by Elizabeth S.
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, 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.