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Goodbye, My Dear Sweetie

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Warning: This blog will be quite emotional. It is about having to put my beloved cat Sweetie to sleep.

As my husband and I were moving into a new apartment back when we lived in Seattle, we had a surprise visitor. An adorable, fluffy cat came to welcome us to the neighborhood as we moved in our boxes. She followed us into our apartment, used my cat's scratching posts, played with toys as though they were for her, then sat in front of the fireplace like she lived there. We fell in love with her instantly. She didn't have a collar and appeared to be a stray with her scraggly, dirty fur, but we didn't want to assume anything. We gave her a little cat treat, then sent her on her way.

It was a few weeks later, but she returned. I opened the door to take the trash out, and there was this cat again. She walked right though the door like she was coming home. We wanted her, but we didn't know if she belonged to anyone. My husband went to the local pet store and bought a collar with a tag on it that said, "We would like to adopt this cat. If she belongs to you, please call xxx." We put it on her, then sent her on the way.

The following day, my husband received a call from a neighbor a couple of buildings away from us. She said she was looking after the cat because her brother didn't want it, but she would be happy to give it to a new home. Speaking to the woman about the cat's history, it seemed she had been passed from home to home unwanted. We asked what her name was, and the woman hesitated. She said the brother called her, "Creepy."

We renamed her "Sweetie" because she was so genuinely affectionate. She seemed to love everyone.

After she was in our home, we made her an indoor only cat, which she didn't like very much. We started to see some behavioral problems that indicated why it seemed she was passed around between people. The last caretaker just pushed her outside because she didn't know how to handle her. Sweetie was sometimes not so sweet as she clawed viciously if she didn't get her way. She peed on our sofa a few times. She didn't get along with my other cat.

But despite her issues, she was so lovable. She loved to be around us, and followed us from room to room. She literally squealed with delight when a can of tuna was opened. She ran with a spring in her step as we put the food bowl down. It was hilarious the first time we gave her catnip. She rolled on the floor and waved her paws in the air.

She slept on my pillow, sometimes pushing me off. It was annoying.

And in time, with a lot of love and patience, her behavioral problems went away. Her semi-feral nature to claw and draw blood eventually tamed to a typical pampered housepet. She didn't howl to go outside anymore. While my other cat and her never became friends, they did learn to share the humans.

She so, so loved attention. Everytime you pet her, she purred. If you scratched the side of her cheek, she leaned into it. If you picked her up, she curled into your arm. Whenever my husband came home from work, she headed into the kitchen and asked, "What's for dinner?" While we ate dinner, she sat on one of the empty chairs. We called her our "dinner guest." My husband gave her little bits of whatever we ate because he couldn't resist how adorable she was. Sometimes she stomped her foot on the table to get attention like she said, "Ahem! I'm here! I'd like my salmon served rare, please." It's a bad habit having pets at the table, but we couldn't refuse her.

About a month ago, I noticed that Sweetie wasn't eating much of her food. She licked the gravy off the canned food, but she left most of the meat. She's never been a really big eater, but there was a declining interest. I complained to my husband for feeding her so much of our food at dinner, she was no longer interested in her own food. A couple of weeks ago, he gave her a little tuna, which made her squeal with delight, as usual. But then, I noticed that her poo in the litterbox wasn't quite right. So I asked my husband not to give her any more non cat food because it was upsetting her stomach.

She gradually ate less and less. She stopped socializing with us, and spent all her time under the bed. Then a big alarm bell went off when she got violently sick on the floor. I won't go into details, but it wasn't normal. We took her to the vet the next day. The vet took tests, and the only thing she noticed was a low red blood cell count. Could be internal bleeding, and her dark stool indicated it might be, or...it could be cancer. We didn't have a lot of evidence for the latter, so we went with the former. The vet gave us medicine for us to treat her digestive upset as an ulcer. She gave us formula cat food.

We took her home, gave her medicine...then she completely stopped eating. I was so freaked out and desperate for her to eat something, I tried to coax her with tuna. She refused. Something was seriously wrong. She was so thin, she was barely there. When I pet her, all I could feel was her spine and bones. I cried all night.

I took her back to the vet the next morning. She developed a respiratory problem, and struggled to take a breath. We tried giving her an appetite stimulant, and she still refused to eat. We finally took xrays. The results were confusing. She had some fluid build up, like with pneumonia, but there was another strange mass in her lung. Her intestines didn't show up on the xray because they were so inflamed.

