Gregg and I have been told by numerous people, and frequently, that we are borderline insane for having seven cats. We have always smiled and laughed, because no one could ever really understand that no, we are not cat collectors. These cats came to us to be taken care of in two litters as newborns, and each one of them has their own personality. To decide to eliminate one or the other would be an impossible choice – for us, like choosing which of our children to no longer have in our home.
Last night, in a terrible blow that fate handed our human and furry family, we had to find out just how horrible it really was to lose one of our kitties.
September 1, 2004, Gregg was mowing the lawn and found a litter of four, three-week-old kittens under one of our bushes. Their mother had been hit by a car. To that day, we had never been “cat people.” We had Lakota, and we were good. We are, on the other hand, animal lovers. We took the babies in and ended up falling in love. We kept two of them, Boots and Midnight, and found homes for Mittens and Twilight with friends. In April 2006, the family that had Mittens needed to relocate and asked if we would take her back. We did, and it turned out she was a momma-to-be. She had Patches, Tiger, Oreo, and Shadow about two weeks after we got her back. We could not find homes for them, and we kept them all. People thought we were nuts.
The day Mittens delivered the kittens, Lakota started going nuts and brought me to her. It was my day off from work, and I was shocked to find her delivering so soon. She had already had the two girls, but when I looked again, I realized she was in trouble. Oreo was breech and she couldn’t get him out. I delivered him myself, and got him to breathe when he came out. From then on, he was my baby, even though he didn’t want to be.
Oreo was probably the sweetest cat we had. He never fought with any of the others. He only wanted to make us happy. He was a sweet, loving cat. When I sat at my desk working during the day, he would be 10 feet away on top of the TV, sunning himself in the window and checking in occasionally.
The day after Christmas, Oreo got very sick. We cuddled with him in bed before church, and when we came home he was in the same spot. I took him to the emergency vet and they said he was just constipated. Two days later, he was no better. This time, our regular vet thought it might have been an ear infection, so she gave him antibiotics.
Some days, we thought Oreo was getting better. He was starting to eat pretty well. He would only take water when we gave it to him through a syringe, so I was doing that every few hours. Not knowing if what he had was contagious and having to monitor his input and output, we had to isolate him in the room that will be Little R.’s bedroom, the room where he was born. I sat in there with him and would just cry, because I knew that there was something wrong and I couldn’t fix it for him. Gregg slept in that room with him every night so he didn’t have to be alone…and now I am so grateful that he did.
When he was sick, Oreo couldn’t stand up all the way, and he had a problem with circling to the right. His white cells were very low, and so were his platelets. The vets had no idea what was wrong. Finally, they suggested we take him for an MRI. I didn’t know they could do something like this on an animal, and it turns out there are only four places in the country that specialize in it. Against all odds and by the grace of God, one of the locations was 10 minutes from our house.
I took Oreo for his MRI yesterday afternoon. The wonderful vet at the center told me that they expected to have the results back Saturday morning unless I wanted a STAT reading (which we didn’t feel we needed). He thought by looking through the paperwork that it might be a deep ear infection.
I decided to grocery shop since it was going to be a long procedure, but I blew through the grocery store faster than I ever have. I really needed to be back there. As I was walking in the door, they were calling me with news.
The vet had seen the scans coming up, and Oreo had a very large brain tumor – apparently something very unusual for a not-quite-five-year-old cat, but very big. They felt we needed to get the STAT reading. We did. I told Gregg to leave work and get to the center. After he got there, they told us that it certainly was a brain tumor. It could have been operated on, but there were many, many complications. The vet had to tell us that the only time they had ever had a problem waking a pet up from the anesthesia was when there was a large brain tumor involved.
We discussed it, but realized there was no way for Oreo to have a life without pain and complications. They were able to put him to sleep without waking him from the anesthesia. We spent time with him before they did it and were there when he left us.
I think I knew all along in my gut that this was what was wrong. I did not know when I woke up yesterday that that would be where our appointment would take us, and it hurt like hell – it still does.
Gregg and I are blessed by my wonderful, loving parents who stood by us through all of this. My father, who is certainly not a “cat person” but believes, as we do, that your animals are part of your family, went out into the freezing January air and dug our sweet boy a grave next to the dog we had when I was growing up. He built him a little coffin and the four of us sent him to be with St. Francis together. My mother was out moving snow and thawing the ground before we got there. Even through loss it is very clear how loved we are and how blessed we are, and for that we are grateful.
And above all, today, I am grateful for the time we had with our sweet Oreo “Cookie Cat” and the unconditional love he gave us in the all too brief time he was here.