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28 October 2008

I came home yesterday to a passed-away cat. (a lot of whining and guilt inside)[More:]

We have (had) 4 cats and a dog. Ahbuh (Aboo) was the oldest. "Ahbuh" is the Lakota word for sleep. When we got her as a kitten it was with a sister litter-mate, who got run over very soon after we got them. Since then, Ahbuh always seemed lost and not very happy. She was always a loner, and got picked on by one of our male cats. I told my wife many times that Ahbuh reminded me of her (wife's) mother. Very grouchy, resistant to any small changes, etc.

Of late, Blackberry, our second-youngest cat, was getting chronic infections and they finally took blood and he is positive for feline leukemia, even though we always stay up on all vaccinations. We have been nursing Blackberry along, and he is stable, sort of like someone who is HIV positive but asymptomatic. He pretty much ran the neighborhood, in a "good" way, other than to any other male cats who challenged his benevolent rule. Those, he fought with. Hence woulds, hence assumedly, huge doses of the virus. He's an indoor cat now, living the life of a retiree.

In all of this, we sort of neglected Ahbuh, who was 16 when she died yesterday. We noticed she was losing weight, but she WAS eating and drinking. Wife and I both agreed that we would not get vet care for her, because our (housecall) vet has just lost her hub to leukemia, and we did not want to bring up any extra "stuff" for her, plus we are a bit strapped, with kid in college now. So we made Ahbuh as comfortable as possible, with the best possible food, and just sorta watched her decline.

Until yesterday when I came home and she was dead and stiff in the hallway. We dug a grave (beside her sister) and buried her, saying a few words about how sorry we are that her life was hard and she rarely seemed content.

I have no doubt that we could have kept her alive through medication, hydrating her (we kept one of our other cats alive for a year via subcutaneous hydration) but it just always seemed "too much,' even though Blackberry has gotten a lot of attention and we do stuff for our animals like getting BOTH ACL's fixed on the dog (at 2K a pop).

It's just not like us to be this neglectful, and I think it had to do with this cat's personality, as well as emotional resources and money. When our vet DOES make her annual visit (next month) we'll have to explain, and the vet will be somewhat disapproving of us (she has "fired" clients for not taking adequate care of their animals).

That said, life will be easier now, with "just" 3 cats and the dog.
I dunno man, I really wouldn't call that "neglectful." I think you guys did what you could, and what you thought was best.
posted by CitrusFreak12 28 October | 11:27
I'm very sorry for your loss, danf. And, also, what CF said.
posted by box 28 October | 11:29
Oh dang, forgot to add: I'm sorry danf, losing a pet is never a pleasant thing to deal with.
posted by CitrusFreak12 28 October | 11:32
danf, I wouldn't call your treatment of Ahbuh neglectful. It sounds like you really loved her. She was an old cat. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by LoriFLA 28 October | 11:38
So sorry, danf.
posted by Hellbient 28 October | 11:43
I'm sorry about Ahbuh's passing. She lived a long life, had great food in the last days, and lived in a familiar environment until her death. The fact that she was eating and drinking means she was in reasonable comfort and health until the end, and you were a good kitty parent.
posted by By the Grace of God 28 October | 11:44
(Hence, wounds, not woulds, up there)
posted by danf 28 October | 11:47
16 is old for a cat. It could have been a case of just plain old age.

Making treatment decisions for animals isn't easy, especially when your financial resources are a factor. You did what you thought was best for Ahbuh given your resources, and it doesn't sound like she suffered. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by initapplette 28 October | 11:48
That doesn't sound neglectful at all, danf. We had a 16-year-old grouchypuss of a cat, Max, who passed away a few years ago just like Abduh did. I loved Max very much - he was the cat I grew up with - but it didn't seem right to string him along for (basically) our own sake. I am truly sorry for your loss, and I'll remember Abduh today when I think about my own cat.
posted by muddgirl 28 October | 11:54
Losing a kitty is never nice but it sounds like Ahbuh had a good long life and I don't think neglect was a factor in anything.
posted by arse_hat 28 October | 11:59
Ahbuh was loved - and she will be missed by you and the misses. This is what's really important.


posted by mightshould 28 October | 12:06
I did the opposite danf and regret it now. My 16 year old cat got sick with what we found out later was stomach cancer and we spent a year giving her drugs and feeding her by hand with a syringe and I'm not sure if that was the best thing for her. She was my favorite cat of the many that I've had in my life and we were just not ready to let her go even when it was obvious that she was ready to go. We gave her an extra year of life but it was a painful, uncomfortable year and I feel guilty that we didn't give her the respect to let her go when she was ready.

16 years is a great run for a kitty, you shouldn't feel bad that you let Ahbuh go on her own terms.
posted by octothorpe 28 October | 12:12
Aw, danf, I'm sorry. *hugs*
posted by BitterOldPunk 28 October | 12:13
I agree with everyone else; you shouldn't feel guilty. And I'm really sorry about your kitty. *sends little whuffles to everyone*
posted by Specklet 28 October | 12:14
≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by ethylene 28 October | 12:23
Yah, whuffles are sended. I don't think that just because a cat dies at home means that you've been neglectful. So here are more whuffles.
posted by Stewriffic 28 October | 12:24
sorry to hear this danf. I know you feel guilty but on the other hand, if you were to go to all the trouble of treating her, taking her to the vet, etc... - I dunno but that it would have merely prolonged her life at the expense of making her last days/weeks/months with you stressful misery. I know we had one geriatric cat years ago that died suddenly in fear/convulsions in the cat carrier on the way to the vet. The stress was just too much for his old heart. We felt just horrible about that, even though we honestly thought we were 'doing the right thing'.

