In early August my cat, Lola, was diagnosed with failing kidneys. The vet put her on a special diet, subcutaneous hydration and prescribe various medicines but the prognosis wasn’t good. It was mostly wait and see. She was old, over 16 years old.
Years ago when I set up this site, I promised myself I’d never put lame stories and pictures about the antics of my cat. I guess this entry is a violation of that promise.
My cat, Lola, was declawed. She had spent most of her life without claws on her front feet. This was not something I chose for her; it was the decision of her previous owners. I’ve sometimes daydreamed about regrowing her claws. To me, claws are a defining aspect of being a cat. Without claws, Lola was just a cute, furry pillow that purred a lot. She couldn’t express her displeasure any other way aside from, hissing, hiding or urinating on things.
She continued to loose weight, eating less and less, voiding less and less.
Veterinary medicine is not as closely regulated as human medicine. You only have to look at how animals are treated in factory farms to know that. I think that this is where all the controversy surrounding human stem cell therapy can be bypassed. Some people do care if animals are mistreated but there isn’t really a vocal group that objects to fetal stem cell use in animals. This removes a lot of ideological barriers that slow the advance of medicine.
But there are other barriers. Individual pet owners probably won’t volunteer their own pets for such testing even when threatened with the imminent death of their pets. Even those pet owners who did want to subject their pets to such experiments would need a lot of money to pay for these new therapies. They’d also have to accept the great likelihood of failure. Agribusiness might be more willing to pay these costs or take these risks of death from failure but, on the other hand, it’s generally cheaper for cattle ranches and dairy farms to just grind the aging animal up for dog food or a geletin rendering plant.
Despite these economic barriers, progress is being made. We know that regeneration in mammals is possible. They’ve regrown teeth in rats and mice. They have a special breed of knockout mice that can regenerate tissue and even limbs.
But that’s all moot now. I may have daydreamed on occasion on regrowing Lola’s claws or her kidneys or cryonically suspending her little kitty brain but that’s all done now.
Lola died between 3:55 and 4:10 on Monday, October 15th. She let me know she was dying. I had her sleeping on my bed for the last few nights of her life. She meowed loudly a few times and then went into a series of shuddering, increasingly spaced inhalations. These diminished until they stopped. Her body struggled to stay alive even though her nerves and cells were swimming in the poison of their own wastes. Her kidneys had more or less given up over a month earlier.
I knew this day would come. I knew 12 years ago when I took her from my friend. I wasn’t looking forward to it.
You see, I’d taken pets to vets for mercy killing before, two dogs and another cat from earlier eras of my life. It wasn’t fun. Giving a fatal dose of barbiturates to someone you’ve grown attached is hard to watch. I guess I’m a coward but, I just couldn’t bring Lola into the vet to do that. As such her last days were suffering that could have been avoided. And to compound that, just tonight, I learned that some cats have been kept alive for years after their kidneys failed because their loose skin allows for easy rehydration of body tissue–a cheap and fairly effective alternative to kidney dialysis.
Sorry Lola. If I’d known that I would have bought a few more bags of saline.
On the other hand at least a hyena or some other young, healthy predator didn’t take you down on the Sahel. At least you didn’t die of parasites. At least you died of old age in my bedroom.
She was a very nice cat. Everyone liked her. Even some of my friends, who did’t like cats very much, liked her.
I’ve decided on cremation. Tomorrow I go to the Humane Society.
wow Pace that is a very sweet story about dear Lola. She was blessed to have you with her for so many years. I am very moved by your description of her passage; but you neednt fret that you might have done more or any such thing– death is afdter all an extension and intrinsic part of life and she had a very blessed life from a cat’s point of view it seems to me.
She had been really my father’s cat. We had many animals in the Shaw household but he really got attached to her in particular. I will never forget how about 11 months before he himself died, he returned from a near death experience in the hospital somtime before xmas in 1992. I hadnt seen him for many months and my mom and I had just returned from my cousin’s wedding in Virginia which my dad had missed as he was in ICU. Upon entering the house, totally ignoring my mom and I he rushed and picked up Lola and held her to him, crying her name over and over again. My mom and I looked at each other bemused. Eventually he overcame his exuberation at being reunited and spared a little time for us mere humans 😉
Although he was not very mobile in the last years of his life he contrived a toy made of string and a cigarette package with which he would play with Lola for time on end. After the death of my mother, she was a consolation for me in my family home, otherwise devoid of life, and I remember fondly bringing her back to Seattle on the plane in a little carry-on bag under the seat in front of me (she only complained a little upon takeoff, no doubt disliking the pressure change). And of course living in that little studio and being much abused by bully Boris Cat (whom she outlived for many years)…
anyways kudos for being such a great master for her; I am very pleased with myself that I could find her such a good home; I know that you will miss her terribly. I will too.
All good cats are honorary dogs, and that definitely goes for Lola. Please allow me, not being a cat fancier, to offer my condolences. Anyway, and especially. Steve Campbell’s cat Felia and Ira Slobodian’s cat Thurber are the only other cats that I would allow honorary dog-hood to, so you know this is an ultra-exclusive group.
Not to mention that I would wend my weary and non-techy way to tell you about it. Says a lot, that maybe I alone am aware of. I may have to re-think the entire category of cats.