ever, even before he got sick.

 


Karen and Merlin


 

On Friday, January 28, 2000 at 9:25 a.m., my beloved Merlin transitioned from this world to the next. In a way, I was lucky, the decision to have him "put to sleep" was essentially cut and dry. 

 

It really started late on Wednesday, January 26 – he had been using his litter box which was situated in the small room off my bedroom. Afterwards, he came to bed and I noticed he had problems jumping on the bed – his hind legs were weak. Of course I was worried, his latest blood work had been horrible - urea 51.4 (US: BUN 144), creatinine 739 (US: 8.3), and phosphorus, a whopping 4.65 (US: 14.4), but I would watch him and if need be, take him in for IV fluids by the weekend. I had had a rotten week to start with: I had started a new job and was sick to boot, Merlin and his companion, Nikki, was also sick – she hadn’t eaten without vomiting in almost a week. All her tests were coming back negative, so my guess was it was an emotional reaction on her part. What did she know that I didn’t?

 

On Thursday, January 27, 2000, the real problem started. We all got up at the usual time. Merlin had 200ml of fluids, plus had eaten a little bit on his own. I felt well enough to go to work and was just finishing my morning shower when Merlin came running into the bathroom and jumped into the tub (yes, I was still there drying off) to get his water. After he finished drinking, he jumped out of the tub and banged a leg on the edge, or so I thought. I grabbed my towel and ran down the hall after him, catching up with him in the bedroom where he was having a seizure (according to my records, it was 8:45 a.m.).

 

I gently picked him up and placed him on the bed, holding him the entire time. The episode lasted all of about 20 seconds and then he jumped off the bed and ran to his closet.

 

I was a wreck! I didn’t know what to do first – I finally calmed down enough to call the vet, who said the best they could do for him was put him on IV fluids. Yet, somehow I knew, it wouldn’t help. But, on the off chance that a miracle would occur, I agreed to bring him in around noon. I also re-subscribed to the CRF list that had been my lifeline during his months of illness and requested prayers and then I opened the closet door and sat down beside my boy to cry and tell him how much I loved him.

 

I had told the vet I would bring him in at noon because I didn’t want to stress Merlin, but the truth is, I just knew this was the beginning of the end and I wanted a chance to say good-bye. Nikki came and lay down in front of the open closet door and I remember thinking it was good we were all together. So, I cried and cried and expressed my love and joy to him. Thanking him for gracing my life. Of course, during one particularly poignant moment I looked at him and, I don’t know, maybe I was expecting him to look at me adoringly, but he was too busy grooming himself!! Nikki had also decided that this would be a good time to start eating and keeping it down (I had kept saying she would make mommy so happy if she did). So, there I am crying for one baby and smiling for the other.

 

At noon, I gently placed Merlin in his carrier and off we went. He was subdued this time – maybe he knew. I was crying and started crying even harder when I handed him over to the vets.

 

The rest of the afternoon was spent on the couch, curled up in a corner, crying and remembering and bracing myself for what was to come. At 4:30 p.m. I called the vets and one of the technicians (vet nurses), said he was good and was giving her "that look". My heart took flight – maybe, just maybe, he would be okay. But it was a long, sleepless night without my baby boy.

 

The next morning I called the vets around 7 a.m. – the receptionist told me the doctors hadn’t done their rounds yet – I told her I was just looking for breathing at this point. And, yes, he was still with us.

 

At 8:00 a.m., Merlin’s regular vet called and the news was not good. Merlin’s numbers were off the wall: urea 79.3 (US: BUN 222), creatinine 739 (US: 8.3, unchanged), and phosphorus was now 5.5 (US: 17.1)!! All the extra phosphorus binders I gave him during the week did nothing to help it. No wonder his legs were wobbly! I asked the vet exactly how long this latest round of fluids would help him. He said a week, maybe two weeks, or a month. It was hard to tell because Merlin was such a fighter. Again, that horrible feeling came over me and I had to ask myself if I could make the decision to end his life and let him go.

 

I went to hospital at 8:30 a.m. and they brought him in. I guess because I had been thinking the worst, I was almost surprised to see him. They brought him (and the drip machine) into the examining room (normally they let me out back, but not today because there was a dog with a severe spinal injury being treated).

 

The first thing I noticed was his constant growling. Now, Merlin always was a talker, but this wasn’t like him – something was definitely wrong. Then his right front paw was tucked under (background: when he was 8 months old, Merlin got hit by a car on the left side of the head, the tracking on his right front paw was always off and it had always been an indication to me when something was up with him). They weren't sure what the problem with his paw was, but I knew. In the meantime, they asked if I would feed him – since he wouldn’t eat on his own; he had, however, used the litter boxes which made me feel a little bit better. So, I mixed a little of the Hills A/D food with water and syringe fed him. He took about 18cc’s and decided enough was enough and wanted down on the floor to check things out.

 

Within moments, he had another seizure – I opened the door that led out back and yelled for help. They came running – Merlin was on the floor and I just kept holding him, telling him I was there. Again, it stopped within 20 seconds and he just got up and started moving around – but, I could tell there was serious brain damage and I knew this was it. I made my mind up right then and there – there was no way I was letting him suffer. The vet told me he would get into scrubs and be right with me. So, Merlin and I were left alone.

 

I sat on the chair holding him, cuddling him like a baby, rubbing his nose and just telling him I would take care of everything.

 

When the vet came back, he told me about his numbers, but that Merlin’s urea had gone down to 53.6 (US: BUN 150) overnight. I asked him if Merlin would come back from this and after a short pause, he softly said "no". At that moment, I made the best and worst decision of my whole life. I said, "let’s end it". Now? Yes.

 

So, I held my boy while I signed all the papers, making sure he had a private cremation. The vet had the injection and had fetched a blue towel so Merlin could be comfortable. I joked that blue had always been his colour. And for the first time that day, he turned and looked me straight in the eye. Fearless as always.