I guess what I'm saying is that yes, 16 is old for a cat, and it sounds as if Ahbuh went out peacefully on her own terms.
posted by lonefrontranger 28 October | 12:25
Aww thanks eth. I cannot find any pics of Ahbuh handy, or I would post one.
posted by danf 28 October | 12:27
Aw, I'm so sorry, and I don't think you did anything wrong.
posted by rainbaby 28 October | 12:34
I'm sorry, danf. But I agree with everyone who's said that there's nothing you should feel guilty for. A cat who's eating and drinking, and peeing and crapping, is usually doing alright, and if she was in no obvious pain or discomfort, then I don't think you should beat yourself up. Sixteen is old for a cat. If she'd been really unhappy, she'd have left home a long time ago. Cats don't stick around in a home they hate. So take comfort in that, and know she loved you too, in her own grouchy way.
posted by essexjan 28 October | 12:36
Too bad about your kitty. Please do not feel guilty. You gave that cat as much as you could do. It's so difficult to make these kinds of decisions. Your cat got to spend her last days at home, so you know she was comfortable.

I had one guinea pig that underwent unsuccessful surgery, then probably suffered for another 12 hours or so before passing. Trust me, I wish I had let him die a quiet death at home with his brothers and in familiar surroundings. Another guinea pig has underdone dental treatment after dental treatment, recovering each time but not for long before needing another procedure. Is this really worth it for this little guy?

Anyway, didn't mean to hijack. You did the right thing for you and the cat. Whuffles and hugs and sympathies.
posted by typewriter 28 October | 12:37
it didn't seem right to string him along for (basically) our own sake.

What muddgirl said. It's hard to make this kind of decision (and I've been there), but at a very senior age, sometimes it's kinder to let nature take its course. The fact that Ahbuh's personality was was it was tells me she wouldn't have been happy going to the vet all the time, getting stuck with needles, etc etc. You gave her a long life and kept her comfortable at the end, and that's good.

My condolences to both you and your wife... I know how hard it is to lose an animal you love.

posted by BoringPostcards 28 October | 12:38
Oh danf, I'm so sorry to hear.

Whuffles and sympathies indeed.

posted by -t 28 October | 12:46

Sometimes it's best just to go with the flow with Mother Nature.
posted by gomichild 28 October | 13:31
I'm so sorry, danf. I think you sound like a loving animal parent, and she had a good life.
posted by Miko 28 October | 13:48
Taking Ahbuh's past, age and personality into account - missing sister-littermate, loner "grouchy, resistant to any small changes, etc" and sixteen long cat years old - I think having great food, extra comfortable places, water (and your attention) is exactly the way that cat should have walked on out. On her own terms, fitting with her style, in the home she chose to live in. You did what you could and that was good.

and ((((whufflles))) man, I'm sorry.

Now I'm gonna go cry in the fur of my 16-year old toothless old man cat.
posted by dabitch 28 October | 14:46

I know how hard it is, I held the hand of a friend a couple of years ago when she had to let her oldest go. I think she was a bit miserable at the end but they gave her what they called "kitty hospice" which is like what you were doing. I guess the saddest bit is that you weren't there at the time.
posted by dhartung 28 October | 14:59
It isn't too bad at all, danf. This sounds like a very good story and I am sure that Ahbuh was, on the whole, a satisfied customer.

Given the personality, the somewhat lacking care and death alone in the hall makes a good narrative, fitting with Ahbuh's life and personality. I am sure she wouldn't have had it any other way.
posted by Meatbomb 28 October | 15:17
Don't beat yourself up, danf. What gomichild said. Hugs.
posted by chewatadistance 28 October | 15:41
posted by brujita 28 October | 16:00
You did good, (((danf))).
posted by deborah 28 October | 16:44
Guilt is a pretty natural feeling after death -- it means that you loved her, and wish you could have done more for her. Feeling guilty doesn't mean you *are* guilty though.

One of the interns at my (human) hospice was talking about how grief groups are great, because you'll hear one person say he feels guilty because he didn't take his loved one to the hospital, another person say he feels guilty because he did take his loved one to the hospital, another person guilty because she didn't get to say goodbye, another person guilty because she "burdened" her loved one with a goodbye speech -- in other words, no matter what you do, you can't keep someone from dying, and the guilt comes up not because you should have done more but simply because you wish you could have -- but the result would have been the same.

Take care of yourself, and know that Ahbuh got her sleep.
posted by occhiblu 28 October | 16:46
posted by lysdexic 28 October | 17:01
Just wanted to add my voice to all the others. I also agree that you guys did nothing wrong, and that a peaceful end in her own surroundings was the best thing that could have happened. It was just her time to go. Letting go is such a hard thing, don't beat yourself up about it. I am so sorry for your loss.
posted by redvixen 28 October | 17:24
I'm sorry for your loss; losing a pet is always wrenching. It sounds to me like you did right by Ahbuh, and 16 is good innings for a cat by anyone's standard.
posted by Triode 28 October | 22:08
I'm sorry to hear this, danf. I agree, you took good care of Ahbuh. She had a nickname! That's a true sign of love. :)
posted by halonine 28 October | 23:19
pixlr || Crap. My work just blocked MetaChat,