Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Help & Support for those who have lost a beloved cat
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jd0963
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Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by jd0963 » Thu Apr 09, 2020 8:25 am

Hi,

We inherited our cat (Big Mama) from my mother when she passed away in 2017. She came to live with myself and my partner and we bonded with her instantly. She had always been a part of my life growing up (she was almost 16 years old) but feel like I got to know her little traits and personality more once she moved in with us.

She was so healthy for her age - she had a fantastic appetite, played with her toys and loved to be fussed over! If she was on your lap and wanted more strokes she would turn around and stare at you until you gave in (see attached picture).

On Sunday night before bed we found her lying on the floor of our spare bedroom (which is completely unlike her, she was always on her own bed or our laps). We thought nothing of it until the next morning when she stopped eating and wouldn't be able to settle in one place. We called the vets and they made an appointment for us to drop her off the next day so they could do some investigations. The next day we noticed her breathing had started to increase which was very worrying to us. We dropped her off at the vets and after about 10 minutes got a call from the vet explaining that any time a cat of her age was breathing like this then it was something serious. Also told us she could hear fluid on the cats lungs and suggested it could be heart disease and that the kindest thing to do would be to put her to sleep as things could have ended up quite miserable for her once it progressed.

We went back for her and were allowed 5 minutes before they gave her the injection. My heart was breaking as she still looked like the same happy cat she always was, her bright eyes and luxurious ginger coat - but her breathing was very rapid. We said our goodbyes to her and the vet took her away and called us about an hour later to tell us it was done.

I haven't been able to stop crying since. When I got home and saw her bowls with food still in them, her bed that still had her imprint on it. It feels like I am surrounding by reminders that she is gone. that I won't ever have to get her fur from my work clothes again, or change her litter trays or see her rolling around in the sun on our balcony.

I can't stop thinking how sudden it was and whether there is anything I could have done to prevent it. Does anyone else have any experience with their cats developing sudden heart disease and passing away? The idea this could've been avoided is tearing me apart as she seemed perfectly fine just a few days ago and I never would've predicted this.
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fjm
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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by fjm » Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:32 am

I am so sorry - it is always hard to lose a beloved animal, and this has come on you with no warning or time to prepare. Cats are very good at hiding declining health, and heart disease in particular can be asymptomatic until things suddenly worsen. Had it been found a little earlier it is possible that she may have had a few more months of slowly getting worse, with lots of drugs and visits to the vet, and constant stress and anxiety for all of you - this way she was relaxed and happy till the last few hours, and then slipped away with no pain or distress. Don't blame yourself, or let the "If only..." thoughts take over - at 19 she was in the twilight years, and your loving care made those years healthy and happy right to the end.

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Mollycat
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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by Mollycat » Thu Apr 09, 2020 10:02 am

What a beautiful girl, so, so sorry for your loss. Sudden loss like this is so hard at the best of times but when we can't be with them at the end after they have given us so much, there are no words.

I lost my darling boy aged 14 2 years ago after a shock diagnosis of a mouth tumour. The pain is inevitable, the regrets are just human nature, but the questions sometimes have not answers but some reassurance. They did for me. They say don't google and that's true but sometimes it can help, though a forum like this is much better. For my boy it was researching the awful trauma we would have had to put him through if his tumour had been spotted earlier, and in the end I thought I would have had to think long and hard before putting a 4 year old through it, never mind 14. That has really helped me to find some peace though I miss him terribly, he was my angel cat. With my other boy we had no answers but we did have plenty of time to adjust as he gradually deteriorated and treatments stopped working.

Heart failure can have so many forms and possible causes, tests are not just expensive but can be distressing for a poorly and elderly cat, and the treatment options are usually similar unless there is an underlying treatable cause which in itself is often more trauma to diagnose and treat. For some daily medicine is a whole trauma in itself. Even if money is no object, considering the cat's best interests sometimes means letting nature take its course or giving symptomatic relief until we need to intervene to prevent more suffering. Heart failure can be inherited or happen as a result of injury, other disease, infection or wear and tear. Progression can be slowed down with drugs but there is no cure and very little chance of prevention without stopping a cat from being a cat. Once the heart muscle is weak or thickened or scarred, the damage done is not reversible. It can get worse slowly or quickly but it can't be cured.

