This post is hard to write. It’s also one of the bigger reasons I didn’t write in December.
Catford Manor is minus one member of our FurFamily.
Our beloved ten-year-old Fluffy fell ill and succumbed to old age on December 19th. For two weeks prior, we nursed her, took her to the Vet, pushed medications into her, and loved her more than I even thought possible.
In retrospect, the signs were there for months. A subtle change in her behavior and affections, we at first thought were the result of loneliness due to Dot’s intense schedule away from home. College, a new job, and a new boyfriend all took her attentions.
Fluffy began leaving large tufts of fur in her wake. She no longer slept on the soft furniture but rather opted to stretch atop the flat, cold surfaces of our bookcase. When the height became too much for her to conquer, she learned to hide in the lower kitchen cabinets.
Realizing more than loneliness was affecting her, we took her to the Vet who, after many tests, could diagnose her with nothing more than anemia. At Dr. Laura’s office, Fluffy was nearly her old self: inquisitive, loving, explorative. She even caused the staff to laugh as she walked out of her carrier and climbed over their countertops looking for mischief.
Short of an MRI that we couldn’t afford, at the time we had no way of knowing Fluffy had most likely developed a feline aneurism or metastasis that was subtly growing and causing complications. After her passing, Dr. Laura explained to me the last three days were very symptomatic, and there would have been nothing we could do even if we had known.
But we didn’t know. We thought it was anemia.
So it was a great surprise to us when the medications didn’t help. When, for several days, she pulled away from us to go rather into the dark corners of the house.
Her final night she began to wobble. She was losing motor control and her meows were a bit weak. I opened the cabinet before bedtime and caught her in an odd noisy combination that was more than a meow and not quite a hiss. She allowed me to pick her up and carry her to my bed. She could no longer walk away, although she tried to pull herself across the soft covers.
I woke Dot up and had her come into the room. “Sleep in here with us,” I suggested. “She’s leaving us soon.” We stayed in the room together, and even the other cats could sense it. Each took a turn acknowledging Fluffy’s presence, offering their nuzzle or touch. Fluffy tried to give Little the cold shoulder and hiss, but the effort was greater than the thought and so she merely turned her head away.
I lay awake most of the night. With every breath, I loved her. I told her so. I held her. I cried for her. I tried to feed her but she’d stopped eating or drinking hours ago, and her medications foamed back up out of her mouth. She couldn’t take water even with a dropper.
Her weight had dramatically decreased over those last two weeks, and her spine was nearly evident. Still, in what we both knew were her last hours, she allowed me to cuddle her, allowed Dot to pet her.
She purred loudly at each touch and every word. It was a great comfort to know we were a comfort to her. The more we spoke to her, the louder she purred. The more we stroked her gently, the stronger her tail flicked.
It was in the darkness of morning when she gave a strange noise that woke both Dot and I from our troubled sleep. Her breathing was shallow and labored, and she could no longer crawl. She purred lightly. Her bladder had let go and the bed was soaked. She could do nothing but try to breathe. She couldn’t close her eyes, but she was no longer seeing us.
I called my mom and asked her to come over.
And then I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
We took her to Dr. Laura. And I signed the paper. And we watched as Dr. Laura helped her transition to the Rainbow Bridge.
It was horrible. Painful. And easily the best decision I could have made. In just seconds, Fluffy’s purring ceased. As did her pain. Her labored breathing. Her suffering.
And we cried.
And I still cry.
Because I didn’t realize I loved my daughter’s cat so much. And didn’t realize how four cats on one bed could leave a void so huge when the fifth one is permanently missing.
I still find little Fluffy tufts around the house. I smell her on the teddy bear I gave her that last week. I remember her.
I remember her as a kitten walking around the coffee table only to be surprised by Lizzie Cat. Fluffy jumped up so high and puffed out so thick, she looked just like a cartoon Halloween cat!
She loved to lick Dot’s face, especially when Dot was upset and crying, Fluffy comforted her by licking away her tears.
As a younger cat, Fluffy would often interrupt Dot’s sleep. Dot would be so tired in the mornings and blame it on the cat. “If you ignore her,” I’d say, “She’ll leave you alone.” And then, one night years ago, Dot opted to sleep on the living room floor. While I was still awake I saw what she so often tried to explain to me. She would cover her head completely with her blanket or pillow, yet still Fluffy would find a way underneath. She would nibble her nose, lick her face, tangle with her hair. Ceaselessly.
Once, Dot crawled onto her bed to snuggle with her, and I heard a giggle that turned into a squeal. “Help!” she begged in laughter. So I didn’t take her seriously. It was ten minutes before I came to her rescue. Fluffy had gripped Dot’s ponytail and entwined her claws throughout her hair. “Just sit up,” I suggested. “Leave the cat alone.” Dot demonstrated why she couldn’t: as she lifted her head, the cat came with the hair. Oh, how I apologized profusely for the last fifteen minutes of disbelief!
Fluffy loved Dot. She was a mushpot. She allowed Dot to dress her up as a doll.
She cried for Dot when she was gone too long. She loved me, too, but in the second-best way that only a one-owner-cat can have.
Until the last month. When she spread her affections evenly between us. She even enjoyed my company in the presence of Lizzie Cat, who was, at most times, her enemy.
Fluffy didn’t like being in a carrier. Dot took her to Fifth Grade Show and Tell once, and her carrier was made of cardboard. I was a Classroom volunteer that day, so at recess time we put Fluffy in the box and went out. Upon our return, we found the carrier, half destroyed. And we couldn’t find Fluffy. The class had an extra five-minute recess as Dot and I scoured the room. Fluffy was finally located behind the filing cabinet. The school made a new rule about what kinds of pets were allowed for Show and Tell after that. We nicknamed it “Fluffy’s Law”.
She is no longer struggling, no longer lonely or in pain.
But I am overwhelmed with loneliness. With sadness. With emptiness. And guilt.
Because it was my signature that set her free.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!
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