The death of a pet is devastating. It’s very similar to the death of a family member. To most of us, our pets are family members. Even when you know putting them to sleep is in their best interest, there doesn’t seem to be ease of pain nor comfort knowing this. Sometimes there is not a cut and dry clue that tells you when it is the right decision. And then guilt will typically rear it’s ugly head only adding to the grief. It’s heart-wrenching with much sadness and loss. Or at least that’s how it was with me.
Sugar was not “just a cat” — she was basically my child. I’m sure that sentiment doesn’t resonate with everyone but we had a bond and she was my girl. My world revolved around her (our world, I should say, because my husband had no choice but revolve his around her too). Nearly everything we did or did not do was based on her and her medical needs.
Sugar found me in 2016 at the barn where we boarded our horses. She was so pitifully skinny and decided to trust me enough to come out from hiding. I felt with her being so thin, she must have not been a very good hunter and was unable to find enough to eat. She seemed a bit weak in the back legs and a little unsteady. So there it all began…going to the barn twice a day to feed her. I took a blanket and after she ate she would come over to me and lie down for some petting and some drooling. Yes, this cat drooled and the more you rubbed and talked to her, the more she purred and drooled! And no, she was not rabid :) You could tell she must have been someone’s pet at some point with as much attention as she was demanding and as sweet as she was. So why was she here? I couldn’t figure out why someone would dump her. If anyone else drove up, she would go into hiding and she was scared of loud noises and it didn’t make much to make her bolt. But she trusted me There was a connection.
It wasn’t long before I realized Sugar was sick with a bad UTI. And thus began our long road of medical issues. I managed to put her in a crate which made her panic and pee everywhere. If you’ve never smelled cat pee, trust me, be thankful. Since there was no medical history on her, the vet treated her UTI, examined and vaccinated her. They estimated her age as 12 or 13. Back to the barn she went. But the trust was gone. She would eat but would not allow me to pet her for several days. She would lie down just on the outer edge of the blanket.
Our twice a day meetings kept going for months until Hurricane Matthews was headed in our direction. I just could not leave her there and we certainly did not need another cat. But nonetheless, Sugar made her trip home with me…in a crate…full of cat pee.
And eventually came another UTI. And another. The vet finally took x-rays and much to my horror, there was and old wound where buckshot was embedded near her spine causing neurological issues including the weak legs, and urinary tract issues. She did not really know she needed to empty her bladder and that’s why the recurrent UTIs. Who would have shot her with buckshot??????? That was our glimpse into her past. No wonder she was so skinny. She couldn’t hunt enough food sources at the barn because her back legs didn’t work well enough for her to be able to run fast enough to catch anything. I was angry and sad at the same time. This was the sweetest cat. People suck!
Because she would not let us pick her up (not sure what happened in her past with someone doing so) unless we performed a surprise attack, we had to put her medication in her food and pray she ate it. If we snatched her up one time, trust was again gone and it would be days before I could get close again. This meant money spent on trials of different medications she would eat in her food. Not to mention it would scare her enough that she peed everywhere <sigh>.
Medication worked for a while until it didn’t. She finally got to the point where she could not pee at all. She was so miserable and we were at the vet more than we were home. The vet recommended we euthanize her because there was nothing else they could do for her. But she was staring at me and pleading and, in my heart, I knew she wasn’t ready. We brought her home with one last ditch effort in mind to try.
So…enter the homeopathic vet and acupuncture. Let me tell you, a home visit and acupuncture is not cheap! Neither were any of her medications. But I would have eaten ramen noodles at every meal to help this girl. I was so attached to her.
Acupuncture, medication in her food and something they called “the remedy” in her water, worked. She improved quickly and maintained a relatively normal (for her) potty routine. We eventually were able to stop the acupuncture and were able to keep her on maintenance medicine. For 4 years.
Because of her medication schedule, we had to make sure we were home by certain times to give it to her. She woke us up every day at the crack of dawn because it was time for her to eat (according to her)! She would come in whatever room you were in, and she’d meow and meow, and if you got up and followed her, she’d let you know what she wanted. Whether it was a treat, a meal, to go outside, to just have you sit down where you could pet her, she communicated well. So, Sugar ran our house…and us. And we allowed it. For 4 years.
4 years that went by oh so quickly. 4 years that wasn’t enough. 4 years…in the blink of an eye. 4 years and everything stopped working. UTI after UTI and bladder spasms and pain. The last UTI came back before she was even finished with her antibiotics. That last morning I could not bear to watch her suffer with those spasms anymore and she was trailing blood behind her.
The vet worked us in and, on one hand, I’m thankful that they did because I didn’t want her to have to go through that any longer than she had to, but on the other hand, they rushed us through the process. I was not ready for the sedation…I did not get to comfort her before they put it in. I stroked her fur and talked to her even though I don’t know that she really heard me or knew I was rubbing her. I told her that she was my girl, that I loved her more than she could ever know and that she was the best kitty anyone ever had. I talked to her until she took her last breath. And then we left to go home with an empty crate and the soft blanket she loved. I left my girl there for them to send her for cremation.
And my heart broke. Into hundreds of thousands of pieces. And part of me died with her. There would be no more Sugar sleeping snuggled up against me in the bed or lying in my lap or just wanting to be wherever I was. No more hearing the click of her toenails, which by the way, she trusted me enough to trim. No more meowing in the early morning for her breakfast. No more going to the fridge and meowing while looking up knowing the treats were stored there. No more lying in our back yard soaking up the sun in her favorite spot.
Sugar came into my life the summer before my mother passed away the following January. She, I believe, helped me through my mom’s death and subsequent grief. It was like she knew I needed her as much as she needed me. It was a bond that’s hard for some people to understand. While everyone tells me I rescued her, she really rescued me. My Sugar, in the last 4 years of her life, was the most spoiled cat in the world…and the most loved.
Sugar passed away, by my decision for her, on July 28th, 2020. I did not want to make that decision. I wanted God to make it and take her in her sleep but he did not. I just could not let her continue to go on suffering. The infections and sickness kept coming back with a vengeance.
I will miss my girl forever. Our house seems so empty — everywhere I look is Sugar. I still think I hear her, I still do things I would have done for her out of habit. I sometimes still feel the light padding of feet on the bed at night when she would get up in the bed with me to sleep. 4 short years and she’s gone.
The decision we sometimes have to make for our furry family member is never easy. Even when it’s blaring in your face and you know it’s the right thing to do, it’s just not easy to let them go. Sometimes our heads and our hearts don’t coincide. Grieve how you need to, there is no right or wrong way or time-frame, grief makes it’s own schedule. It will be different for everyone.
My prayer for you is that you know when it’s the right time to let go and that you have strength, comfort and peace in your decision. And that your memories become more beautiful as the days go on and your grief a little less and less.