On Sunday, we had to say goodbye to my sweet little kitty Winnie.
She had not really been herself for the last few weeks. She still seemed happy and pretty spry, jumping up on our bed (using the step that Evan made her), jumping on and off the couch, and using her litter box as normal, but she was not eating like she usually does. This did not alarm me at first. You may remember me mentioning that she was on a special dry food for her kidney disease for the last few years, which I would supplement with Fancy Feast once a day because it is her absolute favourite. Also, too much of the dry food would make her constipated (about two years ago we had a big scare when she became severely constipated) but too much Fancy Feast would give her the opposite problem, in an explosive sort of way. So, for the past two years I have been strategically feeding her the perfect ratio of dry food to Fancy Feast to keep her poop the right texture. She was a bit of a diva like that.
She didn’t like the dry food as much as Fancy Feast, obviously, so sometimes she would go on a bit of a hunger strike for a few days and refuse to eat anything but Fancy Feast. When she stopped eating her dry food a couple weeks ago, I first assumed that’s what was going on. I thought she was just being her usual picky self, holding out for the good stuff because she knows we’re weak and we’ll cave if she sits by her dish and looks sad.
Earlier last week, however, she stopped being enthused for even Fancy Feast. She would (angrily) meow for it like usual, but when I gave it to her she would leave most of it in her dish. And then she would come back to her dish later and meow for more. So it was like she wanted to eat but couldn’t. She was still eating her usual treats that I gave her every morning, but by Friday she was quite lethargic and had lost a noticeable amount of weight. She’s always been small, and she had definitely been shrinking the past couple of years since she was diagnosed with kidney disease, but never this much in such a short time. She was still acting normal though, and she wasn’t hiding (huge tip off last time she was sick), so we left her a little charcuterie of all her favourite foods to try to entice her into eating something.
On Sunday in the late morning, she was — in the words of Lord Grantham — not looking too clever. She was even more lethargic and she was wobbly on her hind legs. I had my friend Emily’s baby shower to attend in the early afternoon so I called Willowdale Animal Hospital (the only vet open on Sundays around here, but also the one we went to the last time Winnie was sick) and made an appointment for that afternoon when I returned. I truly thought she was just constipated and she needed a little manual help from the vet like last time. I gave Winnie lots of kisses, told her I loved her, and left her in Evan’s capable hands until I got back.
About 40 minutes into the baby shower I got a call from Evan that Winnie’s situation had escalated and he was taking her to the animal hospital immediately. From his panicked voice I could tell it was bad, and I left the shower right away to meet them there. By the time I arrived they were in the examining room and Evan had briefed the vet on what had been going on with Winnie over the past couple of weeks. I will never forget how uncomfortable and weak she looked on that examining table.
The vet sat me down and went over our options and I could feel the tears in my eyes. I knew it wasn’t looking good. He explained that we could get her on an IV, try to fix her up, and maybe buy some more time with her, but there was no guarantee she would recover or even make it through another couple of days. I was shocked to find out that Winnie only weighed 4.5lbs at that point. She was dehydrated (and she had been drinking a lot of water so that surprised me), malnourished, probably anemic. I looked at her weakly hovering so uncomfortably on that table and I realized that whatever I did to keep her alive at that point would be for me, not for her. The vet estimated that her kidney disease had progressed to the final stages since she was diagnosed three years ago, and that could have been what her problems were stemming from. Or maybe she had cancer or some other disease happening as well. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a simple constipation issue, like I had so desperately been hoping.
Evan and I already knew what we had to do, but the doctor left us alone to make the decision. I picked Winnie up and Evan and I held her frail little body between us and sobbed into her fur and told her how much we loved her and how she was the best little kitty in all the land. We called the vet back in after about 10 minutes and let him know that we had decided to have her put down. He agreed it was the right thing to do, which gave me some comfort because I’ve never had to make a decision like that before and I felt pretty crappy about it. He reminded me that at 22 she had led a very long and happy life.
He asked if we wanted to be present for her injection, and we said yes, we did. They took Winnie away to give her an IV of pain medication to calm her, and then we met her in a private room so we could say goodbye.
The vet left us alone for this and I thought that I would be able to be strong for Winnie but I lost my mind. I held her little body to my chest and again told her how much I loved her and how she had been the most amazing kitty and my best little buddy for so long. She always smelled like bread and cinnamon and like the last person who had been holding her, and I buried my face into her fur to smell her scent one last time, but at that point I was crying so hard that I couldn’t smell anything.
