I am still in a disoriented state, sitting here waiting for the water meter guy from the city to come and change our meter so I can go to work, but I wanted to write this post, to help sort out my feelings and to pay tribute to a very beautiful cat.
Yesterday afternoon Pixie was put down. I am still sort of in shock in between crying jags. For those who want to hear how this came to pass, here follows an account and some pictures. As I said in my post about the Sam and Frodo dolls and Raoul’s passing on June 19 (was that only the day before yesterday?), Pixie had been looking really good when we got home a week ago last Sunday from our reunion trip. She was eating well and was more peppy and spritely than she'd been for a month, so we were really optimistic she would live until Rachel got home, at the very least. But Monday evening she didn't want to eat her evening meal. The next morning, Tuesday, she looked like a classic sick cat. She was much too warm; I figured she must have some sort of fever. Like someone with a fever she didn't want to eat anything and was weak and listless, just sitting in the loaf-of-bread position, her head near the ground, as if conserving her energy, or coping with contained pain and discomfort. She was breathing in a rather laboured way. All day she kept herself behind a chair in the living room, perched on a blanket. That is so unlike her usual social self.
I had noticed, too, before last week that her rib cage seemed to be sort of splayed out, held out from her body. It definitely looked splayed out now. Before, I had wondered if it wasn't just an optical illusion, because her waist was thinner from losing weight during the last few months. But, no, her rib cage definitely extended outwards, more apparent when she lay on her side. This worried me because her diagnosing doctor back in January had told us that breast cancer often metastasized to the lungs. Looking at her splayed ribs and watching her heavy breathing I thought, could it be lung tumours taking up that space?
But it was the fever that seemed to be the problem, making her depleted and ill-looking. Where was it coming from? She's had little fevers before from which she recovered, so I decided to wait till this morning to see how she was.
Yesterday morning Pixie was still too warm, but a little less so, yet she was still weak and listless, hunkering in the loaf-of-bread position, her head low and neck stretched forward. She stayed wherever I put her, not moving from the spot. I made her an appointment as soon as the clinic opened. A vet could see her in the late morning. Fortunately I did not have to work.
The vet who saw her confirmed that Pixie had a fever and that her breathing sounded laboured. Considering Pixie's diagnosis of cancer, and cancer being a cause of fevers, she took x-rays of Pixie’s upper body. I waited.
She came back looking unhappy. I knew it couldn't be good news, and she said that Pixie was in a very bad way. Was it lung tumours, I asked? Whatever was the state of her lungs, the vet replied, she wasn't able to see it: Pixie's chest was so filled with fluid her lungs were mostly obscured. Her heart, which should be plainly visible on the x-ray, was completely hidden. From what could be seen, the fluid was compressing her lungs against the back of her rib cage. She couldn't eat and had a fever because she was drowning in fluid, yes, fluid that was making her ribs stand out. It had to have been building up each day until her body couldn't cope any more. “If this were my cat,” the vet said, glancing darkly up at the x-ray pinned to the viewer, “I wouldn’t wait until tomorrow to put her down.”
I was in shock. Tears began to rise. I felt as though I'd come to the doctor with a sore finger and been told I needed to have my hand amputated—right then. I brought Pixie in expecting to be given a fever reducer, not told that she was failing, fatally, right now.
Could the fluid be drained? I asked, grasping for time—a week, a couple of days. Yes, the vet said, there was a medical procedure for that, but considering her condition, it would come right back and she'd have to go through this all over again. “With her chest filled like this, she's having a very hard time trying to breathe. No matter how well she appears to be coping—cat-like—she is certainly in very considerable distress.”
I burst into sobs and asked if I could be alone, to call my husband first before I made a decision. I knew my husband would want to be there, and personally I needed time to take in the enormity of it. Pixie was my darling, darling girl. If Raoul was unofficially “Rachel's cat”, and if Angelo is Glen's (in terms of whom each cat seemed to love best), Pixie was mine.
I couldn't reach Glen at once, so I called the vet back in and asked if I could go home and then come back for a late appointment, Glen joining us if possible. So the afternoon went on, I brushed Pixie’s hair, cleaned her eyes, and took pictures (I hadn’t taken many in the past two weeks, thinking we still had plenty of time). I held her on my lap.
