The cat died, sleeping next to Mom

I finally took the cat to the vet yesterday. When I called on Monday morning to make the appointment and settled on Tuesday, the tech said that, based on my description of his symptoms, she thought he should be seen immediately instead. So I took him in immediately. I told the vet about how he hadn’t been eating much, and that once when I watched him eat dry food, it seemed to hurt his mouth so I had thought he might have a sore tooth. But he hadn’t eaten much canned food, either. And then I had seen him Saturday, with dilated pupils, and had finally been snapped out of my denial/avoidance and decided to have him checked.

Roxy had always been a fat cat. Mom sometimes called him 'Big Boy.'

Roxy had always been a fat cat. Mom sometimes called him 'Big Boy.'

The vet examined him thoroughly. No infected teeth. No fever. Complaints when his abdomen was probed. Severe weight loss – four pounds in four months. She took blood. A glucose check showed that he did not have diabetes. Gave him subcutaneous fluids. He peed on the exam table, and she sucked up a urine sample off the table using a syringe. And we decided to also go ahead and get X-rays. The films didn’t look good. Roxy, the cat, had an enlarged heart and fluid in his lungs. I heard the vet say several times that the X-rays should be stopped if he showed any signs of stress. His heart had what vets call a “galloping” rate – really rapid. Before even waiting for the blood test results, I had decided we would probably have to put him to sleep, and soon.

One interesting thing I noticed – after he peed and the vet collected a sample, the techs sopped up the pee on the exam table with a towel and left it there while they took the cat downstairs to take his X-rays. I waited in the exam room. After awhile, the pee towel began to stink. And it smelled like…Mom’s apartment on a smelly day. Those times when I thought I might be smelling Mom’s pee, I apparently had been smelling Roxy’s pee. Or a combination of the two. One thing I had told the tech when I was making the appointment was that Roxy hadn’t been using the litter box much. I neglected to say he had likely been peeing on Mom’s couch and, I think, her bedspread.

I had decided I would bring Roxy back to my house if he needed regular meds. But the vet just gave him a diuretic and a pill to help relax his heart. There was really nothing else to give him. She still made references to having him come home with me. But if he was to avoid stress, Mom’s apartment was the place to be. That has been his home for more than two years. No dogs live there. His smells, and food, and litter, and toys are there. And Mom was his human. So I took him back there and told Mom he had a bad heart. She asked if he could take medicine. I told her we wouldn’t know for sure until today, the next day, when the blood work was due back. She said, “I think he’s going to be OK.” She hadn’t even really realized he was sick. When I put the carrier on the floor of her apartment, he declined to come out of it. I lifted him out and showed him a new bowl of fresh canned food. He did eat a little bit. When I left Mom’s, I told the nurse that the cat would probably be put down soon and perhaps we would need a new med if Mom became upset.

Our alarms had just gone off this morning when I heard the phone ringing. I didn’t get to it before the answering machine kicked in, and I heard the day nurse’s voice say, “This is Cheryl.” I picked up the phone. “The cat’s dead,” she said. Roxy had died on Mom’s bed, and in my mind, I like to think he just fell asleep next to his girl and never woke up. I quickly got dressed, fixed a cup of coffee, sent an e-mail to my coworkers that I was taking the day off, and sped over to Mom’s. When I got there, Mom was asleep on the bed, her back turned to Roxy, who was covered with a towel. She woke up and seemed just slightly confused. I started wrapping Roxy’s body in a towel I had brought, and I started to cry. I think this had an impact on Mom. I told her I was sorry he had died, that I was worried about her, but that I was also sad for myself, that I will miss him. She asked me what I was going to do with him and I told her I was going to take him to the vet. “But he’s dead, right?” she said. I told her the vet would arrange to have him cremated.

Mom got up, and we talked a little bit about the cat and she said she was going to be sad for a long time. She also asked if she could get another cat. I said, “Let’s just think about that for awhile and not make any decision right away.” I guess she thought that sounded reasonable. When the other cat died in December, Mom was weepy, inconsolable, telling everyone she came into contact with that her cat was dead. This time, she just talked about being sad. She didn’t act too sad. I am guessing it’s all about the general withdrawal she is going through, and how that seems to suppress her emotions. She’s never particularly up, and even with this loss, she isn’t particularly down. It’s a relief for me. I cried a few times today, I think in part to relieve the tension I had built up just anticipating how Mom might react to the loss of the cat.

