I have some very, very sad news to tell you today.
Saturday night (Dec 13), at about 5:15 pm, we lost a kitten. Scratchy, who was only 6 months old had to be euthanized. I type this with tears rolling down my face.
On Friday, around 2 pm, I found her asleep with a large amount of semi-dried blood around her little mouth. I very quickly picked her up and investigated her mouth to see what had happened. At first, I thought that one of her canine teeth had gone through her bottom lip. I looked very quickly and whatever it was, I knew it was an emergency.
I whisked her away in a carrier and called a fellow shelter volunteer who made an appointment for me at the vet. We use different vets from different practices and I was happy when she called me back and told me my appointment was with Dr. Barr, my personal vet for my own kitties. (I cannot make appointments for the foster kitties, only certain people at the shelter can.)
On our way to the vet, she ate most of the blood off of her mouth. I didn't touch it because I thought it might be her lip. It was dark and semi-dry and it appeared that she had started bleeding then went to lay down and it kind of pooled around her mouth and started to dry. That's why I thought it was her lip.
So, we arrive at the shelter and Dr. Barr takes a look at her. With the pooled blood gone, I can see that it is not her lip. Dr. Barr sees that she is indeed still bleeding and that a tooth is missing. She has a hole from her baby tooth and her adult tooth is already there. She also has two teeth coming out of her gums on the other side of her lower mouth, like a "v", one is her baby canine tooth and one is an adult canine tooth. Very weird.
Dr. Barr takes some blood and sends it out to an overnight lab who will have the results in the morning. She had a slight fever but at that point, we assumed it was due to stress. Scratchy was trapped outside about 3 months ago and although she had bonded to myself and my boyfriend, she really didn't care for others.
I was cleaning at the shelter that night so I left her at the vet for a few hours while Dr. Barr tried to stop the bleeding. She tried cauterizing the hole the tooth had left but it was still bleeding. She put a stitch in it to try to stop the bleeding, too. It still did not stop. It was bleeding very slowly. I was frantically trying to clean so I could get back in time to get her before the vet closed. By this time, I was very exhausted and I had a lot more to do.
Scratchy was not in immediate danger and was sent home with me. When we got home, I set her up in the bathroom with a bed and all of the things she would need. I gave her a small amount of wet food and some water. I came back to check on her and she seemed to be doing okay. I took her temperature and it was at 103.8. Which is pretty high but not so high that I needed to take her to the emergency vet. Overnight, she stayed in our bedroom with us (without any other cats). I woke up at 2 am to check on her. I could tell at that time that she was not feeling the same as she was before I went to sleep. I tried to go back to sleep but it wasn't restful. I could tell that whatever was wrong, she was feeling worse.
I woke up at 5 to check on her again and I could tell that she was still not feeling well. I took care of her and my other cats while I waited for the vet to call me. I took her temperature and it was at 104.6! I began to get very nervous at this point. Dr. Barr said she would call between 8 and 8:30. At 9, I called her. She is a very busy vet and I knew that she must have just had something come up. She called me back at 9:15. I told her what was going on and I had her at the vet's office by 10.
When I got there, she looked at her and although her symptoms were strange, the vet did not seem extremely concerned. She was concerned enough to keep her there and give her an IV and took more blood. I left feeling that Scratchy would be well taken care of and that we would have answers by the end of the day. This was Saturday. Her office was only open until 1.
At 12:30, Natalie, the head person at the cat shelter called me. She said she was already at Dr. Barr's office with another shelter cat and that there was a problem with Scratchy. She said that now it is very serious.
My heart dropped. I started to get a lump in my throat.
She said that Dr. Barr was working with Scratchy and saw that she had bruising on her body. She said that the bruises were not related to handling her. Like I said earlier, Scratchy did not really care for others. With my boyfriend and I, she was the sweetest, most loving kitty. With others, she was semi-feral. So, they had to hold her a little more firmly when taking her temperature, taking blood and other things related to her care. Scratchy had bruises on her belly, bruises not related to handling.
Natalie said that we would be taking Scratchy to the emergency clinic in Kansas (we live in Missouri) where they have specialists that can help us. Apparently, the testing abilities had been exhausted with Dr. Barr and the labs that she works with. So, Natalie and I drove with Scratchy, her blood work and 2 vials of blood to the emergency clinic.
When we got there, I was calm and hopeful. I remember sitting in the lobby reading a magazine and chit-chatting with Natalie. I was definitely oblivious to the situation. I thought we were there to get solutions, ways to help her feel better. The thought of her dying didn't enter my mind for some reason.
Maybe I was trying to protect myself, maybe I was naive, I don't know-but I did not think about her actually dying.
A vet tech came down the hallway and said, "Scratchy". We put down our magazines. Natalie and I stood up and I picked up Scratchy's carrier. We walked into the exam room. The vet tech got some basic information from us about her. Has she been eating? Drinking? What food does she normally eat?
He finished his questions and took Scratchy in another room for the vet to examine her. I am not sure why he did that but the vet brought her back and talked to us. He looked at the notes and results from the blood work that Dr. Barr had sent with us.