 

The line to the IV drip machine was removed and the vet injected the euthanasia solution. Within seconds, Merlin sank down as the vet and I both reached to help him to the table and maybe 5 seconds after that, Merlin was gone (it was 9:25 a.m. EST). My arms were always around him. There was a sense of relief pass through me and I believe that was Merlin’s soul. It was over. I had prepared myself for the bodily functions I knew would come: the convulsing, urinating, defecating – but they never did. He just went to sleep.

 

The vet left me alone with him and I just cried. I buried my face into his fur and cried. I didn’t care who heard me. I didn’t want him to suffer, but my baby boy was gone. My beastie boy who had been my friend for the past 15 years was gone. I hated leaving his body there. I just went home and felt so empty.

 


Voula and Sachie


 

Many people told me that I would know when the time had come. They could not tell me exactly how, that it may be different for each cat and each person. I worried a bit because this did not seem to be very specific. But now I know what they meant. You know. And if you have doubts, don't make the decision to have your cat put to sleep. Don't listen to others, follow your heart.

 

One month before Sachie passed she suffered from an internal bleed. Her colour in her mouth was pale, and she felt very cold to touch, especially on her back. She was breathing fast (between 40 and 60 breaths a minute) and her nostrils were flaring with each breath. Her heart rate was faster than what was normal for Sachie. I noticed her heart rate was fast about four days before the rest of the symptoms happened. I asked the vet and he said not to worry. Well I did! I knew my cat! Many times I learnt to TRUST MY INSTINCTS throughout the course of Sachie's illness. Sachie was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma of the kidneys.

 

The vet would not help us. He said she was an old and very sick cat. Of course, I went to another vet (our old vet) and asked him for some carafate which we gave us. The previous vet would not give me anything for Sachie. I think this was cruel!!! With each day on the carafate (which is given for stomach ulcers) and the slippery elm and antibiotics (for the tongue ulcers) Sachie's breathing normalised. We were given another month together because of the second vet and my insistence. 

 

My best friend thought at the time of the bleed that the end had come. I feared so, but my heart (plus a dream I had in which I was told that the time had not come), plus looking into Sachie's eyes which were still full of life (despite the severity of the situation) told me the time had not come. Sachie had not been eating much the previous few days. But with the carafate and other treatment her appetite improved and she began eating by the second day of the treatment.

 

In the next few weeks, she ate, used her bowels and bladder normally. She was still able to leap onto the kitchen cupboards despite severe anaemia. Her colour improved a bit (on her gums and mouth). 

 

In the week before she died, (she had been losing weight despite eating), she started to slow down, to eat less. But she still enjoyed rolling on her back in the sunshine on the balcony. She was nauseous, and she started to vomit in the last week, every day or so. She also started to fight (even more than usual) her pills and sub-Q fluids, so I cut down and only gave her those things which would have prevented suffering, rather than trying to make her better.

 

Up till the day before she died, she was still leaping on the kitchen cupboards and rolling on her back in the sun. In fact on that day, after I gave her the sub-Q fluids she went out on the balcony and for her last visit to the balcony it looked like Sachie used to look before she got sick. 

 

On Saturday 30th September 2000, I awoke to find she would not eat. Her pupils were dilated and her eyes looked glazed. Her swallowing (from possible throat ulcers) was causing her trouble, and now I wonder if she was having seizures. Her head would jerk sideways. Oh this is so hard to write!

 

Then later in the afternoon she walked out to the lounge room and could barely walk. I picked her up. She lost control of her bladder. I knew the time had come.

 

I carried her to her litter tray and she was too weak to cover her urine. I put my hand in the tray and covered it for her. She seemed pleased by this as Sachie was always meticulous about covering her urine. She could not walk. Her back legs crossed each other. I knew the time had come. 

 

I rang the vet and held Sachie in my arms. She lay there limply. Sachie never liked to be held too much. I knew. I asked her earlier in the day to tell me when it was time. She winked at me with one eye. I asked her later when I was holding her in my arms if she was ready to go. She winked at me with one eye.

 

The vet came. I held her up and looked into her eyes. It was time. 

 

I miss her so much. I miss her more than life itself. God Bless You Sachie for the love you gave me. I love you my precious one. My irreplaceable Sachie. 

 


Nick and Blob


 

Yesterday at 12.15pm, Blob, my 12 year old tortoiseshell friend, ended her battle with CRF. She had CRF when she was 4 and at the time the vet, going by the blood test results, gave her until the end of the week. That was 8 years ago. Somehow she recovered but I have always thought she was living on borrowed time. She started losing weight about 6 months ago but as she was overweight anyway I was rather pleased. About a month ago she suddenly stopped jumping up onto things and seemed to be getting older. She was still her normal self and as she had never exerted herself unduly, I did not worry too much. However, she started to eat less until two weeks ago when she stopped eating all together. She was still perfectly normal in every other respect and was drinking a lot but then she always had. She had always had horrible teeth/breath but they had never caused any problems for her - she had no trouble eating whole mice which she did regularly.

 

I took her to the vets as by this time I was suspecting kidney failure. The blood test results were bad - urea at 45 (US: BUN of 126) and creatinine at 616 (US: 6.96). They put her onto IV fluids for 24 hours after which she was much brighter and even ate a few mouthfuls of food. That was on Monday of last week. She was doing well until Friday morning when she stopped eating again. She retired to the blanket box under my bed and there she stayed. I carried her downstairs a couple of times but she was getting weaker and weaker and starting to stagger. On Sunday night she started to vomit whenever she moved and it was clear that it hurt when she was moved - she made little whimpering noises, poor thing. She had also stopped drinking on the Saturday. With all these things added together, by Sunday night I knew she had had enough. I phoned the vet Monday (yesterday) morning and arranged a home visit. I could not face taking her to the surgery and being driven 5 miles in my van would have been torture for her. I also felt that she should pass in her own home in familiar surroundings. I had to wait 3 hours for the vet as he had to finish surgery. This gave me time to say farewell and spend our last hours together. She was still curled up in the blanket box but did raise her head a few times and look at me with painful eyes. I was in no doubt that i was doing the right thing and that the time was right before most of the horrible symptoms of end stage happened.

