I Hate This….

I wrote a really nice post for today. It’s positive and uplifting and all about how I spent the weekend choosing grace over irritation in response to a pile of unexpected (and unwanted) situations. I’ll probably post that one on Thursday because in addition to my Pollyanna dribble, there’s some good stories on Gala, the coolest foster dog we’ve had in some time. (No offense to some of the other amazing dogs we’ve had – she’s just simply the ‘cool kid’ and we are totally enjoying her.)

I’m having trouble posting my intended post because since I finished it, I received some truly awful news. News that has my heart aching and my head distracted. (Fair warning: this is not a fun post; feel free to skip to Thursday.  That’ll be much more uplifting. Promise.)

My cat, Crash, has been out of sorts for a month or so. He’s lost a little weight, despite eating, and his normally pristine coat is not so pristine. More than that, he’s not catching nearly as many baby spring bunnies or assisting me in the garden or following me to the road to fetch the paper or even hissing much at the present foster dogs. I took him to the vet Saturday morning and yep, something wasn’t right.

His belly has fluid in it. My vet tapped it to get some of the fluid to send to a lab. He also took xrays, but the fluid made it hard to see. He told me that it might be cancer or it might be a horrible virus called FIP, which is untreatable and fatal.

So I spent the weekend trying not to think about it and when I did, I prayed my cat would have cancer. I never imagined sending up a prayer like that, but at least cancer is potentially treatable.

I love this cat. I picked him out at the SPCA about five years ago. At the time (although I suspect this is a regular occurrence) the SPCA was overloaded with 400+ cats and was offering a buy one, get one sale. I only wanted one cat, but it took me well over an hour to survey the options.

I couldn’t make up my mind and wandered aimlessly in front of the big glass windows where the cats were displayed – three or four to a cage. I paused in front of one window, not looking at the cats, but watching the technicians behind the cats who were treating an injured cat. As I stood there, eyes fixated behind the cages, a cat leapt at me forgetting that not only a cage, but a glass window separated us. He crashed into the side of his cage and fell to the floor, but then picked himself up and in true cat-style, walked away as if he’d meant to do a faceplant into the metal bars.

Our introduction wasn’t the only reason we named him Crash. When we brought him home, he proceeded to fall off ledges, completely miss his landings upon furniture and fences, and regularly knock over full glasses of water. He’d spent the first nine months of his life in a cage due to a respiratory virus and then ringworm, so he hadn’t quite figured out how to use his energy or his feet. When we brought him home he was a tiny tortoise-shell tabby with a big fluffy tail, but the next winter he grew a mammoth thick, long coat and spouted long fur from his ears. It became apparent that I hadn’t adopted a short-haired tabby, but a smallish Maine Coon.

Since that first year he’s become much more coordinated walking the fence line on top of the skinny rail and catching his weight in bunnies, birds, and rodents on a weekly basis. He is aggressive in his search for our affections, leaping into laps and onto chair arms, and he loves to squeeze himself into impossibly small spaces.

We all love Crash (except Hermoine, our other cat; she still treats him as the annoying younger brother he is).

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Once I was returning from a run and Crash was waiting for me at the bottom of our property. A truck was passing and for unexplained reasons, Crash darted out in front of the truck. The truck passed over him, without touching him. The driver slammed on his breaks and jumped out. “Did you see that raccoon?” he yelled to me.

Yesterday afternoon, my vet called to tell me that Crash does not have cancer. I’m possibly the first client he’s called to give that news to, who was disappointed. Because this leaves his diagnosis as FIP, a death sentence.

I asked, “What can we do?”

“Treat him like a king,” was his response. He did prescribe some prednisone to try to alleviate some of his symptoms, but the clock is now ticking and I’m faced with the decision I never wanted to make again. It’s the real reason I haven’t foster-failed. I hate this part of pet ownership. I don’t want to play God, and yet, I don’t want my pet to suffer. But how do you know?

“You’ll come to a point when quality of life makes it obvious,” said Chris.

I hate this. Can I say that again? I hate this. No one thinks about this when they adopt the adorable puppy or bring home the uncoordinated kitten. I’ve had to make this call on three cats, one dog, and two horses. It has never gotten easier. It has never hurt less. I don’t want to do this ever again.

Yes, it’s the part of the cost for the privilege of having these animals in our lives, but right now I’m ready to forego that privilege rather than wait for Crash to become so miserable I put him out of his misery. He can’t talk, so I don’t know if spending his days curled up on the futon watching me type is fulfilling. The Crash I know loved to be outside and has always more or less, lived outside. But I don’t want to leave him out there in his weakened state. I worry that a fox or another feral cat will get him. I worry he won’t move out of the way quick enough when one of my kids or the UPS guy comes zooming up our driveway.