Then I drove her to the vets and was ushered to the end of the corridor, to the room where consultations and most euthanasias are done. My husband arrived, and, after the merciful, almost shockingly swift and easy procedure, our darling Pixie had slipped away. The vet left us alone as we continued to stroke her. I stooped for a last kiss, then another—no, one more—then my husband and I hugged each other and wept into each other’s shoulders. These two euthanasias, not quite a month apart, have been very hard on my husband. He’s never attended any of our pet’s death before. The experience, while possessed of its own bittersweet beauty, is a huge challenge to the societal training that men must not cry.
Because we had arrived in separate cars, Glen coming from work, I drove home alone. In the privacy of the Honda I cried and cried, loudly and messily, almost unable to see the road. My little darling girl gone, just like that, not even a month after Raoul.
We called our daughter later yesterday evening. She is feeling terribly shocked and devastated—both by the deaths of such beloved cat friends and because she feels so helpless, unable to have be here to see them again, and wanting to so badly. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to college", she said. I tried to console her, arguing reasonably that we can’t put our life on hold on the chance that we might not see our loved ones again. We can never know when the people or pets we love will die. But I don't think she was consoled. She was the one who chose Pixie at the cattery, above all the kittens, and the reason we adopted Pixie at all.
Last night, when we came home with the empty cat carrier, Angelo, our last cat, was beside himself, yowling all around the house as if he knew. He's never been an only cat. I think we are going to have to get another kitten.
Below are pictures from Pixie’s life, as much for me to look at as you. How we loved our little minx, and how lucky we were to adopt her. She had a face like a little devil, a prowling walk like a mountain lion, but she was the friendliest cat in the world. She came into our lives as the boss of the house, possessed of an easy authority, having reared three litters of kittens. But her authority was loving and maternal. She was a wonderful companion to sick cats and humans, keeping company with each cat that became ill, grooming them and comforting them. Ah, Pixie, how I will miss you!
Pixie (“Fairydust Pixie Kiss”) at four weeks, August 1999, held in the hands of the breeder’s young daughter. Pixie was her favourite cat then, too. It must have been hard for her to see Pixie adopted away:
Out of chronological sequence, here is a shot of Pixie on New Year’s Day, 2003, curled up against my hand. She loved sleeping curled up. When she curled up in a tight ball you knew she was in a very deep sleep.
Back to her childhood, this is Pixie at six weeks, already a little rascal:
Pixie the young mother, 2000 – 2001. She had three litters while she was a breeding cat. Our cats, Angelo and Friedrich, were from her second litter. The breeder said Pixie was an excellent mother, except that she moved her babies so much, carrying them in her mouth, she wore the hair off the backs of their necks.
Pixie came to live with us in the spring of 2002, and immediately ingratiated herself with everyone. Like her sons, she most loved sleeping with Raoul, big, warm and placid. The boys tended to fidget.
In the picture below, from November 2002, she just woke from sleeping with Raoul in his favourite bed, a basket in front of a heat vent.
This is Pixie on my shoulder in June, 2003, a few days before her 4th birthday. What a “girlfriend” she was.
This shot of the Big Three was taken in August 2007 (Friedrich had died two years before). Pixie is in the center. She was 8 years old.
Pixie was diagnosed with malignant breast cancer at a routine physical this year, in January 2008. But she felt well for many months, and finally rallied after her surgery in mid-May to remove three breasts with enlarged, aggravating tumours that she was beginning to chew on.
Here she was in February, laying in front of a heat vent. What a face.
This is her engaged in one of her favourite pastimes, sleeping with Raoul. It woke her when I took the shot.
This is one of my favourite cat shots ever. I posted it in May. By this time Raoul was sick, too, but Pixie was feeling well enough to comfort him, wearing the little convalescent shirt I made for her, so she wouldn’t chew on her sutures.
Then, the end.
These pictures were taken yesterday, June 16, the day she died. Knowing she was going to die, and regretting not having taken more pictures of her in the previous weeks, especially for our daughter’s sake, I took several pictures. I cleaned her face and smoothed her rumpled sick-cat fur, and coaxed her to look at the camera (instead of drooping her head down), so we’d have some nice shots to remember her last days by.
Me holding Pixie, using the mirror over the mantel to try and get a last picture of us together:
Just a little pet and a scratch….
Pixie looks up as I call to her….
She meets my gaze.
Last, another of my all-time favourite shots, Angelo reaching up to give Pixie a comforting lick. I am sure Angelo and Pixie never realized they were mother and son, and their relationship was not as close as theirs with Raoul, the favourite of all the other cats, but it is clear that Angelo misses her very much.
I couldn’t look at this picture and not think of Galadriel giving the kiss of benediction to Frodo in Lothlorien.