The vet tried to administer antibiotics through an IV over two days, but it had no effect. The vet found a strange mass in her leg - most likely a cancerous tumor that went undetected because she was a long hair cat. We never saw it. Her progress deteriorated, and she still wouldn't eat. The most likely scenario was the tumor in her leg metastasized and spread to her lung.

We could take her home, but we were warned she might suffocate to death as her respiratory condition worsened. Her body temperature was cooling. All signs indicated her body was shutting down. The vet said we could take Sweetie to an animal ER for 24 hour monitoring.

My husband and I came to the painful decision pretty quickly that we had to let her go. If there was any chance at all she could recover, we would have done whatever necessary. But all signs indicated she was dying, and nothing was going to save her. We could take her to the ER for force feeding and maybe prolong her life by hours, days or maybe even a week. But she was not going to get better so she could come home. I didn't want her spending her final days in a cold cage with strangers.

We informed the vet of our decision, and she said she didn't think it was a wrong choice. She asked if we wanted to be present. I said yes. It would have been easier for me not to be there, but I didn't want my Sweetie to die without us there, stroking her fur until her last breath, knowing that she was loved.

The vet said it was a very noble and selfless act, but I felt utterly selfish as I cried in anguish as the injections were administered. I wish I had been more brave and said more soothing words of comfort as she passed from this world to the next. I know the instant that she died - she took a breath, then seemed to relax.

Her body was already in the process of dying, and the sedative pushed it over the top. We should have had about 2-5 minutes of her calm before the injection to stop her heart was given, but unfortunately, the sedative was her body's last straw. The doc had to administer the second shot to stop her heart. She assured us that Sweetie wasn't in pain, and she not conscious.

After it was done, I sobbed over her body and stroked her soft fur. The vet cried with us, and gave us a hug. I folded her body into a ball like she was sleeping. I covered her with the blanket, and said my final goodbye. They asked if we wanted her ashes, and I said yes. Next time my husband and I go back to Seattle, I plan to take her home, back to the forest-like area where she used to spend her days before she found us. Where I imagined she used to chase birds and squirrels.

I miss her so much. The house feels so empty knowing that I'll never find her sleeping on my spot on the bed again. I walked into the house today and imagined her little ghost walking towards me, wagging the tip of her bushy tail. I so wish she would sleep on my pillow.

We had no idea she was so sick. I am racked with guilt about it. If I had known she was so sick, I would have given her all the tuna and catnip she wanted. I would have done more to ease her way. But she never complained to let me know she was hurting.

I'm glad that she came into our lives, and I hope we were able to give her a better life than the one she started with. All she needed was someone to love her, and she gave it all back and then some.

I hurt so badly, and the temptation is to push it away and make it go away. But I choose to embrace my pain and heartbreak and wrap it in love. If I didn't love her, it wouldn't hurt so much. I don't know where we came from, or where we go when we die, but for me, the meaning of life is to love and be loved. I can't know that she knew that we were with her at the end because we love her, but I hope she did.

I love and miss you, Sweetie.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • GAYLE-G-63
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    1672 days ago
    I'm so sorry for your loss. When my pug died a few years ago, I was devastated. I cried all night. It happened suddenly, like with your little angel, so it didn't make it any easier.

    Sweetie seems like she was a wonderful cat, and you gave her a wonderful life. Don't ever feel guilty for what you assume you didn't do for her. She would never, ever blame you. Animals have the purest love this side of heaven.

    1673 days ago
  • ROCKLAND2010
    Pets have a special place in our hearts. Hold on to the good memories.
    1673 days ago
    I'm so sorry for your loss. What a lucky kitty she was though, to have found you and your husband.
    1673 days ago
    I'm so sorry for your loss. Sweetie was very lucky to have found such a loving home. You gave her a wonderful life. I still remember the day I lost my cat of 17 years--it happened within 24 hrs--I could hardly believe it happened so quickly. But mostly I remember that she was a unique and beautiful cat who gave us lots of love and lots of fun, and we were lucky to have her in our lives. There is no need to feel guilt; I hope those feelings pass quickly. In time, the memories that you hold in your heart will be good ones.
    1674 days ago
    Our feline family members win our hearts so thoroughly don't they?

