About twelve years ago, a feral cat had a litter of kittens underneath the house of a friend of ours. The mother disappeared not long after so our friend hand-raised the kittens. When they were old enough to be adopted out, we were offered an adorable little black-and-white kitten.
We named her Scout.
As we left their house my wife drove while I sat in the back seat beside Scout in her cat carrier, but she kept mewing and mewing so I let her out into my lap. She promptly started climbing up my shirt and I discovered that being little doesn’t mean kitten claws aren’t sharp. When we got home, at first we kept her in a bathroom so she and our cat Templeton could gradually get to know one another. Scout hated being isolated in there, so to comfort her I’d lay on the hard floor and she’d curl up under my chin and fall asleep.
Even after being released into the house at large, she’d curl up under my chin at night. She soon grew too large to sleep around my neck and moved to my chest, where she’s slept every night for the last twelve years, usually with her face pointing towards my legs and her tail wrapped around my face.
A special bond formed between us that lasted throughout her life.
Earlier this week she didn’t come up to sleep on me, and when it happened the second night in a row, I knew something was wrong. She kept trying to hide places, like she was looking for a place to die, so we took her into our local vet who started a bunch of tests and determined she had a severe case of anemia, but didn’t know why.
To try and find the cause, she was transferred to another vet with round-the-clock care and more equipment for testing. Most of the early tests were encouraging in that she looked healthy apart from the anemia, but discouraging in that they couldn’t find the cause. The oxygen levels in her blood crashed to dangerous levels so she was given an emergency blood transfusion and thankfully it was successful and she recovered nicely. So nicely in fact that after they did a test for cancer in the spleen she was allowed to come home and spend the night with us. We were to give her medicines for the treatable causes of anemia since we still didn’t know the cause, while we waited on the results from her spleen test.
We got her home early yesterday evening and set her up in our bedroom, where she and I spent the next day together. At first she was back to her old self courtesy of the transfusion, which was remarkable to me since she had nearly died that morning. She snuggled up with me throughout the evening and then took her normal place on my chest throughout the night.
By morning the effects of the transfusion seemed to be wearing off and she tired more easily so I decided to give her some quiet time so she could sleep. But she wouldn’t sleep unless I lay there with her, so I climbed into bed and she curled up on my chest and we napped for a couple of hours. I got more and more worried as the day went along, as she seemed to get weaker and weaker.
In mid-afternoon the vet called with test results: she almost certainly had cancer of the spleen. They would need a second opinion from another specialist to be absolutely certain, which was going to take a couple of days, but it explained why Scout had been fading so quickly after the transfusion and why she wasn’t responding to any of the medicines she was taking.
By this point she didn’t want to move around much, so I just lay on the bed and let her sleep on my chest. I could feel her fading as time passed, even her purrs were getting weaker, softer, and harder to come by, as I stroked her soft fur as she slept. Late in the afternoon, she turned and crawled up to my face, hers right next to mine, and just purred and purred and purred. It was such a sweet and charming moment that it almost gave me second thoughts about what needed to be done.
While Scout was still purring against my face, my wife called when she was about to get off work. I let her know how weak Scout was and that I thought it was time, so she called our local vet to see if we could come in. We could, so I packed Scout into her carrier, without so much as a protest on her part, and met my wife there. We were led into a quiet, private room where Scout was euthanized.
She passed peacefully in my arms.
It was almost exactly a day from the time I brought her home after her transfusion to the time she passed away. In a strange way, my last day with Scout was also one of my favorites. I got to see her so full of life at first, just like her old self, then see her fade until we both knew it was time to say goodbye. But it was also a day full of snuggling, just the two of us, where she purred and purred and let me know how much she loved me. And I scratched her head and stroked her back and let her know how much I loved her.
And there was that last beautiful moment where we were face to face and she purred so happily. It was a great comfort to me to know what I comfort I was to her, and that even as she knew she was dying, she was where she wanted to be.
Oh Scout, how I loved you, and how I will miss you.