For the Love of a Kitteh

Though I’ve been vegetarian for five years, there’s meat mashed in my hair and  a few teaspoons worth embedded in my t-shirt. At some point in the last twenty-four hours, I’ve taken to painting the bathroom with it too, and using it as a pre-laundry treatment for every towel in the house.

Why the protein-fest? That would be on account of:

a. My general lack of coordination as I attempt syringe feeding, and
b. The image on your screen to the left. That’s my Pepper, a seven-year-old rescue of ours, and if it weren’t against Mom Rules to announce it, the cat of my heart. (Woops. Guess I typed that with my outside fingers.)

She’s sick, peeps, and it’s been going on for a week now. I don’t think she’s going to make it.

We thought at first she had a hairball. She’s a medium-haired cat, verging into long-hair territory, and it’s shedding season. No matter how much I brush, around this time of year, it’s almost inevitable that one of our four creatures will be leaving vomit spots around the house, and Pep’s lush coat means she’s often a sufferer.

But while she’s no longer vomiting, she’s not turning the corner, either, despite subcutaneous fluid administration, us providing any and every tempting food we can think of, hand feeding and all manner of general cosseting.

Yesterday I bit the bullet and took her to the vet, who found an abdominal mass. They took blood and booked an ultrasound for today, and I’m taking in a urine sample as well. By this evening we’ll have some idea what we’re dealing with.

If Pepper has a definitive condition that requires one-time treatment, like a foreign body, we’ll put her through whatever intervention’s required. If it’s cancer, I might not bring my baby home. I realize that’s not what everyone would decide for their pets, but I’ve had a lot of experience with end-of-life care and will not put her through a lingering illness because I’d like to hang onto her longer. Thankfully, on this my family is united.

I’m posting about this for a few reasons:

1. Some of you already know part of what’s going on and have expressed interest in knowing about Pepper’s progress. I thought it easiest to make one, centralized location for an update.

2. To say a huge thank you for your support and advice! Human beings have tremendous capacity for acts of kindness and generosity, and that never seems more obvious to me than when I’m dealing with issues about children or pets. I know if Pep could speak, she’s thank you for your concern. I know I’m touched.

3. Can we talk? A lot of you have faced these kinds of decisions with your furry family members. I’d love to know how things worked out for you. Do you have any decisions you’d make differently, given the benefit of hindsight? If your pet faced long-term medical conditions and you went with treatment, any regrets?

20 thoughts on “For the Love of a Kitteh

  1. Aw, hugs and prayers for Pepper. Animals give such unconditional love that it’s hard not to become so attached and return the love. Here’s hoping all is well with Pepper.

  2. Oh goodness dear. I’m sorry for kitty.. poor thing..
    We went through the same thing with my mama’s best friend. My mom passed two years ago of lung cancer. A few months later, her bf lil american eskimo developed what we found to be mamary cancer. Weird how lil pets do that.. She had a surgery and it came back.. eventually we gave her up. She is now with her mama. 🙂 it was the hardest thing to do, but better for her. Good luck with kitty 🙂

  3. Poor Pepper!

    I hope your kitty is okay 🙁 Wish I could say something more supportive, but I’ve never owned a pet. I’ll send some positive vibes your way.

  4. What we do for love…Nothing more heartwretching than dealing with an unwell family pet and having to make decisions that have no pat answer.
    Our thirteen yr. old 85 pound husky dog has three paws in the grave and is on more meds than I can count. But she is not in pain and eats, etc. normally.
    Cancer or pain, in my opinion are the two reasond to euthanize a pet.
    JUST MAYBE, the tests will reveal a problem with an easy fix. Keeping fingers crossed for you, Jan

  5. I’m sorry to hear this.
    I know exactly what you’re going through, because I went through it all with Maggie last November.
    Hugs to you and kitty.

  6. Hugs to you, Pepper and family. Wish I had wisdom to share. Then again, you seem to have a clear-eyed view, with plenty of heart.