If your girl never had symptoms before, then how could you possibly have done anything to prevent this? You had no reason to suspect anything.
I sometimes think with my Henry, I'm glad we didn't know in a way, because we would have worried and for what? There was nothing we could have done differently except had him put to sleep before he felt too ill to hide it, while he was still perfectly happy ... I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that. Of course it wouldn't have been such a shock, but it would probably have caused worry and he would have been upset by us being upset.

Being so quick has to be a blessing for her, though it is such a trauma for you. It's perfectly normal to be in distress for days, weeks, months, whatever it takes to gradually ease enough for a new life without our beloved companion to gradually take shape. Add to that the restrictions at the moment that mean we can't hold them as they cross over or take our time with them, it makes saying goodbye so much harder and complicates grieving. Be kind to yourself. It's only human nature to find something to feel guilty about but all Big Mama knows is that she was loved to the end, that until Saturday she was well and then she felt unwell, and that you did your best for her immediately. Wouldn't we all love to have such a short illness at the end?

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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by jd0963 » Thu Apr 09, 2020 10:21 am

fjm wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 9:32 am
I am so sorry - it is always hard to lose a beloved animal, and this has come on you with no warning or time to prepare. Cats are very good at hiding declining health, and heart disease in particular can be asymptomatic until things suddenly worsen. Had it been found a little earlier it is possible that she may have had a few more months of slowly getting worse, with lots of drugs and visits to the vet, and constant stress and anxiety for all of you - this way she was relaxed and happy till the last few hours, and then slipped away with no pain or distress. Don't blame yourself, or let the "If only..." thoughts take over - at 19 she was in the twilight years, and your loving care made those years healthy and happy right to the end.
Thank you for the reply it means a lot. Yes, she definitely didn't like travelling so the added stress over the months would most likely have made her miserable and there is nothing I would've hated more than see her slowly deteriorate over time - especially as she was such a lively happy cat!

Mollycat wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 10:02 am
What a beautiful girl, so, so sorry for your loss. Sudden loss like this is so hard at the best of times but when we can't be with them at the end after they have given us so much, there are no words.

I lost my darling boy aged 14 2 years ago after a shock diagnosis of a mouth tumour. The pain is inevitable, the regrets are just human nature, but the questions sometimes have not answers but some reassurance. They did for me. They say don't google and that's true but sometimes it can help, though a forum like this is much better. For my boy it was researching the awful trauma we would have had to put him through if his tumour had been spotted earlier, and in the end I thought I would have had to think long and hard before putting a 4 year old through it, never mind 14. That has really helped me to find some peace though I miss him terribly, he was my angel cat. With my other boy we had no answers but we did have plenty of time to adjust as he gradually deteriorated and treatments stopped working.

Heart failure can have so many forms and possible causes, tests are not just expensive but can be distressing for a poorly and elderly cat, and the treatment options are usually similar unless there is an underlying treatable cause which in itself is often more trauma to diagnose and treat. For some daily medicine is a whole trauma in itself. Even if money is no object, considering the cat's best interests sometimes means letting nature take its course or giving symptomatic relief until we need to intervene to prevent more suffering. Heart failure can be inherited or happen as a result of injury, other disease, infection or wear and tear. Progression can be slowed down with drugs but there is no cure and very little chance of prevention without stopping a cat from being a cat. Once the heart muscle is weak or thickened or scarred, the damage done is not reversible. It can get worse slowly or quickly but it can't be cured.

If your girl never had symptoms before, then how could you possibly have done anything to prevent this? You had no reason to suspect anything.
I sometimes think with my Henry, I'm glad we didn't know in a way, because we would have worried and for what? There was nothing we could have done differently except had him put to sleep before he felt too ill to hide it, while he was still perfectly happy ... I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that. Of course it wouldn't have been such a shock, but it would probably have caused worry and he would have been upset by us being upset.

Being so quick has to be a blessing for her, though it is such a trauma for you. It's perfectly normal to be in distress for days, weeks, months, whatever it takes to gradually ease enough for a new life without our beloved companion to gradually take shape. Add to that the restrictions at the moment that mean we can't hold them as they cross over or take our time with them, it makes saying goodbye so much harder and complicates grieving. Be kind to yourself. It's only human nature to find something to feel guilty about but all Big Mama knows is that she was loved to the end, that until Saturday she was well and then she felt unwell, and that you did your best for her immediately. Wouldn't we all love to have such a short illness at the end?
Thank you for this it has made me hurt a little less. So sorry for the loss of your cat - you're right the sudden shock can just be unbearable. I feel like I have been stuck in constant denial that she "couldn't have been that unwell" due to how healthy she was in the days leading up to her being symptomatic.

