It’s been a rough half year. Unlike Pete whose death was extremely sudden and unexpected, we knew it was the end for Sam. He was taking prescription thyroid pills twice a day, had to eat prescription kidney food, and was being given 150 ml of subcutaneous fluids every day. By the end I felt like a nurse.

We had just gotten back from a two-day outing to Tahoe when I noticed Sam was behaving rather oddly. He came out from under the bed (his new favorite spot) and was meowing a lot. He usually misses us when we’re gone, but not this much. The other thing was that his eyes were huge. I initially chalked it up to the fact that he had probably been in the dark for the past couple days under the bed.

His litter box had definitely been used, so he’d been walking around at least some of the time.

But the next morning when we woke up he was obviously blind. It took me a while to realize it since he was able to move by memory, smell, and hearing so well. But his pupils were intensely dilated and he couldn’t meet my face as he normally would. We actually had a regularly scheduled appointment in four days, but we called the vet immediately to move it forward.

But of course, the vet wasn’t picking up even though it was their normal working hours.

We called Sage emergency clinic in Redwood city and they picked up immediately. We drove down and dropped off Sam (COVID protocols), and waited in the parking lot. They told us they were absolutely swamped, and since Sam wasn’t immediately in danger of passing, he would have lower priority. We told them that was totally fine and buckled down.

We had a quick takeout lunch from Gourmet Gyros & Kebabs and buckled down in the car. They would periodically call about various things (Sam’s medical history, any medications we’d given him, etc etc). Fortunately all of our documents are on Dropbox, so it was pretty easy to forward them the needed files.

Sidenote - it’s extremely hard to find a bathroom to use during Covid. Luckily, there was a Smart&Final nearby, and grocery stores are one of the few places where folks can theoretically still use public bathrooms. (Full disclosure, I didn’t even ask. The bathroom was near the back where employees stock new equipment, but it was urgent and nobody stopped me. So… 🤷)

The vet called us and explained what happened with regards to the blindness. Apparently, kidney disease can lead to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure can often cuase blindness in cats by detaching the retina. Sam had been extremely confused and the excessive meowing was his way of asking “why can I suddenly not see?” Everyone at the hospital had remarked what a trooper he was though. He was still loving, and while he couldn’t see, he still gave ever nurse and doctor licks.

Had it just been the blindness, we would have taken him home.

Unfortuantely, Sam had an undiagnosed heart disease. In fact, his lungs were already floating in fluid, which was resulting in some shortness of breath. All of a sudden the pieces started to fall into place. About three weeks ago, suddenly Sam stopped climbing the stairs. He just suddenly opted not to and decided to stay upstairs. We thought he was just having a mood swing, becuase a couple months ago he just opted to live downstairs for a while and sleep on MoMo’s bed.

The worst part is there was no way to treat the heart disease without making the kidneys worse, and the kidney treatment was actually making the heart disease much worse. They offered us a surgery to drain the fluids from the lungs, which could give him a couple extra weeks - possibly a couple extra months. But the surgery would not only be expensive but leave him vulnerable to strokes.

We had a pretty visceral reaction to that suggestion. Pete died from a stroke and it was brutal. It was an absolutely awful way to go, and we had no desire to relive that experience. We opted instead to spend one last day with him before putting him down while he was having a relatively pain-free day.

They gave us a sterile, isolated room. We drove home to pick up his favorite snacks and wet food. Sage gave us a good hour with Sam, as we held him, played with him, and fed him. I definitely cried quite a bit holding him. He was such a trooper. Despite everything he’d been through, he was still licking us.

It’s amazing how a such a small creature of just a couple pounds can become such a big part of your life. Coming back to the house just felt so empty, even though most of the time we’d have no idea where he was.

RIP Sam. You were a good kitty.