 

When the vet came, I carried Blob downstairs on the blanket where she was still lying. She did not attempt to get up but moaned a little as I moved her. The vet very gently gave her the injection and she slipped peacefully away while I was stroking her. She had gone before the vet had finished the injection - some 3 or 4 seconds and there she lay on the blanket - so quiet, so peaceful, so relaxed in her favourite sleeping position. I broke down as she passed away and wept for the first time I can remember since I was a child. The vet said it was harder for me than it was for her and I suspect he was right.

 

I wrapped her in a nice fluffy towel and buried her yesterday evening in her favourite spot in the garden. I am crying again as I write this: I miss her so much. I still have her daughter who is such an affectionate little soul so it's just her and me now.

 

The decision to end her pain was not difficult: I had no doubt it was what I had to do for her. Actually doing it was incredibly hard but I am glad I did for both our sakes.

 

"The world keeps turning and the grass still grows but now, there is one less loving little soul to watch over it. Now there is an empty space, an empty sound, an empty chair, but not in my heart where she will always be."

 


Pat and Hecate


 

To my mind, lists of 'really bad' signs are helpful in reminding us what to be especially alert for. On the other hand, I think they're often of limited use in helping us decide what to do in a particular situation. As many people have pointed out (and as I saw myself with my brave and incredibly strong-willed little Hecate kitty), cats sometimes bounce back amazingly from otherwise-final-looking crashes.

 

But neither am I wild about just telling people they'll "know what their cats want, when the time comes". I know it's meant well, but this is too much like what doctors used to tell new mothers: "oh, you're his mother, you'll just naturally know why he's crying and what to do about it."  Yeah. Well. Sometimes. And sometimes not. Taking care of your beloved kitty in the last stages of CRF is stressful enough without laying that kind of extra anxiety and guilt on people. Because, hey, if the questioner DID 'just know', they would probably not be ASKING, right?

 

So. ;-) 

 

To me (for whatever that's worth), it comes down to whether the cat is intractably (= nothing in your power can be expected to alleviate it) unhappy in his/her mind and spirit. For instance, several times when Hecate crashed she was physically in really bad shape, but seemed fairly well 'out of it' in a foggy resigned sort of way. Her face was peaceful and there did not seem to be anything at all she particularly desperately wanted. So we tried more aggressive treatment, and she improved, and I do not for a moment regret it and am positive she didn't either. 

 

Towards the end of the final crash, when she hadn't eaten for days, she was likewise not in great shape physically - in particular, heart problems prevented her from moving very fast or lying in her favourite positions, I don't think she slept much, and she acted sort of fragile and headachey. But again, she seemed to accept that that was just the way things were now. She would sit and look around the room in an approving sort of manner that suggested she was in no hurry at all to leave; she apparently thought it was pretty adequately satisfying to just be *able* to sit there and look around the room. I think she was pretty seriously foggy upstairs, you know?, but content. 

 

Until the last day. I don't know whether things got that much physically worse for her, or whether she started to get too confused to make sense of it all, or whether she had just had enough. She just could not get comfortable anymore. She would toss and turn restlessly, then get up and laboriously walk a few yards away and lie back down, but she couldn't get comfortable there either, so she'd totter off to try somewhere else, and so forth. She no longer seemed 'okay' with the way she felt. She flat-out couldn't do it anymore. I wouldn't say there was any desperation yet in her behaviour but you could see it coming.

 

And I knew there was nothing more I could do for her. It had been 4+ years since her diagnosis; her PKD kidneys were the size of oranges and losing their ability to even excrete water; her heart could no longer handle even just normal activities let alone her illness or treatment; and she hadn't eaten for ten days. As soon as I saw that she was really wanting out in that important sort of way, we went to the vet's, and she was soon at peace. (Actually it wasn't quite that simple and didn't work out as easily at the end as that last sentence there might imply, but that's another story).

 

I don't think we can always be confident of knowing a cat's wishes in general... but I think we often CAN tell whether the cat is, figuratively speaking, scrabbling desperately at the corner of that big mysterious door because she just can't stand to stay here any longer and needs to go out. And I think that likewise we often CAN make a levelheaded assessment of whether further treatment stands a good chance of returning the cat to a happy-enough frame of mind... or not.

 

Of course, having said that, I will add that I do not think that this question really matters that much in the particular way we often like to pretend it matters. I mean, I don't think it matters so much to our cats. In the end, we do what we do. It is the *actions*, not the reasons, that are directly experienced by our cats. And I truly think our cats usually *know* we act with the best of intentions.  On the other hand, the *reasons* for our decisions (especially the elaborate verbal or emotional justifications thereof) matter mainly just to US. Being a rather insecure and over-analytical species, on the whole <g>, we can make ourselves tremendously miserable unless we can point at some greater justification for our decisions. 

 

I don't think it's a bad thing to nominate for that purpose a list of signs, or a conviction of total accuracy in interpreting our cat's thoughts, or my own rationale as laid out above... but I'm not at all sure those aren't red herrings. Our actions don't always come from the reasons that we think they do. I think often our stated reasons just boil down to what each of us needs to get us through it. I think that's okay. And at least for me, I think that's a helpful thing to remember.

 


Lorena, Christopher and Sasha


 

I am writing this three days after losing my 2.5 years old Siamese Sasha to CRF. This site has helped me a lot during Sasha’s illness, and the "Pet Loss" section was crucial to my decision of putting my baby to sleep. I hope that by writing this story down, I’ll help people going through the same difficult times I went through... and help myself dealing with Sasha’s loss, which has been so recent.

My husband Chris got Sasha from an animal shelter. He’d been rescued from a horrible hoarder who had over 120 cats (all Siamese) in a small house! Sasha was probably inbred, and I think this is one of the reasons his health was fragile. Soon after Chris took Sasha home, he became really sick, and was diagnosed with Panleukopenia (feline distemper), a very deadly disease. Sasha stayed at intensive care for a week, fought bravely against the disease and miraculously won the battle. He’s been healthy ever since, though he sneezed all the time and had bad teeth. Nothing serious tho (or so we thought).