    We've known that pain every several years as we have always maintained a brood of 3-5 cats (currently 4). Each one that passes is so, SO difficult!

    The timing of when to have the vet administer their last rites is so tricky also. I remember one of our cats, Corkie...we waited too long and agonized over the added misery we brought her over her last few days. Our last loss was several weeks ago: Rachmaninoff (Rocky) our long-haired Persian. Still feeling his loss around the house. One of our other cats had bonded well with him and still looks for him and howls in her grief.

    Very much with you in your grieving...

    1674 days ago
  • BILL60
    Very touching indeed. Hang tough!!
    1674 days ago
    Ohh, reading this got me so choked up. I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you were a wonderful mom to your Sweetie -- she was so lucky to live with someone who loved her so.
    1675 days ago
    Sorry to hear...tough thing to do
    1675 days ago
    Oh, that made me cry! I'm so sorry about your Sweetie Kitty. I know it's so hard to lose a pet. emoticon
    1675 days ago
  • 434TERESA
    I have a inside cat that I am scared one day I will find her passed away somewhere in the house. she is about 15 years old. She is not loving lol she don't like people really never has. When she wants a can of food is the only time she likes us. She can longer eat dry so its can only for her. She is still part of the family we just learned to take her for what she is over the years.
    1675 days ago
  • GLC2009
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    1675 days ago
    I am so sorry for your loss and I can feel your pain. Over the years you and Sweetie gave each other a lot of love and that far out weighs any other thing you could have. Take some comfort that you were able to relieve her final pain which is also an act of true selfless love.
    1675 days ago
    I just cried my eyes out for you. I bet she is up where she belongs loving squirrels and tuna. You were the best thing that happened to her, and she went out loving you! emoticon
    1675 days ago
    I'm so sorry!

    Please don't feel guilty about not knowing that Sweetie was sick. So often cats hide their illnesses until they are so sick that they can't hide it. emoticon
    1675 days ago

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    1675 days ago
    This blog made me cry... emoticon I'm touched by your love for Sweetie!!! She was sooo lucky to have stumbled upon such loving owners!!!

    She will be missed, but forever loved!!! emoticon emoticon
    1675 days ago
    First, I will offer my deepest condolences. I know the pain of losing, and indeed of having to make the terrible decision of putting a wonderful beloved pet to sleep to put them out of their pain. Make no mistake about it, you did what you absolutely had to do for your Sweetie. What a wonderful life you gave her. And she knew it and loved you back for it. I know it's hard, I've hung on to guilt every single time . . . Did I do it too soon . . . Should I have let him/her go sooner . . . Were they suffering and I just didn't see it . . . on and on it goes.

    You could have given her all the tuna in the world and it would not have made any difference. Just yesterday I wrote to a friend that it's only recently I've been able to think about all the joy and wonders of my beloved Smokey-Boy without thinking about the illness. I pushed it all out of my mind for a couple of years because I couldn't bear to think of the pain and misery at the end. But they bring such love and joy, don't they? I saw my first cat, Tara, around every corner in the house for months after she was gone. For such small creatures they have such a big presence in our homes but most of all, in our hearts.

    I hope you can let go of your grief soon and remember all the wonderful things about your Sweetie - soon. She would have wanted you to smile when you think of her.

    If you would like to visit my SparkPage, please feel free to do so. If you would like to write me that is also ok and I will be happy to "talk" to you. I know how hard this time is -
    and I am so, so very sorry for your pain and your loss.

    Another Cat Lover -
    Nancy emoticon
    1675 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/20/2013 3:02:18 PM
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    Losing a pet is so hard but you gave her the best life. I know what you mean about a stray cat just moving in, we have two that have done that and our oldest cat is probably near the end too (he's 15).

    Hang in there.

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    1675 days ago
    What a beautiful tribute blog. I'm so sorry you had to put your wonderful cat to sleep. She had a good life with you. I'm sure she cherished you and your hubby as much as you loved and cherished her.

    I want to give you a hug, but the network is slow.

    HUGS !!!

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    1675 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/20/2013 4:04:00 PM
    What a sad story. I know how it feels as we have had to put down several cats we had in our early marriage. They are certainly part of the family and after awhile you will remember the good times you had with her. Eventually you will get over it but it does take time.
    1675 days ago
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