I had to put my cat Lucy to sleep this morning. She was only six years old.
She’s been kind of sick for the past month or so. We noticed that one of her pupils was significantly larger than the other, so took her to the vet to get it checked out. She was diagnosed with Horner’s Syndrome, which is a lesion on a nerve around the brain or spinal cord. It’s typically–from what I understand, given my complete lack of veterinary knowledge–caused by an injury of some kind, and goes away on its own.
Lucy was an indoor cat, so if she injured herself somehow, we never found out about it. She just started acting not herself one day. All of a sudden she was spending a lot of time hiding up on the top shelf of the linen closet (her favorite place to sleep), and losing weight.
But she was still eating and drinking, peeing and pooping, so we left her be.
Then, the other day, we realized that she was limping. I thought she’d burned one of her pads when she came out onto the balcony with me and stepped onto the hot metal floor during a 90-degree day.
But even after a few days, she wasn’t better. In fact, she’d gotten worse. She was limping more, and the pads on her back paws were swollen and purple.
So we took her back to the vet yesterday afternoon.
Lucy was so angry about being at the vet (and / or in so much pain) that she wouldn’t let anyone near her– including Mom and me. She hissed, growled, and bit. She was panting heavily– a clear sign of anxiety.
So the vet gave her a sedative so that he could calm her down enough to get a good look at her. But she fought the sedative fiercely, and didn’t really seem to mellow out at all.
Now’s a good time to mention that Lucy is not normally a volatile cat. I mean, she’s my pet, for one. Secondly, I spent a year babysitting a toddler who lives across the backyard, so I’d frequently bring her over to visit Lucy. And Lucy was so gentle with this child, it was amazing.
So even before shit started to get really scary (I’ll get to that in a second), I kept thinking, “This just isn’t right. This isn’t my cat.”
Lucy was given Cortisone to help with the swelling, and some other drug that would reverse the sedative (I’m not sure why reversing it was necessary before bringing her home; I now think that’s ultimately what killed her– but I’ll get to that in a bit, too). We put her back into her carrier to take her home, and she started bobbing her head around a lot– something else that just struck me as very unlike her. I spoke up about it, but no one else seemed concerned.
We got her home, and opened the carrier. She spilled out of it. Really, there’s no better way to describe it. She just spilled out of it. Stoned out of her mind on whatever the hell he gave her, she was completely unable to use her back legs, and just started flopping around like a seal.
It was so terrifying that we only had her home for a few minutes before calling the vet again, who told us to bring her back in right away.
She never came home.
By the time we got her back to the animal hospital, she was in “full-on panic mode,” as the vet put it. She was doing the seal dance and hyperventilating; it was obvious to us that she couldn’t feel the rear end of her body (remember, we brought her in because we were concerned about the pain she was experiencing in her back paws, and an hour later, she was dragging these hurt paws along the hard floor). The vet said that she was also hallucinating. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion, but whatever.
It was a train wreck.
It’s really scary to look into someone’s eyes and not recognize them. I felt that, leaving Lucy at the animal hospital (we were told to call back in a couple of hours time; the vet would give her a barbiturate–more drugs!–and keep an eye on her for a while).
My mom and I left and went to a nearby bar for a drink; it had been an emotional day. We were both afraid, given Lucy’s drug cocktail and anxiety, that she’d have a heart attack and die.
A couple of hours later, we called the vet to check in on her, and were told that it’d be best for Lucy to spend the night. So she did.
The next morning (today), we were woken up with a phone call from the vet. All drugs had been out of her system for a while, but Lucy still couldn’t use her back paws at all. She was paralyzed.
Given her young age, we didn’t want to totally give up. But after seeing Lucy in the state she was in yesterday, I knew I couldn’t let her go on living without use of her back legs.
So we gave the vet permission to run bloodwork and do x-rays.
And her bloodwork turned up all kinds of problems.
And so my dad and I drove back to the vet office to say goodbye. Lucy seemed her calm, sober self again, and she recognized us, which was tremendously comforting.
But not comforting enough to dim my anger over how she died. Or the fact that she had to die at all, for that matter.
I get that, given the results of her bloodwork, she had some underlying issues that hadn’t surfaced yet. But Jesus, she was six. SIX. That’s like 40 in cat years. Plus, to go from “My cat’s eye looks funny and she’s limping” to “We have to get her euthanized” in the matter of about 18 hours is just so hard to believe.
If I hadn’t seen her flopping around like a goddamn seal yesterday (I want this image to stick in your mind, because it was so utterly horrifying), I probably would not have been comfortable putting her down at all.
I really do think that whatever combination of drugs the vet gave her caused her to get that bad so quickly. And I’m pretty fucking pissed at him about that, especially as someone who avoids drugs unless they’re absolutely necessary (seriously, I pretty much only use ibuprofen when I’m on my period, and that’s it).
i don’t know. People who euthanize their animals should see it coming. I totally did not. Plus, I just feel guilty over not being around much during the last months of her life; I ran off to Washington May 9-June 16, and then spent time in Windsor and Royal Oak without her.
Since this entire entry has been about her death, I’ll say a couple of things about her life before I sign off:
1) A lot of people comment on how overtly sexual I am. I’m nothing compared to Lucy (and she was spayed). Seriously, she did this thing that I used to call the “crotch nap” where she had me trained to sleep with my legs spread open, so she could crawl up in there whenever she damn well pleased. She’d put her junk up against mine and fall asleep.
2) She used to walk around the house crying whenever she was alone. I know this because one time, my parents left the house, but I was upstairs. I heard Lucy crying through the house, so yelled “Lucy, I’m home!” She bolted up to me. I spread my legs open, inviting her in for a crotch nap.
3) She loved beer. We never gave her any, because that’d be unsafe, but anytime I finished a bottle of Oberon, she’d lick the rim for me.
4) Speaking of licking (let’s talk about her sexuality some more) she LOVED to give kisses. One time she spent so much time licking my nose that my dad finally told us to get a room.
She was so quirky and cool. I can’t even find a compelling way to end this entry, because my day has been spent feeling headachey and heartachey. And I don’t assume that’s going to go away anytime soon.
Rest in peace, my friend. I hope there are crotch naps and beer in kitty heaven.