Our little old lady Miaowski was put to sleep yesterday afternoon. She was around 20 years old. This was all a new experience for me, and I wanted to share in case it helps anyone who might have to make this decision one day, or who may want to know what’s involved, because I had no clue. I’m glad I wrote this down too, so I can remember saying goodbye to the Miaowzer.
I hope this doesn’t make anyone feel too sad! Please take comfort in knowing that Miaowski is probably up there in cat-heaven leaping from lap to lap and giving the stink eye to all the other cats <3
Miaowski was 10 years old (“ish”) when I adopted her in late 2005. She had been left behind when her previous family moved away from Manchester and didn’t want to take her with them. She was always a big of a grumpy soul, so I can sort of see why.
In mid January she came downstairs one Sunday afternoon with one hugely swollen cheek. I took her to the vets the following day and he identified a rotten tooth. He administered antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers, and gave another dose a couple of weeks later. We knew then that any procedure to remove the tooth would be risky at her age, but the vet wanted to see whether it improved with the treatment before deciding.
Miaowski was due for another checkup around a month after that. But in recent days she was particularly frail and wobbly. She was drinking a lot more, and stopped eating her dry food. We bought some wet food for senior cats, but she would just eat the jelly and not the chunks. So we got her some mushy food for seniors, and she tried to eat, but I could tell her teeth were bothering her, and eventually she stopped eating that as well.
By this time she was so skinny, frail and wobbly that we knew she had to see the vet ASAP. C kindly took her in on the Tuesday morning, two days before her check-up was due. It was obvious then that she was in a bad way. Her teeth looked pretty awful. She was so thin and badly dehydrated. She weighed less than 2kg. The vet felt a hard lump in her tummy.
We took her back in the same afternoon. We had the option of leaving her in the vets’ care for a fluid drip and tests to determine what was wrong; but the vet knew that something was drastically wrong, and I knew she couldn’t eat and struggled to drink water. She was so weak and could barely move. At 35, I had to make the decision for the first time about whether to put an animal friend to sleep. I dreaded her condition getting worse and/or horribly painful at home, and I knew that there was really nothing that could be done for her anymore. I decided that she should be put to sleep; she was barely awake anyway, wrapped in the blanket we took along, and seemed peaceful enough.
The vet explained that it would involve taking her out of the room to insert an IV line, while I filled out the paperwork giving permission for the euthanasia, and would follow with her administering an overdose of anaesthetic. There were various post-procedure options to choose from: taking her away with us for our own little burial, having the surgery dispose of her remains, or requesting an individual cremation and choosing from a baffling array of urn/scattering/headstone type options. The vet suggested I should choose before because it might be more difficult afterwards, but actually the reverse was true for me, and it was only after she was gone that I knew what to choose.
Miaowski came back with the IV line inserted, still very weak and looking very sleepy. We lay her down on the blanket and wrapped her up in it. The vet asked us one last time if we were sure, and when we agreed that we were, she administered the anaesthetic while we stroked the Miaowzer. It seemed to me that she had slipped away before the anaesthetic was even finished. But the vet listened for a heartbeat anyway before she confirmed she was gone.
The vet left us alone for a wee while with Miaowski. It was odd because her eyes were open, and she did at least one big twitch. When I was young, I didn’t have any contact with any of our pets that had died, and I think a part of me wondered if I might be squeamish or too upset by this. But I wasn’t at all, and it seemed natural to spend some time stroking her and tucking her tail back under the blanket. After a while, the vet came back in and took Miaowski away. She returned our blanket, which I wanted to keep. We were told we would get a call when her ashes were ready to collect (I chose a plain wooden box with her name engraved). We were told we could leave straightaway and would settle the bill when we collected her ashes, which was a relief because I was bawling quite a bit by this point.
I think the worst moment for me was when the vet told us she was gone, and I realised more than I had before that this decision I’d made had directly resulted in her death, controlled and at that moment. I guess this might be common to anyone who has to make that choice, but it was new to me. Even though she was warm and sleepy and peaceful and she went very gently off to sleep, it still felt like there was a lot of brutality to the choice I’d made.
That didn’t last too long though….. I think, when you spend a lot of time with a pet, and their decline comes over a period of weeks, the decision sometimes feels very drastic. And I guess that it IS drastic. But when I think back now, her condition was so very bad. She was so weak and ill, barely responsive. Her body was so frail that I just couldn’t imagine putting it through anything for the sake of keeping her with us for longer, unable to eat and too weak to move around, possibly living out her last days in the vet surgery. She had spent a couple of hours in her blanket infront of the fire before we took her to the vets. She was having trouble even drinking water, though was very thirsty. She was warm and cosy wrapped in her blanket when she fell asleep for the last time and was with two of her favourite people. It was very quick and gentle.
When we got back home afterwards, I went straight to bed for a few hours, headachey from all that crying and a bit exhausted. In the evening I had a bath and a bit of dinner and cleaned out her litter tray for the last time. It’s been tremendously sad, even though I used to talk about what a miserable old kitty she was. She was more like a companion to me than anything else, but taking responsibility at that moment reminded me that actually I was her guardian and not just her friend.
I do feel now that I made the right decision on her behalf. I made a silly little memorial to her here, paraphrasing the little tribute I posted to Facebook to inform her many fans of her passing (apparently this made a lot of people cry, which was never my intention!)
Sleep tight Miaowski, you were one of a kind and we won’t forget you <3