My Cat Died Today
My beautiful Siamese cat, Jerry, died this morning. At six minutes past three to be exact.
I haven’t told the kids yet because they are due to go for their first sleepover together with their grandfather and I don’t want to ruin that for them. I haven’t told Granpa either because I can’t keep it together enough and he’s not a great one for tears.
Also believe it or not, my husband and I are due to go out for dinner alone, as a couple, without the kids, for the first time in years. Somehow I don’t think I am going to make it.
Despite looking very much like a traditional Siamese purebred, Jerry was my bush baby. Literally. He and his two siblings were found under a bush in a local park. While the other two made a break for it and I could not catch them, Jerry scrambled up the bush stem to me. I sat on a bench with him and he settled on my lap and that was where he could be found for most of his short life.
His was a gentle and unruffled soul. While we humans played chess he’d lay on the table patting the captured pieces. Read a newspaper and he’d place a paw on the edge of the page as if keeping the place. Do a jigsaw and he’d be in the box on top of the unused pieces. It didn’t much matter what I was doing, he’d be right there doing it along with me. He loved the kids too, going out of his way to get cuddles and kisses form them
Generally in my life, I have had female cats. Other than Jerry, Fergus was the only other tom. He was also a stray though him I picked up in the local RSPCA. Like Fergus, Jerry seemed incapable of any form of aggression – to humans – but he was murder on the local bird and lizard population. And that may be what killed him in the end.
He’d Still be Alive if He Was An Indoor Cat!
I’ve never agreed that an indoor cat could lead a fulfilling feline life. I certainly wouldn’t like to spend all my days indoors. I couldn’t imagine cooping such a free spirited creature up in an apartment or house no matter how large it was or how well furnished with cat furniture and toys. So Jerry and my other cats have fee access to the great wide open. They tend to hang about the patio, laying on the roof of the shade structure there. When I walk Skye, they’ll gallop after me in the park, shooting up trees and darting under bushes, chasing each other and having fun.
But like most cats, they are hunters and if a present of a lizard (or half a lizard) is not a daily occurrence it was still frequent enough to be an event that is largely ignored by the kids. ‘Eeew – Mum, Jerry’s left a lizard tail under the table again!’
Jerry Is No Where to Be Found
On Monday morning, Jerry wasn’t where he should be; screaming his face off in the kitchen for his breakfast. He didn’t come running tail-up down the corridor when I called him and he wasn’t out getting the best spot on the roof before Lily claimed it. I noted his absence and suspected the little devil was curled up in the kid’s cupboard again getting his fine white hairs all over their clothes.
I wish that was where he had been. Instead when I got back from the school run, I spied Jerry up on the patio roof. Though he meowed a greeting at me, he didn’t move. I chatted to him a bit expecting him to jump down and run to the kitchen for a late breakfast but still he lay there.
I climbed onto a wooden box to speak to Jerry more directly. As soon as I was close to him he started to purr like a tractor, so I still didn’t expect the worse. I reached up to lift Jerry down and he hissed in my face. He never made a move to scratch or bite but he must have been in great pain for in all his life he had never done anything but purr.
I laid him down and saw the blood. Initially I thought it was his tail – that maybe a dog had got hold of him, but I soon saw the problem was his back leg where a tendon had been bitten almost through. It looked painful but not that serious. Not life-threateningly serious.
How wrong I was. Given a strong dose of antibiotics by the vet, Jerry was discharged. I was told to expect him to be listless and perhaps off his food. He was that alright. He hardly moved for two days and it seemed that though not gouting, blood still seeped from the wound.
I was back at the vet on Wednesday. This time the thermometer came out covered in blood. ‘It’s fresh, said the vet, …he’s bleeding from the lower intestine’. He was anemic too. All that seeping blood and no food for two days. It was time to start force feeding him.
So, the vet injected glucose under his skin and packed us off home again with a recommendation to come back in two days if Jerry showed no improvement on a regime of frequent, small hand feedings to build up his strength again.
On Thursday, Jerry did seem to rally a little. My husband confidently predicted that Jerry would be fine especially as he was now moving about a little and had elected to leave the bed I’d made up for him in a cosy, quiet spot and lay in the living room instead. But, I wasn’t so sure. My husband rolled his eyes at me when I told him I’d be taking Jerry back to the vet in the morning.
He didn’t make it till then. Just before three, Jerry started wheezing and gulping for breath. His body was wracked with a shuddering seizure and then he lay still, panting. I lay beside him on the floor and stroked his head talking quietly.
There Are No Miracles on the Internet
With his breathing so laboured it was obvious that he would not last long and I was in a panic. I picked him up gently and laid him across my knee as I frantically tried to find some magical cure on the internet. Perhaps there would be something, somewhere that would tell me a position or a home cure for a cat in the throes of a terminal seizure. How stupid. Typing and sobbing, I kept talking to Jerry the whole time. Kept telling him everything would be alright. Only, of course it wasn’t. Nothing would ever be alright for Jerry again.
Now I suspect that Jerry’s wounds were not what killed him. I have a pigeon breeder to the back of my house. Both Jerry and Lily have brought birds home. I think the pigeon fancier laid down poison. Something like warfarin would explain why Jerry’s blood didn’t clot. The pigeon guy would have laid the poison for rats and a rat bite may have explained the wound in his back leg. Whatever happened I am sure the pigeon fancier didn’t intend this slow tortuous death of my beautiful furbabe any more than I had intended my cat to go after his birds.
And now, here I am asking myself what really happened? Was it – as the vet said – a cat fight with resultant internal bruising? Was it rat poison? Did a dog get him? Did I make a horrible mistake by picking him up and carrying him to the computer chair – breaking him further inside and shortening his life by even a few minutes?
Two things seem to be stuck in my mind. One is that Jerry would still be alive today if he was an indoor only cat and the other is that I have a problem coming to terms with the veterinary care Jerry received. I knew he was sick enough to die but instead of going with my gut I listened to the vet when he said he was just weak from loss of blood from the leg wound. He indicated that the internal bleeding was not likely to be serious … so why did I not take Jerry to another vet? At what point do you know that you need a second opinion instead of putting your faith blindly in the doctors?
Run free at the bridge, Jerry baby.
Edited: It has been a few years since my cat, Jerry, died. I still miss him and tear up thinking about him but I am reconciled. I wanted to say that even with his death and the personal struggle I went through afterwards I do not keep my cats indoors. I cannot. I personally believe that cats have a better quality of life if they are allowed to hunt outdoors. You may feel differently and I respect that. Please respect my choice in letting my cats be (IMHO) cats.