What he said next caused me to become completely emotionally overwhelmed. I couldn't believe what he was telling us. But I thought we came here to get a solution, I thought to myself. I kept asking him questions to clarify what he was saying because my mind wasn't working as well as it could have. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe that a 6 month old kitten was going to lose her life.
He said that her illness fell into a class of diseases which do not have a cure. He said she was a Hemophiliac which means her blood lacks the clotting factors she needs to stop bleeding. There is no cure. The only thing we could do was to give her a total blood transfusion. He said it was an expensive alternative which would "cure" her for a undetermined amount of time. She could get a transfusion and get a certain "quota" of clotting factors and once those were used up, she would need another transfusion and on and on. Her body cannot make the clotting factors, there is nothing they can do to make her body be able to make them. Her body can use them but cannot create them.
According to the vet, the reason why she didn't bleed and bleed during her spay surgery was because she got clotting factors from her mother in her milk. But she used them all up. So, when her baby tooth fell out, she didn't have any clotting factors left. Her blood was clotting very, very minimally. Her blood was "seeping out" instead of "flowing".
I felt that because a blood transfusion would not cure her for the rest of her life, it was not humane to subject her to repeated transfusions. Would you want to get a blood transfusion? Could you imagine how painful that would be? I feel that she would have told me to put her down rather than make the decision to put her through that. Also, I could see how sick she was. She was very, very weak. She was feeling terrible and I know she wanted relief from this suffering.
The vet said that she was probably not in any pain, unless it was secondary to her bleeding. For example, he said if she had blood in her joints or spine, she would be in pain from that but that just bleeding, she was not in pain. She was very weak and she would bleed to death if we didn't do something. That was the only thing he could guarantee. Since there was no real cure, we decided to put her down.
By this time, I was starting to cry. The kind of crying where you can feel your chin quivering and you have trouble speaking. I knew I needed to be somewhat calm to talk to the vet and to see Scratchy. She deserved the calmest possible last minutes. She already had an IV in her arm so they were able to put the anesthetic and finally, the injection that would kill her, in that tube.
I held her in a towel that had our smells on it. I pet her and helped her calm down. She was a little worked up because lots of strangers were handling her. I talked to her and rubbed behind her ears. She seemed relaxed-as much as she could be in this state.
The vet injected the anesthetic into the IV and her head dropped. She began to snore. I was talking to her, petting her and kissing her on the forehead the whole time. I told her that I loved her and that she would feel better soon. I felt such grief that I could not contain myself. I loved this little kitten. She was such a good kitty.
Then, he injected the liquid that would stop her heart. The whole time I am crying uncontrollably. I am having trouble breathing. I couldn't believe this sweet little kitten, who was playing and running around just a day and a half ago, was so sick that she needed to be put down. It was probably the most difficult moment of my life. He took a stethoscope and put it on her chest. Then he nodded and said, "She's gone". He left the room. I cried so hard I didn't know if I could stop. I just hugged her and kissed her and told her I loved her. She was dead. My sweet baby was dead. There was nothing I could do to save her. All of the money in the world couldn't save her.
We had already talked about what I wanted to happen. I wanted him to leave and come back to get her in a few minutes because I did not want to hold her body once it got hard, which he said sometimes happens quickly.
I gave her one last kiss and told her I loved her. He took her from my arms and said, "I am so sorry". Then I watched as he walked out of the room with her. I then began to really sob. I sobbed very hard and I was overcome with grief.
After a few minutes, I stood up on wobbly legs and left the room. I walked down the hallway to see Natalie sitting in the waiting room. We didn't say a thing to each other. She just stood up and we walked out to her car. We chit-chatted until she dropped me off at my car, which took about 20-30 minutes. I think we were both in shock and I knew that I would really lose it and I needed to drive home.
Once I got home, I was still in shock. I have now been crying off and on since that night.
I know I did the best thing for her. I do not regret putting her down. I think she would have told me to do it if she could talk. She looked so pitiful.
For some reason, I am very concerned that she isn't in heaven. I am so sad when I think that she might just not exist anymore. I want to think that she is running around and playing with other kitties in heaven. I want to know that she still exists. This is my first experience with losing an animal (my childhood cat is still alive even!). Fortunately, I haven't lost any humans close to me, either. So, this is one of my first experiences with death.
I think that humans have souls and they go to heaven or hell based on how they have lived their lives. I think that cats have souls too and that because they are innocent they should go to heaven. I have heard that people who are in heaven can ask for their pets to join them (assuming they have died). How does a cat get to heaven if I am not there to ask for her? Does she just go anyway and nobody has to ask for her?
This has been a very, very difficult time but I really do not regret doing this. It is sad and I wish we didn't have to do it. I wish there were a cure or a more permanent treatment. I wish she didn't have this in the first place! She had a great life with us, while she was here. She lived with us for 3 months and got all of the love she wanted. She had kitty friends here to play with who loved her, too. I am so glad that I could give her a loving home for her short time here. She was trapped outside and if she wasn't trapped, she would have died a slow death, possibly alone. I am happy that we were able to know her.
I miss her so much. It is so hard not seeing her sleeping in her favorite spot or sitting next to the door in the morning. I know it will get easier with time but I will always love her and miss her.