Monday, September 14, 2009

His last day.

February 11, 1991 - September 14, 2009

We picked him out of the Gloucester County Animal Shelter over 18 years ago. Or, I should say, he picked us. I had my eye on a 7-year old who needed rescuing, while my wife was over with the kittens. She picked out a little 8 week-old black ball of fur who attached himself to her sweater and refused to let go. The kitten went home with us.
I remember my first vet visit with Kitty a little over 18 years ago. The ex and I had taken to calling him Kitty Cat, since we couldn't come up with a name. The receptionist was filling in his info for their file, and she asked me his name. I sat dumbfounded for a second or two and, feeling too embarrassed to say his name was Kitty Cat, I responded with K.C. So, as far as the vet was concerned, his name was K.C. I don't know if they ever figured out that it stood for Kitty Cat.
K.C. died today. His kidney ailment had progressed to anemia, and his blood work numbers were off the charts. The vet called me last night with the figures, and it was pretty dire. His creatinine number (the chemical that indicates the renal failure) was 11 now, after being 4 last October. Creatinine is a waste product deriving from the breakdown of creatinine phosphate, a substance derived from the cat's muscles. The kidneys which act as the cat body's purifier, once damaged, will not be able to excrete this waste product, thus high levels of creatinine will be found in the blood.
Normal creatinine levels in cats are between 0.6-2.4 mg/dl. When a cat develops high creatinine levels it is most likely that its kidneys are not functioning as they are supposed to.

Normal toxin levels are around 45, and his were greater than 130. The machine didn't read high enough to come up with a number. Normal red blood cell count is around 30% and his was around 12. Once the number gets to 7 or 8, cats pass out.
The intravenous fluids that were initially proposed might have stabilized his kidneys and hydrated him, but it would do nothing for his anemia, and in the end, it would be the anemia that would kill him if he didn't starve to death.
He hadn't eaten any substantial amount of food in about 5 days, and today was no different. I lured him into the kitchen with a can of Fancy Feast, and he "ate" some. I say "ate" because all he did was lick the food rather than chew it. When he was finished, I scooped up the remainder and put it back in the can to see how much he consumed. I estimated less than half an ounce. He wasn't going to survive on that for very long.
So, I gathered myself (after spending most of the evening and early morning in tears) and called the vet to arrange to bring him in. We scheduled an appointment at 11:40, which gave me enough time to take him outside and give him one last walk in the sunshine (above). My friend Patty stopped by and took a final snapshot of me and the boy.

