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Friday, June 8, 2012
Thanks, all for the kind words about Abbey (the cat.) Abbey came to us as an adult, so we don't really know how old she was. The vet at the time estimated her age at about 3, but we always thought more like 1.5. We had her for about 12 years. In any case, about 4 weeks ago, we noticed that she had lost quite a bit of weight and was seeming a little stiff in the hips, so we took her to the vet, where she was diagnosed with diabetes.
Per the vet's instructions, we transitioned the whole gang to a low carb diet and were getting ready to start Abbey on blood sugar control pills. She seemed to be rallying, feeling a lot better, wanting treats, sitting on my shoulder, all things she hadn't been doing as much lately.
We were gone 4 days visiting my parents, and when we came back Monday night she was notably worse. M was sick Monday night and into Tuesday (food poisoning, we think) and by Wednesday morning, Abbey was barely able to haul herself upstairs. She was badly dehydrated and wouldn't eat. We took her to the vet, and ultimately Abbey had to be put down.
She died about as peacefully as it can be done. She was heavily dosed with pain killers so we could spend a few minutes with her and say our goodbyes. She managed to purr a little from the petting. When the second drug went in, she just lay her head down, closed her eyes part way, and stopped breathing. That was that. We closed her eyes and stayed with her until she started getting cold.
It's easy to say quality of life quality of life. The suggestion was made early on to put Abbey on insulin injections twice a day, but Abbey was not one to tolerate being mugged on a daily basis for any reason. We'd had to medicate the cat before. It seemed to us then (and still does now) that for Abbey, the damage to her quality of life would have negated any benefit to extending her life with insulin. Pilling with blood sugar control drugs, by contrast, would have been doable, because (until the end) Abbey would happily eat pills wrapped in tuna. Bottom line is that this was a cat who was between 13 and 15 years old. That's a full lifespan for a cat. Her teeth were going (dental work was done, rest assured), we were pretty sure her eyesight was going. At some point we had to ask what her quality of life would be even if she /did/ put up with the insulin. Would we have bought her meaningful time, or just time for something else to kill her more slowly? And we tried to keep in mind that cats don't worry about dying the way humans do. They don't have the brain anatomy for anything that abstract. They know they hurt now, and want it to stop.
In the end, Abbey went downhill with the diabetes faster than anyone expected. Wednesday morning, she made it as clear as she could without words (she was a cat, after all) that it was time, that she was through. Pets do this, much as we humans don't want to hear it from them.
Something we've been saying a lot recently. When you sign on to raise a kitten, if all goes well, you're signing on to bury a cat. They don't live as long as we do. It's the decade and a half or so between those two points that make it all worthwhile. The boys - Oreo and Shadow - are still with us, and they're both doing fine. They're a comfort, even if Oreo in particular seems to miss his sister of all these years. They're cats. They don't worry about these things long. They'll be fine. So will we.
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