Our cat Smokey, R.I.P.
Smokey died on Tuesday, 8 May. It had been a long time coming, but it was still a tough moment. He had a sinus infection for a few months, and we had taken him to the vet back in March to get his blood work done. We had been checking his blood to make sure his kidneys were still functioning, since that's what had killed Zoe, our other cat. While he was at the vet, she diagnosed a sinus infection and put him on medication. He had curtailed his eating and drinking, probably because he couldn't smell the food and because he couldn't breathe that well and needed to breathe through his mouth. So we gave him his medication every day, let him drink from the faucet (he always loved drinking from the faucet, which was a tad strange), and hoped he would get better. His blood work came back fine, so we figured that all he had to do was fight off the infection and he'd be fine, at least for a while. But he never got rid of it. He kept losing weight because he still couldn't eat very well (even though he ate pretty regularly, but he just didn't get the volume of food he needed), and he got weaker and weaker. He had always liked jumping up on the bed or the counter in the kitchen, but he couldn't do that anymore. He still liked lying on Krys at night after the kids were in bed, but she now had to pick him up to get him onto her lap. He had always been pretty skinny, even when healthy, but his weight dropped from seven pounds to just under four, and that's not good. Last week I took him back to the vet and asked if we could get him fluids to administer subcutaneously just to get him hydrated until he got rid of the infection. We always thought he would recover because the medicine seemed to helping, and he would sneeze out a bunch of snot, but then it would just return. So for a few days we hydrated him, and after getting fluids he seemed to be a bit stronger. On Tuesday night we wrapped him in his towel (pilling a cat is no fun) and gave him his medication. Krys had to put clothes in the dryer, so I held him in the towel and rocked him. Once Krys was done, we went into the bathroom, and I looked at him. "I think he's dead," I said, and he was. Sometime between getting his pills (which he struggled against) and going into the bathroom, he gave up the ghost. I imagine it was just too hard to survive anymore.
We don't think he suffered all that much. When Zoe died, her kidneys failed with such speed that we think it hurt her a bit, but Smokey didn't appear to be in much pain in the days leading up to his death. He wasn't moving around terribly well, but he didn't act much differently. I know it's very hard to tell if cats are in pain, but we like to think he wasn't. It was just too much of a struggle for him, and we're glad it was quick. It was very weird holding a dead cat in my arms, because his eyes were still open, just blank. I had to wait to take him to the vet until the morning, and now we're just waiting for his ashes from the cremation.
We got Smokey in 1999, after we got back from our trip to Venezuela. When we arrived home, Zoe was in the window crying loudly, and we knew she needed a friend for when we weren't around. Krys found a foster home for cats, and we told the women who ran it that we wanted a laid-back cat, because Zoe was so high-strung. They gave us a cat who was far too laid-back - in fact, he made himself so at home immediately that Zoe got freaked out. Plus, he was bigger than Zoe, so she couldn't bully him. We took him back and told the ladies that we needed a laid-back cat who was also a big wimp. They gave us Smokey. He was in their bathroom, hiding behind the toilet, because he didn't like all the other cats. He was about 5 years old at the time, and he had been a feral cat, the only one of his litter to survive. He had had sinus problems for years, ear mites that almost destroyed one of his ears, and at some point all his teeth had been extracted. He was perfect!
We brought him home, and he immediately ran into the room with a futon in it and hid underneath it. We had to give him medication for his sinuses (it wasn't a recurring problem, and after that initial time, I can't recall giving him medicine for that until now), so we had to drag him out of the room and take him in the bathroom with the door closed so he wouldn't run away. Lots of fun there, I can tell you! For about a month he lived under the futon, venturing out at some point to eat and drink, but never going very far. He didn't trust us, so we had to wait until he realized we weren't going to kill him. Eventually he came out and began to feel at home. Zoe hissed at him and swatted at him, but we think she came to enjoy having him around, even though she never quite warmed up to him. He was good for her, because he was very friendly (eventually) but always kind of wimpy around her. As the years passed he got a little braver when she was around, but she could always bully him, mainly because he didn't really care - if she got pissy, he would just walk away. He was always very playful, and couldn't figure out why she didn't want to run around more. He would try to bait her, and occasionally she took it (as she got more comfortable with him), but often she just hissed at him. Such was life for Smokey!
He also became much more comfortable around us. As he began to understand that we weren't interested in hurting him, he started jumping up on us and settling down for some good napping. Unlike Zoe, who was always skittish, we could move around while he was on our laps and he wouldn't jump up and run away. It was kind of a pain sometimes, because we wanted to move but felt bad for disturbing him. He would get up in our faces, too - he liked to lie around Krys's neck like a scarf. He rarely slept with us, but when we were getting ready to go to sleep he would come into the bed and settle down under the covers, either under Krys's legs (while they were bent, creating a nice tent) or in between us. But he would always leave when we settled in to sleep. I guess he just liked hanging out in a different room all night.
We worked hard to get him healthy, and he enjoyed eating, although he never gained weight. He just liked hanging out and getting in our way. He had a "silent" meow, in that he would look at you, open his mouth, but barely any sound would come out. The sound he did make was more of a rasp. We're not quite sure why he wasn't louder, but it was quite humorous watching him wandering around and not making much noise. He was always very patient with the kids, allowing both of them to pet him and put their faces on his fur. Mia was very good with him, and Norah was getting much better - she still pulled on his tail occasionally, but we always told her that she should not do it. Norah loved putting her face into his fur and making contented noises - Smokey's hair was long and silky and very soft. In the past few months, Mia had begun calling him by name, and when we asked what he was (expecting her to say "cat"), she would say, "Fancy." Long-time readers of the blog will recall that two years ago he had a brain tumor (details and pictures here, here, here, here, here, and here) which we got removed, even though most people told us to let him die because he wasn't worth the money. He only lived a couple of more years, but it was worth it. He had been fine since the operation, and he got a nice life for two more years, so we don't care that he didn't live very much longer.
We had Smokey a little less than eight years. Of course we wished he had lived longer, but considering the state he was in when we got him and what he had already been through, we're grateful we had him this long. We think he got a bit depressed when Zoe died, and maybe that contributed to his demise. We were thinking of getting another cat when Zoe died, but for now, we think we'll stay pet-less, at least for a time. It's hard enough dealing with the two children, and especially because we want to move from here in the not-too-distant future, so maybe once we find a new home it will be time for new cats. For now, we'll just remember our two excellent cats and how nice it was having them around. We'll miss Smokey, just like we miss Zoe. They were part of the family.