We went to a rescue called Angel's Wish, which fosters cats of all ages, needs, and types in homes with people rather than in a shelter. The foster families bring the cats into the adoption center every weekend day until they get adopted.
I'd decided that I wanted kittens, having had a bad experience adopting an adult dog that we never did get one hundred percent house-trained (who also had HORRIBLE anxiety). I had my eye on a pair of orange kittens, a brother and a sister.
Tayla and Tike.
That's what the foster family named them.
They were about the same size, and when we took them into a visiting room, they were SUPER friendly and playful; the kids were squealing with delight as they leapt at cat toys wiggled in front of them and wrestled with each other. We checked out a few other kittens, but none were the friendly little Tayla and Tike.
(Not them, but they looked like this!)
By the next week, I had a request in to adopt these kitties. After promising I would clean their litter boxes for their whole lives. Yep, I had to make that promise. I only get a day off if I'm away for work.
September 3, we brought home our little bundles of joy, thought to be five months old.
A few days later, each kid had named one. My son named the boy Patrick (after Patrick Star of SpongeBob SquarePants fame) and my daughter named the girl Lulu.
They chased each other, wrestled each other, enjoyed playing with cat dancers, and were a joy to behold.
Within a week or two, I noticed a drop of blood on our antique settee in the basement.
"Someone probably clawed the other when they were wrestling," I thought.
We carried on.
Then I saw a drop of blood in the litter box.
"Hm, weird. Maybe just the same issue as before."
We carried on.
I started to see blood here and there, but kept explaining it away.
I didn't take them to the vet until finally one day in November, I found bloody diarrhea ALL over the three season porch depicted above (hidden behind the couches). It was super disgusting and very worrisome.
So I made a vet appointment.
I took both kitties in at the same time.
Lulu and Patrick had been about the same size when we got them, but now she was 7 lb 3 oz and he was 11 lb 8 oz. The vet felt Lulu was an appropriate size for her age and Patrick was very large. So that wasn't too concerning. The vet did note that Lulu had blood in her stool (she pooped in her carrier on the way to the vet) and ran a test for worms, as she had been de-wormed twice with the rescue; maybe she had worms that still hadn't resolved.
There were no worms in her stool.
The vet prescribed antibiotics. I chose to take the pills because they were less expensive than having a compounding pharmacy make up liquid antibiotics. I also took a sample of sensitive stomach food, because sometimes blood in the stool of a young cat can signal a food allergy/intolerance.
The antibiotics went over like a wet fart with Lulu, though she did eat the new food. She fought me tooth and nail and would hold them in the back of her throat until she could get away from me and then cough them out. A week later, I was asking for a prescription through a compounding pharmacy.
Because Lulu was still pooping blood. In the bathtub. Up to six or more times per day. Sometimes also on the carpet in the dining room or living room. I have since learned that cats do not like to make messes like this; they are meticulous. The fact that she was doing this was not only distressing to us, but probably even more distressing to her.
The vet agreed to call in the liquid antibiotic and I made a special trip in the dark to pick it up after work and after I'd picked the kids up from school.
She hated that antibiotic, too, even though we'd thoughtfully had it flavored with "fish" flavor. But she did take it. The pharmacist said she should not be pooping blood in two to three days on the antibiotic, if it were to help.
Six days later, I was still cleaning up bloody stool three to four times a day, from various parts of my house.
I called the vet again and told her it wasn't working and that the sensitive stomach food seemed to have made no difference, either.
I took Lulu back to the vet, where it appeared she had lost a few ounces of weight over the past two weeks and I was advised of several options to test her blood, her GI tract, or for parasites. The GI panel might give us information, but we wouldn't do anything other than keep trying to change the food to firm up the stools. The parasite panel would tell us if she had either a treatable parasite (that cost $5 to treat) or one of two untreatable parasites. The blood and metabolic panel would tell us her blood counts and organ function, suggesting whether she might have something like leukemia or another illness.
