Friday, December 23, 2016

Goodbye, My Sweet Kitty

Yesterday we said goodbye to our cat, Buttercup. It was awful. Horrific. But blessedly fast. Yesterday around 4, when Felicity was napping and Steven was out running errands with Clare, Buttercup came up beside me on the couch, which she normally does when she knows both kids are out of the living room. But, she couldn't settle which I thought was just the slightest bit odd. She jumped down and went over to the Christmas tree and I just watched her for a second. I realized that her sides were moving a LOT when she was breathing, like she was having to work really hard. I decided to call the vet and hopefully get an appointment for today so that we didn't go into a holiday weekend with a potential issue. The vet tech asked if she was open mouth breathing. I stood up to look at her and, not only was she breathing in with her mouth open, but she then tried to hide under the Christmas tree skirt which is entirely unlike her. The vet tech said if I could come right then, they could see me, and that she was showing signs of pain or distress. My heart sank immediately and I just had this feeling that it was the end.

For the past 6 or so months, Buttercup has been showing her age. She's always been very kitten like, playing with her beloved fuzzballs, playing at night, coming up to me for love, but that's all slowed down. She's 14, so it didn't surprise me, but it's been a bit of a sad realization. After I noticed her breathing funny, I remembered that she hadn't eaten much of her wet food for 2 days in a row, and had missed the litterbox a couple days ago. Adding all that together, I just knew it wasn't good. I tried to get a hold of my neighbor to come sit at my house while Felicity napped until Steven got back (I immediately called him to head back), but couldn't get her. So I woke Felicity up and rushed her and Buttercup into the car. I text my mom and sister and a couple friends to pray for me to make the right decision. I tried to keep it together as I drove, for Felicity's sake.

As soon as we got to the vet, they got us right in... another sign that this wasn't good. Thankfully Steven got there about 5 minutes later and I sent Felicity with him and told him to come home. I didn't want her to see/hear anything just in case. The vet came in and was able to draw fluid off her chest cavity, which he said is what was causing the breathing issues. He analyzed the fluid and said there were cancer cells, likely lymphoma. He offered treatment to reduce the fluid, but I knew that didn't make sense for her. Obviously the lymphoma would take her at some point, and I didn't want her to end up in a ton of pain, or have some horrible episode while I was home alone with the kids and I'm trying to drag all of us to the vet and, worse, put her down with the kids there. I knew that for all of us it was best for it to happen then. I of course started crying and the poor vet gave me a hug. Even though I was prepared for this option going into the appointment, I just couldn't shake the feeling that in minutes my sweet cat would be dead.

I got Buttercup in 2007 when she was 5 years old. I wanted a persian really badly and she came up on my petfinder search at the shelter near my mom's house. I called my mom who went to visit her, and the first thing she saw when Buttercup looked up at her was her tongue. Mom said to me on the phone "you HAVE to get her!" and then jumped through hoops for me (I was an hour and a half away at college) getting the adoption rolling. I drove up a couple days later and my mom and I went together to pick her up. She lived at my mom's house for a couple months until I moved into a pet friendly apartment for grad school. Buttercup somehow knew I was her person and would stay with me any time I came to visit. When I moved into my apartment, she was my companion, my buddy. She kept me company for many years, moved with me to Raleigh, got to know Steven with me, and welcomed my babies into our house... well, at least tolerated them ;). I had her for 9 and a half years, which is so hard for me to believe!

After I paid and signed paperwork, the vet took us into the room where they euthanize. They try to make it comfortable and non clinical with art work, tissues, comfortable couches, but I felt like I was walking her into a chamber of death. The worst part of it, and the part that will probably haunt me for quite some time, is that Buttercup fought the medication. The first shot was supposed to slow her heart rate and lower her blood pressure so she'd relax, and the second one would stop her heart. They give the first one, then the second one like 5 minutes later. He gave her the first shot and walked out, I guess so I could have time alone holding her, but she began to fight, then her jaw was making some awful grinding noise that is etched in my mind, and she began to dry heave on my arm. It was awful. So awful. I felt like I was torturing the poor cat who spent her life loving me and keeping me company. Thankfully he came back in pretty quickly and, once I told him, gave her a bit of a shot that almost immediately made her go limp. I held her while they shaved a spot off her leg for the final shot, and then held her for just a minute or two after he said her heart stopped beating. I cried into her fur and told her she's been such a great kitty, and thanked her for loving us.

Going through that experience, I'm not sure how people open their hearts to love another pet again. I'm sure it will happen for us eventually, but right now I can't even fathom it. She was such a special girl, in a way I can't even explain. Buttercup seemed so different than other cats, with this quirky little personality. We knew each other so well. I keep thinking I see her around the house, and realize it can't be her. I see where her food dishes were, that is now just an empty spot. I expect her to come up to me meowing for her canned food, and she doesn't. I miss her "doing her rounds" where she'd walk into our bedroom and our bathroom before circling out multiple times each day. I went to wrap presents today and realized I could use tissue paper, because she wouldn't be there to consume her favorite 'snack'. I cleaned up all of her supplies today to donate to a lady at church. It was too hard seeing it all and I just want it out and to let someone else benefit from it. I think the worst part, besides the awful grinding noise playing over and over in my head, is thinking about her body just waiting to be cremated. I know it's just a body, but I hate the thoughts of her being alone. The whole thing just stinks. I've been spending intentional time today looking back at old pictures of her and talking about memories with family and friends. I've actually had fun finding pictures from certain events and texting them to people :). I'm going to try to focus on the memories and get yesterday out of my head. I miss my matty girl.

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