One month without Yellow, my calico cat
One month ago today, on December 26, 2022, at 13.26, I helped my lovely calico Yellow cross the Rainbow Bridge, at seven years of age, after a five month battle with a silent killer: PKD.
I continue to not be able to stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks, as I remember Yellow and her last day. I miss her much, and I know she is never going to come back to this plane of existence, but I continue to look around, as if she would suddenly jump and say “I am here, I was just hiding”, as she would do before, disappearing in some remote corner of the house to appear when she felt isolation had been long enough.
Yes, cats do find hiding places that I believe they call their den even in a normal apartment. As we usually have card boxes around because we are always receiving lots of stuff through mail, Luna, my younger son’s cat, and especially Yellow always found places to hide. Yellow even liked to hide in a wardrobe (any wardrobe in fact), something my wife hated and I enjoyed. As Yellow would sleep over my clothes, it was tolerated, although it was a secret between me and Yellow.
Remembering all those moments helps me through these days. This holiday period was never one I enjoyed much, having lost family members through accident or suicide around these dates, and now I’ve another date associated with death to add to my calendar: the day I put Yellow to rest. It’s a moment and a decision that I keep rethinking in my mind, with both guilt and sadness.
I know, deep down, that there was no other right thing to do: although we had been to the vet on the 22 and were preparing for a whole new week of battle for Yellow’s survival, it was clear to me on the days after that Yellow was near her limit and she did not want — or have the strength — to fight anymore. Deciding about euthanasia is not easy, even if you believe it’s the right path ahead. I know this from past experiences with Little One and Blimunda, my previous cat companions, but it was different then: Little One, Yellow’s little sister, came to us, on September 2015, so ill there was not much that could be done and when she collapsed by my side, on November that year, helping her pass the Rainbow Bridge was the only humane thing we could do. Blimunda, a black female cat that lived with us and for a long period with my mother, had had a long calming life and when she became so ill she could not move around we decided it was best for her to rest.
PKD was growing inside her
Yellow was different. Nothing suggested that PKD was growing inside her. When in August it was detected, after I felt she had changed her behavior, was more afraid and apparently nervous, and the kidney scans revealed she had a death sentence pending over her head, vets told me she had about “two weeks” left. Early September, when she still looked very much like the cat I always knew, I believed that we could make it through and give her some good time. In my ignorance about the disease I imagined that with medication and her willingness to eat we would be able to keep her alive a while more. After all she was a seven year old cat…
Looking for help I found a website online that is credible, and a Facebook group, things that make us believe there is, after all, something good about social media. The website is Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide To Feline Chronic Kidney Disease and the Facebook group is Feline Chronic Kidney Disease, a group founded by Nancy Wizner in 2014, after losing her cat Stashia Louise. If you’ve a cat with kidney problems and need some information and help, check those two links.
The Facebook group Feline Chronic Kidney Disease helped me through some of the decisions I made in recent months and also revealed to me how kidney disease is responsible for so many feline deaths, day after day. It’s prevalent in older cats but it cuts across all ages and does not spare even younger ones, some younger than Yellow. Reading through the posts and comments one understands that one is not alone and that all around the world many people are caring for their companions and suffering when they leave. And this is just a group from many you’ll find in social media.
Despite looking for help from different vets, the verdict was not good. I tried everything possible, from different foods — even imported from abroad as some brands can not be found here in Portugal — to all the meds we could find — and some Amazon stuff that does not do miracles as suggested…. Yellow was on cerenia, mirtazapine, pronefra, sub-Q fluids and we even tried some vitamins, but she was getting thinner by the day and would not eat despite all the efforts and rotating foods.
Last October she still looked OK, although she was thinner, but the weeks through November it was clear we were going to lose the battle earlier than I hoped. The nurse vet that willingly came here home to give Yellow sub-Q and injectable cerenia was finding it hard to give her the fluids as there was no more skin to poke. Some days Yellow would seem to want to eat and we lived in the illusion that she would wake up one morning and decide to eat more and fight.