 

Sasha was the most loving cat I have EVER seen in my life. I’ve always been more of a dog person and had that idea that cats were not loving animals, but everything changed when I got married and my husband brought his two cats (Sasha and Fibonacci, a 4 year old half Maine Coon) to Brazil with him (he’s American and I’m Brazilian). Sasha simply adored him. He would give him kisses (real ones!) all the time, talk to him, meow at the door everytime Chris was out... Sasha was completely devoted to my husband and vice-versa. I must admit I was jealous of the cat sometimes! He was the king of the house!

A few months after coming to Brazil, my husband got me a little Persian kitten, Pandora. Fibonacci hated her at the beginning (though they’re good friends now): he hissed at her and hid from her. Sasha, though, adopted her from the moment she got home! He would play with her, take care of her and, most important, keep Fibbers away from her as much as he could. It was so funny seeing him standing between Pandora and Fib everytime Fib tried to hit her! He would just stand there on that very royal attitude of his, as if he asked Fib "Do you feel lucky, punk?"... it was amazing. Pandora loved Sasha to death!

In the five months Sasha lived with me here in Brazil, I’ve noticed that sometimes he would act weird... he would just stay on the "meatloaf" position, very very weak, and refuse to eat. We thought it was due to his bad teeth (he had a powerful bad breath as well) and changed his diet from dry to wet, and he seemed better. He started eating again and behaving as he always did. Now that I know more about CRF I am sure that those were the first signs of his disease, but at the time I thought he was only having trouble eating dry food because of his teeth. Sometimes I wonder if he would still be with us if I knew more about CRF at the time.

Everything was okay for a month or so. Sasha was eating well and very active. Two weeks ago he stopped eating and spent two days being very morose, laying down all the time and not playing with the other cats. We thought it was nothing serious, a cold maybe... one day I got back from work and Chris told me that Sasha wasn’t eating. He was laying down in his favourite place at the bed and would not stand up. When we held him in our arms, we found out a huge lump, about the size of an orange or a tennis ball, in his abdomen. When he walked, he chose his steps very carefully, as if he were in pain, though he didn’t complain when we massaged the lump. We got very scared, of course, and called the emergency vet, who took him to the vet hospital thinking that maybe he got a hairball obstruction. The next day he would take x-rays of Sasha’s abdomen to check what was really wrong with our kitty.

The lump in his abdomen wasn’t a hairball as we’ve expected, but his bladder, completely blocked and full of urine. The poor kitty must have been in pain for days and we never noticed anything wrong, because since we have multiple cats it is very hard to check on who’s peeing normally and who’s not. He had some bladder stones too. The vet tried to unobstruct his bladder with a catheter more than five times, but on the next day it would be completely blocked again. Blood tests were done and a diagnosis was made: Sasha had CRF, in a very advanced stage. 70 to 85% of his kidneys were already gone. We’ve never heard of this disease before and got very scared. Sasha was at the vet hospital for one week and got back home. We did everything we could for him the following week: administered all the medication the vet had prescribed and fed him with a syringe three times a day (he would not eat by himself). Besides that, we would orally give him a salinated sugar solution to keep him hydrated. He would just stay in the meatloaf position all day, sitting on his own urine because he was completely incontinent; he was also peeing almost pure blood. Sometimes he would walk to the litterbox with extreme difficulty and sit there for a couple minutes trying to evacuate or urinate, to no avail. On his final days, we’d noticed that he had started to lick walls and eat the litter.

He was back home for five days. It was obvious that he was suffering a lot and that he wasn’t responding to the treatment... Sasha wasn’t living, he was vegetating. He would not look at us when we called his name. On Wednesday my husband and I started talking about putting him to sleep, but it was SO hard.... one thing is finding your pet dead one morning: you cry, you grieve, but you accept nature’s course and try to move on with your life. Another thing is having to play God and decide to put your pet down. A lot of questions came to us: what if he still had a chance? What if he recovers in the next couple of days? Shouldn’t we give him one last chance? After lots of tears, we’ve talked to our vet, who agreed that Sasha was dying slowly and that we should put our baby to sleep. He was literally wasting away. He’s always been a slim cat, but in a week he was skin and bones. Due to the CRF, he was extremely anemic (his gums were completely white) and had a bad respiratory infection. We scheduled an appointment for the next day, September 26th, 2003. We would take Sasha to the vet and put him down.

Sasha was smothered with love on his last night. My husband spent all night and most of the morning with him in his arms, talking to him and saying goodbye. Sasha looked happy and his eyes looked bright for the first time since he got back from the vet. On Friday morning I had to go to the doctor and when I got back home I found Christopher and Sasha cuddling together on the bed. Chris was sound asleep from his vigil the night before, but Sasha was awake: he touched his head against daddy’s and stared at his face all the time.

 

The vet came to pick Sasha up after lunch, and we went with him. He was in my husband’s arms all the way, and looked happy for the first time since he got sick. His blue eyes were less sullen.

The euthanasia process wasn’t as gentle as we thought it would be, though: Sasha was so dehydrated that the vet spent HALF AN HOUR trying to find a good vein in his forearm. He meowed a couple of times, complaining, and the vet gave him a intra-muscular sedative. That was the last time I saw Sasha conscious. His body went limp and he peed some blood (with a horrible squirting sound) while two vets struggled to find a vein in which to give him the euthanasia solution. After half an hour of that, they tried to hear his heartbeats and there was none: Sasha was so weak that the sedative they gave him was enough to kill him. They kindly left us alone with him. It was so strange holding his limp body, and looking to his blue eyes... his eyes amazed me the most, how hollow they were: Sasha was definitely not there anymore. We wrapped him in a sheet and he was buried right away, at the clinic’s grounds, in a nice spot under a tree, overlooking a hill and we watched the burial.

