|Barley's Baby Photo, in her foster home|
I remember just a couple of weeks ago excitedly typing a blog post about our new kitten, Barley. This sweet, loving little baby I brought into my life. She made me smile every single day, always cuddling against me and following me around the house. I was head over heels in kitten love. She was my girl, and we would joke about how she'd abandon Duke for me by saying he's, "Not the Mama!"
I didn't think anything the day Duke took her to the vet for her last round of kitten shots. I told him to make sure to get her a microchip, since in my mind we'd have her for years to come. I had a video chat with my sister the night before, to show her how the cats were getting along.
Then Duke texted me to let me know that things weren't so great at the vet. There was a hernia (liquid pool) near her spay incision site, and she had a fever. She needed a procedure, and the vet warned us this could be a symptom of FIP, which is a deadly diagnosis for cats. When I took her in for the procedure the next day, the vet was unable to operate; she was severely anemic and had a slight fever. The fluid they extracted proved to fit the description of FIP in color and protein content, and the Rivalta test was positive.
My heart felt like it was lodged in my throat. I'd been mentally preparing to lose my older cat for years... how could I lose my baby, after so little time together? We agreed to let the vet keep her overnight for medication and observation, to see if we could help her blood get to healthier levels and wait for further lab results.
Before we left, they let us spend some time with her. She was still perfect. Active, social, cuddling with us... no sign of any suffering, pain, or distress. There had been no change in her activity, appetite, or litterbox behavior. No noticeable sign of anything wrong aside from the soft pouch of fluid on her stomach.
|Cuddling with Duke|
With FIP, there's simply nothing you can do. Believe me, I spent hours scouring for answers. It's not something that better care, or early detection can really help with. It's a roll of the dice in a way. A cruel roll. It is caused by a virus that nearly every cat carries, but in some cases mutates to cause this condition. It is not highly contagious in its FIP form, but it is very deadly, especially the effusive version that Barley appeared to have.
I cried so many tears, off and on at random times. I sought the advice and comfort of my loved ones. But all the while I kept thinking, "Why did this happen to the sweetest little one?" Barley was so full of joy and love. I needed answers, but I found none.
I believe as humans we have a responsibility to make sure our pets live healthy lives, without suffering. Even when the decisions we have to make are at war with our selfish desires. I dreaded having to make that kind of decision. But I knew that it was likely I would have to. Even Duke was near tears as we went through this uncertain time.
Still, I Googled. Denial. Could it be a bacterial infection? A blood parasite? Maybe the diagnosis was a false positive, and she just happened to have these symptoms as a coincidence. Anger. This isn't fair to this baby. She brought me joy and has a good life with me. Bargaining. Money isn't an object. Is there ANY way to help her? Depression. I can't go to work. I'll burst into tears at any given moment. I should just stay home and wallow. Acceptance... well, I'm not there yet. And I may go through all of these emotions again.
Today, we let our sweet baby go. It was one of the toughest things I've ever been through. She loved on us and kissed us when we said goodbye, and she purred until the very end just like the good little girl she was.
I know that I joke about being a crazy cat lady sometimes, but the truth is I'm just crazy about how pets can make us feel, minus the sadness of letting them go. They can truly make us the luckiest pet parents in the world. Right now, as I type, my old girl Cally is curled up beside me. She even crawled into my lap tonight, as if she knew something was wrong.
It's been an exhausting few days. My heart is going to hurt for a long time. But I'll never forget wonderful time I had with my little Barley.
Thank you for everyone who has sent me messages of condolence and support already. I'm so glad you understand me.
[Update: I was informed that two out of Barley's three littermates passed away as well, within days of each other. Only one in the litter has survived thus far. It was hard to hear this, but it helps me know that I made the right decision. 4/4/2013]