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Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cat

by

Billy

Deteriorating Health

On Monday night, I got home from work and found my cat, Billy, unresponsive. As you may remember from one of my first posts, my cat Billy is diabetic. I was on edge already, as he had become a bit unstable over the past few weeks.  A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and he was having a seizure. I put syrup on his gums and tested his blood sugar. It was 34 mg/dL or 1.9 mmol/L. This is critically low and can kill a person or cat in minutes. I spent the whole night getting him stabilized and then he was a bit out of it for the next day and a half. But after that, he seemed totally fine. He played in the garden and sat in the snow. He played fetch with my friend’s four-year-old daughter.

I lowered his insulin dose and kept testing him. But I can’t be there 24/7, so I was scared. Removing insulin entirely, his blood sugar was too high. So I kept him on a low dose.

Monday night

Monday night, I found him staggering and falling over. He couldn’t seem to see, hear, or feel me. He had hit 32 mg/dL, critical again. I got his blood sugar up to a normal level, but he was not okay. He fought with his entire might to hide in dangerous places. I ended up putting him in the dog crate, and he was out of his mind trying to escape. He wanted to hide, perhaps because he was dying.

I took him to the vet because was in severe distress. The vet found a lot of pressure around his abdomen and could see and hear fluid around his kidneys. He asked if I wanted to run tests, saying it could be something minor. But my vet knows I am an expert in diabetic cat care (long story but I volunteer with an emergency response team for diabetic cats in Toronto). We spoke about the recent difficulty to control sugars, and about the severity of his crashes (life-threatening both times). The first time, it was a miracle I woke up to find him having a seizure. The second, I’m lucky I got home to find him alive. He could have been crashing for hours. Ultimately, with a broken heart, I decided to say goodbye to the cat I’ve had for half of my life. I couldn’t bear him suffering or dying alone while I was at work.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

I found Billy in bad shape on a busy road when I was in high school. He moved out with me in my first apartment when I was just shy of my 18th birthday. He helped me survive my first breakup. Billy came to college and university with me. I took him on the subway, for rides in my first car, to friends’ houses. I never left him alone. My friends are easygoing, and when I was staying over, I would bring Billy along. He was so brave. You will hear me say that again later because he really was. When I took a job in the US, he moved with me. I used to walk him on a leash on the side of the interstate. He navigated airports and air travel with an air of grace rarely seen in cats. He loved his leash, and I rarely ever had him in a carrier when we travelled.

 

A lifetime of memories

Billy put my 90lb dog, Rosie, in her place every day of his life. He wouldn’t let her walk past him on the stairs, take the place she wanted on the couch, have the last treat on the floor. Billy was a little boss of a cat, and we happily gave him everything he wanted. His purrs could be heard across the house. He liked to bang on doors with his tiny paw instead of scratching, so when he was accidentally locked in a room, one would hear little knocks echoing through the rooms.

I have spent less than 50 days away from him in 16 years. Those days were all for overseas travel. Every day we were together, he slept in my bed, usually near my head. That might sound strange to people who don’t have pets, but it was one of my life’s greatest comforts and gifts. Billy was loud, voracious, insistent, playful, energetic, and brave. He was so, so brave. He never minded me learning to test his blood or give him needles.

I ran my nose up and down his nose dozens of times a day, our private nose kisses. I held him to my chest every day when I got home from work. My grief is profoundly physical. My arms feel so light, my heart so empty. I understand the weight of the word bereft now. I feel bereft. There is a Billy-sized hole in my life.

An expensive loss

It cost me $410 to have Billy euthanized. Since then, I purchased a custom handmade Christmas ornament ($32) and a tree as tall as me ($76) to remember him by. I’ll keep the Billy memory tree inside my house so it can come with me when I move. Cremation would have been about $250 to have the ashes returned, so I elected to bury Billy. It took almost three hours to dig the hole deep enough, but it was cathartic. I woke up today feeling so much better than yesterday.

I’ll donate his supplies and meds to another cat in need. I won’t have to pay for syringes, insulin, or canned food any longer. That saves me about $60-70 a month. I won’t be getting another cat, at least for a couple years.

I took all of this money out of my emergency savings and I don’t know that I will be able to replenish them in December. But I guess that’s what the money is there for. I’ll summarize the finances once again in my monthly net worth update after I tally everything for the month. I’m committed to budgeting tightly for December, out of desperation. Finances feel like they’re in a free-fall and I hate the feeling of using my savings.


13 Comments

  • Reply Stephanie |

    I am so sorry for your loss. Billy sounds like a grand cat. He knows how much you loved him.

  • Reply Laura |

    I am so sorry for your loss. I had a diabetic dog for years who ended up having to be put down for something non-diabetic related. My wonderful vet euthanized him for free. I think it’s wonderful you are donating his supplies.

  • Reply Janie B. |

    It is wonderful that you had Billy to help you navigate your young adult years, and it is wonderful that he had YOU!

    I know that you will miss him forever, but you will learn to live with this loss. Think of it as a lesson that Billy is teaching you–how to live with big, big loss in your life.

    I’m so sorry for your pain. You have my deepest sympathy–truly.

  • Reply Emily N. |

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I started tearing up reading about Billy and how much you’ve loved him. I’m glad you were able to be with him at the end. Wishing you so much love as you grieve for him.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    I am sorry for your loss. Billy sounds like he loved and was loved in return and that, in my mind is the measure of a good life lived. That probably does not help right now when there is a raw and new hole in your life but hopefully someday it will bring you comfort.

  • Reply jj |

    Anyone who has ever loved a pet, knows all that you feel. I am so sorry for the loss of Billy, may the memories of him help you get through the hard time of grieving him.

  • Reply revdrmd |

    Thank you for sharing the story of Billy. I understand the loss you are feeling as my much loved Beauty Queen was diabetic and also had to be euthanized. One of my current cats Pepper looks very much like your Billy and shows affection in similar ways. I am so sorry for your loss. I believe that burying him and sharing your story has helped in your grieving process. Thanking of you.

  • Reply SusieQ |

    I’m heartbroken for you & crying with you. I’m so very sorry. I’m a cat mom, too & know how much we come to love our furry kids. It’s like having your heart ripped out when you have to put them down, but it’s truly an act of love if you knew Billy was suffering. We, too, had a diabetic cat who lived to be almost 20 years old! When his quality of life diminished, we knew it was time. But it was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. I cried for days. I still miss them both terribly, but the memories always put a smile on my face. I’m so glad Billy had 16 amazing years with you! Sending you a BIG hug. Hang in there.

  • Reply Elizabeth S. |

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments. I’m feeling better and thinking of the happy times now.

  • Reply Sarah |

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve been off the computer this past week because of Thanksgiving and just saw this post. We also had to put a cat down last Monday. She went outside in the morning and when I went to let her back in, she couldn’t walk. They think she might have had a stroke. She was not as much a part of the family as Billy and I didn’t think I would miss her but every day, I look to the door to see if she is waiting to come in and look other places where she would sleep. My best to you as I’m sure the change is very difficult.

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