The Death of "the Kitten" - Livin' the Good Life
Jun. 2nd, 2008
11:09 am - The Death of "the Kitten"
I’d been noticing for a while that my cat, I called her “the Kitten” and Steve called her “the Princess”, was looking a little poorly. She never grew to be a full-sized cat, and at 14 years old, she was still looked like a big “kitten” and extra-thin. Her personality was hyper-sensitive, and she would immediately arise from a lying position, with a little meow, if someone walked in the room or petted her. She was always ready with a purr whenever I stroked her. She would never let our relatively-new cat, Gilmore, get near her, much to our disappointment, because we had hoped they would become pals.
Anyway, I noticed a while back that she wasn’t keeping herself as clean as usual. She had been so fastidious in the “cleaning department”, and I had always thought her fur felt just like a rabbit’s. So soft! Then I noticed that she was losing weight, and for her that was serious because she could not afford to lose any. Since she and Gilmore shared a food bowl, I hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t eating much. So I started paying close attention, and I saw that, indeed, she didn’t appear to be eating at all! So I got her some super-soft canned food to see if she’d eat that. She did for a while, but she eventually stopped eating that as well… or if she did, she would vomit it up later on. She spent a lot of time sitting very still in a crouched position. The last week or so, Steve and I realized that the end was near. I started getting pretty weepy and sensitive about it. We decided to let her die a natural death rather than have her be “put to sleep”. She seemed fairly comfortable, and I wanted to sort of “midwife” her out of this world, just as I would want to be if I were dying. She started having loose stools and didn’t clean herself afterwards or cover up her poop. At that point, I wrapped her in a towel so I could have her near me in the house without making a big mess. She was quite stinky. Last night she began crying out periodically, and I started holding her. She seemed comforted by that. I brought her in bed with me (wrapped in the towel), and as she got weaker and weaker I started talking to her. I told her over and over that I loved her, and that she could go now, and that she was safe. She was very limp and her eyes started “staring”. She didn’t respond to anything going on in the room. But, she DID continue to purr softly whenever I petted her. So, I kept petting her very gently. I’ve always thought that purring was a kitten’s way of getting her mama to keep licking her and a sign of pleasure. So, I was only too happy to keep petting her, and I was so relieved that she could actually communicate with me like that. In the end, she cried out a little and stretched her front legs out, making a climbing, or running, sort of motion, lifting her head up like she was getting one little last half-hearted intake of air, and then she went completely still with staring eyes half-closed. I carefully re-wrapped her in the towel and put her in her bed. I knew she’d be stiff in the morning when I went to get her and bury her. In the morning, upon unwrapping her, she looked kind of “kittenish” lying there in her bed with her feet curled and her head tucked inward toward her chest… like she was just having an enjoyable nap. She didn’t bend when I picked her up, just as I had anticipated, and it wasn’t until then that I fully realized that she was gone. Her spirit had definitely left her body. It made it a lot easier to do what I had to do next. I gently laid her in the hole I dug. It felt a little weird to push the last shovel-full of dirt down on top of her with my foot. I had to keep reminding myself that she wasn’t in that body anymore. I buried her outside our window, and I plan to plant flowers over her as soon as I can find some that are pretty enough.
As I type this account, through teary eyes, I feel grateful that I was able to be with my kitty through the whole process of dying and to see what it’s really like. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a natural process and that it happens all the time. I remembered some of the things I’d read in a book I’d gotten from Hospice telling about the stages that people go through as they are allowed to die a natural death. She appeared to go through exactly the same stages. It was, for the most part, quiet and gentle and it definitely felt holy. I felt privileged to participate in my dear pet's passing. Goodbye, my sweet kitty!