Friday, 12 May 2017

The death of cats ...

Our cat died earlier this week.

He had been very sick for a few months, growing progressively weaker and weaker, and losing strength in his back legs so that he could not run or jump, and when he did, he would pause and rest, as if movement pained him.

He was not quite ten, young for cosseted domestic cat to die, yet in the past six months he went from a strong fit mature cat to a scrawny tired sick cat.

We had noticed he seemed listless and out of sorts, but it was the lady at the cattery who first really picked up on it. When we picked him up after Christmas she said to get him checked by the vet as he looked to be developing diabetes.

He wasn't overweight, but while he'd got fat while we were both working we'd dieted him down - we'd made the bad choice of leaving food for him to graze on while we were out at work and he ballooned to nearly 10kg. He was a physically big cat, one that could easily put his paws on the kitchen bench and look at what you were doing, but 10kg was too much, and by dieting him we'd got him down to a much more reasonable 8kg, and we always fed him on good quality cat food, not the cheap stuff full of grains and fillers.

However, a trip to the vet confirmed the worst, it was diabetes.

We started him on insulin the same day, and at first it was like a wonder drug. Within a day or two he was out playing in the yard and chasing butterflies. We hoped he would stabilise, and perhaps might eventually not need insulin, and we would be able to control his diabetes by a strict diet.

His first set of blood tests were discouraging and he had his dose upped, but he did seem to brighter and recovering, and we still thought we had hope. His second set of bloods saw his dose being upped again and he went through a patch when he seemed very sick and then he started to brighten up and not spend almost all his time asleep.

We no longer hoped that he would not need insulin, but still hoped that he would come good. After all the internet is awash with stories about diabetic cats who have lived almost normal lives for years after diagnosis.

Well, he wasn't to be one of them. He was a Burmese cross, and we discovered that there's something wrong with the genetics of Burmese male cats in Australia with 12% of them developing diabetes between the ages of eight and ten.

We were resigned to him needing insulin for the rest of his life, and then we started to notice that despite getting a diet designed to maintain, and indeed increase his weight slightly, he was losing weight, he was becoming listless and tired again, and his back legs were becoming weaker.

He could no longer run, had difficulty getting onto his chair to sleep, and seem to be losing interest in life. He was a singularly incompetent hunter, but he would always try to stalk sparrows and blackbirds, most whom picked him as totally useless and thumbed their beaks at him, but he would always try to stalk them, but increasingly he would only manage a token slink.

And he would always defend his territory from other cats, but not any more, as long as another cat stayed a decent distance away he was tolerated.

We were worried. Very worried. So we took him back to the vet, who examined him a second time, palpated him, and said that he might be developing pancreatic cancer and that the damage to the pancreas had produced the initial symptoms of diabetes.

Clearly he was sick, and clearly if it was cancer there was not going to be a good outcome, so we took the decision that as he seemed to be in pain, and have difficulty walking and jumping, to have him put down.

He was no longer enjoying life, and while we could have kept him alive a little longer, he would have had more pain and become weaker.

It was one of the saddest, hardest, most difficult decisions to make. He was our friend, and a much loved member of the family.

He was first sedated and then put to sleep, and was treated very gently. We stayed with him to stroke him and reassure him, but to be honest, he was so heavily sedated he probably barely knew we were there, but we felt we owed him our love one last time.

When he was young and scared I had held his paw to reassure and soothe him and I was damned if I was not going to soothe him on his journey to the eternal dark.

When it was done we took his collar and they took his body to be cremated. We could have taken him home to bury ourselves, or have his ashes back, but we went for a simple pet cremation where his ashes, and those of any other animals that are cremated at the same time are scattered on a wildlife reserve.

It's what we would want for ourselves, so it seemed fitting for him.

And then it was back to the mundane. We took his unused insulin and syringes back to the vet to be used  for stray, homeless, or shelter cats, washed his bedding and bowls, packed everything away in boxes for the next cat, and firmly told ourselves that that would be at least eighteen months.

We posted an update about his death on facebook, and we were quite overwhelmed by the kindness and sympathy shown.

And that we thought was that. All that was left to do was mourn, and adapt to not having a cat.

There was one thing else to do - we had made a tentative booking at the cattery for Timkat for September for an overseas trip we had booked before he became seriously ill, so we needed to cancel the booking.

The cattery also takes shelter cats and cats who need to be rehomed, and when we called to cancel our booking and explain why, they asked if we wanted to take an eight year old cat who needed a new home.

Initially we thought no, but then we thought, we have cat equipment, cat food that we havn't yet taken to the cat shelter, and there is a cat who needs a home, and at eight years old may be difficult to place.

So we called back, and said yes, we'll take him and see if he fits in.

And we went to see him this morning, and he seems a nice cat.

We have to be away next week, and there's a bit of paperwork to sort out, but we'll have a new cat the week after next.

Strangely, it seems the right thing to do, despite things still feeling a bit raw.

Timkat was a shelter cat that no one much seemed to want but us, (when we adopted him he was not on show but in a back cage at the shelter, but we'd seen him on the website and asked specially to meet him as he was a good looking Burmese cross) but we took him on and both he and we got a lot out of the relationship.

So we will see how Minty goes. He'll be a different cat, but we already know he appreciates a good facerub ...

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