It’s a nice sentiment, “You did all you could.” The more I hear it, the more I wish it were true.
Truth be told, I could’ve done so much more.
Way back at the end of October, when we switched houses and you stopped eating. That’s the first time I should’ve taken you to the vet. But I didn’t. There was always something else taking financial precedence, and I figured it was all mental. I figured as soon as you knew you were safe, just in a new house, you’d be back to eating like normal.
But I’d take any late fee, any overdraft, any increased interest rate to have taken you to the vet then. There’s nothing that should’ve taken any sort of precedence over you, and I’d take any of those umpteen times over to have known that then. I mean, fuck. They give cats Prozac. We could’ve nipped this in the bud. The first bud.
The second time I should’ve taken you to the vet was at the first sign of your cold, halfway through November, just before Thanksgiving. You were sneezing, you had gunk in your eyes, you were weak. You’d lost so. much. weight.
I should’ve thought to search for local low-cost vets sooner. It didn’t take any time to figure that out once I searched “local vet offices” and “local vet offices low cost” was the next suggested search. I should’ve thought to search for vet offices with Saturday hours sooner. Every doctor’s office I’ve encountered is open Saturdays, why not vets?
But I haven’t been able to make any sort of doctor’s appointment in an adequate amount of time in years. The anxiety with being on the phone, with asking for time off work, I just. I don’t know. I couldn’t. But I should’ve.
It shouldn’t have taken me two weeks to mentally prepare to do something that shouldn’t take five minutes. But it did.
And it was laughable how when I finally forced myself to find you help, it took less than 30 minutes to find someone less than 15 minutes away.
Almost two weeks after you’d started showing cold symptoms. And over a month since you’d cut down to “just barely” eating.
We met the doctor, got a diagnosis, got medicine, and got back home all for under $100. Under $100!
The medicine cleared up your sinuses, but you still wouldn’t eat.
Well, you kind of ate. You ate when I sat with you. You ate for me, it always seemed.
But the holidays were coming up. And I had to be gone every weekend it seemed. And I had to buy presents for people I haven’t seen in months. Presents I still have.
Still, you should’ve taken precedence. I know that now. Now that it’s too late.
Too late. What it was when I took you to the vet for another check-up. The time we found out your kidneys were so big, bigger than the vet had ever seen in a cat. The same time we found out you were in liver failure. When we found out any of about a million things could’ve caused it.
But I knew what caused it, even then. It was me, not wanting to see that you were hurting, sick. It was me, thinking you could stick it out a little longer because you were young and, once upon a time, headstrong and vibrant. But I made you fight harder than you should’ve had to because I didn’t want to face that I needed to fight harder for you too.
I fucked up and you were paying the price.
Diagnostically, it was most likely a bacterial infection. The vet gave you a rigorous amount of antibiotics and sent us home.
I was so sure that killed you. It didn’t seem like your little skin-and-bones body would be able to host a battleground. But you fought through the weekend. And on the last day of 2018, we found out your liver wasn’t shocked anymore and your kidneys were almost back to normal size. On the day I thought I’d have to put you down, I learned you were on the mend. I learned you were fighting to live, that the vet thought it was worth it to fight with you.
Beyond me agreeing with her, I owed it to you to show you that you were more than worth the fight.
They sent us home with more antibiotics and instructions for how to use a syringe to hydrate and feed you.
Before long, you were determined to walk. Even sooner after that, you were eating wet food. And before I knew it, dry food.
You were eating more daily than you had in two months.
You were getting down the hallway quicker than ever. You climbed the ramp of the cat tree to get up on a stool to look outside. You started jumping off more pieces of furniture than I would’ve liked when I left the room for too long, but you always walked it off.
And then, just like that, your old personality was back: you got more particular with your snuggles and you fought me when I gave you your medicine.
And then, also just like that, you stopped.
It took me a day to figure out you’d stopped eating. It shouldn’t have. It’s a new year, I have new sick time I could’ve used to stay with you to make sure you were getting better.
When I noticed you were eating less and less wet food, I could’ve made more of an effort to find you the ones I knew you really liked. Instead, I picked up what was convenient, even though I knew I’d have a harder time getting you to eat it.
But I told myself you were still eating dry food because you always preferred dry food, so the wet food didn’t matter as much. But it did. It’s all you were eating. And I thought since you’d moved on to wet and dry food, there was no need for me to continue eye-dropper-feeding you the nutrient-concentrated paste the vet gave us. I didn’t want to overwhelm you but you were starving to death. You needed some whelming. And I didn’t want to see that.
When I knew you weren’t eating, I started feeding you the nutrient paste solution with the eyedropper again. You hated it.
I made arrangements to take you to the vet in two days to see if there was something that required more medical intervention going on.
But then you died.
The second night of those two days. You died because I thought you could stick it out on just a couple syringes full of nutrient solution, once at 7:00 a.m. and again a few times after 6:00 p.m.
That night I should’ve come home immediately after therapy instead of going to drink over-priced Stellas and eat cold pretzels.
But it may be you chose that night because I wasn’t there. I don’t think you could leave peacefully if I was around. Even more of a reason for me to have stayed with you.
The last check-up we had with the vet, she told us it was 90% mental at this point. For days after, whenever I was home, I was by your side. I cheered you on every time you drank water on your own, stood on your own, walked on your own. Asked me for food. Pulled yourself up onto my chest. Climbed on the chair, the other chair, the stool.
The more you did, the more “you” you got, the more I started treating you like I once did: giving you space unless you asked for affection. I cheered you on but not as regularly. I gave you your space when you were eating. I let you sleep on your pillow on the floor instead of putting you on the bed next to me.
I worry you thought I was mentally checking out, that I wasn’t as invested in your fight as I was in the beginning.
Even if you were alive, I couldn’t communicate with you that was never the case. Couldn’t say that while you needed me more than ever, I callously interpreted what turned out to be your last uphill battle as aloofness.
You blindsided me. I thought we were moving back to normal. Now there’s never going to be that kind of normal again.
And for that, Minnie, I am so, so sorry.
I love you. Rest easy.