In my life, I have had to say good-bye to two cats. The first was Tumbles, years ago. He was an orange cat, who toward the end had lost control of his bowels, and it turned out to be a lower GI tumor. I didn’t get to say good-bye per se. His owner had taken him to the vet, who kept Tumbles overnight for tests and observation. We went back the next day, and were told that it was inoperable. Tumbles’ mom made the decision to put him to sleep. We weren’t there for the procedure, and the vet kept the body because the ground was too frozen in the winter to bury Tumbles. I wonder if Tumbles and Mattie might recognize each other in kitty heaven by their common shared bond through having known me.
Mattie’s very fast decline started with paraparesis about a week and a half ago. An ultrasound at that time revealed an abdominal mass; the blood tests took several days to process, and on its return, the CBC showed abnormal cells. The vet diagnosed Mattie with feline lymphoma and possible sepsis from a tumor on her intestinal wall, and prescribed a mega dose of antibiotics to control the infection, steroids to alleviate the tumor symptoms, and a fentanyl patch to control her pain.
On Friday last, Sara decided it was time to put Mattie to sleep, and I got to spend about half an hour with Mattie to say my good-bye. Mattie had been refusing food for four days, and was beginning to refuse water. When I got to Sara’s place, Mattie was lying on a loose pile of clothes on a throw rug, and looking very sad. I laid on the ground next to her and scratched her under her chin which she’s always liked. I felt bad for all the times that I pushed her away while I was encamped on the couch typing on my laptop computer. And now, I was trying to pack in a lifetime of happiness for her into the thirty minutes we had. If it could have made any difference now letting me make Mattie happier or healthier, I would have let Mattie type all she wanted on my keyboard. Mattie was still concious, and I’d like to think that she still recognized me, laying her head on my hand for affection. Then she looked around, as if she was looking for something, so I offered her some water which she lapped up. After the water, she continued looking around, so I offered her some tuna, of which she ate some. She moved around a bit, but never really getting up on her hind legs, mostly just using her front legs to scramble about.
I pulled out the laser pointer, which always fascinated her and in better times caused her to go chasing after it all over the apartment. Mattie was still lucid enough to take a weak, little swipe at the red laser dot. I will forever remember this image of her as the last happy time she spent with me. Of all the days of playing this game, on this day today, she finally got to catch the little red dot. And then it was time for her to go to the vet.
That Friday turned to be a reprieve; the vet’s opinion was that Mattie had improved significantly, and that the steroid was doing its job in reducing size of Mattie’s tumor, even though it was by no means a cure. At the vet, Mattie was showing an interest in her surroundings, and grooming herself somewhat, which meant that she still wanted to live. So it was with hopeful optimism that Sara brought Mattie back home again, and it would be day-by-day to see if Mattie would continue to improve.
Late morning Sunday, Sara texted me, saying that it was time. After some initial improvement including on Saturday, Mattie woke up Sunday morning miserable. I met them at the animal hospital. Mattie was looking very sad and tired and showed no interest in anything. The nurse took Mattie away for a few minutes to get an IV line started in preparation and while they had her also made a little impression of Mattie’s paw in a clay disk for Sara to keep. Sara then had Mattie on her lap and I was right next to them, and we comforted Mattie as the hospital did their paperwork. Then it was time; the little moving around we had to do caused Mattie to groan in pain, but she was otherwise listless; she was ready to go. We kept on petting and stroking her, letting her know that she was in the hands that loved her in her final moments. The vet gave Mattie the bolus of euthanasia drug. Mattie perked up a bit, raised her head and looked around with clear, sparkling eyes; the vet had warned us about this, it was just her body releasing some endorphins and cats get excited; it was less than a second. Then she put her head down one final time, and was quietly gone.