I can’t believe it’s been a month without our little Zobo Cat. It may sound silly, but we really miss her. We still have moments where we forget that she isn’t around – Alex will ask if she’s coming home soon, Jay has sworn that he’s felt her jump up on the bed several times, and I’ve had a tough time remembering that I can’t just throw extra water or an ice cube into her water bowl anymore. We just really miss her.
I realize that I didn’t explain what actually happened in between my post about Zoe being sick and my post that she had passed away, so here’s what happened. This post is long but will likely be my last-ever post about Zoe.
When I wrote my update, we had just started Zoe on steroids, anti-nausea meds, and an appetite stimulant. My friend Katie, who is a vet, came over the night of Thursday, July 15, and reassured me that it could take several days before she’d be feeling better. By the following day, Zoe was a bit more like herself. She was able to jump up on the counter, indicating she had more strength and energy than she’d previously had. I felt tentatively hopeful.
We were going to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, July 17, and debated what we should do with Zoe while we were gone. On one hand, she was starting to respond positively to the steroids and we didn’t want her to miss any doses. Also, the last time we’d been out-of-town was when she’d had that sharp decline and we didn’t want to lose any progress. On the other hand, we didn’t want to take her from her comfort zone. In the end, we decided to board her so she could have someone giving her the medicine and encouraging her to eat.
Whether that was a mistake or not, I’ll never know. When we picked her up on Monday morning, she was skinny and weak and it was clear that she hadn’t eaten very much. I had called the vet’s office to check on her on Sunday afternoon and they told me she was doing well, but she was not the same cat that we’d dropped off. I was devastated.
I went out to run some errands late Monday morning (July 19) and when I got back home, she must have again injured herself jumped off of the couch to greet me. She was dragging her back legs like she suddenly couldn’t use them anymore and struggling to walk. It was a combination of limping like she was stiff on one side and dragging her back legs like she was lame. I knew then that the odds were that we didn’t have much time left. When trying to get her prescription food at Petco, I ended up bursting into tears on the poor employee who I’d ask to check to see if they had any more of it in the back since it wasn’t on the shelf anymore. “I don’t know how to get her to eat, and I know we’re near the end, but I just want to offer her the food she likes,” I sobbed.
On Tuesday, July 20, we realized that Zoe wasn’t able to use her litter box efficiently. She would barely get into it but her butt would be sticking out and she was peeing outside of it/all over herself. At this point, I was taking her to her food dish every hour or so in order to encourage her to eat because she had stopped eating again. At one point when I picked her up to bring her over, she peed all over herself and me. It appeared that she was losing control of her bodily functions. We’d pick her up to place her in the litter box and hold her poor weak body up when she couldn’t do it herself in order to use the bathroom. We also bought her special wipes to wipe her down. We wanted her to have some dignity.
Despite being weak and not having the energy to jump up on the couch on her own on Tuesday night, she somehow managed to make it up onto my bed. I was shocked and thrilled to wake up on Wednesday, July 21 to find her sleeping curled up next to me.
Despite getting up on the bed, it was clear on Wednesday morning that she was struggling. She had bathroom issues, walking issues, and she wasn’t eating. The NestCam, which we’d set up directly over her food and water to monitor her eating, revealed that she had only eaten a bite or so on Tuesday night so I’m not sure how she got up onto the bed. I took her to the vet that morning and they discovered that she had something neurological going on and likely couldn’t feel when her bladder was full/was having trouble emptying it. They gave us a muscle relaxant, pain killer, and a stronger appetite stimulant. When we got back home, I gave her all three and she ate the most she’d eaten in weeks. I was SO happy. I decided to go for a walk or run to get out of the house and work off some of my tension. Jay had a few meetings but was going to sit upstairs with her just in case she needed anything.
About an hour after I’d left, Jay called me in a panic. “Zoe tried to jump up on the couch and she collapsed,” he said.
“How bad is it?” I asked.
“It’s bad,” he replied.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m a half-hour from my car and a half-hour from home. I’ll be home in an hour and we can take her back to the vet if you think she needs it.”
“Coll, I think she’s dying. You have to get home right now.”
