It just so happened that I caught Miley Cyrus’ performance on SNL last night, which focused expressly on mourning for her dead pets. While this was likely bizarre for most viewers, it was eerily poignant for my girlfriend and I. On Monday, we had to put down our cat, Mia, whom we had for 13 years. We hardly ever watch SNL, and definitely would not tune in especially for Miley, so it was a uncanny coincidence to say the least.
Every cat owner probably says this, but Mia was a special cat. She did all the good things and none of the bad: she greeted visitors by jumping on their laps (especially boys–she was a flirt), she would let us hold her like a baby without a fuss, and she never once scratched or swiped at anyone. She also had an amazing ability to seek you out and comfort you when you were feeling depressed.
So it was especially difficult when, two and a half years ago, she was diagnosed with kidney disease. Up until that point, she had been a normal, healthy cat, whose only major health problem was a result of a brawl with another cat in the alleys of Berkeley, CA. The vet said that, due to the state of her kidneys, she would live anywhere from a few weeks to maybe six months, and we were devastated. It’s amazing how it easy it is to take a healthy cat or dog for granted.
Mia’s daily treatment consisted of three pills as well as a subcutaneous injection of electrolyte-infused fluids. At first, it was daunting to think of doing this every day. I think most cats hate taking pills, and I can say without a doubt that they despise getting poked with needles. Mia quickly learned to run from the sound of the plastic needle cover cracking open, and we had to kind of pin her down to do the injection while she grabbed the edge of the couch like a rock climber.
Things got easier as the months went on, though. We learned better ways of giving her her pills, like diluting them in a touch of warm water and mixing them into her food. She also got used to the injections, and I think started to associate them with feeling better. It helped to wait until a calm time later in the night, when we were all in bed, and then poke her when she was relaxed. One guy we met who had a cat with kidney disease swore that putting on 90’s hip-hop and R&B helped the process. This was actually the only person we met who had cared for a cat with kidney disease, highlighting how it can be an isolating experience.
Mia continued on, living for the most part as her normal self, for nearly five times her original six month estimate. While this should give hope to owners who just received the diagnosis, it’s important to note a few things. We spent thousands of dollars on visits to the vet, medication, and supplies to make it possible for Mia to live over two years. We also both worked from home, which made it much easier to give her the attention she needed, especially when one person traveled. Our only trips together were to upstate New York and Vermont, where we could take Mia with us.
Orienting our life around Mia made it all of the more difficult when she died. Losing a pet is always a terrible experience, mostly because our relationship with pets is almost always all positive and filled with love, as opposed to human relationships, which are almost always more complicated and mixed. Since our daily routine and to extent careers were dictated by Mia’s condition, we have a big “now what” that we are dealing with after her death. It’s a bit like losing a child, having watched my mother go through that process.
I wanted to give a shout out to a few people who helped us along the way. The first is Tanya’s site dedicated to feline kidney disease, which is the best internet resource on FKD. It’s one of those awesome plain HTML sites with no gimmicks that the internet was created to support. The second is the Bidawee animal hospital here in NYC, who cared for Mia throughout her illness, and even sent us a condolence card filled with sincere messages from the staff. Finally, Doctor Foster and Smith is a great option for getting more affordable medical supplies and medications for cats and dogs.
For all those with a cat diagnosed with kidney disease: fear not, as with the right care, you will hopefully have your cat for as long as we had Mia!