Dealing with the Death of Our Pets

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My husband and I are huge pet lovers and started our life together by adopting two kittens who were litter mates. Having both come from families that included dog and cat siblings, it made perfect sense to start our family by adopting pets.  After I began a career in pet rescue and adoption, our family grew.  After seven years together (and no human kids), we had a brood of five cats: the two “originals,” another adoptee and two failed fosters.  These were our children.  This was our family.

2 cats sleeping together

The Originals

Almost exactly one year ago, we had to deal with the hardest thing ever. The loss of not just one, but two of our cats, within less than two weeks of each other.

The first one we were sort of prepared for. He was one of our failed fosters who ended up being MUCH older than we thought when we took him in. The vet guessed 17.  So, we knew we wouldn’t have him for long. He had already lived a long life and then had almost two years of the loveliest retirement an old tomcat could ask for, with our family. He had thyroid disease. He had kidney disease.  He had arthritis.  And, any medication we tried to give him made him violently ill.  There wasn’t much we could do besides love him and make him as comfortable as possible.  We knew the end was near when he stopped using the litter box.  He literally could not control his bladder any more, and his urine was just water – his kidneys had stopped functioning.

So, what could we do? This was a 19 year-old cat, who would just pee anywhere he was and could barely get up and down anymore.  We decided that it was time to have him humanely euthanized.  We didn’t want to subject him to more vet visits, more drugs, more diapers to contain the urine, and (most importantly) more pain.  Of course we second-guessed ourselves. We didn’t want to lose our boy.  We loved him.  But, every ‘what if’, every ‘maybe’, every ‘possibly’ was for our benefit, not his.

black cat on a striped rug

Arnie

There were several options for humane euthanasia. Most vets will provide the service after an exam to determine that it is indeed in the animal’s best interest.  My vet knew our cat and his many issues and was able to give us options over the phone.  Luckily, my vet also recommended a service that provided at-home euthanasia. We knew instantly that this was what we wanted to do.  To be able to remove the stress of a car-ride and vet visit and instead let him pass peacefully at home, completely free of pain? It wasn’t even a question.

Then we had to pick a date.  In a situation like this, it was difficult to decide because although we knew he was suffering to an extent, he wasn’t dying that instant.  We didn’t HAVE to do it immediately.  During the consultation regarding the at-home euthanasia, they told us that the pet would ‘tell’ us when they were ready to go.  I thought that was a bunch of baloney. But, just two days after that conversation, this old cat climbed up onto my chest and just stared into my eyes.  He didn’t do that.  Ever.  He was telling me that it was time.  I cried and said OK.  I set the appointment for the next day.  That night, he slept on the bed, in between my husband and me.  He didn’t do that.  Ever.  It really was time.

The actual euthanasia was, well, easy.  The service vets that came and performed the procedure were wonderful and caring.  We were able to be with him and say goodbye and hold him while he passed.  It was quiet and calm (besides our crying).  It was still one of the most difficult situations I have ever encountered, but we were at peace.  At peace with when and how and why.

But, shortly after this, we noticed that one of our ‘original’ boys didn’t seem himself.  At first, I thought that he was depressed and missing his friend.  But, he was lethargic like never before and had bad breath.  He had had dental health issues in the past, so I thought he may have a tooth that needed to be extracted and made an appointment to see my regular vet the following Monday, only five days later.  By Friday, I knew he really wasn’t feeling well and warned my husband that if he still wasn’t right in the morning, we may need to take him to the emergency vet.

girl kissing tabby cat

Me & Jasper

Saturday morning I went off to work and left my husband instructions to take the cat to the emergency vet and call me as soon as he knew anything.  I was still pretty convinced this was a minor dental issue, but I was worried. When my husband called from the E.R., they had run a couple of tests and it wasn’t looking good.  This was NOT a minor dental issue.  This was major.  I hysterically left work with the instructions to the vet: DO ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO DO! SAVE MY BABY!  I don’t know how I made the drive, but I got to the vet and decisions had to be made.  This was a 7 year-old cat who had never been sick in his life.  I didn’t understand.  I needed more information.  I had them run the additional tests and perform the procedures that would make him more stable.

So, as you know from the beginning of this, he couldn’t be saved.  My ‘original’, at the relatively young age of seven was dying.  And soon.  He wouldn’t even make it to the scheduled visit we had with our regular vet on Monday.  The emergency vet wanted to humanely euthanize him immediately.  I wasn’t ready.  I had just let go of my other cat.  I could never have been prepared to lose another one so soon.  So, I asked the vet to make him comfortable and give me what I needed to keep him pain-free, but that I was taking him home.  I needed more time.  I needed to be able to say goodbye.

By the next morning, we knew it was cruel to keep him alive any longer.  We didn’t have the luxury of picking a date and letting him ‘tell’ us he was ready.  We called the same at-home euthanasia service and had them come once again.  Less than two weeks after their previous visit.  It was horrible and unimaginable.  This was a much more difficult decision, but seeing my baby suffer was something that will haunt me forever and so I knew it was right.

