Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kitty Death

The animals may not know it, but each of them is understood to belong to one of us. Until yesterday, everyone had a cat or a dog.

And today my cat died.

I got her right after the Twin Towers were attacked. I had a great need to cling to someone and it wasn't helpful to my children to cling to them. So I called a kitty rescue organization and said that I needed an adult lap cat. They gave me the perfect lap cat. I do mean perfect. If I had a book or my computer on my lap she did not try to get between us. She lay on the arm of the chair or across the top (I usually work in a pretty comfy chair). If I put down my book she would move to my lap. She had an almost silent meow. Only a little squeaky noise came out.

Of course we don't know how old she was when we got her, so I don't know how old she was today. Certainly at least 9, perhaps 12 or more.

She had a urinary tract infection over a year ago, which we treated. It left her kidneys little damaged though. Sunday night I noticed she was lethargic. Yesterday when I got home from work I noticed she was really feeling sick. I told the boys that she was sick and elderly and I didn't know if she was going to make it. Andrew just went to pet her briefly. Brian spent an hour sitting or lying next to her crying. Frankie found a t-shirt and asked if she died, could we bury her with it. He told me several times that it makes him sad when animals die, and that he was sad even though he didn't get a chance to know my cat.

Which is true. She has spent less and less time out of my bedroom. In the past few years, certainly since the Shih Tzu moved in, she has practically lived on my bed.

This morning we took her to the vet. They warned me that she was in bad shape -- very dehydrated and she had a temperature that was low. I left her to teach class. In an unprecedented move, I put my cell phone on the table in front of me and told my class that when it rang class was over. After an hour or so they called to say that her kidneys were failing and that even with aggressive treatment she might not recover.

Since Brian has no school today and Andrew is sick (ugg!) I told them, and Brian said he really wanted to go down to the vet and say goodbye. When we got there they kicked some other person and her dog out of one of the exam rooms. Either they have great sympathy for people who are saying goodbye to their pets, or they don't like people sitting in their waiting room crying. (Possibly both). We put Frankie's t-shirt on the exam table and they brought us the cat. After a few minutes Brian decided it was time for him to leave. The vet came in, warned me that it was possible that the cat's bowls or bladder might empty (they didn't), asked me if I was ready, and gave the cat three injections. I scratched the cat's jaw the way she likes. She sighed twice, and her head relaxed in my hand. She was gone.

I'm glad I stayed. I'm glad I saw how peaceful it was for her.

I'm glad to know that even if I had taken her to the vet Monday morning when I noticed she was lethargic it wouldn't have made a difference. We would have decided to euthanize her yesterday and we would not have had last night to pet her and cry and say goodbye. I am glad to know that what she died from was not contagious and I don't need to worry about the other animals.

Soon Frankie will be home. I will tell him what happened, about how the kitty spent her last half hour lying on his old t-shirt, comforted by the smells of him and our home.

And we shall see how he handles it.

As for me, I am sad, but I am okay. Though I don't know how old she was exactly, she has seemed like an old lady for a while. She helped me through some difficult times by just sitting on my lap and purring. We had a good six years together.

I have told people that there is such a thing as a good death (which is by the way what "euthanasia" literally means). In my mind, a good death is one that comes after a full life, preferably with enough of a warning that people get to say goodbye but not too much pain for either the one dying or the one left behind. We got that with kitty.

So I am grateful for that and I am grateful for her.


  1. Oh, I'm sorry. Our dog died two years ago at home in our arms. Death is so hard. I'm glad you could be there with Kitty.


  2. i am so sorry! there is nothing in the world quite like being owned by a cat, it is a truly special relationship!

  3. So, so sorry.
    Take care.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about your kitty. I had two dogs die on the same day a little over a year ago, so I understand your pain.

  5. Very sorry about your loss.
    It sounds like you handled it the way it needed to be done.

  6. I'm truly sorry for the loss of a special friend. I'm glad that you had time to say goodbye and the end was peaceful.

    Hugs to everyone.

  7. Kitty had a good life and a good death.

  8. My sympathies and now my tears are with you.

  9. I'm so sorry too.

  10. aaaw, so sorry for your loss. I'm glad you were there.

  11. She had a good life and a good death. I am sorry your kitty is gone, but she was blessed with so much love at the end of her life.

  12. So sorry for your loss.

  13. i'm truly sorry to hear about your kitty. i have a tendency to be adopted by older kitties myself. i had miss tiger lily for a handful of years (turned out she was ten-ish when we got her) and she was the quintessential lap kitty too. my current oldie is probably close to 14 (we just got him less than a year ago) and is a total sweetie. it sounds like you did right by your sweet kitty. i am sure the end of her life was filled with lots of love!


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