During the whole thing I was sobbing like crazy, but the moment I got out of the clinic and started walking home with my husband I felt strangely... relieved. I just knew that we had made the right decision, and that he wasn’t suffering anymore. It was only when we got home and had to face his empty box that the impact of all that had happened really struck me. I still cry when I think of my little Siamese, but I’ve found out that the final hours are more difficult than the afterwards. Yes, there’s an emptiness in our lives that won’t ever be fulfilled; yes, we miss our Sasha like crazy; and yes, we’re grieving, but the decision-making and the final hours with him were the toughest moments. I thought I would crumble to the floor when the vet declared him dead, but I didn’t; I thought I would never be happy again, but I am slowly accepting his demise. I am positive that we’ll meet our little Sashatizer again someday and that conviction helps me a lot... my husband is having a hard time accepting his death, but I was expecting that, since he raised Sasha from a kitten. Pandora seems to miss him too - when we got back from the vet she was looking for Sasha. The vet does not know if his panleukopenia had anything to do with his CRF. We don’t know if we could have done better to save him. All we know is that Sasha was the joy of our home and our lives are emptier since he left... but we’ll never forget our little blue-eyed boy or the sound of his happy meows around the house.

Mommy and Daddy love you, Sasha, and miss you terribly. Please take care of yourself wherever you are and wait for us. We’ll never forget you.

 


Shae and Porch


 

When the small white and gray cat appeared on my front doorstep, pacing nervously, I decided to feed him. He was only about a year old and was noticeably thin and hungry. He ran when I placed the dish on the concrete, but only a few yards away. Once I closed the door behind me, he descended upon the dish and devoured the food furiously.

I had no intention of keeping the little fellow. I had two cats inside already, and lived alone in a small apartment with strict pet policies. Besides, I couldn't really afford to care for another cat. I'd keep an eye on him, and if he hung around, I'd try to find him a home.

He did hang around. Although I've always made friends with cats quickly, efforts to pet him proved futile. I put out food for him, and he ate as soon as I disappeared from view. Thus began our relationship.

It was early February, so I padded an old cardboard box with towels and placed it under the awning. After a few days, he accepted it as his bed. Clearly he was having trouble making it on his own, and needed a home, despite his initial reluctance to be my friend.

I decided he needed a name. After considering the names of Greek gods, great figures in literature, and every baby name on a website for expectant mothers, I settled on "Porch," after his favorite spot. Unconventional, but cute, and quite fitting.

Porch looked like a little hobo. He was mostly white with gray patches that fell haphazardly across his back and head, and he had almond shaped, gentle looking eyes. Fighting with other tomcats and wrestling his food from raccoons had left him scratched up and scruffy. He was thin, his paws were large and he was always dirty.

I decided to get Porch neutered, to curb his contribution to the neighborhood's stray cat population while making him more attractive for adoption. He didn't appreciate being stuffed into the pet carrier, but it didn't harm our relationship permanently, and the criss-crossed scratches on my arms eventually healed. I took him to FACE, a low cost spay and neuter clinic in downtown Indianapolis. The clinic gave him a preliminary check-up to make sure he was ok for surgery, and though he was approved, it was noted on his record that he had "swollen paws." I tried to look at them, but Porch refused to allow a satisfactory examination.

Follow-up instructions required me to keep Porch indoors for a couple of weeks after surgery. He submitted for a time, but soon became absolutely terrified of his surroundings and insisted upon being released, returning immediately to his cardboard abode.

Despite our initial difficulties, Porch gradually decided that I was his best friend. He spent literally 24 hours a day on the patio, leaving only for brief moments. He allowed me to pet him while dispensing food, and he stayed nearby when I sat outside to enjoy the nice weather of the approaching springtime.

It was around this time that I tried to give Porch away, but he wouldn't have it.

It seemed he had become tame enough, so I placed a classified ad in FAR, sent out email, and put up a flyer at work. Several people expressed an interest in him, but when they came to visit, he conveniently disappeared. My backup plan was to find him an outdoor farm home, but nothing was available. Reluctantly, I began to accept that Porch was mine, at least for a while.

Porch was happy with this arrangement, as he had already adopted me. He began to allow me to pet him with no strings attached, and we enjoyed many evenings relaxing together on the lawn. However, he strongly defended his freedom, resisted being picked up, and remained unreasonably afraid of everyone else but me.

As the summer months gave way to cooler weather, I replaced the cardboard box with a sturdy, weatherproof home that I had carefully constructed, insulated, and filled with soft wool bedding. I even hung a curtain over the door to curtail the breeze. A few friends rolled their eyes at the extravagance, but the cardboard box was drooping from moisture, and he needed a better shelter.

Soon I learned Porch's history. "That little two-timer!" I heard a kind-looking lady exclaim from the sidewalk one afternoon, spotting Porch and me lazing on a blanket during her daily stroll. She explained that she had fed Porch and his brother for a time, when her neighbors had first moved away, leaving the two kittens alone on the doorstep. We conversed a while. Neither of us could understand how the couple could simply abandon two kittens in the middle of winter. She was glad that Porch was being cared for. She did not know what had become of the other kitten.

Winter soon came, and Porch got thinner. His paws were now visibly swollen and his nose looked inflamed too. I gave him table scraps in addition to his regular food and invited him inside, but he preferred his outdoor home.

One afternoon I looked outside and saw that Porch was leaving a trail of pink paw prints behind him in the snow. His paws were beginning to bleed. I assumed they were just chapped, but to be safe, I once again wrestled him into the pet carrier for a drive to the vet, which upset him greatly.

The vet was mystified. Porch had some kind of "pododermatitis", apparently a catch-all term for all kinds of paw soreness. A bulbous, bloody mass had developed on one paw, which was removed with a local anesthetic. Porch tested negative for feline leukemia, distemper, and several other common diseases, so we were sent on our way with no further instructions.

Porch survived the winter without further incident, but he was becoming thinner and thinner each day, and he spent a lot of time in his little bed.