Despite losing weight and not eating enough, she was going round her usual ways, searching for places to sleep under the Sun, going to the sandbox on her own and wanting to sleep on my lap or besides me on the sofa, or laying on my chest looking at me, either on top of the bed or on the floor. On the 22 of December, though, she peed out of the sandbox and acted strangely, going in and out of the box multiple times, apparently trying to poo.
Worried, we rushed to the vet where they helped her clean her bowel and gave a med to help her if needed. It was then decided to go ahead and try to give her more fluids, starting on the week after Christmas. On the 23rd of December Yellow was mostly normal, but I saw that she was laying down after walking a couple of meters and just staying there. Then she would stand up again and walk to lay down once more. December 24, as my wife and younger son went for a large family dinner, I decided to stay home with Yellow — would not even dream of letting her alone — and it was clear to me that we were on the last stretch of our journey together on this side of the portal.
That night, I laid on the floor, helped her to climb on my chest and we stood there, “talking” to each other. Yellow always had an extensive vocabulary of sounds she used with me and although she was not able to meow as before, her eyes and meows were clear: she was ready to go. I wasn’t, I don’t think we ever are, but I had to agree that we had reached a point where it made no sense to try, and we “talked” about what was going to happen. She needed to rest. December 25th was spent preparing for what I knew was going to be painful. But no preparation helps for saying goodbye to a friend you cherish so much.
On the morning of December 26 my older son and his wife arrived, my younger son picked his girlfriend and with my wife driving the second car — and my younger son driving the first as I was in no condition to drive — we went to the veterinarian. Yellow, as always when out, was alert, looking around with those big eyes of a cat that seems always curious about the world. Looking at her face one would say there was no reason for this trip and for what was going to happen. My wife was troubled with how much alive Yellow looked. This makes it even more painful to take a decision at moments like this. But I knew this was just a fleeting moment.
I’ve to thank the professionals at the veterinarian who helped us through this difficult moment. They made everything smooth, and we had time to say our goodbyes. Yellow fell asleep with my arms around her at 13.26 on December 26, 2022. I looked into her open eyes and I believe my face was the last thing she saw before starting the voyage across the Rainbow Bridge. I will never forget that moment, the pain I felt, the emptiness that still lingers around me.
I keep revisiting all those moments and asking myself the eternal question: was it too soon was it too late, did I do the right thing? Having to take a decision like this is never going to be easy and is something that will haunt you for a long time, probably the rest of your life. Having the power to terminate a life comes with responsibility and guilt is something that always crosses one’s mind.
I don’t know if I did the right thing, I know everybody told me I would know when the time was in, and I felt the time was in, even if part of me said “let’s keep trying”. There was no more trying to do, the other half of me says, but one thing is true: Yellow is no longer here, at least not in the material shape I loved to have around. But this morning was I woke up, in a dull grey day, a shaft of sunlight entered through the window and created a bright spot on the chair where Yellow spent many of her last days with us. Maybe it was a sign of her presence, I want to believe so, as friends tell me she will be around and visit me in different ways. Maybe, maybe, but I know I want to feel her presence, anyway possible, until we, one day meet again.
Luna, our other cat, jumps from third floor
Those feelings of emptiness are mixed with the urgency of real life. This afternoon, one month after we said goodbye to Yellow, we’re going to the vet with Luna, my younger son cat, to change her bandage. Believe it or not, one week after Yellow died, and close to the same hour we said goodbye, Luna jumped from the third floor stairs at the apartment where we live, and almost died. We run to the urgency with her, blood coming from her mouth and lots of desperate meows, to find out she had a concussion and, after examination and X-rays, phalangeal bones broken on her left paw.
Surgery was needed to realign the bones in Luna’s paw, and small screws or wires were used to stabilize the fracture, and she had been using a splint for immobilization since the surgical procedure. Prognostic is good and she will have to use the splint and bandage a couple more weeks. But it’s never an easy process, and because Luna gets nervous and wild during vet visits sedation is needed for each change of bandage. Seeing her laying on the vet’s table sedated brings me, always, the memory of Yellow. But Luna — a cat that now looks like a pirate jumping around on a wooden leg — needs all our attention. She deserves it.