I have googled quite a lot and found similar stories to mine. As you said, some of the treatments/tests can be distressing for them and I know Mama had a very low stress tolerance so would dread to think how she would handle being poked and prodded over a prolonged period! There is part of me (the selfish part) that wishes I had explored all options and fantasizes about finding the best vet who was able to save her so she could be home with me now, sat on my lap snoring like she usually did but after researching this disease I know it's extremely unlikely this would've happened.

With having to work from home due to the lock down things feel harder as I am surrounded by triggers. The floor feels empty (she was always around my feet when I was up and about) and I can still see bits of her fur here and there.

I managed to pack her toys and bed away today which was hard but probably the best thing to do at this point. The grief just keeps coming and going in waves and I am just hoping it gets a little easier to deal with over the coming days.

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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by Lady Saffron » Sun Jun 14, 2020 1:47 pm

Our darling girl Crinkle, not quite sixteen, had exactly the same symptoms you describe and the outcome was the same. We had no idea there was anything wrong and so when we lost her on Friday last the shock was almost unbearable. We were with her at the end and it was very peaceful, but the light has gone from our lives. When I met my husband he already had her and one of the things he said when we decided to get together was "What if you don't like my cat?" quickly followed by "What if my cat doesn't like YOU?"

But I did and she did, for 14 year she was my darling girl and I loved her to distraction, we both did. So my deep sympathy is going out to everyone, we are all suffering and it's good to have the support of people who understand the depth of feeling between a pet and a person.

Thank you for letting me on to this forum, I'm sure it will be a great comfort.

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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by Amerififer » Sun Jun 14, 2020 4:19 pm

I completely understand where you are coming from...
Death of our beloved furry family members are NEVER easy. When it's sudden and unexpected it defintely makes it harder to understand/cope with.. In Sept it will be 6 years since I lost my very affectionate, loveable rougue of a boy very unexpectedly at age 15.
I had two cats at the time Feadan (the one who passed) and Midnight who was a year younger but they grew up together..
I had gone to work just like any other day, both cats acting completely normal, ate , purred, gave affection etc..
Came home from work, opened my door and heard the most horrific crying meowwww I've every heard in my many many years of having cats.. It was Midnight .. dropped everything in my hands.. ran into my sitting room to see Midnight sitting beside a dead Feadan crying like i've never heard a cat cry.. Can't explain how that affected me.. even after 6 years I still hear that howwwwwl :(
Took Feadan to vets.. he was curled up like he had just gone to sleep.. the best the Vet could guess was that he had some sort of cardiac/ stroke event. He looked very peaceful..
Sooo I do for sure understand .. It bites, it hurts, its very sad . each death changes you.. It's NEVER easy even when expected never mind when unexpected.. Give yourself time to greive... Don't let it close off your heart so much that you don't help another cat.. Took me just over 6 months before I was ready to even think about getting another cat... Have since also 4 years ago had to have Midnight put to sleep and it was having Spirit in my life ( my rescue boy that I got about 8 months after losing Feadan) that has helped me cope with the loses..

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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by Lady Saffron » Sun Jun 14, 2020 9:22 pm

Thank you, Amerififer, and so sorry to hear about your own bereavement. Non-pet people just can't understand how "only a cat" is so very much more than that. Crinkle was our companion,our comforter, our delight, our bringer-of-mice-in-the-middle-of-the-night and our nurse when we were feeling unwell. I can't bear that I won't ever again find her curled up behind my knees when I wake, or feel that dear little head pressed against mine, purring as I stroke her.

My husband and I are grieving differently; I am thinking about what we've lost and he is remembering what we had - I know that his is the better way and I'm going to try to be more positive.

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Re: Struggling to cope with sudden loss of elderly cat

Post by JulieJulie » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:05 am

I too just lost my baby suddenly.
Thank you everyone for sharing your stories, it's a great comfort to know that others understand the heartbreak.
My baby passed whilst I was visiting family for the first time in 3 months. I can only think I was a heart attack. As others have said, no sign at all of prior illness.
I always said during lockdown I could get through anything with my cats by my side and now there is a massive hole and I'm struggling to cope.
Thank goodness for my other babies to give me a reason to get up each day.
I feel like my heart carries so many scars from my lost ones now...
Your baby got to a good age and had a wonderful life with you and was so loved xx

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