In the spring, my apartment lease ended, and I had plans to move in with my boyfriend – who happened to live about a block away, across a busy street. Porch made himself scarce while the packing was going on, and absolutely refused to be picked up and transported to the new home. When the moving was complete, I placed his fancy bed and a dish of food on the new patio, hoping he'd find me. He didn't, so I stopped by the old apartment each evening after work for several days, hoping to spot him. Finally, I caught up with him. He meowed desperately and seemed afraid that he'd been abandoned a second time. I pet him and talked to him, but wasn't able to pick him up. So I left my car, took off walking, and convinced him to follow me. "Come on, Porch," I said repeatedly, "We don't live there any more. Come home with me." And oddly enough, he came. He followed me down the sidewalk, up the road, and after a little hesitation, across the busy street, into a new apartment complex and finally into a new back yard with a fenced-in porch. There he found a dish of food and his bed, and he moved right in without further ado. When I purchased a new patio lounge chair, he decided it was a present for him, and sat at the foot of it until there was a large cat-shaped droop in the plastic mesh.

Porch's second winter was tough. It was bitterly cold, so I ran an extension cord through my kitchen window and placed a heating pad in his bed. Porch was now nothing short of emaciated, and didn't appear to be eating much of his food. I bought a vitamin supplement gel at the pet store, mixed it with raw eggs and milk, and stood shivering beside Porch each morning to ensure that he drank it. I traded his dry food for canned, but he turned his nose up at both. He also seemed exhausted, and stayed in his little bed constantly.

In March there was a second incident with bleeding paws, and another maneuvering into the pet carrier. Poor Porch was terrified by car rides and being handled by strangers, and each time he needed care, I felt guilty for putting him through the stress. This time I took him to a different vet at my usual clinic, who ran another battery of tests. Porch was screened for worms, all the old diseases and a host of new and rare ones. He tested negative for everything. It was determined that he was dehydrated and had a heart murmur, but the cause of his various ailments remained a mystery.

As a last-ditch effort, bloodwork was sent to a lab to check the functioning of Porch's internal organs. This time something turned up: kidney failure.

Chronic renal failure is incurable but easily managed with the proper diet, I was informed, and Porch was prescribed a special low-protein cat food and plenty of water. I was told that he wasn't sick enough to need fluid injections, or any of the other symptom-easing procedures available, so there wasn't anything else I could do.

But Porch was starting to look pretty unhappy, so I scoured the Internet for details. I learned that kidney failure was extremely rare in cats that weren't elderly, and Porch couldn't have been more than a few years old. Explanations for early onset were scarce, though one site suggested poisoning from antifreeze or some other chemical that Porch might have accidentally ingested while looking for nourishment during his nomadic days. Trauma to the kidneys from an accident or a fight with another animal was another possible culprit. I also learned that once a cat shows symptoms of the disease, he's probably already lost about 70% of his kidney functioning. Then I learned that Porch probably had less than four more years to live. And that a time would come when I'd have to make the decision to have him put to sleep, because kidney failure can cause a prolonged and painful death, sometimes accompanied by seizures or suffocation as the lungs fill with fluid.

As I sat outside in the lounge chair with Porch at the foot, stretching his favorite spot in the mesh, I realized that he really needed me more than I had ever realized. I could no longer entertain ideas of giving him away, and I'd have to bring him indoors at some point so I could better monitor his care. It was going to be tough, but I was in it for the long haul. I vowed to Porch that I'd do the best I could do for him. Strangely, moments after I made this commitment to Porch, he crawled into my lap for the very first time. He purred and was perfectly relaxed, and I pet him for a long time. It was then that I really bonded with him. After that day, he crawled in my lap frequently, rolling over on his back and purring as I pet him. Porch found the special diet agreeable, and for the first couple of weeks, he gained weight and seemed more energetic. Finally I had hope! He had been diagnosed, and his problems seemed to be under control for the first time.

But just a few weeks later, Porch was emaciated again, he had dry heaves, and one of his paws had cracked open and was bleeding profusely. I wasn't really satisfied with the instructions I'd received for his care, so I took him to a third vet – one that had received high recommendations from a friend.

Dr. Mary took one look at Porch and shook her head. "This cat is having a really bad day," she explained to me gently. "I'm afraid he doesn't have long." She ran some tests and offered to put him in the hospital to receive IV fluids, but indicated that his prognosis was poor and that the hospitalization would likely only prolong his life for a few weeks. She said that he was experiencing suffering – from pain, nausea, and chronic dehydration. She also said that his white blood count indicated that he had another problem besides kidney failure – perhaps cancer or a false-negative testing feline leukemia. She advised me to keep him away from my indoor cats, as he might be contagious.

Knowing Porch was terrified of strangers and strange places, I hesitated to put him through the turmoil of hospitalization for a few extra weeks of life. I would have been prolonging his life for my benefit, I reasoned, and not for his. So I brought him home – with a heavy heart and a nagging fear that no good decision was possible, and nothing I could do would be right.

Porch was irritated with me over the vet trip, and resisted being petted the rest of the evening. When I went to bed that evening, he looked uncomfortable and moody, but not critical.

When I awoke the next morning, he was not on the patio, which was highly unusual. I found him several yards away, hiding in some bushes with his head down, trembling, heaving, and occasionally crying. Within hours he was limp in my arms and I was taking him to his very last vet appointment – this time without need of the pet carrier.

I had expected Porch to live for a few more years, and wasn't the least bit prepared to make the decision to put him to sleep. I held him close and sobbed uncontrollably while my boyfriend drove. I couldn't believe that I had failed Porch, that he was leaving me just a few weeks after I had vowed to do my best for him.

The vet and the assistants were solemn and compassionate; they had loved Porch and were sorry to see him lose his battle. To my dismay, Porch conjured up his last reserve of energy and struggled when he received the injection. His last moments were spent with strangers' hands on him, and by the time he was handed to me, he was already gone. I held him in my arms and continued to cry for quite some time, reluctant to leave. I never really got to say goodbye, and I had been powerless to spare him from fearful last moments in a car and on an operating table. The only comfort I have is the knowledge that his passing, though it wasn't ideal, was more comfortable than it could have been if I hadn't risen to the very difficult challenge of easing his pain.