I didn't know what to choose to do, so the vet suggested starting with the blood and metabolic panel, because it might give us information we could use to DO something. She also prescribed high fiber food, probiotics, and a de-wormer that would kill the one treatable parasite from the parasite panel, feeling it was reasonable to just treat for parasites again in case that was the problem. She said the antibiotic should have helped by now if it was going to help, so she let me skip the last day of dosing.
We went home and continued to clean up bloody stool and fight about taking medications.
She did like the new food, though I noticed she was eating perhaps half of her 1/3 of a cup of food at a time. It took her a long time to eat the whole 1/3 of a cup, if she even did at all. She was drinking. Patrick was after her probiotics like white on rice; he tore apart the box twice, scattering the packets everywhere, before we finally put them in the refrigerator to keep them away from him. The vet DID say they were tasty to cats...
The blood was taken for testing on December 7.
December 9, I got a call from the vet.
She told me that all the lab values were normal, except for highly elevated globulins. These help mediate the immune system, and, when elevated, suggest illness.
But she thought it was an illness called FIP. Which is fatal and untreatable.
I found out later there is no test that can definitively confirm FIP, but if beta globulins are high, as evidenced by electropheresis (another test they can do), it's highly likely that is the problem.
Stunned, I thanked the vet for the information and my head started spinning. It spun all day Friday. I didn't know what to do with this new information. I had asked what we would do regardless and the vet felt that really the only thing we could do for Lulu was continue to try to find a food that agreed with her and firmed up her stool. She didn't think information from the GI panel would change her treatment and didn't think the parasite testing would be that helpful because it could only potentially confirm an incurable parasite. We could do the electropheresis for another fee, but that would only allow us to feel confident Lulu had FIP. Not change anything we would or could do for her.
I had my hospice hat on by that time. You can see that, right?
I called the vet back after talking to several knowledgeable and animal loving friends.
"I want you to be brutally honest with me. I am an oncology social worker and a former hospice social worker and am not afraid to have a tough discussion," I told the vet.
She said she thought we could get more clarity with additional testing, but confirmed the actual treatment or likely outcomes probably wouldn't change with the information.
On the verge of tears, quietly, I asked, "am I a horrible person if I am considering euthanasia?"
Matching my tone, she quietly answered, "no, I think in this situation, given all she and you are going through, it's a reasonable option."
I asked about the process for euthanasia and she told me how it worked and that regardless of my choice, she would check in with me on Monday.
Over the weekend, it seemed like the stool was more formed. I kept trying to talk myself into Lulu getting better, somehow. I felt guilty for having been resentful of having to clean up bloody poop every time I wanted to take a shower or bathe my children. As my husband put it, I was in denial.
Everyone around me told me it was reasonable to euthanize this cat.
This EIGHT MONTH OLD cat. So young by any standard (other than that of perhaps an insect, who only lives a day, week, month...).
How can I kill an eight month old cat?
My dear friend from forever told me it was cruel NOT to help her die in a comfortable way. My husband reassured me it was a viable, even good choice for the cat AND us.
I woke up December 12, Monday morning, to two bloody stools by my bed. I cleaned them up, but this time with no resentment. Because I finally decided it must be pretty bad if she can't make it to her litter box when she could until November, and that she didn't want to be doing this.
I went to a therapy appointment I had scheduled but had almost canceled for "nothing to talk about" because now I definitely had something to talk about.
My therapist asked me how much suffering I would need to see before I decided it was enough for both the cat and the family. She felt I already had an answer about what to do and wished me well with my decision.
I left the therapy appointment, drove home, and called the vet, asking for a euthanasia appointment. I hung up, and immediately felt sick to my stomach. I called and left a message for my husband, telling him what I'd done and asking for reassurance that it was the right choice.