  7. I’m sorry you’re having to go through this with such a young cat; that always makes it harder. On the one hand, I feel like it’s silly how much we come to love them, but on the other, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I know the grief of these kinds of decisions and have faced them many times. It’s a case-by-case situation, but I will tell you this: there have been several times our vet suggested life-prolonging treatments for our animals, and often we complied, because we had hope for a cure. The poor animal was miserable. I made a vow that I wouldn’t make them suffer anymore than I would want to suffer if I were in the same place, so now, when there’s no hope, I put them down.

    I’m like you, Jan, a one-time treatment to dislodge the obstruction, fine, but if it’s cancer, don’t make your poor Pepper suffer. Put her down and know you’ve done what’s right. My heart breaks for you and your Pepper.

    My prayers are with you all.

  8. Oh, Jan, I feel for you. I just went through this in March. My sixteen-year-old kitty was so sick. A week of vet visits and tests that just made her miserable left us with a diagnosis of progressive kidney disease and the revelation that she was in kidney failure. We were told that we could try a few things like IV fluids and various injections on an ongoing basis, first at home and then at the vet, but it was to prolong her life; there was no cure. Ultimately, I decided that we would treat her at home until either the treatment made her more miserable than the disease itself or until it became clear she was no longer thriving at all. We made plans for euthanasia, and I was in tears for days. Then she started biting me whenever I approached her with the needles for her IVs or injections, and I knew it was time to stop.
    In my case, I got lucky because the little rascal has made a temporary recovery; she’s doing much better now. But because she doesn’t have properly functioning kidneys, I know it’s only a matter of time. To me, when the time does come, it’s not worth it to put her through tons of life-prolonging treatments that she can never comprehend. You can’t explain to a cat: “This is for your own good.” They only know that they feel miserable. So when the time comes–and I know it’s coming soon–I know what I’ll do, even though it will break my heart.
    Thinking of you and Pepper!

  9. FWIW I’ve heard that cats can tolerate chemo really well. I’ve never been through that though. I wouldn’t do it with an older cat but with a younger one, I probably would consider it, depending on the prognosis.

    The other thing is, if at all possible I’d euthanize a cat at home. It’s just much less traumatic for everyone involved. I guess if your kitty is already at the vet, that’s a little different, but given how much they usually hate to go to the vet and how closely they attach to a place, if you have the option of home euthanasia, I’d go for it.

  10. I’m sorry to hear this.

    When I was young and irresponsible, my pets suffered. I wasn’t mature enough or financially stable enough to take them to the vet on a regular basis. I loved them, but I didn’t give them the best of care.

    Now that I’m older, I don’t miss any of their yearly visits and I take them to the vet on an as-need basis the rest of the year. When the time comes that they can’t recuperate from an illness, I’d rather just let them go than have them in constant pain and fatigue.

  11. Jan, so sorry to hear this news about Pepper. She looks just like my childhood cat – Boris – down to that little white spot on her face and everything. I can close my eyes right now and almost feel that soft, silky fur. I literally got a lump in my throat reading your post. It is hard when you have to make the decision regarding end of life for a pet. I know you will do what’s right for her. I too hope there is an intervention that will help her and not cause her pain.

  12. Anybody who has read my blog knows how I feel about animals. This is the third time I am trying to comment. I keep bursting into tears. I lost one of my dogs last year to cancer and it is still painful for me to think about.

    I think everybody has to decide how to deal with it. I think the important thing is knowing whether it is really an end of life condition or not. If an animal can be helped, I will do whatever is possible. I was really inspired by author Kelly Meding’s struggle with treating her cat’s mystery illness and the fact that she brought her through it okay.

    But if there is nothing that can be done or the pet is suffering, I think it is a different story. We did as much to keep our dog comfortable for a long as possible, with painkillers and other meds to manage the condition. But when he started to show signs of deterioration, it was time to let him go.

