The last week has been agony; yesterday there was a kind of relief, but a very painful relief. Things have been difficult since the beginning of November when I took Sasha to the local vet and he uttered those fateful words “it’s a cancerous tumour”. At this point I still felt hopeful, not so long ago I was in that same room, with the same people, my neighbour K, the vet, the veterinary nurse but with K’s cat Cailin who only about 20 minutes earlier I found on the pavement unable to move. Even when I saw Cailin’s x-rays I still felt hopeful for her, I couldn’t imagine life for K without her faithful Burmese cat. After a short discussion the vet pointed out that with her internal injuries they couldn’t do anything for her. Now it was my turn to be delivered bad news. We were referred to the PDSA and the only alternative they could offer was in palliative care to keep her comfortable until either she died naturally or we felt that she was in pain.
A few days before Christmas, another lump appeared which rapidly grew over a couple of days and burst like the abscess that she had earlier in the year. She was given more antibiotics, steroids and painkiller. We were constantly cleaning her up, and bathing her wound. This week was however the worst for her, eating became very difficult, the last couple of days she was virtually spoon fed, she had a full bath (which cats normally never need), well put in the empty bath, massaged with cat shampoo and rinsed clean and massaged with a towel in front of the fire. Not long after doing this she would put her face in her food bowl thus covering her face in food, dribble and then scratch the scab off her wound. Back to square one. We had rolls of toilet paper dotted around the house ready to try and wipe her face and catch the dribble. Over the last week I’m sure that as well as Sasha we gave off a funny smell, cat food mixed with Savlon. From Tuesday onwards we tried every day to get in touch with the PDSA to bring her appointment forward. It was a hard decision to come to, to end an animal’s life, a cat who to us was very much a family member; she was in essence a surrogate child, I am certainly guilty of talking to her like a baby. Thursday night was awful, I didn’t sleep a wink, and we waited in the waiting room at the PDSA, the time that we had left with her visibly slipping away likes the sand in an egg timer. I think she knew it was time, she didn’t struggle, and it was my first experience of death face on.
The house seems very empty now. Her bowls and food mat have been washed for the last time. Even though her physical being is still with us, on the kitchen table in her carrier waiting for us to find the right time to bury her. I still expect to hear the patter of paws behind me and “maow” demanding something or other.
This of course has had a physical effect on me; my tics have been worse, neck cracking and piggy grunting being the worst. Unfortunately the Habit Reversal training that I had been doing has gone to pot somewhat and I dread to think what state my scalp is in as I have been hair-puling quite a bit, but I do know from experience I do tend to suffer the effects of stress more after the event than during. With regards to losing a pet, I know I’m not alone, a friend found it particularly difficult when her Jack Russell died; he wasn’t cremated until a month after his death. The same friend has a glass cabinet with the ashes of the various dogs and cats she has shared her life with.
There is something about cats though, you earn their respect, they often chose their human (owner doesn’t quite define the cat/human relationship) my Mamgu was followed for around 15 years by George’s cat, a large ginger tom who slipped in through an open door and made himself at home in front of her rayburn. A couple of days after he had moved himself in, Mamgu’s neighbour George popped in for a cuppa and a chat and exclaimed “There he is, he’s quite happy there isn’t he”. He’d been returned back to George’s farm a number of times, each time he returned, with a mouse for Mamgu (good boy, that’s what farm cats are employed to do) meowing to be let in. She gave in, and the name “George’s cat” stuck, rather like the 80’s kid’s TV programme “Henry’s Cat”.