At that point, I started freaking the fuck out. I sprinted back to the car, probably the fastest I’d ever run in my life. Jay FaceTimed me while I was running back, asking if I’d like to say goodbye to Zoe. I don’t know how I managed to sprint through the woods while crying and FaceTiming my dying cat, but by the grace of God, I did. I also drove very fast and very recklessly and made it back home in record time as well. I’d called Katie to tell her what was going on (“Zoe collapsed and we think she’s broken, what do we do?!”) and she told us via a 3-way call that she was probably cold and scared and we needed to wrap her in a blanket and get her to the vet ASAP because it was the most humane thing to do. I called the vet while driving way too fast, panic-crying, and they said to bring her in right away and they’d prioritize her.
As soon as I got home, I saw that Jay was right. Zoe was laying in her favorite spot in the sunlight, completely limp and her breathing was shallow. She barely had any life to her. She started purring when she realized I was there and I comforted her as best I could. Jay said she’d been purring whenever he’d pet her head too. We carefully wrapped her up and brought her to the vet.
Her temperature was too low (97) so they wrapped her in a heating pad and told us that she’d tried to stand up on her own but collapsed. My little Zobo Cat had some fight left in her. They let me hold her with the heating pad and she was able to lift her head and purr and interact with us a little bit. At that point, Katie called me to say she’d coincidentally been in the area (she lives 25 minutes away) and would come in for support if we wanted her to. We did. She looked at Zoe and listened to what the vet had to say. Their assessment was that she likely was not going to be able to move or sustain her temperature again. Essentially, her body was shutting down, but since she had stood up on the table as soon as the heat was applied, they suggested we give her two hours to see if she made any improvements. Jay and I felt that we owed it to her to see what happened, but we did not have any false hopes. Katie asked us if we needed permission from someone who saw very sick animals all the time to let her go if she didn’t improve. We really appreciated how kind she was to take time on her day off to be there for us.
Alex was at school and Zachary had been in Pennsylvania with my parents, but they were almost back. We talked to them each separately about what was going on and called the vet as planned. They confirmed that Zoe was not improving. It was time to say goodbye. The plan was to bring the boys to say goodbye and then have my parents, who would be waiting in the car, bring them to dinner while we said our goodbyes. We didn’t think they needed to be there when it happened.
So, back to the vet we went. Zoe was off of the heating pad when they brought her in, so she had very little energy. She picked her head up and was somewhat alert as the boys pet, kissed and hugged her goodbye. “Goodbye, Zoe,” they said. “We love you and we’ll miss you.” It was very emotional.
Zoe used the last of her energy on her brothers and with her family all there together, letting her know how much they loved her. As soon as Jay took them out to my parents, she laid her head down in my hand and closed her eyes. She never picked it up again and she only fluttered her eyes after that. She looked tired and at peace. The doctor came in a few minutes later and she passed away peacefully in my arms, with Jay petting her head in the way that she loved to be pet. It was quick, peaceful, and heartbreaking.
We took her back home to bury her in the backyard before my parents took the boys back home. I buried her with her little princess hat. My parents and the boys brought home flowers to put at her grave. Over the next few days, we planted those flowers (and more!) and made a little grave area. Our backyard is rocky with too much shade and bad soil, so we were limited in where we could put her (it was like the third spot Jay tried digging in haha). We wanted to make the area stand out because Zach’s friends run through the woods and we didn’t want them to accidentally trample over it.
So, that’s the story. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry while writing the last few paragraphs or that I didn’t hear a noise behind me a few minutes ago that sounded like she was scratching the couch. I know she was ‘just’ a cat but she was a part of our family and we miss her very much. I miss seeing her sunbathe in front of the window during the late afternoon and hanging out with her on the couch at night and snuggling with her overnight. I’ll miss dressing her up at Halloween time and taking the annual “December 8” Christmas picture with her and the boys.
I keep thinking about that last night when she jumped up on the bed. I think she knew that the end was very near and wanted to spend her last night close to us, where she had spent so many, many nights over the last 13 years. She was a wonderful cat until the end. Thanks for being a good kitty, Zoe. We miss you.