Today was about heartbreak, and a little bit of healing as well.
I had to tell one of my clients that his cat, who seemed fine a week ago, is in the advanced stages of kidney failure. Kidney failure is rarely detected in cat until it is advanced…cats are experts (even geniuses) at hiding illnesses. We’ll be doing all we can for her the next few days to see if we can stabilize her, buy some more time, but we are all heartbroken.
This was how the very first cat I had as an adult passed away. I knew a lot less about cats then than I do now. But Cody was the cat-love of my life. He picked me out at the shelter in Berkeley some twenty years ago. All the other cats backed up to the back of their cages, and Cody pushed his head as close to my hand as he could manage, and that was that. I have only one picture of him, an ancient one that I’ve scanned.
Cody was only 12 when he was diagnosed, and he was so far along that nothing helped. The vets gave him fluids for days, and tried to get him to eat, but to no avail. Devastated, I had him put to sleep, and buried him in the back yard under a butterfly bush bought to mark his grave.
But I always wondered if I put him down too soon. Always felt a little guilty. What I realized today is that I did not make a wrong choice those many years ago. His body was filled with toxins that the kidneys couldn’t get rid of. He was so nauseous from the toxins that he ate nothing for many days, and kitties who do not eat develop hepatic lipidosis, a liver disease. The only cure for the liver problem is eating, something a kidney patient won’t do. Because we couldn’t clear Cody’s body of toxins, even a little bit, he was suffering, and his misery was only going to increase, and quickly. Letting him go that day was the humane thing to do, and I am a little healed to realize that I did not make a hasty or convenient decision.
We have another cat of our own now who has kidney failure – Thomas. But his was discovered very early quite by accident, and so we have been able to keep him stable at a low level of disease for two years now. That will change at some point, but I can wait.
In the meantime, I’ll do all I can for my client’s kitty, and give her as much love and food as she’ll take over the next days, along with lots of sub-q fluids (she’s not going to love me for that) and will keep all my fingers and toes crossed that we can buy her some more days. We’re not ready for her to go yet.