Usually, I could get him to purr when I picked him up and held him like that. Recently, that had been harder to do.
It's nearly 4:00pm now and the place is empty. I've already gotten up a couple of times to look for him, figuring he must be on the doorstep waiting to come in. I stop myself with an eerie feeling like I expected him to be there when I call or run to me when I came home. He won't, of course. Maybe he can hear me somehow, so I'll keep calling for "Kitty" when I come home at night. Try and stop me.
He had been away from home before. Once for his teeth-cleaning and once before for a mysterious illness that required an overnight stay and some IV medication. Early in his life, he was diagnosed with a digestive disorder, and I had to crush little pills and try to get him to eat them mixed in with his food. Failing that, I decided to change his food and the digestive disorder went away. Go figure.
Similarly, I tried to slow the development of his kidney disease by feeding him low-protein food and fish rich in Omega3 fatty acids. That, along with a paste that contained potassium limited the development of the disease for as long as possible. Eventually, the disease wins. It always does.
The thing about owning pets is that eventually, we know they will perish. Cats that get into their teen years are considered old, and one thing or another contributes to the decision I had to make today. Fortunately, he wasn't in any pain, but I couldn't go on watching him stagger around and not eat food that he used to wolf down. Most days, he was sitting in the same spot when I left for work as he was when I returned. There were quality of life issues involved. Both his and mine.
Over the years we developed a communication method that sometimes was kind of spooky. When people tell me cats are aloof and strange, I always say that maybe the problem isn't the cat. Animals (not just cats) respond to attention and affection, and I found that talking to him like a person and paying almost constant attention to him contributed to the friendship we developed over the years. When I was away from home for any length of time, I always thought about getting back to see Kitty, and he would always reward those thoughts by running to the door to greet me. It takes a lot to get a cat to do that, but he was special.
The end came quickly. Before I signed the "permission to euthanize" paper, I spoke to the vet once more to see if I was indeed doing what needed to be done. She assured me that the progression of his disease would continue regardless of any treatments and that his condition would only make him more miserable and confused. It's a difficult chore to sign over the life of a living creature, and his ignorance of his fate made that all the more difficult. I imagine that he was thinking his friend would help him, but I could not, and that was as agonizing as the ordeal itself.
Somehow I had the feeling that he knew. It was strange for me to be home during the week (yes, he knew weekends from weekdays) and my walking him around the common area this morning must have seemed odd to him. Once we got to the vet, he hid in the back of his carrier and I had to pry him out. Then he sat with his head in my arms as though he was begging me not to let them take him. I sat with him and cried.
She injected him with a barbituate that is essentially a drug overdose designed to calm him and stop his heart. Once the injection went in, he immediately relaxed and he took a final look at me. I told him, "I'll see you soon," which is what I said to him when I left the house. His pupils dialated and his eyes glazed over. I stood over him stroking him for a minute and started crying. My friend was gone and he wasn't coming back.
They're going to cremate him and I'll have his ashes in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure how I'll deal with having them around, so maybe I'll keep them here or maybe I'll sprinkle them under his favorite bush.
Either way, he will always be in my heart and thoughts.


susan said...

Oh Anthony! Speechless.

Thank you for sharing your beloved Kitty's last day with us. I am so glad you had your friend take the last picture.

Take care of yourself.

Pyrs said...

My heart hurts for you and goes out to you. I have had a similar experience with a dog I loved very much. I have two cats, neither of which is very young. God bless you. Warm thoughts and kind regards.

Firestarter5 said...

There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat. - Tay Hohoff

After all those years, no one can know how you feel. Hold nothing back.

Anthony said...

Thank you all so much. Naturally, I'm still grieving and I keep getting up to see where he is.

I hate that something so beautiful can be taken from me.

kimmyk said...

Sorry to hear about the passing of Kitty. I know how much you loved your friend.

RIP Kitty.

God Speed Anthony.

HotMBC aka The Hotties said...

Aw, we is sorry to heer this about Kitty. We will send yoo lotsa purrs for yore sads.
Sanjee and the resta tha Hotties

Laura said...

what a beautiful tribute to Kitty. Anthony, I am so sorry.

junior alien said...

Very, very sorry for the loss of your loved one! He was your most constant and most faithful friend during all those years, wasn't he?

We all know that it's going to happen sometime, and then it happens and the earth stops turning.

Just idiotic words, I know, but what else can we do from a distance. Please take care.

Anthony said...

Thank you all. I've received many kind words and wishes since yesterday and they are greatly appreciated.

Meanwhile, I wait for the day that my heart stops aching.

Pinewolf said...

I am so sorry for you today. Words can't express the sadness that comes with a loss like that of Kitty. One thing I know is that you were the best thing that could have ever happened to him on that fateful day 18 years ago. You gave much life to each other.
Cats are wonderful friends and it appears that you had one of the best there was. Perhaps a tribute show should be broadcast on WKAT, that would be a fitting tribute. Please send a copy to me if you run that program.
Take care,

Me, Myself and I... said...

Reading this brought me to tears today. Thank you for sharing Kitty with us.

CougarDMBfan said...

He was a GREAT cat/friend/pal/confidant...the list goes on...BUT, just remember, you were all those things to HIM as well...He lives in your heart and memories...
You're a wonderful person ant-knee...Even though your next cat can't take his place, I hope you share as many wonderful memories...