When our kitten Holly was six months or so old we learned that she was horribly ill. She began walking with a wobbly rear end. University of Google said it was a neurological illness with the layman friendly name of Wobbly Cat Syndrome. That didn’t seem too bad. We have a kitten with special needs. Lucky she found us because we are a family filled with special needs. Need a little extra help with something? Line forms to the rear, Sweetie. We have jackets and a team song. Welcome to the club.
Time moved on and Holly started having trouble using the litter box. Annoying to be sure, but I have had toddlers in my life before; this isn’t fatal. Next we tried to get her de-sexed and the vet wouldn’t do the procedure because of the wobbling….could be something more serious, he said. Let’s get some history on her, he said. The vet then called the rescue when adopted her from and that’s when we learned the ugly truth. We now heard that all her littermates haddied from Feline Infectious Perionitus- known as FIP. Her brothers and sisters all died within a few weeks of birth. The foster mom didn’t want to worry me because Holly lived and seemed fine. She didn’t know that there are some cases of FIP that don’t just show until 6-9 months of age. She didn’t realise that the chances of a mother cat transmitting FIP to all but one kitten in utero is next to nil. A nice person, but she didn’t know.
Again University of Google was called on deck and I learned far more than I ever wanted to know about this wretched disease. The worst thing I learned was that it was fatal. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Fatal though, always fatal. Nothing left to do but watch, wait, and see what symptoms developed and treat them as they come until the end.
Being the mature responsible adult I am, I ignored this new development completely. A kitten dying in my house? Dying right in front of my children? Nope. My battle-weiry brain was putting up with none of this crap. Buried on the back burner underneath a pile of Life’s woes, the tidbit of horror was shelved. There it stayed because I simply was not going to deal with this.
Last month a tidal wave of calamitous events began. My son shattered his leg and we lived for a week in the hospital. Just as it looked like he was starting to recover we were hit again. My husband called me as I was next to my sons sick bed to tell me that Holly had fallen and that he was on his way to the vet. Since we were already dividing up duties, that meant my girls had to go along to the vet and hear every word about Holly, FIP and what kind of death was coming.
Ignoring the hot mess was abruptly removed from our list of options. Death was coming and it was coming quickly. It could be days or weeks now, but it was coming and we all knew it.
Death is not a pleasant house guest. Death is a rotton bastard that sits in the corner and eavesdrops on every conversation. He shadows every aspect of your life. Every time you try to plan ahead, Death is there laughing at you; loudly erasing your plans off the calendar. Death makes you angry. You see Death every damn day, hiding in every room you enter and you say horrible things that of course, you don’t mean. “Won’t you just die already! I have so much to do! I don’t have time to deal with this also!” Death then giggles when the guilt of saying those awful things eats you alive. Death agrees that you are a selfish, evil bastard.
Death doesn’t stay forever though. Death reaches the end and Death decide when enough is enough. Holly had another seizure, this leaving her unable to walk or hold her head up. She stopped eating and drinking. I signed my girls out of school early and along with my son we spent the afternoon with her. We carried her into the yard so she could smell flowers and tickle her nose with the grass. She got to hiss at Sasha one last time.
Death rode shotgun with me later in the day as I dove Holly to the vet. I held her wrapped up in a towel against my chest while Death jeered at me that I would cause an accident. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel her heartbeat against my chest as long as I could. Death sat next to me in the waiting room as an elderly couple with an annoying yip dog tried to talk to me about my poor sick puss. I was so rude. I told them she was sick and I snapped that I was there to put her down. They were nice people, just trying to make conversation, but Death was right there, tapping his watch. Reminding me that time was slipping away. I had no time to be polite.
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point Death seemed to be working with me, rather than against me. It must have been Death that helped me walk into the treatment room because my legs were shaking far too much to move under my own power. God knows I couldn’t carry Holly in by myself. In the treatment room though, this is where Death took over for me. I would never have stood by and watched someone inject a lethal dose of drug to stop the beating heart of an eight month old kitten. I couldn’t possibly have held her little frightened face, making sure the last thing she saw was my face telling her that the pain was stopping now and just how sorry I was. Death was there and he spirited her away right in front of my eyes.
Then it was over. The unwelcome guest and the special needs kitten were gone. The vet asked if I wanted a few minutes with her but I couldn’t see the point, Holly was gone. I left her with the blanket I carried her in. Simple minded me, I didn’t want her to be cold while laying on the stainless steel table. I’m rolling my eyes as I type this. I ran to car and sobbed stupidly as I drove home.
Death and Life go together. You can not have one without the other. Death is both feared and welcomed. I am glad this beautiful creature isn’t suffering anymore but a part of my soul died with her. Just a part though, the rest is still alive. That’s because now that Death is gone, his soul mate Life is back. Life is here, demanding that the laundry get done and that homework is completed. Life wants dinner made and movies watched. Life is throwing Monty cat and Damn Dog in my face, reminding me that they are still here. As I type this, Monty is lying on my arm, pawing at my face. He’s hungry and its breakfast time. Life goes on.