We just got back from our family vacation in Hilton Head, and what I wanted to be doing was posting pictures and gushing about how fun it was. But I just don't feel up to it. My sixteen-year-old cat, Koty, died while we were away. Alone. In the basement.
I know it's a bit self-indulgent to grieve so greatly for an animal when the blogosphere is full of people dealing with losses so significant and terrible that mine pales in comparison. But I am just so wrecked I have to write about it.
It's not so much that she's gone. She was sixteen years old, and her last year was full of health problems. She developed a mammary tumor in November that constantly opened up into a bleeding wound. Due to her age, we weren't sure if we should spend $1000 to fix her, as she wasn't in any pain and still ate like a horse. But she had to remain in the basement of my parents' house to keep from bleeding everywhere. Eventually, the thought of her living out her days in the basement was just too awful. So in May we sprang for the surgery. The vet almost didn't do it, because her blood tests revealed that she was in kidney failure, relatively common for older cats, but in the end the pros outweighed the risks.
She made it through, and David and I took her back to our house. For two months she lived there with the roam of the house, on our laps every night while we watched television. But she wasn't entirely well. Not in pain, but vomiting and urinating all over the house. Exceptionally gross.
Two weeks ago we moved back in with my parents in preparation for our departure to Scotland, and Koty had to go back to the basement. I was so busy and preoccupied that I basically only saw her when I fed her twice a day. She barely moved from the same spot in the corner of my Dad's office those two weeks. But she was still eating like a horse, and seemed perfectly fine.
When it was time to go, we couldn't find anyone to come and take care of her. Finally our housekeeper agreed to come on Wednesday and Thursday, but as we were leaving on Friday, that would mean she was alone for four days. We have an automatic feeder with hard food and an automatic waterer, so foodwise she would be fine, and she'd been alone for three days before. I felt bad, but honestly I was just so busy and stressed that I didn't think about it much. It never occurred to me that what happened would ever happen.
On Thursday, the housekeeper called to say that Koty hadn't eaten any of the food she'd put out the day before, hadn't used the bathroom, and appeared very sick. We were all worried, and thought about calling someone, but weren't sure what to do. The craziest thing, what I feel so so awful about, is that we did nothing. I'm not sure why. I must have been in some serious denial. She's gone through periods of not eating before, but she's a resilient cat and I guess I just never thought she could be that sick. We would be home in two days, and then I would take care of her.
Only when we got home it was too late. We found her lying in the same spot in my Dad's basement office, eyes closed, cold and stiff. This was, no joke, one of the worst moments of my life. Finding my faithful, loving cat, whose favorite place in the world was on my lap, dead on the floor--where she'd spent her last week of life alone and sick, abandoned and helpless while we played on the beach--just kills me with guilt and shame.
I have no doubt that she died because of me. I know that if she were a healthy cat, obviously she would have been fine. But I didn't realize how sick she was, and without the wet food that she loved her kidneys probably shut down and she died of dehydration. I've heard that this isn't agony, more like a hangover that you spend a lot of time sleeping off, that she probably slipped into a coma and died peacefully. But I just picture her hurting and wondering why no one was coming for her. I honestly don't know how to get over my part in her horrible death. She deserved so much better.
If you've read this all the way to the end, I appreciate it. I haven't been able to sleep and have barely eaten since we found her. I know she was just a cat, but animals have such innocence that their suffering is all the more horrific. Anyway, I hope one day I can forgive myself. But for now, wow, that day seems far off.