How long?

It’s hard saying goodbye to a furry little friend whether it’s a dog, or a cat or some other furry pet. We welcome them into our homes, they become a major part of our lives and our children’s, and wrap their little paws around our hearts.

When it comes time to say goodbye, we all handle it differently. I try to be strong, but even now in the wake of Monday’s events, I am bawling like a 2 year old and I can’t help it.

Prince, 2014 – 2018 RIP my little friend

Two Domestic Long Hairs, Prince and his runt sister Wolfy came into out lives in November 2014. as a rescue cats. We took them from our son’s hobby farm since he could not take them in before winter hit. They were born in March of that year and Wolfy the little brown runt lost most of her tail to a car engine belt when she was sleeping under the hood and Jason’s then wife started the car. Wolfy looks like a miniature bobcat and with the long brown hair, a werewolf.

We watched them grow and prosper all summer. Their mother and another kitten went off one day and never returned. So the brother and sister hung out all day and slept together every night becoming the best of friends besides being siblings. Prince grew to be a large cat. About 17 pounds. Wolfy has remained small about the size of a Chihuahua.

We brought them home in November amid predictions of a strong cold front sporting sub zero temperatures. Once in the house, they immediately claimed the Christmas tree as theirs to climb on and the ornaments as their playthings.

Wolfy looks for her brother still. Laying on his favorite towel.

Wolfy liked the Angel at the top of the tree. Often displacing it and substituting herself for the Christmas tree topper. Prince claiming the round gold ornaments as his play things. As his play ball to knock around and chase.

And they were fast. Zipping around the family room, leaping onto the leather sofa now pot-marked by their claws and zooming past our heads as we sat there in both amusement and fear of our own great bodily harm.

I thought they should be downstairs, in the basement office with the other two cats. But Sue insisted that they stay upstairs. Glad she won this argument as you will soon see. I brought them down once when they were small and it did not work out and they were quickly returned to the upstairs.

We fixed the male cat Prince but did not do anything with Wolfy the female who still comes in and out of heat. When she is in heat, I am her best friend. When she is not in heat… I have to watch how I pet her or I might loose part of my hand or fingers.

Once Prince was snipped, any tom-cat like aggression was gone and he became a lover. Preferring petting and to have his belly rubbed. He’d head butt your hand until you paid attention to him, roll over so you could rub him and my favorite: He played catch! Yes he played catch.

I would throw a ball and he would chase it. Prince would bat it around but he somehow would always bring the ball back to me. Then he would lay down and hit the ball to me with his paw. I’d roll it back and he’d bat it back. We could do this for a ½ hour or more every night. I have never seen a cat do this before.

Wolfy remained a mystery to me as she settled into her role as Susan’s cat whereas Prince was everybody’s cat. He just plain out loved everyone and everyone loved him.

It was on Monday the 23rd when I noticed how much in distress Prince was as his sides billowed out trying to catch a breath. He no longer wanted to chase his ball or play catch. He had no energy. Yet every once in a while he’d find a burst, then immediately lay down and try to recover. Just a couple of days prior, he was running around and acting like a four year old cat which is what he was. Within a couple of days however, he was acting and breathing like he was an 18 year old cat. I was amazed and still am, at how fast he became gravely ill.

By Tuesday night it was worse and Sue and I agreed to get him to the vet on Wednesday. I took him into Banfield in Apple Valley. The vet was very concerned with his breathing and diagnosed him as having water on the lungs. It would have to be drained, but she did not want to do it at Banfield.

Instead she recommended several animal emergency vets. The one in Apple Valley, South Metro, was crossed out. She said they did not open until 6pm and in her opinion we needed to rush Prince to the U of M animal hospital. We said we would wait until South Metro opened. The cost to us at Banfield was approx. $450 for the xrays, and diagnosis. $450 for only that much work.

I was there at 6pm when South Metro opened. The South Metro vet drained his lungs and put him on oxygen. The prognosis was not good. She said they found a “growth” on or near his lung or heart that became visible after draining the fluid from his chest cavity. She stated they drained about ½ to ¾ of a liter of fluid! The fluid prevent Prince from fully expanding his lungs to get oxygen. He had a shaved patch of hair on each of his sides for the draining of the fluid, and a shaved spot on his foreleg to accommodate a catheter.

She (the vet) presented us with an estimate of his total care for South Metro, but stated Prince would have to be transported in the morning to the U of M for surgery and more testing. The total for the overnight stay, South Metro tests, and oxygen would be $1500! I asked how much do we owe right now? The current bill was $500 some dollars.

