I had scheduled an appointment for our ”house lion” Fester, our large in-home cat, to visit our local pet hospital in Sartell, MN a week ago Friday, July 30th, 2021.
We just finished celebrating our 9th Wedding Anniversary with celebratory tattoos for Eston and myself that Friday. We had the whole week off to celebrate together as a family. It was Wednesday we saw the first of the big symptoms Fester not feeling well. He was hiding in our closet and in places he would not normally go. He would urinate where he was sleeping. He stopped eating his food and drinking water. I prepared myself by reading everything I could Google about Fester's symptoms ahead of time. We were worried and hoping that he was only experiencing constipation or had a simple feline UTI. He just was not acting his normal chipper Fester-like self. He held his head low and moved as if each step was painful.
Shortly after arriving at the pet hospital, we were in a room and an assistant to the pet doctor was doing an initial check-in. They took his weight and his photo before the pet doctor came in. I shared with the pet doctor Dr. Dre Fester's behavior and symptoms and they asked permission to approve a charge to do a blood work-up, I agreed. The assistant took Fester out of the room for the blood draw and returned shortly. We were left alone for a short while and when the doctor return he shared some high-level information with me without specifics: that his blood “levels” were high indicating he was fighting some kind of infection, possibly in his kidneys or bladder. He recommended fluids for dehydration and an antibiotic single-dose injection for the infection. Again they advised the fee for these services and I agreed. After they were administered the pet doctor was so adamant that I buy the expensive 3lb bag of special renal health cat food. Reluctantly my bill for the visit was just short of $300, draining the rest of our anniversary funds for the week. I wish I would have asked for details and more questions. I didn't know how a cat was going to react after getting antibiotics.
I took Fester home, and for the next two days, he urinated every hour without being able to move far nor ever able to make it to the litter box. Each movement caused him to stop and lay back down, he barely left his sleeping spots. He had not touched his food or water at all during this time. I quarantined him to one of the bathrooms with tile flooring so as to be easier to clean and keep track of his bathroom habits and his recovery. We ended up carpet shampooing our basement carpet, a pillow, and our son's bed. We washed all the blankets and sheets and everything Fester liked to lay on to keep things as clean as we could.
I first got Fester when he was only 8 weeks old, found a posting in a classified ad. I knew his name would be Fester before I even saw him. He came from a farm north of Morris, MN, and I picked him with his sister Molly. He was perfect in every way including the crook in his tail, right at the tip. He was stepped on by something that broke the tip of his tail and it healed bent like that. He has now celebrated his 13th birthday in June 2021. Molly had been adopted out to another family some time ago, another story for another time. She may have already passed on too, there's no way to know.
On Monday I returned with Fester to the pet hospital because he hadn’t shown any signs of improvements and was actually only getting worse. He barely moved except to urinate and sometimes he barely moved for that. He was losing weight and at that point, I could start to feel his bones under his skin and my heart was breaking for my cat. At the appointment, I spoke with the other available pet doctor, Dr. Becca, and she described in detail the high blood levels and actual numerical findings meant. It was like a brick wall to learn my friend for 13 years was suffering from end-stage feline renal disease. Although it matched everything I read about on Google, "thanks Google". They explained the different paths for treatment such as take-home injectable fluids or special diets and I knew I couldn’t afford these costs long term. That was no life for a cat to be forced full of hydration and drugs. Dr. Becca even recalled one client that had a 20-year-old cat that the owner did choose to do that. I love Fester but I knew he would continue to have these issues in the future from what she explained to me. I asked the doctor to print out estimates for all paths we could take, including putting Fester down as much as it choked me to ask about it. I took Fester back home to think things over.
We tried to offer Fester food and water frequently. He would turn away wet and dry foods, he turned away from real albacore tuna, and he even turned away his favorite cat treats. He did not turn away from getting his favorite head scratches and pets.
Fester began drinking fluids again by Tuesday but he still was not eating. I’ve never been so conflicted in my life as to what the best decision I had to make for the life of another. Fester would never have the quality of life he had before. For all we knew, he may have been suffering from this developmental disease for years and it wasn’t until this UTI that it really showed and we then became aware of it. I called my mom, “he’s 13 years old” she said, "When I had Misty put down because of cancer, I regret not being there in the room with her when it was done." He is not a young kitten I said, he’s lived a good life. And my heart broke more. I knew what we needed to do, and it sucked. I decided that if we were going to do it that we would bury Fester in our yard. Mom said, "If you do that make sure it's two feet deep to protect it from being dug up by other animals." So I called the pet hospital again on Wednesday and scheduled the procedure for the very next day at 3:30 pm, my day off.
I didn’t know what to do with myself the next morning as I knew what was coming that afternoon. I found a nice dress to wear and then I made breakfast for our boys. During the morning I got lost in my thoughts… So I cleaned. I cleaned my kitchen and I cleaned my living room. I shut the door leading to the upstairs and to the basement, and I shut the door to the toy closet. I let Fester run free where I could see him and care for him. At noon, I made lunch for the boys who had not been cooperative at all this day. In fact, my youngest took it upon himself to play with my snow globe and dropped it, breaking it. Glass and glitter and water everywhere. I sent them to bed after eating and I cleaned up the broken pieces and water. During my boy’s nap time I went outside.
I went outside and grabbed a spaded shovel from the garage and I dug a hole. It was the stupidest and easiest hole I ever dug like the dirt gave way under my efforts. I told my husband later that night “it’s like the earth knew what I was doing and just made it easy for me”. But it wasn’t easy to look at. I knew my best friend for the last 13 years was going to go in that hole. I cried and I dug this hole two feet deep and wide as my mom told me to. And I cried again as I walked away from the first grave I ever dug.
