Two days ago, Pete threw up behind the couch. Pete throws up a lot, and as he’s gotten older he’s only thrown up like and more. Several years ago I took him to the vet and tried to find out why, but after a series of tests, they just shrugged and said cats sometimes do this. Maybe it’s the food. But over my six years with Pete, I’ve tried numerous food brands all with the same result.
Our house is filled with vomit stains, and honestly we clean it up so regularly that I had become completely desensitized to Pete throwing up. He’s an almost 16 year old cat who throws up. A lot. So what?
But this time the vomit looked different. It didn’t look like his food for one thing. We found him near MoMo’s food bowl, and we had just swapped our dog’s food to a different brand. Food that Pete had probably eaten (he’d certainly meowed at it eagerly enough for the past several days).
In retrospect after googling, it was most likely darker because there was a great deal of blood in it. If I were wiser, I would have taken him to the vet right then and there. That, more than anything, probably led to Pete’s death.
He took a day to recover and seemed fine. We gave him treats and hugged him a lot and he seriously seemed to have recovered. I like to think he gathered strength to spend just one more day with us.
I’m writing this after one of the longest days of my life. Much of it is a blur, and the only thing that’s left is a deep sense of exhaustion. Below is my best ability of an accurate recounting of today’s events.
It’s an hour or so after lunch time. Ahana and I had just finished watching Netflix, and I had barely gotten back into work. I hear her call me urgently downstairs. Pete has vomited, and this time it was a bright red pool of blood. I start to clean up the blood with paper towels and tell Ahana we had to take him to the vet. She calls them on the phone to verify they would be available. They tell us they are but we’d have to wait in the parking lot due to Covid. We say no problem and that we’d call them in ten minutes once we arrive.
Pete starts moaning in pain as he bleeds out. Ahana rushes to get a towel and keys and my wallet. In our rush we forget our masks. I wrap Pete in Fluffy my orange Pool towel and go down to the garage.
Ahana tells me she’s driving, and I decide to sit with Pete in the back. Pete is in my arms. He hates cars, and he’s still wracked with pain. His moans fill the car.
We drive slowly without any major bumps or harsh turns. I don’t want Pete getting carsick or any more stressed.
During the course of the drive his moans subside and he generally becomes much quieter. According to google maps it’s a 9 minute drive.
By the time we get there his eyes are starting to glaze over, but he’s still breathing. He’s still breathing.
Perhaps the most frustrating part is that when we got there they made us wait and fill out forms. I knew Pete was dying but there was just no urgency from them.
We fill out her forms and she comes out a second time to ask if he’s neutered. I remember shaking with rage wondering how it could possibly matter. I bring my cat, soaked in blood and vomit and barely breathing. You’re asking about his testicles?
Maybe that’s just my need to have someone other than myself to blame.
By now Pete would barely breathe. Occasionally he would rasp deeply and loudly, but for the most part he just lay limply. I would later find out from the vet his lungs were filled with blood, and these rasps I was hearing was him drowning from internal bleeding.
I remember one burst of energy where he twitched his leg. I remember thinking maybe he wanted to go outside and was reacting to noises of the birds or the sunlight. We were parked with the windows down and doors open. Or maybe he was just uncomfortable and wanted to shift.
Honestly I don’t even know if the way I carried a cat in his condition made it better or worse.
The nurse comes out twice more, and the second time we show her we’ve already completed the same paperwork she’s asking us to fill and to please look at Pete.
Pete’s eyes are completely glazed over, and he isn’t breathing at all. She finally seems to sense the urgency, but of course by that point it’s too late. They try reviving him to no avail.
Pete died in my arms, as we waited in the parking lot. Perhaps the only blessing was that he died next to us. It was not a clean death, if such a thing exists. I haven’t seen many deaths, but I can’t imagine one more painful.
I remember my shock at seeing him collapsed on the living room floor, covered in blood. His body didn’t seem to be able to move. I remember thinking how there could possibly be so much blood in such a small body. I remember his wails during his last final lucid moments.
What was he trying to say? Did he know this was the end? Was he trying to fight it? He was in pain, that much was plain to see. So much pain.
I’m sorry, Pete. I’m so sorry.
You were the best kitty.
Loss is a strange thing. At the vet, even as he was dying in my arms, I kept it together. We discussed the various disposal options calmly, and after negotiating some pricing options, we settled on cremation. I came back and walked MoMo. Ahana cried on my shoulder. I called my parents to let them know, and let some close friends - particularly those who had cat sat before - know. And since everything happens all at once, I also called the notary to let her know I’d have to postpone the refinancing signing by an hour.
The vet gave us a paw print in wet clay, so we fired up the oven and baked it.
I went upstairs to sit down in the “cat’s bedroom”. It still smelled like Pete. There was an odd feeling in the back of my throat. Honestly? I thought it was coronavirus. We had just flown back from North Carolina and Ahana’s Project Baseline test results hadn’t come back yet. It’s been so long since I last cried, I guess I had forgotten the feeling leading up to it.
It’s the little things that remind me of Pete.
I go upstairs and I see an extra litter box. Or an extra scratch pad. The scratch pads were Pete’s favorite resting spot. Our morning routine is to greet Sam and Pete at the door; we feed them once before bed and after we wake up, so in the morning they’re waiting for us at our bedroom door. This morning, Sam didn’t greet us. I think he knew.
I usually start the day going down stairs with my “good morning” song where I greet all the pets. The song doesn’t work with just Sam and MoMo. At night, I give Sam his thyroid medicine and then spend ten minutes petting Pete. I’ve done that for probably six years. Just seems odd, going to sleep without doing that.
It’s funny how empty the house can feel with just two pets. Pete usually hung out upstairs, leaving Sam to deal with MoMo downstairs. It’s strange how big a 1200 square foot house can feel. Today Ahana and I spent the entire day downstairs. It didn’t feel right to go upstairs.
This was a jumbled blog post written over the course of August 6th (the day Pete passed) and 7th (today), so apologies if it lacks the usual concluding statements or direction.
RIP Pete, we miss you.