I still mourn both of my cats.  I miss them both and, one year later, still cry for them.  Especially my ‘original.’  He made me a mom.  He made us a family.  And, it wasn’t our choice.  It seems like that would make it easier, but it didn’t.  It was much more difficult to make peace with.  It was traumatic.

And, going so quickly from five cats down to three, our home felt empty (non-cat people will laugh, “Empty!?! With three cats?!?), but it did.  So we headed down to the animal shelter and adopted another cat.  We didn’t wait long, only a couple of weeks.  We needed the distraction.  We needed the life.  Some people will feel the complete opposite of that.  Some people cannot imagine ‘replacing’ their pet so soon.  I respect that completely, but I knew I could never replace them and I wasn’t trying to.  I just knew that we had room in our home and our hearts for another baby.  We have even very recently added a small dog to the mix.

chihihuahua napping with 2 cats

Part of our happy family

We are back to having five pets, and they are what get me through the hard times and the sad times.  They are what make our family whole again, and help us to deal with the loss.  To find peace.

Was there anything that helped you cope with the loss of a pet? Share it below.

12 Responses

  1. Maggie- Lyn says:

    We just put our little boy to sleep Aug. 4, 2015, just under 1 month prior to his 10th Birthday. Jimminy, our Yorkshire Terrier, whom we brought home when he was 7 months of age, to keep our 1 yr old Yorkie, Cricket, company. Jimminy had Kidney failure. This all happened because of his very bad teeth. We knew Yorkies ore prone to bad teeth and we had Cricket chewing on plastic water bottles (empty) since she was a pup. Cricket, at age 11 yrs has beautiful white teeth which the Vet is amazed to see. Jimminy, was not interested in chewing – he was virtually a true ‘Lap’ dog. I had wanted to get Jimminy’s teeth cleaned 3 yrs ago (second time) but the Vet warned me that putting little dogs under is very hard on them so I continued to brush their teeth. Last Oct. a young new Vet in the same clinic looked at Jimminy’s teeth and said he must be in a lot of pain and suggested he had them removed.. We agreed and also agreed to the pre-blood work which showed he was in kidney failure and had a 50% chance of sourcing the surgery. Well, Jimmy came through with flying colours. He only had 7 teeth left in his little mouth and had to be on low protein food. He did not care for the canned food and had lost so very much weight. Jimminy lasted 10 months after being diagnosed. He became extremely lethargic, stopped eating, became disoriented, wobbly on his feet, but always my protector. We miss Jimminy like crazy but thankful we still have Cricket who is so very much alive and so full of energy at 11 yrs. we have had a few talks with Cricket and told her she must stay with us for many more years as this is extremely hard on us. My Husband and I continue to shed tears several times during the day. We too are looking forward to bringing Jimminy’s ashes home with us. Even though we held Jimminy at the Vet’s office while she Injected the serum ( it took seconds for Jimmy to pass ), I think with his ashes in our possession, that will give us closure. We miss him terribly and are grieving his loss every day. I feel numb and have lost my appetite. I know it has only been a few days. My heart goes out to anyone with a dying loved family pet.

  2. Carmen says:

    I sought out this blog to help me do the impossible , the time is close but not yet. My Lydia is my life, I couldn’t love her more had I given birth to her and in reading everyone stories here, i know I’m surrounded by people who understand the type of bond I’m talking about. I just wanted to thank each one of you for sharing. It really helps to know I’m not alone and I feel better knowing she will let me know . as of now were still having a lot of Good days. Nothing like before she became sick but I lknow she’s not done just yet. This thread has been the most helpful information I’ve v read to date where she is concerned. B thank you and my heart aches for your losses.

  3. Auri says:

    I thought I was the only depressed person after my cat Pepito had passed 2 years ago and I still missing Him and crying but I can’t write at this time, thank you all of you for sharing

  4. Christy says:

    I lost my Miss Kitty after 16 wonderful years back on May 18, 2009. She started losing weight, couldn’t control her bladder and couldn’t jump up on the bed anymore. I knew the time was coming and my fear was that she would die alone (while I was at work). Then for a couple of days in a row I would come home and I couldn’t immediately find her (she used to greet me at the door). She was in the bathtub one night and then in a corner under my bed. These were spots that she never went to which pretty much told me she was looking for her final resting spot. Then the howling came and I knew it was time. I made arrangements that evening after my family came over to say their goodbyes. I chose to hold her because I wanted to be the last person she saw before she “went to sleep”. It was the hardest thing for me but I did it for her. After a month of prompting from family and friends (I was depressed and not myself) I finally adopted two 8 month old male littermates. Claudius and Caligula saved me! They bring such joy to my life! After three years I adopted a 3 year old female I named Calpurrnia.I cannot imagine my life without cats! Miss Kitty was my first fur baby and she introduced me to unconditional love and because of her the three I have now get to enjoy what she taught me. Miss Kitty will forever have a piece of my heart.

  5. ilya says:

    It always hurts to lose your pet! in our family is always a lot of cats. Only the presence of other cats softens a bit at the time of the loss of pet.