    My hugs and prayers go out to Pepper and you and your family. I will be praying and sending good thoughts to all of you.

  13. I’m so sorry to hear this. I think it’s hard on us to make the final decisions because we appoint ourselves as caretakers for animals that can’t speak for themselves and give us such unconditional love. I won’t prolong an animal’s life, but it also racks me with guilt to make that call. I try to remember that they had a wonderful life with me and I didn’t allow them to suffer.

  14. My brother’s Siamese was sick for a long time. On the vet’s recommendation he fed it pumpkin pie filling–supposedly easier on a kitteh tummy. Apparently Simba’s fine now but of course my brother was teased no end. (Sorry about that.)

    Having to put my Bassett/Black Lab cross down for old age was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Some say it’s worse than losing a child, which I think is true. A pet takes on some of your personality with an uncanny ability to ‘read’ you more accurately than other people. It’s been more than seven years since Dingo died in my arms and part of me is still inconsolable. We had thirteen years of joy and fun.

  15. Such a tough time, and tough decisions. Each situation is unique and only you know when the time is right, or how much you can put her through. From my own experience, I hold on too long. I’ve done it twice, anguished at the prospective loss of two precious family members – 17 and 18 respectively – who I believed suffered too much during their last days, due to my misguided beliefs. The 18 yo, Mo Better, was almost blind, deaf, dehydrated and incontinent. I could no longer allow her on the bed, because she would have accidents, and it broke my heart. I kept asking the vet what he would do and he would say, “when she stops eating you’ll know it’s time.” Well, she never stopped eating, but she deterioriated so badly that I knew she was either miserable, or experiencing no quality of life. I held her in my arms at the vet while she drifted away. I still feel guilty that I put her through so much, because I couldn’t bear to let her go. I think it’s a fine line between caring for our little ones in the most loving way possible, and letting go when their needs should take precedence over our own. Hugs.

  16. Oh dear, I’m so sorry! Give Pepper an ear-rub for me, will ya?
    I know what it’s like to lose your kitteh — our last had been a rescue as well and was already quite old when we got him. After five years of living with us, his health began to steadily decline and we took him to the vet: he had kidney failure (which is quite common in ginger-haired cats). She said without surgery, he’d have two weeks, max. With surgery, she might be able to fix what was still fixable, but he’d be in a lot of pain and might only hold out a couple more months. So, my mum and I decided right there to let him go. He’d suffered enough and we didn’t want to prolong that. He had five good years with us, that’s what counted.
    Well, needless to say, I still can’t properly think about it without tearing up (it was three years ago). But I still think, ultimately, it was the right call. It’s a horrible thing to do, but it’s a small comfort to know it spared him more pain.
    I hope you’ll make it through, whatever is really wrong with her and whatever decision you’ll have to make.

  17. Oh, Jan–sick pets is one of the hardest dilemmas isn’t it? I am with you–they don’t understand the pain and suffering and so putting them through it is just wrong. We had a kitty with a belly tumor about 9 years ago–I brought her home so we could have a solid day saying good-bye–kids home from school, mom home from work, but it’s true that the prognosis is poor, even with thousands of dollars. That was the best cat I ever had–I’ve loved others, but none like that. She was my first baby.

    I hope it is something they can cure, but if it’s not, I think you are being kind to not have her suffer. I also feel like I can be a little philosophical. I hate it when pets and old people die, but those deaths that are part of the life cycle prepare our kids for the biggies–the unexpected peers or parents they will at some point have to deal with. It’s a sad part of life, but it is STILL part of life.

    *hugs to you*

  18. Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty, Tart. I hope she is able to get better, and soon. The decision to euthanize a beloved pet is always so hard. All I have to say about that is that as long as the animal still seems to be enjoying life, I feel it is unkind to put them to sleep no matter what their ailments. I definitely believe it is kinder to euthanize than to let them suffer, however.

    Get well soon to Pepper, and my thoughts are with your family. *hugs*
    ~Lia

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