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I don’t know how I’ll know it’s time. I suppose I have to trust that I will. But not yet. I’m not ready yet. Maybe what has to happen is that I have to reach the point where I’m suffering too much watching him suffer. Maybe that’s how you know it’s time.

All I can say is this really sucks. Not to discourage anyone from adopting a pet, but remember this possibility going in. It’s part of pet ownership. The only certainty is that someday you have to say goodbye. There’s no way around it.

Thanks for reading. I know this is a dog blog, but thanks for indulging me as it’s the cat that is on my heart today. If you’d like to see regular updates of foster dogs past and present, be sure to join the Another Good Dog facebook group, and if you’re interested in adopting one of my foster dogs, or one of many other amazing dogs available for adoption through OPH Rescue, click here.

(For more information on all my writing, books, and appearances, check out CaraWrites.com.)

Blessings,

Cara

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

19 thoughts on “I Hate This….”

  1. I am so sorry to hear this. I too had a beautiful, adopted kitten who had FIP. She was one of those “please take both cats, they’ve bonded”….well, I took both cats. Cindy Lou Who (I was told she was named by Greta Van Sustern) was a gorgeous lilac Siamese, and the absolutely perfect cat for me. I had her only a couple months before she had the symptoms that had me running to the vet. He told me she would have a very painful end of life. I couldn’t take that for this wonderful, playful, funny little thing. I had her put down, and I think the vet shared my pain. Her older, more established “sister” didn’t seem to miss her much, she had other friends in the house, but to this day (this was about 8 years ago) I miss her. You have been such a blessing to all your animals. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Cindy Lou Who is such a precious name! I’m hoping I won’t be too selfish and let him long enough to feel too much pain. My vet told me that right now he probably isn’t necessarily in pain, but he probably feels really crummy, like he has the flu. I think we’re pretty close as he only sleeps and has no interest in going back outside. Thanks for your kind words.

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  2. So sorry to hear about Crash! It is the part of owning a pet that is never easy …yet what a wonderful life you have given to him! I often think about my three hounds and pray that I will have the strength to make decisions when that time comes…it won’t be easy…God Bless as you walk these waters …

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  3. So sorry to hear about Crash! I have had the same agonizing decisions that plaqued me constantly and heavy thoughts similar to yours. It’s not easy. I had a cat who also had FIP. I adopted him as a stray and had many wonderful years with him. Your cat is beautiful.

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      1. Several years amazingly so and he would never come inside. I had an enclosed porch and he lived there. My vet told me, you’ll know when it’s time and I did. My vet said he belonged at one time to a farm owner on the other side of the highway about 3 miles away. At least she thought it was him. I was the only one who could pick him up and take him to the vet. His name was ziggy. He also lived through several FIP crises (Pneumonia) as he was fairly young and we treated him with antibiotics.

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  4. So sorry. We just had to put our 6 year old cat, Columbia, to sleep due to a fibrosarcoma. We knew back in August we would lose her, so we just did the best we could to allow her to have the remainder of her days as normal as possible. It truly does suck to have to make that decision, especially when you’re watching and wondering “Is it time yet? Please not just yet.” Prayers to you and your family.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words and so sorry about Columbia. I do hope Crash has a few more days, or at least makes it until my college age son comes home. The prednisone seems to be helping a little (or it’s having a placebo effect on me). Meanwhile, we are spoiling him as much as possible.

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  5. Oh Cara i am so sorry. I did not onow about FIP until reading this. I looked it up and read about it just now. Horrible there is nothing that can be done to cure a kitty that has this.
    The article I read said that giving sub Q fluids and antibiotics may help the kitty some. Here is part of the article:
    “Can FIP be treated?
    Unfortunately, there is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP at this time. Some treatments may induce short-term remissions in a small percentage of cats; however, FIP is a fatal disease. Treatment is generally aimed at supportive care, such as good nursing care and nutrition, and alleviating the inflammatory response of the disease. Cats with FIP are often treated with corticosteroids, cytotoxic drugs, and antibiotics. Supportive care may also include fluid therapy, draining accumulated fluids, and blood transfusions.”
    I called ‘Peaceful Pet Passages to put my kitty to sleep on my bed a coue years ago that needed to go. I cried and sang to him the entire time. The vet must be used to crying but not sure she liked my continuous singing (because i cannot sing)
    Hugs

    Research is ongoing to find other immunosuppressive drugs that may slow down the progress of the disease. Attempts are also being made to find antiviral drugs that will prevent or slow down the replication of the virus. One promising approach currently being studied combines both an antiviral agent and an immune response modifier.

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