I decided to shower Mom. It was shower day anyhow, and we had some time to kill before breakfast. I am not skilled at this, and I sprayed water over half the bathroom, soaked my shoes and one pant leg. I also discovered Mom had no shampoo, but three bottles of conditioner. Multiple product purchases left over from early in her illness, I suspect, when she bought things she didn’t need. I resorted to washing her hair with bar soap, and then scrubbed the rest of her and dressed her in a clean outfit. While she was at breakfast, I called the vet’s office to let them know I’d be bringing the body by to be sent to the funeral home. The tech asked if Mom would want the ashes. “She doesn’t need them,” I said. “But I think I do,” I said, and started crying. After hanging up, I cried some more. Then I made three trips to the dumpster, throwing away litter boxes and blankets that had been by the window that were completely covered by Roxy’s fur. I cleaned up the food bowls and put the remaining cat food in the closet. I wanted to remove all signs of the cat with hopes that the lack of reminders might keep Mom from focusing on what’s missing. I don’t think she’ll forget Roxy, at least not immediately. But I don’t want her to obsess about him.

After breakfast, we sat in the lobby for awhile. Mom looked at me and said, “You look like you’ve been crying.” And for that split second, it was as if my mother were talking to me with concern. As if for that moment, I had a mother looking after me. Later, reflecting on that and the fact I could have used a mom today, I cried once again. I took Mom to lunch. We didn’t talk too much about the cat. Mom asked me how I like my job. She said, “I want to be sure to get your address. I want to write to you sometimes.” It’s like we are entering a new chapter in her life, and the loss of the cat will somehow change things. “You’ll still visit me, won’t you?” she asked. I assured her I would. And now I won’t have cat duties to tend to. I can focus completely on Mom. “I’m afraid to go there alone,” she said. I told her she is very safe where she lives. But that made me sad. Mom has had the consistent companionship of a cat for at least 10 years, I’d estimate. We gave her our two cats when her beloved Petunia died suddenly in March 2007. It was a win-win – companionship for Mom, and dog-free living for the cats in a home in which they would be showered with attention and plenty of food. Patrick and I got Stoney, who died in December 2008, from a friend shortly before we were married in 1995. Her littermate was hit by a car about a year later. We got Roxy from a shelter to keep Stoney company. Both were somewhere between 13 and 14 when they died, Stoney of cancer and Roxy of heart disease. Patrick learned much later that he was allergic to cats – another plus in letting our cats live with Mom. But it is now the end of the cat era in Mom’s life. And mine.

6 comments so far

  1. IcedLatte on

    Oh, my. I remember taking my dog (all 110 pounds) to be put down at Knapp’s the week my son came home from the hospital. That was a bad week. Breastfeeding and dead dog do not go together. The poor guy who dropped off Purple’s cremains thought, I’m sure, that I was a lunatic, clutching my tiny baby while I sobbed about my dog.

    I’m so sorry. What a miserable day full of grown-up, lonely decisions. And lots of conditioner. If nothing else, at least your hair can be silky and smooth.

    Thinking happy thoughts about kitty heaven full of catnip…

  2. momsbrain on

    Thanks, Iced. I don’t know if I ever met Purple, but I remember that name. What a time of high emotions for you! The death of a pet is always so sad. Animals don’t live long enough. I am glad Roxy’s suffering has ended, and am comforted to know he had enough strength to hop on Mom’s bed and be with her in the end.

  3. Sara Strong on

    I’m glad Roxy died with her/your Mom. I don’t think I ever told you that many years ago when I was seeking a good home for my little Siamese cat Blue, Joanne Wisemiller suggested your Mom. I took Blue for a visit to Bonnie’s apartment, but in the end she said was afraid the management would discover Blue sitting in the window and she’d suffer consequences. I actually was glad, I didn’t want to do without Blue!

  4. momsbrain on

    Sara, I did not know that about you and Mom! That sounds like the Bonnie I remember: worried. I’m thinking that would have been when she lived on Weber Road. She eventually adopted Petunia, a neighbor’s cat who just elected to move in with Mom (the neighbor was fine with that outcome). I was glad, too, that Roxy was with Mom when he died. That was his home. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Sara Strong on

    Hi Emily, when I took Little Blue to your mom’s place, it was on Neil Ave. on a corner on the east side of Neil, maybe the corner of Sixth Ave. She lived on a higher floor. I liked being able to see what the building was like inside.We were a good pair: both worried!

  6. momsbrain on

    Hi, Sara. That was a LONG time ago, then. Mom lived there from 1984 to, maybe, 1990 or ’91. I loved that apartment. But for Mom, the walk to the third floor became tough, and it was always hot – sunny in the summer and steam-heated in the winter. I didn’t know Mom considered a cat way back then. I do know she was worried, though!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: