Our sweet, darling Red passed away almost four months ago to this day, the day after Christmas. We cared for him up to his last moments, and honored his death with his cat friends and proper burial in our backyard.
I wanted to honor our beautiful Red by writing about him and sharing his story of survival, challenge, and incredible transformation. Red touched us everyday of his life with his beautiful soul, his profound courage, his hard earned trust, and his huge heart and unending love. I believe we were meant to find each other on that fateful day thirteen years ago, and I’m forever grateful for crossing paths with Red and having the honor of knowing him and sharing every day of his life since.
In the early morning on Sunday, December 23, I did my usual routine of feeding all the cats upon waking—always wet food first—followed by dry food. Every cat in our house gets their own bowl of wet food and the dried food bowls are shared. Red was always eager to eat, loved his food, and craved food nearly round the clock in his old age. At 19+, he enthusiastically waited for us to wake up every morning, curling into our arms, licking my husband’s face, snuggling into our necks, until one of us finally opened our eyes. As soon as one of us was up, Red excitedly would jump off the bed and run hobbling with his crippled hind legs to the kitchen. But this particular morning, Red wasn’t interested in eating. He just looked at his food, and walked away. When this had happened in the past, Mirtazapine always worked like a charm – jumpstarting his appetite again. But I knew this morning was different. At first this was alarming to me, because the day before he ate well. But I sensed this could be the beginning of Red finally “letting go” of life. I knew that I could no longer give him Mirtazapine, to stimulate his appetite, and to turn things around. I knew on this morning, things were different. I couldn’t save him. He was ready to let go of his earthly life.
For the past six months, Red had been hanging on quite happily, but we observed a slow, gradual decline in his health and energy. The arthritis in his hips was causing him increasing discomfort, he was sleeping longer hours, and was craving being very close to us, sleeping with us under the covers, and always wanted to be held. He was seeking constant companionship with the other cats, and the cats loved comforting him and piling on top of his poor old broken body, and keeping him warm. And he was rapidly losing weight, which he had done in the past, but this time he was losing weight while eating 12 times a day. In the last month before his death, he began sitting in the “arched” position—a signal of discomfort and pain in cats, with his paws underneath him. For the previous three years we had been giving Red weekly and monthly injections of Adequan to treat his arthritis pain, the steroid Prednisilone every other day to treat his irritable bowel disease (IBD) and the lymphoma in his intestines, sub-Q fluids to hydrate him twice a week, and Mirtazapine to kick start his appetite when it was needed—all with great success in alleviating his symptoms.
But this last month, in addition to his weight loss, his coat was getting more dull and oily, he stopped grooming himself, and he was having greater mobility discomfort. So it was with deep sadness that I watched him turn away and leave his food.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, my wonderful vet was closed for the Christmas holiday for three days! So we decided to comfort him, watch him closely, hydrate him daily with sub-Q fluids to keep him from experiencing kidney pain, and syringe-feed him a little daily to keep him more comfortable—to get him to Wednesday, when our vet was open again.
Each day, Red became weaker, but still loved receiving our attention, our love and pats, and sleeping close to us. We kept him warm with blankets over him in his cat bed, and transported him in his bed, wherever we went, to be with him. His breathing seemed to become more rapid, sometimes so fast I thought he would have a heart attack! Christmas came and we met with friends for brunch, but then raced back to be with our boy, knowing our time was now short and we wanted to be with him every last moment we could. We said our goodbyes during the evening and following morning, thanking Red for his wonderful life, love, and gift that he gave us.
Finally, December 26 came. Our vet was open again after the holidays, so we scheduled an afternoon euthanasia appointment. They all knew Red well, and were sad to hear the news. With a heavy heart, we brought him in wrapped in a warm blanket in his bed. Our wonderful Dr. Kubicka confirmed that he was in pain now, suffering, and dying—and it was the kindest thing we could do to let him go quickly and painlessly.
Red was our first cat to be euthanized, so I felt much trepidation, anxiety and apprehension about the process and whether Red would feel anything. He was so peaceful on the table, I knew this was the right decision. I held Red as he lay there, petting him, and said my final goodbyes—as the sedative was given. The sedative made him drowsy and very sleepy. Ten minutes later the IV catheter was put in place in his hind leg, and the doctor proceeded to administer the euthanasia solution. And Red was gone. Instantly. Peacefully. Forever. I couldn’t believe he was actually gone. Red’s 19+ years had come to an end and our 13 wonderful, blessed years of sharing Red’s life, ceased as well.
With tears we brought Red home to bury him in our backyard. But first, we wanted all his kitty friends that had shared his life to know that Red had passed on, so they could say goodbye and know that he would no longer be with us in our physical world. We wrapped him in a soft blanket, surrounded him with roses of all brilliant colors that I bought, lit faux candles, and let him lie in state so his soul could ascend and leave this earthly world.
Three days later, we buried Red with all his flowers and the cards that friends had sent—in our back yard. We shared our beautiful memories, read the touching poem, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me,” said a prayer, and our final goodbyes.
His candles burned outside brightly by his grave for a week in the winter cold, to honor our boy’s light in this world. We miss you Red, and will always love you Red—forever.