My husband was at work until 2:30 pm and I knew it needed to be done. And if I didn’t occupy myself with something left to do, I would have been much worse off with my thoughts racing about the upcoming appointment.
About 2:45 pm, I woke my boys from their nap and dressed them in clean clothes. I tidied my own dress and my husband came home from his shift at work. The appointment was for 3:30, I didn’t want to be early but of course not late. We grabbed an old towel that was getting worn, it had my name embroidered on it. We grabbed Fester's favorite toy, a real pheasant feather plucked from a hunting trip years ago and the little orange golf whiffle ball that would be in his food dish to try and slow him down when he ate sometimes. We packed up the boys in their seats and loaded fester into the pet crate in the back of my SUV. And we left home.
The night before I prayed for some overt and clear sign that I was doing the right thing like maybe I needed more time or just something so out loud at me if this was right or wrong. Nothing ever came through, except this little old lady driving in front of us on our short trip, in her Cadillac doing 20 mph in a 40 mph zone… “is this the sign I asked for?” I thought. Well, traffic moved onto a multi-lane road with roundabouts and I quickly moved past her…maybe just to give me one more moment to hear Fester meowing in the back.
When we parked I took just a moment to take a breath before I stepped out of the vehicle. I considered just going back home… I didn’t want to do this.
We unbuckled the kids and I hoisted my purse strap on my shoulder and I held onto Fester tightly but gently, almost as if I had already lost him… I wanted my love for this cat of 13 years to radiate through me and just soak into him. I don’t know what he was thinking about being back at this place a third time but I just wanted it to not be that he hated me for doing this. I wanted him to know I was doing this because I loved him and I didn’t want him to suffer or not have a good remainder of his days. Cats can live anywhere from a few days to a few months with end-stage renal failure depending on their behaviors, or how much you pump into them… I wasn’t going to drag him along if it wasn’t the way to go.
God bless that receptionist, she saw us coming and was so kind. She led us into the room right as we walked in. There was a big beautiful window in the small room with a view of a small field. I thought it was the perfect view of what was about to happen. When the doctor assistant came in and said “I think you're doing the right thing” whether or not it was actually true helped me to know that this was OK. She knows her stuff and looked at his blood work from last Friday she said and agreed that I made a positive decision for the life of my cat, that I did not fuck this up. Thank you to that kind and gentle person! She explained in detail what was going to happen, she let me request the second doctor, Dr. Becca, to complete the procedure and they all let me do this whole thing in a way that was not horrible and that made me feel like they cared about my cat as I did.
We paid the charge before the procedure was to be done, which I thought was perfectly reasonable. She took Fester to have an IV catheter placed in one arm, and he was a trooper for that part. And then she brought him back In the room with us. She asked us if we wanted more time and I said “No, it’s going to happen, I’ve been with him this whole time. Let’s do it.” And she brought the wonderful doctor in.
Our boys were with us and they sat on the only bench in the room. We gave them our cell phones to watch YouTube kids, something to occupy them. I told Eston to stand beside me and the doctor so they could not see what was about to happen. They’re young, even if they saw what happened, they might not understand. I know I will explain it to them when they are older, I just didn't want them to witness it directly even though they were in the room. But, I knew that I had to be there, right there letting Fester know I was there in those final moments. And I was, I placed both my hands on his body the whole time. The wonderful assistant held his held head so gently that as the first sedative was injected she lowered his head softly on the blanketed table. Then she gave him head scratches, as I had asked her to when the doctor injected the overdose to send him to sleep.
Pets' eyes don't close when they die and that’s actually normal. I’m glad I couldn’t see his eyes though. He had the biggest, most beautiful yellow eyes that I get to remember that way. And I cried, I sobbed and I got cat hair in my mouth as I kissed his lifeless body and I said I loved him and I said goodbye. I remember I picked up his tail and I felt the crook at the tip of his tail that he had always had. I placed his tail beside him rather than letting it hang off the side of the table. He was so peaceful. The assistant and doctor left the room to give us a moment.
I remember watching Eston place his hand on Fester‘s head and over his heart and telling me that he was at peace. I needed that.
The doctor and assistant were kind enough to gently wrap Fester in the towel to place him in a box so that we could take his body home. The drive home was quiet and felt like ages. I drove and I did my best to remain calm during the short trip back home. At home, I gave each of the boys a pop tart and a full cup of apple juice with a lid so they don't spill. Then I went outside to join my husband and we laid Fester's body to rest beneath the tree. We took him out of his box, placed him in the hole. I placed the feather on top of the towel Fester was wrapped in and Eston placed the orange ball next to him. Then, we buried him and placed the sod back over the dirt.
I put the shovels away and Eston placed the large pinwheel at the top of the grave of the first pet I had as an adult on my own.
Two days later, on Saturday, I finally could put the kitty items away, both litter boxes, the food, and the food dish. I gave the bag of treats to our nanny. Other than the storage area and the random cat hair found still, he is gone. We still have our pet dog, Teddy. I wonder if he misses Fester too.
I miss my Fester. I loved him so very much and am so thankful for the wonderful long years I got to have my big beautiful grey cat. It has now been 4 days since we buried him. It is true what they say that it gets easier every day. I know he was just a cat, but he was my cat for 13 years, he was my first "child" and I loved him very much.