I walked into the house and down into the basement room (we have a finished room down there with couches and carpet), where I'd been sequestering both cats together, so Lulu would be able to make it to her litter box. And she had been making it.
But it's no life to live without natural light just so you can get to a litter box. Even if you do have your brother with you and an overhead light.
She was lying on the couch, where she had taken up residence over the past week or so. I realized she had not been playful for quite some time. At eight months old, you'd expect a cat still to be playful.
Unless they were really super sick.
Lulu was really super sick.
With a lump in my throat, I sat next to her on the couch, petting her, telling her I was sorry.
I got out her cat carrier, put it in the middle of the room, and resumed sitting with her on the couch.
Finally, the time came to make my way to the vet.
As with the last two times to the vet, she cried, pooped blood in her carrier, and vomited on the way. It was horrible and sad.
I entered the vet's office with a heavy-hearted, dragging-my-feet feeling and announced my presence.
The vet assistant came to me and took us back to a room. As with the last vet visit, Lulu didn't even try to groom the blood and stool out of her soft, beautiful fur.
"She's really really sick," I had to keep reminding myself.
The vet came in, and "just for curiosity's sake" took her temperature, which was normal. Her weight was about what it had been four days prior. The vet reiterated that likely this would not get better and likely it was FIP, which is rare and something she only sees about once or twice a year. She agreed with my decision and supported it.
She lifted Lulu to the exam table, laden with a brown fuzzy blanket. She put in a sedative and then left me with Lulu, petting her, whispering I was sorry over and over and over again.
A few minutes after receiving the sedative, Lulu panicked, afraid of what she was feeling, losing control and not knowing why. She tried to jump off the table, but flopped to the side as she tried to jump; it was so distressing to watch I burst into tears and cried until the vet came back into the room. I was able to get Lulu into a more comfortable position and keep petting her, but her claws were still dug into the blanket, arms out in front of her, as though she was gripping for life.
Oh God. Please forgive me for doing this.
Lulu's eyes never closed, but they became distant.
The vet came in and cheerfully noted that Lulu looked "nice and relaxed." I had to sign paperwork stating she had not recently bitten anyone and that she was mine to euthanize if I wanted to. I signed. I sent her off for group cremation.
The vet put the lethal dose of sedative into her and within three breaths, our Lulu was gone. I remarked on how fast it was and they agreed, the vet and her assistant. I couldn't make eye contact with them and they told me I could spend some time with her and quietly exited the room.
I pet her for a few minutes, telling her I was so sorry. I wrapped her in the blanket and silently left the room to pay for this dreaded deed. It felt crass to pay afterward, like I was buying some ghoulish luxury service. At that point, I understood why they asked when I arrived if I wanted to pay before the appointment. I should have.
I got in my car with an empty cat carrier and called my mom. She already knew I might have to euthanize Lulu. She said, "hi! How are you?" and I broke down sobbing, "I just killed my cat!" She said, "oh no, I'm so sorry. You didn't kill her. It was for the best. I'm sorry you had to do that; I've never had to do that with a pet." Mom was actually very reassuring and invited me over for lunch (which I declined, because I had the kids to get from their early release day at school).
I went home after hemming and hawing about what to do with myself and showed Patrick the empty carrier, telling him I was sorry.
Patrick spent a good day or two looking for Lulu, calling for her, wondering why I didn't put down two bowls of food anymore (partly because he liked to eat her leftovers). It was terribly sad. But he is becoming more interactive with us without her. In some ways. And in others, I think he's starting to understand she's not coming back.
The kids were sad, but they don't really understand death. My nearly five year old daughter was mostly mad I didn't let her watch the euthanization. My son was mostly quiet. We all took turns holding and cradling Patrick that night. My son called it "pass the Patrick".
It's just unbelievably sad, but has been a relief not to clean up blood for a couple days now. I still feel sick to my stomach about it, but I also think it was the right thing to do.
RIP, Lulu. Approx April 2 - December 12, 2016