Friend for a Year

Almost a year ago, a big tuxedo cat sauntered out of his crate at the Yorba Linda – Cats in Need rescue as I was doing my weekly stint caring for the kitties. He strolled right up to me purring and climbed on my lap. The tag on his crate said his name was Claude, so named because one of his previous owners had declawed him. It was almost as if he knew I was looking for an adult cat to rescue. Claude was a double-rescue who’d been rescued then returned by his supposed forever family. I liked him, a lot, but I’d been looking foe a glamour-cat like a Siamese or Himalayan. The next week he greeted me the same way and I made a mental note that if he was still at the rescue one more week, I’d bring him home. He was and I did.

Claude was not only my first cat, he was my first pet. Yes, my kids had multiple cats but Claude was mine and I was smitten, I admit it. In spite of felines’ reputation for being aloof, Claude seemed to feel the same way. He followed me around the house and when he couldn’t find me he would meow loudly until I called to him. Though he was not really a lap cat he would patiently tolerate my cuddles then settle in a warm ball next to me where I could pet him as I watched TV or read. He was gentle, laid back, and best of all, he was funny, whether he was napping in a variety of odd positions or looking at me with an assortment of quizzical expressions. It is often said when you rescue a cat, the cat reciprocates by rescuing you. Claude brought hundreds of smiles a week to my busy days. He was a perfect old guy’s cat.

Last week Claude suddenly stopped pooping. Yes, that sounds infantile but defecating sounds so clinical. So, pooping. He was obviously very uncomfortable so I took him to the vet. After several visits and some medication, he was pooping… and eating… again. Until Thursday morning, when he was in and out of the cat box with no success and obviously in pain. The vet did a rectal exam and found a mass near his rectum. It needs to be looked at with an ultrasound, he said, so off we went to the specialty clinic. After several hours of waiting, the doctor showed us his ultrasound. He had a large mass near his stomach (that she’d guess is malignant), several questionable small ones in his spleen, plus the rectal one that didn’t show on the sonogram. The recommended course of treatment was a needle biopsy of the large mass, and if that didn’t give a diagnosis, a CAT scan was in order, which meant roughly $10000 in vet bills with no promise of recovery.

My local vet suggested a palliative approach, in essence hospice care, and on Friday started him on laxatives and steroids to hopefully shrink the mass blocking his rectum. The idea was to improve his condition enough to have some more time before the cancer took him.  Friday evening, Claude was his old self. He followed me around the house, begged for snacks and watched TV in the family room until bedtime. The picture at the top of the page is from Friday evening. Friday night, I slept fitfully, largely because Claude did. Instead of curling up on his blanket in our room he roamed around the house. Several times I got up to find him hiding under the dining room table or roaming up and down the hall way. By morning he was not right. He wouldn’t eat or drink and kept making unsuccessful trips to the catbox. He couldn’t find a comfortable position and though he leaned into my touch, he was no longer purring. At 8:30, I called the vet to have him euthanized. His appointment was a 10:40. He was so dehydrated that the vet had trouble finding a viable vein for the catheter but by 11:00, Claude was no longer in pain.

I love cats and losing one is painful. But an unfortunate part of owning a cat is that we are often called upon to end their lives in order to end their suffering. It is a brutal decision to end the life of a creature you love when they have little ability to contribute to the decision. In fact, cats are so stoic in the face of pain that they likely make the decision harder. I am brokenhearted over the loss of Claude. He was so much part of my life that my days are cluttered with reminders of places he used to be, looking up at mehearts quizzically or meowing for attention. I’m a tough old bird. I’ll be OK.  But I will never be the same. I had the best cat in the world as a Friend for a Year. I was thinking as I was sitting in the park crying today … if I’d known that he would only last a year, would I have rescued him? Of course the answer is,  Yes, absolutely. Goodbye, Claude.   You are with me still, in my heart.

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One Comment on “Friend for a Year”

  1. barrythewiz Says:

    So glad we met Claude last year. He was indeed special. Our hearts are with you.

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