Monday, July 26, 2010

It's very sad around here.

We just got back from our family vacation in Hilton Head, and what I wanted to be doing was posting pictures and gushing about how fun it was. But I just don't feel up to it. My sixteen-year-old cat, Koty, died while we were away. Alone. In the basement.

I know it's a bit self-indulgent to grieve so greatly for an animal when the blogosphere is full of people dealing with losses so significant and terrible that mine pales in comparison. But I am just so wrecked I have to write about it.

It's not so much that she's gone. She was sixteen years old, and her last year was full of health problems. She developed a mammary tumor in November that constantly opened up into a bleeding wound. Due to her age, we weren't sure if we should spend $1000 to fix her, as she wasn't in any pain and still ate like a horse. But she had to remain in the basement of my parents' house to keep from bleeding everywhere. Eventually, the thought of her living out her days in the basement was just too awful. So in May we sprang for the surgery. The vet almost didn't do it, because her blood tests revealed that she was in kidney failure, relatively common for older cats, but in the end the pros outweighed the risks.

She made it through, and David and I took her back to our house. For two months she lived there with the roam of the house, on our laps every night while we watched television. But she wasn't entirely well. Not in pain, but vomiting and urinating all over the house. Exceptionally gross.

Two weeks ago we moved back in with my parents in preparation for our departure to Scotland, and Koty had to go back to the basement. I was so busy and preoccupied that I basically only saw her when I fed her twice a day. She barely moved from the same spot in the corner of my Dad's office those two weeks. But she was still eating like a horse, and seemed perfectly fine.

When it was time to go, we couldn't find anyone to come and take care of her. Finally our housekeeper agreed to come on Wednesday and Thursday, but as we were leaving on Friday, that would mean she was alone for four days. We have an automatic feeder with hard food and an automatic waterer, so foodwise she would be fine, and she'd been alone for three days before. I felt bad, but honestly I was just so busy and stressed that I didn't think about it much. It never occurred to me that what happened would ever happen.

On Thursday, the housekeeper called to say that Koty hadn't eaten any of the food she'd put out the day before, hadn't used the bathroom, and appeared very sick. We were all worried, and thought about calling someone, but weren't sure what to do. The craziest thing, what I feel so so awful about, is that we did nothing. I'm not sure why. I must have been in some serious denial. She's gone through periods of not eating before, but she's a resilient cat and I guess I just never thought she could be that sick. We would be home in two days, and then I would take care of her.

Only when we got home it was too late. We found her lying in the same spot in my Dad's basement office, eyes closed, cold and stiff. This was, no joke, one of the worst moments of my life. Finding my faithful, loving cat, whose favorite place in the world was on my lap, dead on the floor--where she'd spent her last week of life alone and sick, abandoned and helpless while we played on the beach--just kills me with guilt and shame.

I have no doubt that she died because of me. I know that if she were a healthy cat, obviously she would have been fine. But I didn't realize how sick she was, and without the wet food that she loved her kidneys probably shut down and she died of dehydration. I've heard that this isn't agony, more like a hangover that you spend a lot of time sleeping off, that she probably slipped into a coma and died peacefully. But I just picture her hurting and wondering why no one was coming for her. I honestly don't know how to get over my part in her horrible death. She deserved so much better.

If you've read this all the way to the end, I appreciate it. I haven't been able to sleep and have barely eaten since we found her. I know she was just a cat, but animals have such innocence that their suffering is all the more horrific. Anyway, I hope one day I can forgive myself. But for now, wow, that day seems far off.


Annje said...

I am so sorry to hear about your cat. Lots of kinds of grief can exist side by side in the blogosphere, so don't worry about that. I am sorry you feel so responsible, I am sure you are not.

*~(boom)~* said...

Oh my... :(

I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. I completely understand the sheer amount of grief that can be caused by the loss of an animal family member.

Your cat was clearly well loved. I know there is no use in telling you not to beat yourself up over it, so...just...hang in there. *hug*

Marie-Ève said...

I'm so sorry... :-( This is awful... Sending hugs. Please don't be too hard on yourself, it looks like she went in peace and, well, she was 16... But I totally know how you feel.

Years ago right after my divorce when I was lonely and sad I basically found a month-old kitten on the street. His mother had abandoned him and cut all his whiskers off so he wouldn't find his way back or something. He was so tiny he couldn't feed on his own... I fell head over heels for him, and took him home, obviously. Before I had LP he was my baby, he had the personality of a dog and could do no harm in my opinion (even when he brought huge disgusting birds inside or broke my dishes by dropping them on the floor, things like that). One day I took him to the vet because he got into a fight with the neighbor's cat and she told me he had a severe heart condition. That's probably why his mother abandoned him actually, because he was doomed from the start. She told me one day he would just go like that without a warning.

He still lived another year after that I think, and one morning when LP was 3 months old it happened exactly like she told me it would. One minute I gave him his breakfast, he was hungry and excited, then I took LP to his room to change his diaper, and when I came back to the kitchen he was lying on the floor and I already knew there was nothing I could do. I called Martin at work so he could come back and take care of it, I just couldn't. I spent several days being completely hysterical and really sad. I still miss him a lot. :-( The feelings we develop for animals are very real.

Jessica said...

I'm so sorry about Koty. I cant believe she was 16! I remember when she was a little one! These moments are so, so hard. Family animals are so much more than pets... they are, themselves, family. But it is not your fault. Even if you wont believe it right now. There is nothing you could have done any differently. And she knew you loved her.

agirl said...

I'm so sorry. And I know how it is to beat yourself up about these things - I have a long story about a dog we had when I was younger, that ends in a week of tears, and ongoing regret that her last moments weren't better managed.

The key thing is though, Koty was old and ill. It's not your fault she died - it was inevitable. The grief is terrible enough without the guilt as well.

Wendy said...

I am so very sorry. And don't for a second feel like your grief isn't real or valid. She was your friend for years. You have a right to mourn her.

My mother always felt bad because she didn't stay with our first cat, Candy, when she was put down by the vet. She has felt guilty about it since then. These little creatures are in our care and we do our best to be there for them (and you did your BEST too). When we lose them it can be devastating and we feel responsible. You loved that kitty. You did your best. She was sick. I'm so very sorry.

Trista said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. The loss of a pet is so devastating - I don't think you are being self-indulgent to grieve for a creature that has been part of your life for years.
As to the guilt, as the owner of two cats I can say that we've left our cats on their own (with adequate food & water) for a few days at a time when we've gone out of town and couldn't find someone to take care of them. I think we all do it - and we assume they'll be fine. It's pointless to tell you not to beat yourself up...but we've all made decisions like this, assuming that the worst will absolutely not happen. Your kitty lived a long life and was well-loved, and she passed in a spot she had obviously claimed as her own. I hope you can find some peace.

mrs.notouching said...

We have a cat we love dearly and I can almost imagine your pain... Sending you my love.