Scout at the End

Our cat Scout on our bed

Our cat Scout on our bed

These are some of the last pictures I took of Scout, taken around noon on the day she died. At this point she had already regressed quite a bit from the energetic cat I brought home after her blood transfusion, but we were still a couple of hours away from getting the news that she most likely had cancer of the spleen and would not recover. At times she seemed fine, just quiet, but I knew her so well that even then I knew she was slowly fading. Other times, as in the second picture, she even looked miserable and was only comforted when I set her on top of me.

For the rest of the afternoon, I put my camera and laptop away and just lay on my back and let her sleep on my chest, listening to her breathing and purring to try to determine when it was time to say goodbye. Whenever I got up to go the bathroom or check on the other pets, I lost my composure and broke down in tears. But when I was back in the room with her, a complete calm came over me, which kept my breathing nice and gentle as she relaxed on my chest, rising and falling with each breath I took.

If I could have been guaranteed she would die peacefully, I would have kept her there to the end. But I was afraid she’d die a painful death, or worse that she would suffer a painful seizure or organ failure and still be alive and in pain. I wanted the pain to be mine, not hers, and wanted her to be euthanized.

The only question was when.

When the specialist vet called with the news that Scout likely wouldn’t recover, she said that she shouldn’t have lost that much energy that quickly after her transfusion if it had been any of the treatable causes of anemia. Scout was still eating which she thought was a good sign, she thought she’d stop as she got weaker and agreed that would be a good sign it was time to euthanize her.

But Scout, bless her heart, kept eating right up until the end. She couldn’t eat much at once, I suppose the effort must have tired her, so I kept the bowl beside me and fed her a piece at a time as she relaxed on me. She wasn’t as eager to drink which worried me more, but then I remembered that throughout her life she had tried to drink out of my water glass even when there was water in her bowl, so I brought up a full glass and she drank from that.

I thought Scout would let me know it was time by finding a place to hide, much like she had when she first fell ill, and like our cat Templeton did when it was his time. Since we were isolated in the bedroom I thought she’d hide under the bed, or at least under the covers, but as the afternoon wore on I realized she wanted to stay with me until the end. If I had to get up she went to the spot she had chosen as her spot, the place where I lay my head when I sleep every night.

So close was our bond.

Late in the afternoon when she snuggled up to my face and began purring, she was so close I couldn’t see anything but her face, hear nothing but her purrs, and wanted that moment to last forever. But I could see how pale her nose was getting, a sign the oxygen levels in her blood were dropping low. My wife soon called when she got off work and we agreed to meet at our local vet which was not only close by but also where we were most comfortable and knew the staff, and they knew Scout.

It was time.

It broke my heart to break up that moment, Scout purring so happily in my face, as I knew it would be our last happy moment together. But I didn’t want to risk waiting too long, so I gently eased her off my chest and set her on the bed. Her cat carrier was stashed just outside the bedroom and in the time it took me to take a few steps to the door and turn around again, she had eaten a few bites and was back in her spot at my pillow.

She looked so miserable, I knew it was time.

When she didn’t fight me going in the carrier, I knew it then too. After the short ride to the vet, she perked up a bit at first when we were in the private room, but she stayed quiet, and soon just tried to bury her head in my chest. Our vet came in and gave her a shot with both a painkiller and sedative and Scout soon fell asleep awkwardly on my lap. I couldn’t see her face but we knew she was asleep because she was snoring. Scout was a quiet and small cat, and when she snored sometimes as she slept, her snore was quiet and small too. It always brought a smile to my face, and there she was, about to die, making me smile through my tears.

The vet took her away to insert a catheter, saying it usually took about five minutes, but it took a little longer with Scout because her blood pressure was so low from her anemia. I didn’t have any doubts that we were doing the right thing, but I was thankful we hadn’t waited any longer.

She brought Scout back in sound asleep and curled up in a padded wicker basket, a lovely gesture as I could set her in my lap and still have her look as peaceful as if she had been curled up in her beloved heated bed. The vet gave her two quick injections through the catheter and almost immediately Scout breathed her last.

They were willing to let us stay as long as we wanted, and I would have thought I’d want to stay for a little while. But when I saw her stop breathing, I just stroked her lovely soft fur a few times — she kept herself groomed right up to the end — and I was ready for them to take her. Scout had prepared me to say goodbye all day long and now that she was gone, I let her go.

It was time.