Do we need somebody to love? What role do pets play in our emotional lives? Read More
I lost my older cat this past week and I can appreciate this article. If , like me, you had to make a choice about euthanasia, then the "what-ifs" are unbearable. Did I wait too long? Did I do it too soon? Could I have done more to extend his healthy years?
So sorry for your loss too.
I believe completely in euthaniasia and am pleased I can make the choice not to prolong my beloved pet's suffering. It is a lot of responsibility to take on an animal, because I believe in so doing I commit myself to insuring its health, happiness and comfort. That awesome responsibility brings with it some self-questioning, doubt, maybe even a tinge of guilt. I based my decision on Jennifer's well-being, not my own happiness, as I'm sure you did with your cat.
I offer my sympathy and thank you for writing.
I lost my cat Wilfy on April 9th, 2013. He was being treated for inflammatory bowel disease. The prednisolone prescribed for IBD may have palliated a more serious condition–a meningioma that was asymptomatic until the end. Wilfy's paws began sliding out from under him the evening of Sunday, April 7th. Monday, April 8th, Wilfy couldn't--or wouldn't--stand up. I was referred by my vet to a neurologist, who ordered an MRI. Both the vet and the neurologist were shocked by the extent of the tumor. Half the skull. On Tuesday, Wilfy had gotten considerably worse. He was at risk of brain seizure, "and then he would really suffer," the neurologist said. I was given the choice of authorizing heroic measures that Wilfy would be unlikely to survive, or euthanasia. The neurologist suggested getting it over with as soon as possible. I could come, but I should come quickly. Wilfy probably would not recognize me at this point, I was told. Given the sense of urgency, I thought it was pointless to make Wilfy wait for me to hail a cab across town in the morning rush hour traffic. Perhaps on some level I understood how serious Wilf's condition was--the recurrent nightmares I had of losing him ceased the day he was euthanized. I doubt that I have ever experienced such grief. I had expected to see Wilfy again.
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You made a kind and loving choice -- avoiding real suffering for your Wilfy -- but at your own cost. My sympathies. Try to remember the good times, not the pain of loss.
What a lovely piece and tribute to Jennifer. In my experience, these unexpected deaths are so traumatic. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.
I just lost my 17 year old rat terrier, who had had dementia for the last two years. Even though I have three other dogs whom I love like life itself, I have the "leftover" Cricket love like you describe you have for Jennifer. For the past two years Cricket has needed extensive care, but aside from being loopy in the head and having weakness in her rear end, she was as healthy as a little horse and had a great appetite for food and life.
I carried her a lot, held her up while she eliminated, got her out of corners, helped her keep track of me, and started cutting her food with lots of water when the dementia caused her to forget how to drink.
My life is so much easier now, but like you, I would trade back in a heartbeat.
I hope it's OK to post my tribute. I really appreciated yours.
I never look at getting another critter when one dies as a REPLACEMENT--they are all too unique and special, and always will be in your heart, which nothing can REPLACE. However, life goes on, and SO MANY poor critters need a home, that never for a moment do I think I'll not continue to keep multiple animals! And amazing how the right one seems to come along just at the right time! I don't know if you read my comment on another columnist's article(Stanley Coren) on this blog, regarding a very comforting dream I had about my many dogs who have passed on over the years(and that includes MANY individuals, as I have kept a pack of 10 dogs or more at one time for decades now!)--but I'll repeat it here in the hope that it will comfort you and others. In the dream, I was wandering in a cold, frosty, Winter forest, looking for my many dogs who have passed away over the years. I was cloaked in a strange, misty grey blanket, that seemed made up more of fog or mist than of cloth, yet it was keeping me perfectly warm and comfortable. I continued calling and calling various dogs by name, when suddenly, the one I was calling appeared from the misty blanket, his eyes shining and tongue lolling happily, as if to say--"I've been here all along!" I called another, and the same thing happened! Then it was I realized, that the "misty blanket" was the spirits of all my dogs, all around me still, watching over me and keeping me comforted. And all I had to do to conjure them up again in my mind was to call their names. I woke up then with tears in my eyes, but SO comforted(then and now) by this amazing dream! Yeah--get you another cat, by all means!
Lane, thank you for recounting this story, which is indeed very comforting. I tend to feel that, as there are so many animals that need loving homes, those of us with time and space and extra love should take them on when possible. But I also want to be fair to any new pet, that it is not being asked to replace an old one but simply to be itself and be loved for that reason.
My dog is by FAR my best friend. He provides me with unconditional love. When I come home each night, it's like I've been gone for weeks, he is overjoyed in seeing me. While my wife and daughter hardly acknowledge my arrival.
He follows me from room to room and no matter where I sit, he wants to be in my lap.
Although he is extremely health and fit, being only 7. I'm already finding myself fearful for the day he leaves me. What a god send to have such a package of love for the years that I have left with him.
Dear Back of Beyond,
Don't let future loss ruin the love you share today. It is a precious gift.
I'm sorry for your loss, I know how hard that is. I always look at getting a new pet as a tribute to the one I've lost. Not a replacement but someone new to love who needs it, and because I always get rescue animals, someone who would die if people didn't adopt. To me this gives some meaning or purpose to the death of your pet -- maybe it was because you're supposed to go save another cat now who needs you. That's the way I look at it anyway.
I was in 7th grade when we adopted Willow. We had intended to get a kitten, but there was this beautiful orange stripey fellow who had been dropped off by his owners. In PA (at that time at least) adult pets surrendered by their owners were put down in 24 hours. We took him home to "test it out."
