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I miss my cat so much


shellbell7

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This is a long story but I think it will help me most to just start from the beginning.  

My cat V was truly the light of my life, each and everyday. She was an all black kitty, short little legs and pudgy with a perfectly round face. Her fur was thick and plush and she was sooo soft, like a little pillow. I would often press my forehead against hers and she would just purr and push her forehead back into mine. She was a total lap cat, slept with me every night under the blankets with her head on the pillow, just like a person. I loved her more than anything.

My boyfriend and I lived in CA together and adopted V when she was 5 in 2016. We were so excited to get a cat - we moved to a different apartment just so we could get one. We weren't even done moving in our furniture when we decided to just go to the shelter and find our fur baby. V chose us. She reached to us from her cage and meowed at us, and we loved her immediately. ❤️ 

At some point in 2019, V developed a hairball issue. Her digestive tract would get backed up, which led to fur build-up in her tract, which caused her to throw up hairballs once in a while. Not very uncommon for cats. Lots of cats have hairballs. She would have dry-heaving spells like coughing fits that would act up once a month or so, and our vet recommended giving her hairball medicine and miralax as needed.

Fast forward to late 2019. We moved to The east coast and so started seeing a new vet, who recommended the same treatment for the hairball/coughing episodes. In early 2020, I brought V back to the vet because her coughing/hacking spells had become more frequent. (She didn't produce that many hairballs - just the coughing spells were getting more frequent.) An x-ray showed her digestive tract backed up yet again, and our vet reiterated the advice to give her miralax and hairball medicine (more) to help V clear her system out. Our vet said to keep monitoring, because if her hairballs become stuck, sometimes surgery is necessary for removal. 

V’s coughing spells became the norm throughout 2020. Not everyday, but usually once a week. It was always very clear she was trying to get rid of a hairball - it wasn't just a regular cough like asthma or something- and every few months or so it would be productive and a hairball would come out.) We talked to our vet on the phone over the summer when the coughing spells became even more frequent, and she said to start the miralax back up, because that really did seem to help and V seemed absolutely fine otherwise! She was perfectly happy and normal aside from the coughing. We just thought "okay, V has chronic hairballs, and we just have to give her the medicines and she'll be okay." Our vet didn't raise any concern for alarm. 

In December, suddenly the coughing spells were everyday and I knew she was probably close to throwing up a hairball. Low and behold she did, a couple days before Christmas. We were happy for her. Her coughing spells stopped. But during those couple weeks leading up to it, it also seemed to me that V was looking a little skinny. It was so minor, I wasn't sure if I was imagining it. I also noticed she wasn't jumping up onto the bed and couch as much, but her favorite spot was always by the dining room heater anyway, so I just thought "she's probably just cold, it's winter, she prefers this spot instead of the bed now." My boyfriend didn't notice anything, but I think sometimes a mom just knows. But maybe I was in denial that something worse could be wrong with her? Her behavior and personality were normal. But after she threw up the hairball, 2 days later on Christmas day, all the sudden she didn't want to eat her food. Red flag. Completely out of nowhere, she wouldn't eat. The hairball was out, her coughing spells stopped, but she wouldn't eat. Common sense told me her tummy was probably upset from throwing up, but later that day she suddenly seemed weak in her back legs. I took her to the emergency vet immediately. It was midnight but I didn't care. When I saw her back legs go weak, I thought she was dying right then. I scooped her up into her carrier and drove to the ER. I was shaking and terrified. I've never felt so scared in my life.

The ER vet did a physical exam and concluded V seemed normal and not in pain. He prescribed her a stronger laxative and some pain medicine to help with discomfort, and anti nausea medicine, since it was likely constipation that led to the hairball and then loss of appetite. He said she wasn't in an urgent condition (which made sense - she was still acting happy and normal) and recommended seeing our vet asap for x rays and bloodwork. Two days later our vet did bloodwork and xrays. She said the bloodwork was slightly abnormal but could be due to dehydration, but her x ray showed a mass in her stomach. I knew immediately it must be a lodged hairball. No wonder my poor baby couldn't eat. The bad news was, she needed emergency surgery on New Years Eve and overnight stays before and after surgery. We called all around and finally found a clinic with surgery availability. A very nice vet did the surgery and sure enough pulled out a huge hairball! We were relieved it was a hairball and not cancer, since our home vet said cancer could have also explained the mass. We had so much hope that she was on the mend. The surgeon did too.

