It's almost a week now since we lost our oldest cat, Shadow. He was 17 years old and had weathered some pretty serious health problems in his life, due to the fact that he originally came from a very unhealthy home where he was not being properly cared for. He never grew to be very large, and always seemed to be a bit more fragile than any of our other cats. We almost lost him around age 10 when he just started to waste away and the the vet couldn't find anything medically wrong with him. But, we found a different vet who embraced a combination of holistic and conventional veterinary medicine and we tried some nutritional and alternative therapies that helped nurse him back to health so that he could enjoy several more good years.
About six months ago, he started to act sick again, so we took him to the vet for a checkup. They couldn't find anything wrong with him based on the exam and tests, and said that given his age and health history, he was reaching the end of his life. We tried some of the things we learned from the holistic vet and it helped bring him back a bit, but he just seemed old and tired after that. So, we made the most of the time we had left with him.
Late last week, he started acting funny again, and just got worse over the long holiday weekend. I had to resort to his "if all else fails" food to get him to eat. Turkey baby food. The cat would literally inhale an entire little jar of it! By the end of the day last Monday, he wasn't even wanting to eat much of the baby food, so I knew he was in bad shape. We took him to the vet and they couldn't find anything medically wrong with him aside from what looked like the start of an upper respiratory infection. He was given an antibiotic shot, some IV fluid and nutrients, and sent home with antibiotic drops and said we could try feeding him liquid nutrition supplement for cats. We were told that he would either get better fast, or deteriorate fast. But that it really looked like he was starting to shut down and would most likely not get better.
Wednesday morning it was clear that he wasn't going to get better. We called the vet and they said there was nothing more they could do for him and that unless he started to show signs of distress, to just keep him comfortable, give him water with an eyedropper to keep him hydrated, and say our goodbyes.
My husband had to work a long day Wednesday and was so very afraid that by the time he got home Shadow would be gone. In the morning, two of the other cats, Pixel and Gizmo got on the bed, on either side of Shadow, and just laid there with him for a few hours, comforting him and keeping him company. Tipsy was still semi-confined from having a minor surgery, so once Pixel and Gizmo left, I brought her in to visit Shadow and spend some time with him too. After the cats had their time with him, I laid down and let him crawl up beside me and into the crook of my arm and held him close for a couple of hours. He was very tired and weak but he purred and kneaded his paws, and was aware of where he was. I talked to him and told him what a special and sweet boy he was and how I knew he was tired and it was okay to let go when he was ready.
After that, I let him rest on his own until my husband got home. We checked on Shadow and he was alert but very weak. We fed him some liquid supplement and water with an eyedropper and he swallowed it readily and seemed to perk up a little bit. After that, we left him to rest, had our supper, and went for a drive to get some fresh air and for me to clear my head as I was emotionally drained.
We took turns checking on Shadow through the evening and giving him water and little bits of liquid supplement, neither of us wanted to go to bed lest he pass away while we were sleeping. Around two in the morning Thursday morning we went to give him a bit of water and he seemed really out of it. He drank the water but when I tried to give him a few drops of the liquid nutrition, he didn't want to have anything to do with it. I decided that it was time to let my husband have some private time with Shadow to say goodbye.
I went into my craft room to work on a project and about a half hour later, my husband came in to tell me that Shadow was gone, he went very peacefully, purring and being petted. Later in the morning, when the sun came up, we buried him in the back yard, next to a bench I like to sit on. I found a cat garden statue online that looks SO much like Shadow and will be the perfect memorial to him. As soon as I'm able, I will go to the local garden center that carries that brand of statuary and place an order for it. I'll put it in a tray-shaped planter surrounded with low-growing flowers and that will be our little Shadow space where we can sit and remember him.