Porch captured the hearts of all who met him, saw him through the screen door, or cared for him. His scruffy appearance was endearing, and his exclusive relationship with me was amusing to those who tried to make friends with him. Though I've brought several cats to the vet over the years, the assistants fawned over Porch the most, nicknaming him "Porch Kitty," and always asked about him when I visited without him.

It isn't clear whether Porch's health problems were congenital or caused by poisoning or some other mishap on the street. But I bet he was an adorable kitten, and would have been easy to find a home for, along with his brother, if his previous owners had only tried. And I'm certain that a nice indoor home would have greatly increased his comfort, his safety, and his chances of seeing his fourth birthday.

 


Sandra, André and Elwood


 

We wanted to share our experience of CRF with our beloved deceased Elwood for several reasons:

  1. Because this website helped us greatly when we were learning about CRF. Of course, the most important thing is to be in regular contact with the vet who is treating your cat, but thanks to the internet it is also possible to do additional research and obtain information which under certain circumstances may reduce the risk of premature euthanasia.

  2. Because reading the experiences of other cat owners helped us with our grief.

  3. Because this site relies on contributions from cat owners who have lived through CRF with their cats.

  4. Because this was the best site I found on the subject of CRF.

Looking back, the first signs were actually there quite a long time ago. It began with increased vomiting. However, we did not think much of it since Elwood's behaviour did not otherwise change in the slightest, i.e. he was just as lively as before, he cleaned himself, played, had a good appetite and did not lose any weight.  Nevertheless, we did go to the vet. The vet said we should deworm Elwood. The worst case scenario was that he had an upset stomach.

 

Another possible early symptom was a bad tooth, which eventually had to be removed. Several CRF references mention the connection between dental procedures and CRF. Still, the dental surgery went well and everything was fine again.  This was 1-2 years ago now.

 

About two years later he suddenly began to lose weight and was vomiting very frequently.  He also gradually became very lethargic. He would only lie in the window seat and you could not persuade him to play.  However he did not lose his appetite.

We went to the vet and purchased prescription food for sensitive stomachs, which unfortunately contained a lot of protein. We now know that CRF cats should eat reduced protein food - we did not know that then.

 

One evening he suddenly miaowed loudly while trying to poop - he was clearly in pain. He was also pooping in front of his litter tray. He also had suddenly begun to drink a lot and only from a cup - up until then he would only drink from the tap. We decided to take him to the vet. 

 

At the vet he was examined, x-rayed and had blood taken.  The x-ray showed that one kidney was very thickened, and his kidney values were elevated.  He also had a lot of stool in his colon.  He was given potassium, saline solution, antibiotics and vitamin B.

 

Following the vet visit, Elwood went steadily downhill. He just lay around and we realised that he could not poop properly and was having trouble walking. He would walk a few steps and then lie down. Two days later we returned to the vet in order to discuss further treatment options.  We had read on this website that it is possible to give fluids at home. We wanted to spare Elwood unnecessary vet visits, so we decided we would like to do this.  The vet was very helpful and showed us how to give sub-Qs. We gave Elwood sub-Qs, potassium, and prescription food.  However, he became increasingly weak.  We fed him by hand, mixed normal food in with the prescription food, gave him a little cream in order to help him poop, and were thrilled when he suddenly began to improve and started to eat again of his own volition. The vet said that at this point the most important things were that he ate and pooped.

 

Online I had discovered thanks to the stories of other cat owners that many CRF cats who have appeared to be at death's door have in fact recovered and enjoyed a good quality of life for many years. We therefore decided to leave no stone unturned whilst trying to help Elwood. Plus we simply could not find it in our hearts to put him to sleep.  I would like to emphasise that I can understand when somebody feels they have to choose euthanasia. However the thought of choosing the time when Elwood should cross the Rainbow Bridge was simply unbearable, because we still had hope. He suddenly began to jump on the couch, he somehow had more energy and strength, and purred happily when we stroked him. He was not quite his old self but any small success kept us going.

 

We cuddled Elwood a lot during this period and also talked a lot to him, perhaps because we subconsciously knew that our time together could be limited.  My partner took time off work, and I frequently left work earlier than usual - we wanted to make the most of our time together.  My mother came to visit us and was very sad to see Ellwood so sick.

Ellwood's last day, the 3rd of June 2004, was memorable. He suddenly lay in the corner of the bathroom, which he had never done before.  Then he crawled into a closet.  When I went to stroke him, I suddenly got the impression that he was now blind.  He also suddenly had a very distinctive smell. He spent most of the day in the same position with his head down and his eyes open.

 

Before we went to sleep we realised that his bed was wet.  He was incontinent. Yet he did not smell at all of urine.  We gave him a new bed with a towel in it, stroked him, talked to him and went to sleep.

 

At six o'clock in the morning my partner woke up.  He saw Ellwood in the lounge staring up at his favourite spot, the window seat. He stroked him and Ellwood purred.

 

At about 8.15 I was woken by Ellwood.  I heard a kind of miaow, and I ran to him.  He lay outstretched in his bed and held his head very stiffly.  Panic stricken, I called my partner who carefully lay him back in his bed.

 

Everything began to happen very fast.  Ellwood seemed to be blind.  He was twitching and his heart was beating very fast.  We both knew instinctively that he was dying.  We stroked him and told him that we were there, that he should not be frightened and how much we loved him.  Within five minutes he was dead. We lay him on his favourite spot and stroked him from a long time.

 

In conclusion I would like to emphasise that we are not opposed to euthanasia. In a hopeless situation we would certainly choose this for the sake of the cat. But as long as there is hope, one should leave no stone unturned when trying to help the cat. As many cat owners before us have learned, the cat will tell you when it is time.  Elwood called us so that he did not have to die alone.  And we are thankful that we could both be with him when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

 

Dear Elwood, we miss you so much.  You took your sub-Qs so bravely and you tried so hard to eat the prescription food.  Not a day goes by when we don't think about you.  We will see you again one day and until then we are thinking about you and holding you in our hearts!