To be clear that was $450 at Banfield, and would have been another $1500 if we allowed them to keep him at South Metro and on top of that another $2500 to $3000 in surgery and treatment costs at the U of M Animal Hospital for a whopping total of $5,000. For a cat. A loved cat to be sure. But there was no way we were going to spend that kind of money when no one up until this point told us what was wrong with Prince or given us a prognosis that all of that work would save him.

I paid the $500 something portion of the bill we owed and Sue and I took Prince home. South Metro even made us sign a waiver that we were taking Prince against their advice! It was as if they were trying to shame us into paying that exorbitant amount of money. They didn’t say it – but it was like they said “you love him don’t you…” while giving us no indication of what was wrong or a prognosis for recovery. Sorry Doc.

This all took place on Wednesday July 25th.

Prince seemed to be doing a little better on Thursday and Friday He ate, was using the cat box we provided for him and even pooped for the 1st time in days. But he became more and more lethargic and by Sunday night, he was in pretty bad shape again.

Our son Jason suggested we take him to the vet in Pine City whom he dealt with when his cat Rocco was near death. He said the vet was very knowledgeable and did not charge what the city veterinarians charged. We had already spent at least $1,000 on Prince, and though we loved him, we could not continue expensive treatments or even surgery.

So on Monday July 30th, I took Prince to Pine City. He didn’t put up a fight as we tried to get him into the carrier. And laid down as Susan said goodbye to him. I think she knew Prince might not be coming back alive. But we both were hoping he would.

During the hour and a half drive I called and checked in with Sue. She was on the Bluetooth speaker phone in the truck. As soon as she started talking, Prince sat up in this carrier and began calling to her “Meow – meow – meow – meow” Over and over and it continued until after Sue and I hung up. It was heart breaking yet so comforting to see how he recognized her voice and called to her.

Once in the doctors office, they took Prince, the previous X-Rays on CD from Banfield and South Metro and a blood and fluid sample that South Metro provided. The Doctor came out and said his prognosis was not good.

He went on to explain that there were three contagious diseases which cats can get. The first is Feline Leukemia. The second is FIV which is similar to HIV in humans. And the third is FIP which is a respiratory virus that comes in two types: Wet and dry. His diagnosis suggested that Prince had the wet type. His protein count was high in the fluid sample and the speed in which his chest and abdomen refilled with fluid all pointed to FIP. No known cure, and no known treatment that works.

The Doctor does believe his sister Wolfy has the coronavirus. But it may not mutate and she may not develop FIP. Most cats have the coronavirus and only a few, mostly males develop FIP. So it was a very good thing that Sue kept Wolfy and Prince upstairs and away from our downstairs cats. While there is a human coronavirus, the feline FECV is NOT known to jump from cat to human (thank God). It is transmitted between cats by their fecal matter (sharing a litter box for example) and orally by hissing and fighting. We have great hopes that since the two upstairs cats, Prince and Wolfy had their own separate living space and litter box, the two downstairs cat will be OK. Though Wolfy did like sticking her paw under the basement door. Hopefully nothing was transmitted to L.P. and Mr. Miyagi our two downstairs cars.

I called Sue and we agreed we had to say goodbye to Prince.

I was there as he was removed from the carrier and laid on his side and on a towel. He was so far down the road that his chest heaved with every breath he took and he was now breathing through his mouth. I got one last closeup picture of Prince and just kept saying what a good boy he was as I stroked him from head to tail trying to comfort him.

The doctor came in to sedate Prince. Though Prince was barely moving. I held his head in the palm of my hand as he administered the sedative, a simple shot to his hip. The doctor left us alone to say goodbye. In what seemed like an eternity, I talked to him and continued to pet him. Then with a few sudden gasps, he stopped breathing. No more heaving of the chest.

The doctor came back in with the euthanasia shot which I said I did not think it was needed. He listened for a heart beat. He heard a faint one so he administered the shot and Prince passed.

I brought him home and we buried him near our beach and with his favorite ball that he would chase and play catch with. Maybe there is such as thing as a cat spirit. Maybe they have a place for him in kitty heaven. I don’t know. But at least he can take the ball with him to the other side as a memory of how much we loved him and how much he will be missed.

It’s been only two days, but I feel his presence every time I enter the family room. While I feel blessed that God gave us Prince, and the other little creatures under our roof, it’s precisely those memories and the happiness he gave us while here that makes it so difficult to say goodbye.

Perhaps it is also reminds us of our own mortality. Will there be someone there to talk to us, to hold our hand as we pass? I was not there for the death of either of my parents and I still have a regret that I was not at least there visiting more in their last year on Earth.

I don’t know how long it take to stop being focused on losing him and focus instead on the happy memories he gave all of us. . I just don’t know how long it will take…. but soon I hope.

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