Some of you will already know this but, for those not following us on FaceBook and Twitter, we are very sad to share the news that we had to make the difficult decision to have Akira, our big beautiful Bombay black cat, put down over the weekend.
Akira was only 13 – old in some cat’s lives but not as long as we had hoped to have with him and still fairly young at heart as he had always been – but was suffering from cystitis. Despite thinking that he was better after his last trip to the vet, this nasty illness is one that all too often is recurring, and this was just the case for our darling boy, Akira.
He had eaten breakfast fine on Friday but quickly started throwing up after he’d eaten his lunch. We thought it was just him having eaten too quickly so we paid it no mind. Then at tea time, he again didn’t eat so we wondered whether he perhaps had an upset stomach or he had caught the cat cold that little Ripley has been nursing for the past week. We checked him before going to bed and he seemed responsive and appreciative of the fussing, but not eating still. So, we decided to leave it overnight and see if his appetite had turned come the morning.
When we got up on Saturday morning, we found Akira lying by his food bowl, dinner still uneaten, and his head propped on the side of his water bowl. When I tried to move him, he got straight up and went to the litter tray, scratched around in there for a bit but didn’t actually go to the toilet. These lethargic and loss of appetite symptoms were the ones he’d shown previously when he had cystitis so I know them immediately and called the emergency doctor.
We were told to bring him down straight away.
A difficult decision to make
When we got to the vets, she told us that unfortunately, cystitis is an recurring problem – especially within elderly male cats – and that we had a decision to make. We could either treat the cystitis, which would alleviate the symptoms and Akira’s discomfort for another few months or maybe longer, or we could put him down since it’s not an illness we would ever get rid of altogether.
We had thought that buying Akira special cat food and biscuits to treat this urinary problem would work but, after two months on it, he had developed cystitis again. Making the decision as to whether to treat your cat again and hope this time that the treatment lasts longer or put him/her down is one of the hardest decisions to make. You weigh up if the treatment (which in Akira’s case would be invasive and make him very uncomfortable and/or unhappy) is worthwhile and will work or not, how much the treatment costs and whether you can afford it. But in the end, it’s your cat’s decision so looking into his eyes I knew it was time to just let him go. He was flat and down but still with us, which is the way we wanted to remember him, not shrivelled up in pain and no longer himself. So, we made the decision to have him put down.
The last round of treatment had given us an extra few months, which were great ones where we got to spend lots more time with Akira than we would have done before his cystitis was diagnosed and treated, but in the end we didn’t want to put him through the treatment and trips to the vets every few months, or even weeks. So the heart breaking decision was made. Our vet gave us the choice of having him returned to us afterwards, for burial at home, or for them to cremate him and either return the ashes to us or for them to deal with the ashes. We chose to have Akira returned to us for us to bury him somewhere quiet.
Quietly and calmly gone
First of all, the vet kindly gave Akira a sedative to make him calm and more comfortable, and giving us a few extra minutes alone with him, before she came back into the room with an electric razor, to shave a bit of fur off his leg for the final injection to be made directly into his vein. The vet gently found his leg vein and injected him with the medication that stopped his heart. It was fast, not immediate, but only a matter of 15 – 20 seconds from injection to him being gone.
The injection works very quickly and just slows your cat’s heart to stopping point, so they ‘go to sleep’. We petted him and talked to him softly the whole time. Hubby Jim was in front of him so Akira could see he was there, while I leaned over him from behind and breathed on his neck (something warming that Akira liked).
He went fairly quickly, but quietly and calmly. He simply slumped slowly down over his outstretched legs, like he was setting down to go to sleep. The vet left us with him then for a few moments and we cried like babies, the both of us. When we were done, the vet came back in and took Akira’s body out of the room then came back with him wrapped in a nice, big, soft towel. We put the towelled Akira back into his cat case and walked straight to the nearest pub – ashamed to say we needed a pint after the emotional morning we’d just had and the decision we ended up making.
A proper burial
While drinking our pints, Hubby Jim and I discussed where we wanted to bury Akira and, by the end of them, we had selected the place we thought best for him to rest in. We collected the cat case and got the bus up to the fields near our house. We had chosen there for Akira’s final resting spot as it is a beautiful open patch of grass that is surrounded by woodland and trees, with a park at the centre and banks of flowers interspersed with reeds and grass. I walk past the field once a week and thought that would mean I was able to stop and sit on a park bench there and just be with Akira and think of him and talk to him every seven days at least, which made me feel better,
When we got there, we walked clear across the field to the wooded area at the back of it. We went into the woods a bit and found a little secluded spot nestled between trees and not somewhere that anyone would walk over or through. We dug a square hole, just big enough to tuck Akira into, and took him out of his cat carry case, and unwrapped him from his towel.
He still looked exactly the same but he was starting to get a bit stiff, so we hugged and kissed him and I petted him while holding him in my arms, then we sadly laid him down into the hole and I said a few words. I remembered what an amazing gentle giant he had been – a real softie that was a devoted older brother to the other cats we have, and how much he loved his food and belly rubs.
After a few moments, we knelt down and picked up handfuls of earth then dropped them into the hole covering his tail and then back legs and then his belly and all the way up to the top of his head. When we were done, we sat there for a bit in silence. There wasn’t really anything left to say.
A pack of six now
When we were ready, we walked home through the woods and, as soon as we got home, we called our other cats into the kitchen to tell them what had happened and to give them all a good long hug and some petting before feeding them. I think Buffy, Akira’s blood sister, and Ripley missed Akira at that meal. Later that day, it was Loki looking around for him. They have over the weekend been wandering around – all of them. I think they’re wondering where Akira is and that breaks my heart but, I also know, they will get used to it just being the six of us now.
The weekend without Akira – just trying to get used to the fact that he was gone – was so difficult and, although I didn’t make the error of setting out five food bowls at any meal, I missed the fact that his bowl wasn’t being filled. I missed his little furry face peeking round the kitchen wall at me while I was setting the bowls out and him licking the heads of all of the other cats to keep them patient while I was dishing out the food. I missed him on my pillow behind my head when I went to sleep and waking up in the morning, a little bleary and forgetful that he was no longer with us, and looking at where he’d normally be asleep or waiting for me to wake up next to my feet.
Today I am missing him asleep next to my left elbow, on my desk keeping me company while I work. It is a hard time the first week of missing a pet that’s gone and no longer with you. I still wonder if I should have risked the heartache of treating him again and seeing how much longer we got. These are just fleeting regret thoughts though as I know the decision we made was the right one, for Akira. He was just done and it would have been selfish to keep him alive just because we weren’t ready to let him go, but it’s still a decision I’m not 100% comfortable with yet because I am missing my big, beautiful, amazing boy more today than I did over the weekend.
I remember the very first time I ever saw him – when he was just three and had been welcomed into our home as an adopted kitty, along with his sister Buffy. Buffy was brave and only took a few moments to start wandering around, exploring and getting herself used to us and our kitty play areas that also had cat treats and soft cat beds in it. Akira on the other hand hid in our TV unit’s top shelf – squeezed right into the back of it, despite his massive size – and would not come out for hours. We eventually coaxed him out with food – a tin of tuna to be exact.
I know we will survive – we have to, as we still have another four kitties depending on us – but, for now, my heart is well and truly broken and I cry at the slightest wee thing. Think it will be like that for a fair few weeks to come.