  6. MammaLynn says:

    For me, stumbling across a book of poems, essays & short stories helped. I had to have my kitty Vanessa euthanized while I was pregnant, she’d been with me for literally half my life, I got her when I was 17. I think being pregnant made it harder to accept losing her, so 2 months later, when I read a poem dedicated to a cat that had passed on hit me so hard, & I cried like a baby. (And went into labor later that day.) The book was called The Sophisticated Cat. I don’t remember the name of the poem, but it was so perfect, anyone who has lost a beloved pet will recognize the emotions in the poem. I loved the entire book.

  7. Luc says:

    Nothing really has helped when my 15 yr old Golden Retriever mix passed away… well… I got two animal communication sessions and that helped, I talked to my baby’s spirit… he said he was fine and made it over just fine, he wasn’t in pain anymore… and the kitty (1 yr old) stayed behind, she helped to wanting to play and play :-)
    I still miss him everday and still cry for him…

  8. Jackie says:

    I have to comment on this as my husband and I have almost gone through the same thing. We lost our little fur baby over six years ago at 20 years of age. I thought she would live forever but it didnt happen. Three months later we lost her brother which really hurt soooo bad after losing our little girl. It was just two close together. My little girl was a siamese and her brother was a tuxedo. Runty and Sam were there names. Runty got so bad she could no longer walk anymore so we had no choice but to have her euthanized. Then three months later we found out Sam had kidney disease and they were shutting down. It was soo hard to let them go. I still miss them and still cry tears for them. We have a kitty cemetery in our woods where our Sam and Runty are buried and even have headstones for them. It is our way of honoring and remembering them as they were there for us through a lot of hard times.We have gone on and fostered and adopted 9 more cats to give them a good home. We love all of them and really enjoy the different dispositions they all have. They are our fur babies and we would never give them up.

  9. Lana says:

    What a heartbreaking but beautiful tribute to your fur-babies! Thank you so much for sharing your story. My husband & I also had only four-legged children – most recently a dog & cat. Our cat Zoe told us it was time back in February, 2 months shy of her 18th birthday & a few days after she stopped eating, by spending most of the morning lying out by the pool in the soft dirt (she always preferred to be indoors). Too tearful to call, we emailed an in-home euthanasia service but never got a response. So we wrapped our girl in a blanket and took her down to the vet, and for the first time ever she was calm in the car & at the office, purring as we took turns holding her. The vet agreed it was time. She was so dehydrated he barely found a vein. Thankfully, it was the complete opposite of my only other experience w/ euthanasia 25yrs earlier, w/ a cat who seized & died in my arms as soon as the needle was inserted. This time our girl truly seemed to just go to sleep (thanks to the first shot of a sedative), peacefully & finally free of pain.
    5 months later our only other fur-baby, our mixed-breed dog Xochitl whom we saved from the pound 9yrs ago, also decided she was at the end of this mortal coil. I found her in almost the same patch of soft dirt, seemingly enjoying the smells in the breeze following weeks of struggles to stand up or control her bowels. It was hard since she still had a smile on her face, but I knew it would be cruel to wait until she was completely w/o joy. We called another in-home vet & yes, scheduling the date was surreal. Turns out it was one day before the anniversary of our last dog’s passing as well as the passing of a dear friend. I like to think they are in the next plane together with Zoe & invited Xochitl to join them.
    The in-home vet was amazing. Xochitl was always a bit wary of strangers but she went right up to the vet & licked her hand. As we discussed where we wanted to do this, Xochitl laid down in her bed for the first time in a few days and smiled at us. The vet had suggested we give her a favorite treat to distract her from the first shot (the sedative). So we warmed a bowl of carnitas & she scarfed that down, then we all laughed as I filled the bowl w/ beer (another favorite) and she lapped that up as well. She then rested her head in my husband’s arms as I kept one hand stroking her back & the other on her chest and, after the last shot, felt her heart slowly stop as she peacefully drifted to sleep for the last time.
    It was heartbreaking but we could not have asked for a more perfect goodbye. Our home is so empty now & I still expect to see one of our girls come around the corner every time I wake up or come in the door. They can never be replaced but I know our home & hearts will soon welcome new babies who need our love. Sorry for such a long reply but thanks for letting me share.

  10. Kim Ring says:

    I just had to have my 14 year old mixed terrier euthanized on Thurs. 9/5/2013. She was a diabetic and blind and had chronic bronchitis and a collapsed trachea. On Monday which was Labor Day she began to sound horrible and was making a honking sound. I e-mailed my vet and he had me increase her meds. She didn’t get any better and it was so hard watching her struggle for every breath. I made the decision to have her euthanized on Thurs. I also have been second guessing myself wondering if maybe she would have gotten better. The vet said there was no more he could do for her. Reading this helped me because you second guessed your decision too and how every what if was only for you. I know in my heart I made the right decision. It was cruel and unfair to her to keep her alive any longer. I have 6 other dogs and my house is also too quiet without her. I loved her so much.

  11. Amy Fagan says:

    Brianne, this was beautiful. So sad, because most of us can really relate to your situation. Thank you for sharing this, and may peace be with you and your family – and lots of snuggles!