saying goodbye

I adopted my cat, Spazz, about 13 years ago from a guy I used to work with. He came into the office one day saying that he and his wife had just adopted a kitten, but between the kitten’s needs and their baby’s needs, they just didn’t have time for the kitten, so did anyone want her?

I was in college, staying with my parents over the summer, and without hesitating I said “gimmegimmegimme I want a baby kitty!” Ok, maybe I didn’t say that exactly, but I’m sure it was something close to that. And without clearing it with my parents first, I brought her home.

Who wouldn't love this face?

Who wouldn’t love this face?

We called her Spazz because she was a total nutcase. She’d chase shadows. She’d chase dust particles floating in the sun. She loved cat toys of all kinds. She was full of bounce and kittenness and joy. Beyond that, though, she’s the sweetest, most affectionate cat you can imagine.

Everyone loves her. Even people who say they “hate cats” love Spazz. Anytime we have company, she always targets the one person in the room who expressed a dislike of cats, climbs up on his lap, and starts purring. As if to say, “Really, dude? I’m not so bad. Just pet me. You’ll see.” It always works, too. She loves nothing more than snuggles and petting and ear scratches. Her purr is the loudest of any cat I’ve ever encountered. So loud, in fact, I almost never allow her to sleep in bed with me because her purring keeps me awake… not to mention her incessant kneading.

She’s made friends with all of my neighbors. She’s always been an indoor/outdoor cat. She’s just happier that way. Over the years here at my condo, I’ve come to the learn that not only do my neighbors know who she is, but they often allow her to come into their homes just because she’s so damn affectionate.

Veterinarians adore her. They always comment on how calm and sweet and easy-going she is. She’s never hissed or bit or scratched, even if they were sticking her with needles. And even when recently I’ve had to bring her to get poked and prodded because she’s been sick.

It started a couple of weeks ago one evening when I heard her crying repeatedly. I actually didn’t know what the sound was at first. I’d never heard it before. I thought it was coming from the weird cartoon my kids were watching at the time. When I finally realized it was her, she was sitting in the middle of my living room floor and her front left paw was tucked awkwardly underneath her body. I coaxed her to walk to me and when she tried, that leg crumpled pathetically beneath her.

I freaked out.

I immediately brought her to the local 24-hour emergency vet.  They assured me her leg wasn’t broken, as I assumed it was, but instead that she most likely had a blood clot cut off circulation to the limb and that she’d lost feeling. They gave me pain killers and blood thinners and told me to follow up with my regular vet in a couple of days. (The vet also told me that she was purring so loudly during the exam she had a hard time hearing her heartbeat.) I did that and after some tests, my vet told me that the tests trying to pinpoint the source of the clot were inconclusive, but had revealed multiple tumors in her lungs.

My kitty is dying.

They told me to keep her contained, and see how things played out, and at first, it seemed like she was getting better. She regained use of her leg, she was eating, she was desperately trying to escape the bathroom whenever she could. I thought maybe we had a bit more time. That maybe the tumors were just something she’d always had and that the clot was a fluke thing and that maybe we’d get a couple more years together.

And then this past Friday, I heard that pitiful crying sound again. This time she’d lost use of her left rear leg. I brought her back to the vet and he had no answers for me. Just that she’d somehow suffered spinal cord damage and the long-term prognosis was not good. He gave her a shot of prednisone to try and help her regain movement, told me to give it the weekend to work, and they would check in on Monday.

This morning not only was she still not moving her leg, but she’s also stopped eating. I realized it was time for me to let go.

When the vet called to check in, I told them about her lack of progress and that I needed some time to talk to my kids and to ready myself to say goodbye. Sure, I could do more tests and find out exactly what it is that’s killing her. But why put her through that when I know I can’t save her? That the tests are only going to make things uncomfortable and miserable for her? It’s just not worth it.

Bunnies… telling a 5-year old and a 3-year old that their cat is going to die is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. I explained that she is old and sick and not going to get any better. That the best thing for her would be to bring her to the doctor so he can give her medicine that would make her go to sleep forever. There were tears. And questions about when I was going to die. And more questions about who was going to take care of them if I die. But overall, I think they understood and accepted it as well as children can.

I’m calling the vet in the morning to make the appointment. I think this is going to be much harder on me than it will be on the kids, but I’m still dreading the moment when they realize that she’s really gone. This is their first real encounter with death. They’ve never lost anyone or anything close to them… save a couple of fish… but there’s no emotional attachment there; they may as well be toys.

This is a big deal. L is old enough for this to be forever imprinted on his memory.  I just hope I’m doing it right. That I’ve explained it well enough to them. That they’re not going to be forever traumatized because I killed their cat. Is it silly to think that way? A little. But it’s hard not to.

And then there’s the fact that I am really fucking sad about this. She was my first pet. Not my family’s first pet, no, but MY first pet. The first I could call my own. She’s my longest relationship. My most loyal and loving relationship. She’s family. And I’m going to miss her desperately.

I leave you with a small example of her crazy purring. I’ll probably watch it occasionally just to remember. And to help me say goodbye.

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5 Responses to “saying goodbye”

  • Comment from Julie

    I am so sorry. Sending you strength to get through this difficult time. Tears, and hugs for your beautiful Spazz.

  • Comment from Lindsay

    You’re doing it right. So sorry. I’ve been through this lots of times growing up, and twice as an adult losing 2 dogs in 35 days. The one dog, like Spazz, was acquired in my college days and had been with me through the all-important 20′s, getting married, having kids etc. It sucks so bad. I feel for you :(

  • Comment from Corinne

    goodbye sweet Spazz, you were an awesome cat. You are doing it right.

  • Comment from Grace

    I’m sooo sorry to hear about your sweet little kitty, who I also remember from that first crazy summer at work. I’m happy you and the kids had so many wonderful years with her, even though losing a beloved pet is always difficult (saying goodbye to Smokey was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do). It’s important for kids to learn what important parts of a family animals can be, and that sometimes, the best thing we can do to show how much we love and respect them is to let them go with dignity. Lots of love to you, L, Q, and that little purr machine <3

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