I've been on my own for a long time, and it was Willow and me making our way in the world. Through high school, college, first love, first job, Washington DC, 9/11, first apartment, hottest summer, coldest winter, moving to Seattle, grad school, crappy jobs, bad dates, broken bones (mine not his), cat fights (his not mine)...and on and on and on. When his thyroid went crazy, I rounded up >$1000 to have it irradiated and he recovered perfectly. When the tumors grew in his mandible to the point where he couldn't eat comfortably, I had him euthanized at the ripe old age of 19. I miss him every day. I still have dreams about him. And I know absolutely that all the pain I've felt in making the decision to euthanize was pain I saved him from experiencing. Family is what you build with the ones you love--and he was and is my family.
I have a lovely cat now, and a new adorable kitten. And I miss Willow all the time. And that's okay.
You have conveyed the depth and intensity of the relationship perfectly.Thank you for writing.
I know exactly how you all feel on the loss of a loved member of
the family. Maggie, our bordercollie/bl.lab mix went to heaven yesterday. She hadn't been herself for about a month. She just turned 10 yrs.old in May. She'd be right at the door when we opened it anytime and she loved going down to her "play-pen" to catch ball or play with her frisbee. She used to do circle 8s alot too and we would laugh so. She grew up with us at 7 weeks , through 2 weddings, snow trails every winter no matter how cold and she was gentle as can be with all people, especially my grandaughters. She had those beautiful full of life eyes that would melt any stranger coming to the door. And she never barked....only whined when she saw her dog neighbor, Dozer . I then would take her out to see him and they 'd romp and play. It is awful quiet here today. Too quiet, too empty and we miss her so deeply. Thank you for your stories and yes she was a great member of our family who loved us but who was loved. She was euthanized after they opended her up to remove a cancerous tumor that had badly spread. We didn't expect this. My vets pray over thier patients and I am grateful for them. All animals are gifts from God to us. Just wish it didn't hurt so much.
Dee, it sounds like you were incredibly lucky to have your Maggie & she you. What a special girl! And though it hurts so much, and will continue to, in time you will remember the love more than the loss.
Thanks for writing.
Thank you for your response. Your blog is very, very helpful.
I'm pretty late in writing here, but I just googled "Why does it hurt so much to lose a pet?" and I ended up here and read and felt like sharing my recent loss.
I just recently lost one of my five cats three days ago (September 3rd) so I know what you're going through.
Her name was Sakura and she was the perkiest, most mischievous cat there is. And a real mommy clinger too. We went to the vet on September 3rd and the vet examined her and she had extremely enlargened kidneys, white teeth gum, walked off edges because she couldn't tell where she was going so her brain was affected too. The vet said we could take blood samples and see what's wrong with her but me and my mom told her "There's no discussion about it, she's sick. Really sick. Why would we let her suffer anymore than she already is?" and so we put her to sleep and she passed away peacefully while looking at us.
We let the vet perform an autopsy on her to find out what was wrong with her. It turns out she had something called feline coronavirus, but what made her sick was feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) which is a usually fatal and incurable disease that affects cats and feline coronavirus can mutate into FIP.
It just hurts so much that it feels like my heart (and my mom's) is going to just shut down. What hurts the most is that she wasn't even old, she was just a mere two years and five months old. She hadn't even begun to live yet and it hurts to know that she could've lived for at least another 15 years.
And to make matters worse it's more than likely that all our cats have feline coronavirus, so we could lose more cats in the blink of an eye if the virus decides to mutate into FIP. The mom and dad who are are over 3 years old aren't in as much danger as Sakura's siblings but the danger is still there.
This loss is tearing us up and I'm not sure we could handle losing another cat anytime soon or we really might die from sorrow alone. So here's to hoping our cats are lucky and that the coronavirus doesn't mutate.
Here is Sakura with her father Toko in the background: http://i.imgur.com/UP0t2Jo.jpg
Sorry for the essay but I had to get it all off my chest.
Andrew,I am so sorry for your loss.I can't imagine how much this must hurt and knowing your other cats are in danger is terrible.Your Sakura was a beauty and a joy; that she should die so young is tragic. Thank you for sending her photo AND the "essay." It is important to voice your pain and loss.
I am not familiar with coronavirus, but can you have the other cats tested? Is there any treatment that would help keep them from getting FIP?
My deepest sympathies,
Thank you, Pat. It means a lot.
Unfortunately, all my other cats have the coronavirus aswell. However, they don't have FIP yet as this is what the coronavirus mutates into. There is no way to tell whether a cat has FIP or not until they start showing symptoms and treatment is symptomatic and palliative only since there is no cure for it. Symptoms are usually drowsiness, enlarged pupils, discolored teeth gum, loss of weight, other cats grow aggressive towards them (bite them etc to take their spot in the pack, Sakura's brother did this to her) or avoiding them, lower cognitive function (they walk off edges etc) among other things. It's still very hard to tell whether a cat has FIP or not despite all these symptoms. Our vet told us to weigh our cats at least once a week as weighing cats is the easiest way to tell if they have FIP or not.
Me and my mom discussed this and if it turns out more of our cats get FIP we'll put them to sleep immediately as we do not want them to suffer. Having them do symptomatic treatment would only be cruel to our beloved cats no matter how much we want to keep them around for a little bit longer. They deserve better than that.
All we can do is hope that the coronavirus doesn't mutate in Sakura's parents or siblings. The younger cats are the higher the risk that the virus mutates into FIP however, so the parents are not in as much danger as Sakura's siblings.
I'd like to share another picture that I found on my cellphone. This is Jet, Sakura and Mini (in order) a few days after they opened their eyes for the first time. http://i.imgur.com/W64IUDk.jpg
Oh Andrew, I am so sorry. I guess following the vet's advice and not allowing them to suffer is a good, if painful, path to follow. They were simply gorgeous as kittens! No wonder you love them so much.
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Pat Shipman, Ph.D., is a writer and paleoanthropologist who writes about science and evolution for non-scientists.
Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?