Thursday, July 12, 2007


Lestat in San Simeon, California
December 2006

Today was without a doubt one of the most difficult of my life. Today Lestat, one of my feline companions for the last 15 years, was committed to God’s loving care following a brief illness.

Monday I took Lestat to get dematted and have a bath. When I got him home, he did not have hardly any energy and was not even able to jump up on the couch. Monday evening and all day Tuesday, he did not eat anything and hardly had any water to drink. He just laid around and when he did get up, he moved very slowly, appearing to be uncomfortable, if not in pain. I initially thought he was just traumatized by the dematting and bath. I figured he would be back to his old self in a day or so. Tuesday afternoon, I called a vet our parish administrator recommended and described his condition. They said it was probably just trauma, but if he didn't return to normal by Thursday, to bring him in. Wednesday morning, I stopped at a vet just down Sunset Boulevard from my apartment and asked for their advice. They said to bring him in for a check-up and happened to have an open appointment time for later that morning.

When I took him in, the vet looked at him and said he was very dehydrated. His body temp was low for a cat. He weighed only a little over 7 pounds, compared to 12 pounds the last time I had him weighed. All the symptoms were pointing to kidney failure. The doctor said that the stress of the dematting and cooler water temperatures of the bath probably resulted in his rapid deterioration. But he did say that without all that, he still may well have hit this point in a few weeks. He has undoubtedly been failing for some time, but cats are very good at masking their pain, so there was no indication that anything was wrong. The fact that he was getting so matted also indicates that he had low energy and was not taking care of himself, another possible indication of kidney failure.

They kept him overnight to run some blood tests and urinalysis to get a definitive diagnosis. They also put him on an IV to rehydrate him and to give him some nutrition, and put him on a heating pad to raise his body temperature. They said they would have the lab results back the following (this) morning and would let me know what my options are. When the doctor started talking about kidney failure, I started crying. After the initial exam, I was able to spend some time with Lestat, just petting him and crying the whole time.

The vet called me at 9:00 this morning to give me Lestat’s lab results. He was experiencing kidney failure, liver failure, thyroid failure, and diabetes. We arranged for me to go into the office at 10:00 to discuss options. I decided at that point there probably was really only one option. When I got to the vet’s, the doctor told me that there really was not much that could be done. If there were just one problem, there might be hope, but with four major systems failing, there was little possibility of recovery. He said if it was one his cats (he has four), he would let him go, because he is obviously suffering. I told him that I agreed that that was the only compassionate thing to do.

While I was talking to the doctor, one of his assistants brought Lestat into the room. After the doctor left, I spent 30 to 40 minutes with Lestat. I mainly just stroked him and talked to him, telling him what a good cat he was, how he had been a great companion, and that because I love him so much, the best gift that I could give him right now was to let him go, to end his suffering. I also told him that it was okay to give up. When I first started talking to him, he actually purred a little – the first time I had heard him purr since Monday morning. It was good to hear, and I felt like he appreciated me being there. But most of the time, he was pretty quiet, using most of his energy just to breathe and stay alive. Several times, he groaned a little, and one time meowed, apparently in pain. He just laid there letting me touch him. At one point, he got up and shifted his body so that he could be nearer to me and lay his head on my arm.

When I felt I had said all I had to say, I told the assistant that I was ready whenever the doctor was. Dr. Kumar came in a couple minutes later. He said that it would only take about two minutes. Before he gave Lestat the injection, he gently touched Lestat and softly said to him, “I’m sorry.” Within about 30 seconds of receiving the injection, Lestat was gone. He died at about 10:45. Dr. Kumar then spent a few minutes talking with me, ministering to me in my pain. I spent another five or ten minutes with him, petting him and telling him how much I loved him and what a great companion he had been. I also prayed that God receive his soul (of course, some say that animals don’t have souls, but I’m not so sure about that). He died peacefully and is now out of pain. I will miss him terribly, but am comforted (at least a little) in knowing that I gave him a blessing and a great gift by releasing him from his suffering and letting him go.

Lestat had a good life. He was born on May 2, 1992 in Grand Terrace, California. During his life, he got to travel and visit various parts of California, Illinois, and points in between -- more than many cats ever see. And he met some great people along the way. He even completed three years of seminary. All in all, he was a great and loving companion. He will be sorely missed. Lestat is survived by his sister and litter mate, Akasha.

I don't know how much Akasha understands of what's going on. But I think she is beginning to realize that things are different. She has been spending a lot of time in my lap, which is somewhat unusual for her. This will be a big adjustment for both of us.

This afternoon one of my parishioners called to see how I was doing. Last night after our book study group I was telling some people about Lestat’s medical problems. I told her what had transpired today. I said that it is sort of strange being here without him. I am usually aware of the location of the cats, even when they are in another room. Her response was that it is a “very present absence.” I thought that was a perfect way to describe it. After having been with me for a full third of my life, his loss will most certainly be a very present absence.

No comments: