I was going through my pictures this afternoon, and I discovered that I have lots of pictures of Merry, and plenty of shots of Belladonna, but alarmingly few pictures of Jaws. To my defence, Jaws was an extremely difficult cat to photograph. It's not that she was camera shy, but there was something about a camera that either attracted her nose to the lens, or caused her to turn away and blink.
An astute reader will note that I am speaking of her in the past tense here, because she is no longer with us. The time of death was about 24 hours ago from when I am writing this, and the cause was a merciful injection. I was not in the room when it happened, but atara
was there to hold her cat until the end.
Jaws has been on a slow, downward slide for some time, so we have known that this day was coming, but that does not make it any easier. In the past few months she has been having difficulty with basic grooming, and her fur was badly matted. We would take scissors and a shaver to her when we could, but she had become far more resistant to the kind of pre-emptive grooming we could get away with in years past.
We'd had her to the Vet back in late summer, and he proclaimed her to be in pretty good shape for a cat of her age, other than kidney failure that is common at that age, a hyperthyroid condition, and a bladder infection that he fixed with a couple injections of antibiotics. We put her on a special, low-protein diet that we had to supplement with a couple of dietary powders and we carried on.
She had been stone deaf for well over a year, she was a bit senile, she looked like hell, and she smelled a bit because of her inability to properly groom, but we took care of her as best she would let us and loved her to pieces. Right up to the end, she was personable and loved her people. She was always the first to show up for meals, and in spite of her mobility issues, she would still find a way to jump up onto the bed to curl up with us at night.
As we were going to sleep on Friday night, we were both awakened by a frantic scrabbling sound. atara
turned on her bedside lamp to investigate and the first thing she noticed was that the bedroom door was closed. She mentioned that to me in a slightly accusatory way, but I was certain that I had left it wide open when I came to bed so that the cats could come and go during the night. Then she put on her glasses and immediately realized that the reason the door was closed was because Jaws was having a seizure, and had pushed it closed in the midst of her writing and thrashing.
Eventually the seizure stopped, and she began to wail in fear. Even though she could not hear us, we gently stroked her and tried to calm her as best we could. I was afraid that the affair had left her paralysed because even after she stopped thrashing, she seemed unable to control her limbs. She kept trying to stand, but only two of her legs were working. After about five minutes she was walking around again, albeit unsteadily. Her pupils were fully dilated, and it was clear that she was just bumbling around in a fugue state. When she stumbled out to the kitchen for a drink, we debated our next course of action and decided that we would let her be and see how she was doing in the morning.
I did not entirely expect her to make it through the night. She was quiet for a couple of hours (I know, because I think I may have slept for almost a whole hour that night), and she kept stomping in and out of the bedroom, sometimes calling to us, and sometimes wandering around to my side of the bed so that I could tease her ears for a moment before she stomped out again. Eventually atara
managed to corral her up onto the bed, and she settled down after that. I guess she'd just wanted to be around her people.
By morning, she was back to normal. She was the first out for food, and she destroyed her breakfast in her usual fashion. She was chipper and personable all day, following us around for attention and generally getting underfoot. When she was not latched onto us, she was sleeping on the bed, or camped out in the hall. We debated on what we should do with her, and we finally came to the consensus that we would keep an eye on her over the weekend, and take her back to our usual vet on Monday.
Then early in the evening she had another seizure.
It was much longer and more violent than the first. atara
cradled her and tried to comfort her as she convulsed, until the spasms slowly waned, punctuated by more wails of anguish from the terrified cat. We held her, and comforted her, wiping away the spit bubbles from her mouth as her raspy pants slowly ebbed and she weakly struggled to regain control of her limbs. Eventually she managed to struggle unsteadily to her feet, and then she reeled off aimlessly toward the living room. She was quite clearly oblivious to her surroundings by that point, and completely ignored the other cats. She almost walked headlong into Merry before her strength gave out and she simply lay down where she had been standing.
We called a 24-hour emergency vet, and packaged Jaws up into her carrier for what we both knew was going to be her last car ride. Jaws hated
her carrier, and was normally very vocal any time we had to take her on a trip, but she was so unresponsive that we feared she might have passed away in the carrier. Even at the vet's office, she was almost entirely unresponsive to her surroundings. She did not even seem to be aware that she was in a carrier. As atara
pointed out, she was probably still deep in a fugue state from her seizure, but she had recovered from it fairly quickly after the first one.
The vet took her into another room and examined her while we waited. When she came to speak with us, her prognosis was as grim as we had expected. The cat's glucose levels were normal, and she showed none of the normal signs of epilepsy. She spoke of anti-seizure medication that we were free to try if we liked, but in her experience, she was fairly sure they would not help. Given the age of Jaws, and the suddenness and symptoms of the seizures, she was pretty sure it was a brain lesion, tumour, or a stroke. In short, the medication would not help, and Jaws would rapidly deteriorate.
She brought Jaws in so that we could say goodbye. Jaws was, again, largely unresponsive. She seemed to be vaguely aware of our presence when we kissed her on the head, and coddled her ears, and she showed some signs of contentment when I scratched her gently under the chin, but after a couple of minutes she lowered her head to her paws and zoned out again.
She was a stubborn old girl, but at that point I think she had finally given up. She'd had enough, and she was ready to move on to other things. I kissed her one last time on the forehead and left the room. I am not a strong person, and I could not be there for the next part.
That was the last time I saw her alive.
She was a good cat. Her passing has left the remaining two a pretty big hole to fill.
We loved you dearly, girl. I hope you knew that.