So that was it, we thought, and now it was just a matter of helping her heal from surgery. But instead, she got worse. :( She still wouldn't eat. The surgeon and our vet both said surgery is hard on an animal, her eating habits might not be normal right away. They also did biopsies during her surgery and those came back normal. No signs of digestive disease, heart disease, or cancer. A week went by and every day was a challenge, trying to get just a few bites of food into her. We talked to the surgeon on the phone every couple days to give updates and make sure we were doing things right. (medications, etc.) She had her follow-up 11 days after surgery to get her staples out. The surgeon said she healed great, and now we just had to try things and see what gets her appetite back. Vitamin B12, anti nausea med, appetite stimulants, arthritis medication - everything was on the table. 

Five days went by, trying the new meds as directed. It was now Jan. 15, 3 weeks since Christmas day when she stopped eating, and 15 days post surgery. We had a lot of hopeful days during this time. At times she would show interest in food again and we thought she must finally be improving. We were FULL of hope. But overall her food intake was still extremely low, and any glimmers of hope were overshadowed by that and also her lethargy. All the sudden during the night of Jan. 14, her breathing started sounding loud and raspy. I knew something bad was happening. My home vet took her in right away on Jan 15 to run tests. What she saw was fluid build up on V’s lungs. How could this happen?  Our vet said 1) an inflammatory reaction to surgery, curable with antibiotics 2) heart disease or 3) cancer. But her previous biopsies didn't show disease or cancer. Our vet removed the fluid and also tested a fluid sample. No indication of heart disease or cancer, again. We were so relieved, but she stressed that we weren't in the clear. She hinted that cancer was still possible, but an inflammatory reaction instead was very plausible. V needed to be monitored for the weekend at the emergency vet, and given antibiotics intravenously to hopefully heal her lungs - if it truly was inflammatory, the antibiotics would cure her. If her lungs continued to refill with fluid, it could be fatal. If the antibiotics weren't effective, she said the next solution would be steroids. And if that didn't work, more surgery. 

We brought V in that evening for her weekend stay at the ER. We had so much hope. We had no clue that V wouldn't be coming home again. It wasn't even on our radar. I think we were just blinded by the hope and optimism. After we dropped her off, the ER vet called us to check her in. The pandemic made all these visits so much harder. This vet had never seen V before, but said to us "Are you sure you want her here? Everything about her records, from what I can tell, points to cancer. These could be her last days." We were shocked. Our vet didn't say that, and our surgeon never said anything close to that. It's crazy how vet's opinions could differ so much. I said I wanted to follow our vet's advice - she knew her best. The ER vet who took over the next morning echoed my vet's advice - that V just needed weekend monitoring to get her antibiotics. She was doing well, and ate a whole can of cat food during the night - more than she'd eaten during one sitting in 3 weeks. 

But by that evening, the horrible news came. Her lungs refilled with fluid at rapid speed. The antibiotics hadn't worked. The vet (now vet #3 at the ER, because they switch shifts every 12 hours) said it was time to try the steroids, and he removed the fluid from her lungs (now her 2nd fluid tap, poor baby.) Overnight she got worse, and by Sunday afternoon, her lungs had refilled again. There was nothing they could do. The vet called me and said essentially she is drowning, her body won't function, the only thing you can do now is help her pass on. I'm crying again now reliving the horror of hearing those words. I was beside myself with fear and grief. I fell apart completely. I asked if they could tap the fluid again so I could bring her home for one more night at home. I didn't want her last days to be at the vet. I couldn't bear it. But they said no, that she was truly suffering and it would be inhumane to bring her home. I understood. 

They let us hold her in the car (we couldn’t go inside due to Covid) to say goodbye, and they put her to sleep in our arms. I sang her her favorite song and we talked about how much we loved her. I know she was glad we were there and felt comforted by us in her last moments. It was so hard to see her in distress, and so hard to say goodbye. I’ve never felt like this before. I cry everyday. It’s not fair. I wasn’t done being her cat mom. I only had her 4 and a half years and she was only 9.5 years old. I feel so cheated and completely lost without her. V brought me so much happiness everyday and now that’s gone from my life. How do I cope? 

If you’ve read this whole post, thank you. I needed to recount the whole thing to really convey how long and emotional of an ordeal it truly was. I’m not sure I’ll ever heal completely. I’m just beside myself. 