When I put her back on the table she really seemed like she understood what was happening and she was at peace with it. I’ve never seen her so still and peaceful (I think the drugs had something to do with this). When the vet came back in to do the injection, Winnie kept her eyes on me the entire time, refusing to close them. I cry every time I think of this, of her not wanting to close her eyes, watching us until the very end, our teary faces the last thing she saw.
The doctor gave her the injection and Evan and I stroked her head and gave her kisses until she was gone. It only took about 10 seconds.
It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I can’t imagine how hard it must be to do the job of the vet. Dr. Petrut and his staff were so professional, but so gentle and compassionate with Winnie. And with us. Evan and I were hysterical sobbing (well, I was more hysterical, Evan was calmer sobbing), and I wouldn’t have known how to deal with us. But they were so incredibly kind. I was really impressed with the Willowdale Animal Hospital overall, even though it was awkward paying our bill afterwards when I was still crying. Winnie will be cremated, and in two weeks I will receive a mould of her little paw print. I think that’s going to kill me when I receive it, but I can’t wait to have it. I love her little feet.
Part of me wonders if things would have been different if I had brought Winnie into the vet at the first sign of her being weird. I feel a little guilt that I didn’t. But realistically I know there probably wasn’t anything we could have done to prolong her life. I think her time was Sunday and I am thankful that I was with her and she knew that she was loved by her family until the the end.
I honestly can’t believe how heartbroken I am. I have been anticipating this for a good 10 years. I knew it had to happen at some point, but I couldn’t have prepared myself. I think some part of me really thought she might be a miracle cat and would live forever. I actually wrote about this in my If You Could Google Anything post.
I can’t remember my life before Winnie and I can’t imagine my life without her. She enriched my life so much. She has been with me through everything, for 22 years! She is the same age as my adult brother!
Since I was 10 years old, if I was ever upset about anything my routine was to get Winnie, get into bed, snuggle her close, cry into her fur as needed.
When I was bullied in elementary school, when I had my heart broken, when my parents split up, when my mom and brother moved to BC… Winnie was there to comfort me. She was always my cat, and she was truly my living teddy bear. When I went through a tough breakup in 2012, Winnie was there and put up with me toting her around to friends houses, our belongings in garbage bags, until we moved on our own to the city. When I lost my job shortly after that, I snuggled Winnie and promised her that I would always take care of her, I would make sure I could always afford Fancy Feast, and I would never let us become homeless.
I am so happy that she met Evan and she had a lovely life with him here in the condo, and how they bonded in the three years they knew each other. It chokes me up when I think of how much they loved each other.
Winnie enjoyed naps on warm blankets in the sunshine,
twisting herself up into a little pretzel,
playing with her tetherball,
being cuddled, luring us to the ottoman to get brushed (always the ottoman).
(even if it meant having to brush herself)
And she loved eating Fancy Feast, Temptations, cheese, chips, yogurt and plants (and then throwing that plant up). She especially enjoyed me spooning her in my bed.
I will miss her greeting me when I get home from work, yowling for Fancy Feast, and then trying to trick someone else into giving her some later, because maybe that sucker wouldn’t know she already had it. I will miss her smelling like bread and cinnamon and like the person who had last been holding her. I will miss her purring as I bury my face into her fur. I will miss her little nails clicking on the hardwood floor. I will miss all of our blankets being covered in her hair. I will miss holding her close at night and snoring in her face. I will miss singing to her, talking to her, and her meowing back at me like she understood. I will miss her meowing questionably every time someone says her name. I will even miss her dragging her butt around the house and leaving “butt drags” as Evan and I called them, aka shit stains.
I feel like I have lost a part of my identity, as ridiculous as that sounds. I am no longer the mom of a 22-year-old cat. I had high hopes of her making it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest cat in the world. I was so proud of her that I would rave on about her to anyone who would listen. If I ever had to make small talk she was my go-to conversation to impress someone. Now that she’s gone I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about anymore. And what photos on my phone am I going to proudly show off?
Miss Winnie, you are irreplaceable. You are the pet of my life. You are the most wonderful soul I’ve ever known and you were the best sidekick for 22 years. You brought me so much joy, you made me laugh every day, and I hope you knew that everyone who met you loved you. I will think of your sweet face every day for the rest of my life. I love you so much and my heart will permanently have a kitty-nugget-shaped hole in it. When we meet again I am going to snuggle you forever.
Yes, we shall. But until then I hope you are up in heaven with your brother Tigger and Cely’s dog Bardot (even though she’s a dog, you can tolerate her), and as Cely said, I hope you are happily napping in a very warm spot while waking up occasionally to demand food and love. That thought brings me great joy.