 

To conclude, I would like to share a little story.  Three days ago my boyfriend came home and called out excitedly "don't be shocked, but I have a little surprise for you". I didn't think anything of it. But what did I see?  A sweet cat with a resemblance to Elwood was looked at me in a rather bewildered manner.  My boyfriend had been stroking a cat which often sunbathes in our front garden, and the cat then followed him into our apartment. Of course this "deja vu" experience startled me and made me cry, but then we gave him some treats (as we still have catfood in the house) and seeing a cat eating made me so happy. We then took him back outside, but those two minutes together gave me so much pleasure.

 


Katie and Whiskers


 

I had had Whiskers since I was six years old. He had seen me through primary school, intermediate school, college, and university, break ups with boyfriends and friends, when my aunty died, and finally when I started working. He was part of the family and my best friend. He always knew how to put a smile on my face when I was down.

 

It was a decision between him and this other kitten. We decided to take the one who ran away from us and hid under the bed. The day we brought him home he hid behind the stereo not knowing where he was. He turned into a beautiful handsome fluffy boy who we loved so much. I remember when I was really young and he always wanted to sleep on my bed. And when I swapped into the other bed he would follow me.

 

He loved the sun and used to accompany me when I would sunbathe in the back garden. On those cold nights he would stretch himself out in front of the fire and sometimes on his back revealing his curly furry stomach. God, he was cute.

 

Whiskers' world was shattered when my sister decided to adopt a tabby kitten called Misty. Misty sure knew how to keep Whiskers on his toes, teasing him, taking a swipe at him with her paw and eating his food. They used to chase each other up and down the back lawn and throughout the house on a daily basis. Even though we got Misty a few years after Whiskers, Misty passed away in May 2003 from cancer. We all knew Whiskers missed her, even though he considered her a pest.

 

Three years ago I decided to move out of home and into a flat. Whiskers must've been upset because when I would come home to visit him he would ignore me. I guess he was cleverer than I gave him credit for. It took a while for me to win his heart back but eventually he would let me cuddle him again and he would start sleeping on my bed again when I stayed at my parent's.

 

In June 2004 my sister and I went on a well-deserved holiday to Singapore and Malaysia. So in total I had not seen Whiskers for about one month due to exams, work and holiday. I could not believe it when I saw him. This once rather fat cat who had had no serious health problems before was all of a sudden so thin and had smelly breath. Of course living with him every day you wouldn't notice. Mum decided to take him to the vet to have tests. The worst was confirmed. He was at a very severe stage of kidney failure and there was nothing the vet could do. That was only two weeks ago. Mum and I cried that day and me most days for the next two weeks. I was so upset my best friend was dying and there was nothing I could do for him.

 

The next two weeks were absolutely horrible. I went to stay with him for three nights in the first week, and would ring mum every morning and evening to check on him. We fed him low-protein Hills food (which he hated) and tried to give him half a pill once a day. That was it - that was all we could do for him. There was no fresh schnitzel or fish for him anymore. So Whiskers slept on my bed and I gave him so many hugs and just sat with him in the last two weeks. We made a warm bed for him and put his litter box inside. He still loved lying by the fire and would still try to jump at our dinner. He had lots of visitors during this time - both my sisters came over to see him and give him cuddles.

 

We slowly watched Whiskers go downhill from the day we found out the news. Day by day something else would go wrong with him; he would stop washing himself, had trouble eating and would grind his teeth, find it hard to lie on his side and not be settled, and eventually he found it hard to even sit down. On the Wednesday of the second week I was worried when mum said he had not eaten. I was hoping that maybe it was temporary. On Thursday mum rang me at work and said he had still not eaten and that she had found blood in his bed. She said he had also disappeared outside for one hour, which was so unlike him. She worried he had gone away to die and said it would only be kind for him to let him go. The appointment was scheduled for 6.15pm on Friday. I was absolutely devastated. I cried so much at work I had to have time out.

 

On Friday I took the day off work to spend with him and take final photos. He was so sick. I could not believe how much worse he had got since I saw him on Monday. He really did look like he was not enjoying life and barely purred anymore. It really got to me when I followed him behind the TV and picked him up to put him in his litter box but it was too late. I had never seen him like that before. They say cats tell you when they want to go. I really think he was reaching out for us to do something and just wanted to be peaceful. I just kept looking at the clock thinking only 6 hours, 4 hours, 2 hours 1 hour, ... 15 minutes.

 

Then it was time. We wrapped him in a towel and took him to the vet. I cried all afternoon and at the vet. Mum gave him kisses and I hugged him as the injection was put in. Within a few seconds he was no longer standing anymore and was lying on the bench with his eyes open. He then took another couple of short breaths. Mum and I were absolutely gutted. It was so hard to walk out the door and leave him there. That was the worst day of my life. It is really hard to get that vision out of my mind.

 

We took his favourite toy kittens to be cremated with him. We decided it would be too sad to bring home his ashes - instead they would be sprinkled over a farm where Misty is. I stayed with mum that night to keep her company. Whiskers had sat on her knee everyday for the past 18 years. The next morning mum could've sworn she heard Whiskers meowing and I had a dream he had been put down but was still alive and happy. I ask mum now where he is and is he happy. She says he's playing with Misty and knows how much we care for him. I never wanted to put Whiskers down but after seeing all this happen to him I knew that he would be so much happier now.

 

The Tuesday before he died I got a little 7 week old grey and white long-haired kitten and am keeping him at my flat. His name is Smokey. If it wasn't for Smokey, I don't know what I'd do. He is so full of energy and has a wonderful personality. I felt so bad because I felt like I was replacing Whiskers. I thought I could never love another pet like I love Whiskers but Smokey is so adorable.

 

Whiskers 1986 - 23 July 2004

 

 

*****

 

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives

 even more temporary than our own

live within a fragile circle,

 easily and often breached.

Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. 

We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,

never fully understanding the necessary plan." 

Irving Townsend "The Once Again Prince"

  

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This page last updated: 2 January 2012