Last Monday was the day I had fruitlessly hoped would never arrive. My dear Peeps succumbed to renal failure shortly after her 18th birthday on the 18th anniversary of her adoption, I believe. Her decline was very fast--over the past few weeks, she appeared to be losing a lot of weight and was spending less time with us and more time asleep in a corner of the bathroom or behind a chair. There were no obvious signs of ill health until late last week when she suddenly appeared to have lost about half her body weight and had very watery eyes. Over three days, her body seemed to fail her, until she could no longer stand for very long and fell over when she attempted to walk. I could not leave my darling girl in that condition to suffer. Fortunately, we had a very kind vet who does home visits so she came by last Monday to see if anything could be done. While Evan had some hopes that something could be done to improve her condition, I was just surprised that she was strong enough to survive through the night. Unfortunately, the vet agreed with my fears and found that one of her kidneys had almost disappeared and the other one was huge. Even if we had caught it earlier (which would have been quite difficult), very little, if anything, could have been done. Kidney failure is a common cause of death among older cats and some key symptoms include thirst. Peeps was always a good drinker, however, and loved water more than food from her kittenhood, a good quality in terms of health, but not in terms of diagnosing kidney failure.
I feel so bad that I couldn't do more for her and that I was distracted during her last months dealing with pregnancy, renovations, the move, childbirth and the early sleepless days of parenthood. I know she needed me more than ever but I barely had any time to give and had hoped to have some quality kitty time with her later. I also feel bad that I misread physical symptoms as emotional reactions to the inevitable distractions we encountered over the last year. She had appeared to have neglected her beautiful long fur coat last summer while I was at home, which was the kind of thing she would do to show that she was upset, but the tangles never really went away and became far worse this winter and spring. Matted fur is a sign of kidney failure. She also changed her eating habits, moving away from hard to soft food, which again in retrospect was a sign of kidney failure. Looking at photos of her a year ago also reveals just how much she had declined--but it's difficult to see such change on a day to day basis. Only in the last week was it evident that she had just wasted away to nothing.
Evidently she was not in much pain. Kidney failure makes humans and animals (as far as we know) feel weak and mildly unwell which might account for Peeps' seeming surprise at not being able to walk far or reach her litterbox in the last hours of her life. But I feel guilt and pain that I missed the signs and couldn't help her. I really hoped she would live into her 20s and that Severin would get to know and love her, pick her up and stroke her fur. He did get to know her and while she was the most jealous of the three cats (she was a tortie after all), she was also the most interested in him and the most gentle towards him.
I cannot believe she has gone--I still see her around the apartment. I could not be there for her final minutes so Evan held and stroked her. I didn't have the courage to see her go and want to hold on to the illusion that she is still around. I think the truth will hit when her ashes come home. She was the best and most loving friend anybody could ever have and I just hope we will meet up again one day. Rest in peace, my dear little girl and thank you for all your love. I will love you forever.
Anne Jackson’s English Muffins
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