I’d always promised my sweet Siouxsie that if she needed help to leave her body, I would do that. I loved her too much to put my ego ahead of her dignity. But the reality of coming to that decision was pretty freaking brutal.
It all started about four months ago. I brought Siouxsie in to the vet because her arthritis was clearly getting more painful than it had been before. My awesome vet had left the practice to pursue her medical cannabis business, so I asked to see whoever was available. Little did I know at the time how important this vet would come to be in my and Siouxsie’s lives.
When Doctor E walked into the room, I explained Siouxsie’s situation. He gave her a gentle exam, speaking softly to her, and then he started explaining options for treatment.
I was stunned to find myself spilling my guts to this man I barely knew.
“I know she’s getting closer to the end,” I said, my eyes starting to water. “I’m not in denial. She’s almost 19 now, and I can see how she’s changed just over the last few months. But how soon is too soon? I don’t want to euthanize her if her pain is manageable and she still has a good quality of life.”
“You know Siouxsie better than anyone else,” he told me. “Try to trust your heart and your intuition.”
“There’s such a fine line,” I said. “One of my friends told me, ‘Better a week too soon than an hour too late,’ and I believe that. I was an hour too late with another cat and it broke my heart to see her suffering.”
As I wiped my eyes, Doctor E looked at me and said, “It’s always a difficult decision. I’ve been through this a few times with my own pets, and it’s not easy for me, either.”
Siouxsie and I went home with a prescription for buprenorphine, an opiate painkiller, to take to a local compounding pharmacy.
The buprenorphine gave Siouxsie a new lease on life. She was more mobile, having less trouble in the litter box, and was obviously happier. Once I got the chicken-flavored compounded liquid, she took her medicine with gusto.
Then one mid-April day, I noticed spots of blood and mucus on her back end. I figured she was constipated from the opiates because she was doing reasonably well otherwise — until one night when we were snuggled together in my bed. I rolled over and moved her, and she peed all over me.
I jumped out of bed and stripped the sheets and mattress pad before the urine could soak through while repeating, “It’s okay, Siouxsie, I’m not mad at you. I know you couldn’t help it.”
The next morning I called the vet and in we went for a checkup. Before the tech could leave the room to prepare for a cystocentesis to check for bacteria, Siouxsie peed all over the exam table. The tech grabbed a syringe and sucked up some of the urine: it was cloudy and bloody and full of mucus, and I felt like the worst pet mom ever.
Doctor E walked into the room. He mentioned a culture and sensitivity if they could collect enough urine to do one, possibly running blood work, and so on. “I honestly think the only thing the blood work will tell us is that she’s old and sick, and we already know that,” I said. I did give him the go-ahead to see if he could collect enough urine for the sensitivity test. He couldn’t.
Once again I found myself crying in the exam room. “I know we’re getting closer,” I said, “but I can’t be like, ‘Well, put her down; she’s got a UTI!’”
We agreed on a course of antibiotics, and they seemed to be having an effect. She was walking less painfully and she wasn’t having any accidents.
But then something incredible happened.
I’d fallen asleep in my chair and I half-awoke around 3 a.m. As I was getting ready to climb into bed, Siouxsie looked up at me from under the night table. I could almost hear her saying, “Mom, I’m tired. Please let me go.”
With tears in my eyes, I told her, “I hear you and I honor you. I’ll make the call tomorrow. I just ask that you do me one favor: Will you please come to me in a dream or something and let me know I heard you correctly?”
She snuggled up next to me, between my left arm and my torso just as she always did. After a little while I rolled over and started to move her back feet out from under my body … and she peed all over me.
I was laughing and sobbing as I changed the sheets.
Turns out I did know when it was “time.” With a little kick in the pants from my cat, that is.
On April 25, 2015, Siouxsie earned her wings, with some help from the incredibly kind and compassionate Doctor E. My good friend Carmen and I were with her as she drew her last breaths. She was just a week shy of her 19th birthday.
What about you? Did you know when it was time to let your cat go? Did they give you any kind of sign, or did you just know? Did you wait too long? Do you wonder if you waited long enough? Let’s talk in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.