 
 
 

 

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I read the whole post and am touched by the obvious love you had for V and the enormous sense of loss over her death. I just lost one of my cats a few days ago through a terrible and tragic accident, so I feel your pain acutely. It is truly awful to go through several diagnoses until you finally get to the one vet who speaks frankly about your pet's condition. Of course, by then it's usually time to say goodbye and that bluntness releases so much emotion, while dashing any hopes you had left.

You did everything you could and V knew she was loved. I'm so sorry her life was cut short. I can heartily recommend, when you're ready, to channel your grief into volunteering, fostering or even getting another cat, to honor V and her life. It really does help a lot in recovering emotionally.

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7 hours ago, shellbell7 said:

I’m not sure I’ll ever heal completely.

I am so sorry for your loss.  I am amazed at all you did for her, only to lose her in the end.  Any time never seems enough.  I had my Arlie (Husky/Retriever) only 10 1/2 years in spite of the best of care, I cooked for him and gave him supplements and Probios.  He was just turning one when I got him.  Not knowing his actual birthday, we celebrated on Valentine's day.  I will never forget taking him for what should have been a routine teeth cleaning, and instead getting a death sentence.  Cancer is insidious.  Two months ten days later I had to have him put to sleep, it was time and I didn't want him to suffer any more.

But it's then that their suffering becomes ours.  It does change us, not sure I'd call it complete healing but the intensity of the pain gradually lessens to something more manageable, and I carry my grief inside of me now, always with me.  He is buried in my back yard next to my son's dog and my 25 year old Kitty, they all lived with me together.  Missy Mocha is gone, disappeared 4 1/2 years ago, never to be found (I believe a cougar got her) or she'd be alongside them.

It's the hardest thing in the world to get used to.  They are our family members, guileless, each with their own personalities, irreplaceable.  We can get others but it is never the same, instead they worm their way into our hearts on their own merits.  Everything about my Arlie...they broke the mold on him, from his goofiness, his beautiful smile that won my heart at first glance, his high level of communication (Husky talk, very tonal), his extreme intelligence, his consideration and love, he will always be my soulmate in a dog.  He was with me through everything after losing my husband 15 1/2 years ago, then my pets, jobs, injuries/falls.  He was amazing.  I broke my right elbow (they don't cast them so you're vulnerable) and yet still I could walk him and he never once pulled, not bad for a 140 lb. strong dog in his prime!

You did everything you knew to do, and I'm so glad V was in your arms when he went, I'm sure that was great comfort to him.  It helps to express yourself here and know you're heard by others that "get it."  

My son brought me a puppy, a Klee Kai, following some bad rescue experiences (bites & deceit from the managers), and he is what I've needed this year during Covid.  All of the special traits Arlie had are gone, almost like God retired them because He knew Arlie couldn't be "replaced."  But Kodie brings totally new things to the table, he is my sidekick and VERY loving!  He is small and squeaks and very adorable...conceived when Arlie died, and born on my birthday.  Even his very name was a confirmation as it popped into my head when I first laid eyes on his picture/video...not knowing he had a name Kobie, and when my son brought him here he stopped to get a tag & collar and accidentally misspelled it, it read KODIE.  I needed those confirmations and it's special to me that God had him arranged to be mine even while my heart is yet broken and longing for Arlie and now Kitty.

I wish you peace and comfort in the days ahead and hope this short video helps.

 

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Thank you for the kind words. I think the hardest part was all the false hope we had that her diagnosis was something different, something manageable. In the end her digestive/hairball related issue distracted everyone, even our vets, from the real issue. One of the ER vets we spoke to during that last weekend stay said to us "cancer is tricky." I still think about that and try to be understanding about that. The fact that cancer never specifically showed itself in her bloodwork, fluid samples, etc. It was hiding, until it started to affect her lungs and then it suddenly became the clear diagnosis, and by then too late. The unfairness of it all really gets me. Kayc what you said "Their suffering becomes ours" after we say goodbye to them - This resonates so much. It hurts, but I am glad V is not the one hurting. 

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I felt much the same with my Arlie's cancer diagnosis, by the time they diagnosed him, it was too far gone, but he'd had a physical just two weeks before, how come they didn't catch it then?  He ALWAYS had regular physicals!  I felt they let him down.  If only I'd noticed something amiss, but I didn't, and really it didn't show for a while after diagnosis even though the liver was already shutting down.  I'm glad I knew what was going on by then because I understood what was happening, why he didn't want to eat, etc.  But there is no assimilating something like this, it's much too hard for us to process, at least it felt that way to me.  :(

 

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