It started like any other Saturday. I woke at about 7:30, gazed at the ceiling for a while, checked my phone, then eventually wandered downstairs to have a shower at about 8. After the shower I made a cup of tea, and smiled at Miss 12 who was already up, and had been for some time. She has been invited to a movie night with a friend tonight, so got up at 7, had a shower, washed her hair, and already had her favourite clothes on – before breakfast time.
While heading through the kitchen to make breakfast, I noticed the cats had already been fed. I smiled and retrieved bacon from the fridge to make breakfast for everybody.
Half an hour later Miss 13 had finished breakfast and retreated back to her bedroom to continue watching YouTube. I was folding clothes in the lounge when she began shouting something. My other half rolled her eyes.
“Go and see what she wants.”
I walk to the bottom of the stairs and shout.
“The cat is meowing. Fetch mum.”
I wander back to the lounge and tell my other half. She sighs, and stomps off towards the stairs with a cup of tea in her hand. Twenty seconds later I hear her voice shout for me, with a very different tone.
By the time I got to the top of the stairs she is half dressed from her pyjamas, and I notice one of our cats lying on his side in the children’s bedoom door, mouth wide open, struggling for breath, and meowing occasionally – or rather “yowling”, if that makes any sense.
Without being asked I climbed into the loft, and fetched the cat box down, and lined it with the newspaper I picked up on my way home a couple of nights before. Half a minute later we were in the car, pulling out of the drive. Two of the children had slipped shoes on too, and were along for the ride – Miss 13 still in her pyjamas.
While my other half parked the car, I carried the cat straight into the local vet, and explained what we knew so far. I have to give them their credit – they immediately stopped all appointments, and rushed the cat through. I sat quietly, making conversation with other people in the waiting room until my other half appeared, and we were finally invited in to talk with the vet.
She tried to sugar coat it for the children, and sound hopeful, but you could read everything in her face. She chose her words very slowly, and very carefully. It must be one of the most difficult things a vet has to do.
“Given the symptoms he is presenting, we suspect he is either suffering heart failure, or the effects of lung disease. Both can present in the same way – or not at all sometimes – but we won’t know until we can calm him down. We have fashioned him an oxygen tent next door, and will give him half an hour to see if we can oxygenate, and stabilize him. The best chance to diagnose properly would be at the animal hospital, but unless he improves, he may well not survive the journey”.
We sat for half an hour at the back of the vets while the assistant made observations every few minutes. His heart rate and breathing were all over the place. I walked out the back and called our eldest daughter – telling her what we knew, and invited her to come see him. I didn’t sugar coat any of it – warning her “this may well be goodbye”.
She arrived ten minutes later.
Ten minutes after that the vet re-appeared, and we made our decision together. Until that moment the children had been pretty stoic. Miss 13 fell to pieces first, and buried her face in her Mum, sobbing uncontrollably. As they began prepping to put the cat to sleep, I asked each of the children if they wanted to stay, or go. Miss 12 wanted to go. So did Miss 13. Once we got outside, they both hung on to me and fell apart. I looked up, and struggled to think of something to do or say.
“Don’t be sad – you have to remember all the fantastic things about him – not just the last hour. Remember when he was little, and he had huge ears and big long legs? Remember all the times he stole food off the counter? Remember all those mice and birds he ate the heads off? What about that time he broke into Miss 16’s room to try and eat the fish while their tank was being cleaned? Or when he sat on your lap for a fuss, and dug his claws into your legs? Or how we would sprint into the house, before slowling to a nonchalant walk before entering the lounge?”. Both girls burst out laughing. Within moments they were recalling their own funny memories of things he had done.
A few minutes later my other half appeared, along with Miss 16, and the vet. She thanked everybody for being so brave. It must be so hard to make judgement calls on the life or death of an animal. We walked quietly off to the car, this time with an empty cat box, and made our way home.
Rest in Peace little one. You were one of three brothers, the last of a litter. We had three daughters, and three chickens. We had to buy three cats. Now we have two. You will live on in our memories as all pets with a character tend to. The girls will probably tell stories about your antics to their children one day.
“We had this ginger cat called Tom…”