Heart Disease equals Heart Aches
Last night (Friday 3/9/12), my wife and I made THE most difficult decision of our lives to put one of our beloved cats, Cafe Con Leche, to rest…
If you’ve seen or read my blog, several times over, I’ve mentioned Cafe or Jhumpa (littermates/sisters), our domestic shorthair fur-babies. Back in June of 2009, We adopted them from Berkeley Humane on the day of Michael Jackson’s death.
The reason we put Cafe to rest was because this last Tuesday morning, she had a blood clot in her hind legs stemming from Hyperthropic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). She had genetic heart disease of the left aorta that was enlarged. From that enlarged area, blood began to settle and wasn’t circulated throughout the body. To skip pass the details of the episode, the local vet (Lakeshore Vetenarian Hospital) sent us to a specialist in San Leandro.
Cafe had to see a cardiologist to get a complete checkup, echocardiogram, and meds. We decided very quickly to give her a chance to fight and recover even with the doctor letting us know that Cafe, if she recovers, will be terminally ill.
We both reacted very passionately and tearfully to 1) seeing our cat in pain 2) knowing that she’s been living with a heart problem, and getting a terrible prognosis of terminal illness 3) knowing that we may have to put her to rest.
The entire day was spent wondering how this could happen to us and to our special cat, what the signs were for HCM, and if there were any preventative measures that we could’ve taken. (Addendum: During the overnight at the vet, we got a call around 11pm re Cafe’s condition. Her condition started to deteriorate a little bit more although the doctor said it wasn’t a significant factor. Cafe started to have bloody diarrhea—stemming from blood clot; her liver factors were high—electrolytes shifting away from legs; but her hind legs were twitching.<—Probably a good reason why we had some optimism for her quick recovery.)
Cafe came back home to us the next day with incremental signs of improvement. The doctor said that the nerves in her hind legs were destroyed and new ones could grow back in the next couple of days. And instead of incurring even more in hospital bills (already in the thousands), I took the opportunity to become a nurse to my cat. Unfortunately for my darling wife, she had to work that day, and the next few days while I spent time force feeding Cafe, turning her over, massaging her body and legs, giving her meds and fluids.
Personally, I’ve never taken that much effort to help any one in need. My mind has never been focused so singularly at one task, and that was to simply look after our baby. Throughout those days, I began preparing for the inevitable. I knew that if she didn’t show great signs of improvements in her hind legs and energy, we needed to find the right step to insure she was not going to be in pain any longer.
And over the course of the next few grueling days, she would look at us with her big brown eyes, unable to purr or wag her tail, and talk like she normally does.
To top this agonizing experience, her sister, Jhumpa (orange tabby), was reacting negatively toward Cafe by hissing, acting aggressive, and dry heaving with a lot of distress. Our home was a mess to say the least.
By Thursday evening, my wife took the opporunity to spend time with her, making her feel comfortable and loved. She even spent the night on the ground with her (during the night, Cafe tried crawling with her front legs pulling her, under our bed).
Friday morning was very tough on both of us. We knew the day had come to put Cafe out of her misery. By this time, she would’ve shown great signs of improvement and some nerve regeneration in her hind legs. Instead, she seemed very lethargic. And we decided that it was the right time to euthanize our beloved Cafe. And by Friday night, we had put her to rest, out of her misery, out of her pain and suffering.
What came directly after, the grieving process, is still tremendously difficult to comprehend. My wife and I have been experiencing a sense of loss that neither of us have ever felt. And since we were the sole guardians of Cafe, our small little family shrunk even smaller. Throughout our time with Cafe, we had talked, dreamed, and imagined that our cats would be old ladies, that our future child would get to love our cats just like we have been able to love them…that we would let them roam around our future backyard and play like any indoor/outdoor cat.
We are now trying to understand this pain, this heartache, and this void that has been left in our lives and in our home. She was the loud, sassy, and extra-verted cat that everyone loved. She let us know when she wanted to be held, when it was time to eat, and when she wanted our attention, which was all the time. Cafe filled our lives with all of this, and now there’s a huge, noticeable space.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
― Jean Cocteau
The good news about Jhumpa, out of this tragic event, is that she’s become more affectionate, has a better appetite, and a much more sweeter and loving cat. She was always the shy one, the one that wouldn’t show up for hours because she was going to spend her time in another room sleeping while Cafe had all of our attention. And as I write this now, my wife and I had a small discussion about how devilish Cafe was when it came to dominating our lives. She was always the first one at the door to greet us and usually would wrestle Jhumpa away when she wanted our attention…and the first to eat anything all the time (she loved to eat). Now, even one day after her sister passed away, Jhumpa is eating more frequently, and generally in a more agreeable mood. We never realized how much attention we directed to Cafe until now.
Putting more strangeness to this event, Cafe and Jhumpa were born in the month of March, and they were going to turn 3 years old very shortly. Last year, we invented “The Day of the Cat” as a celebration to our little babies…we will continue that tradition nonetheless, but with more reflection.
Please, if you read this and have a cat, domestic short hair and Maine Coons are more susceptible to HCM, make sure you get your fur baby checked out.
If you are also grieving and want to understand this period of your life, please read this book, “The Loss of a Pet.” My wife read it over the weekend and I’ve just started it. From anger, guilt, doubt, frustration, and suffering, this book does acknowledge the tough road ahead, but reminds us that there will be a process of healing that we need to face honestly and with an open mind. And for me, I never thought that bond with an animal would be that strong…and subconsciously, Cafe held a very special and happy place in my heart. She was my security blanket that was severed too quickly.
Below, you will find a compilation of recent images and videos of our dearly beloved and sorely missed Cafe Con Leche. May she touch your lives for a moment the way she touched our lives for the short, but amazing amount of time…and as my wife said, “the great ones die young.” Cafe was too young to have gone through this tragedy, but we are both very fortunate to have had her in our lives because she was our special one.
In this below video, we would normally see Cafe do this when we come home from work, but then she started doing this all the time for more attention.
One of my favorite moments of this cat was the video below where she followed the camera and belted out her famous little meow. So long Cafe Con Leche, you will always be with us in our heart and home.