NOTE: Please don’t read this if needles and sick cats and horrible things make you squeamish.
Lillith had stopped eating Sunday. We couldn’t get her to take food from us like she usually would, and I was forcing vitamins down her with a syringe. We thought maybe it was a one shot deal.
Yesterday, however, she still wouldn’t eat. She seemed very mopey, and her back legs were terribly weak. She’d walk for a second and then immediately lie on her side.
I called the vet and we talked about her condition. She said if Lillith wasn’t eating or drinking by last night, we may want to bring her in. She’d call the doctor about the experimental medicine I’d like to try. She’d get back to me.
She didn’t, and when I got home Lillith looked rather mopey. Her eyes were still leaking, and because she had now taken to sleeping in corners and behind the toilet she had all sorts of dust and hair on her. I cleaned her off and we called the vet.
This was a huge decision for us because there has always been this warning with Lillith that taking her to the vet could stress her out and make her sicker. We had to make sure that the vet was the best thing. I just wanted them to give her some fluids. I couldn’t get her to eat anymore. She was doing better when she was eating, but now she was refusing food and she wouldn’t move. We had to go.
The drive to the vet went well. After Lillith wiggled around for a bit (we were both happy to see her put up any sort of a struggle), I put her in the back seat, where she just stayed still until we got to the vet. Lillith stopped meowing about three weeks ago, so she would just open her mouth and you could sort of hear this breathy sound– she was worried.
“That is one sick kitty.”
That’s what the vet said when he came in and saw her. Let me tell you, it hit both me and Eric like a rock. At home we could convince ourselves she was getting better. At home we could stick whatever food we wanted in her or fluids in her and feel like we were making an improvement. They weighed her and she had lost another pound and a half. Her fur was hanging off her. She leaned towards me and I kept petting her as they took her temperature, checked her over– she was still and both of her eyes were open. She hadn’t kept both of her eyes open in over a week.
“Well, do you want to try and treat her?”
Another sentence that ripped through our hearts. “Try?” Do we want to “Try?” What the fuck is try? Like she’s not really worth the effort and the drugs and the love– fuck, yeah, I want you to do more than try, I want you to fix her. FIX HER!
The vet said he was going to give her a steroid shot, and a Vitamin B shot and then run some fluids into her. We had to decide which treatment we wanted. If we gave her an IV treatment we’d have to leave her at the vet’s and pick her up later, or we could take home this like home-IV kit where we gave her the fluids ourselves.
We both agreed that Lillith would like it better at home.
She got two shots in the back legs one right after the other.
“This should start perking her up. She should start eating soon,” the vet said.
“Any side effects?” I asked.
“Just being hungry.”
The attending vet came in to show us how to give her fluids. You hang an I.V. bag from somewhere high in your house and then put a sterile needle on the end of this tubing. You make sure there’s no oxygen in the i.v. tube, pull up the scruff of her neck and insert the needle sideways into the skin and let the i.v. go. Saline solution drips into the kitty’s body just under her skin and she absorbs it. She has no choice.
“Do this about three times a day.”
Eric and I started plotting out the I.V. schedule and who would come home from work at what time when the vet came back in.
“For her congestion, give her these pills. This is a pill popper. Here’s how you use it.”
He popped a pill into Lillith’s mouth. She coughed and swallowed. She had taken the pill.
“Three times a day.”
“Lillith, I’m gonna have to quit my job,” Eric said, and ruffled the back of her head. “Hey, is it just me, or does she already look better?”
She did. Her tail was wagging and she was looking around. She was sniffing things in the air.
“Okay, come settle up and we’ll give you the rest of the medicine.”
We walked to the front of the vet’s office. Eric had Lillith in his arms. “Sweetie, what’s she doing?” he asked me.
I turned around. Lillith had her front arms straight out and her mouth was open. Her eyes were wide. She was drooling.
There was no vet around. I yelled, “Excuse me! Can you come look at her? Hello?”
Lillith was still stiffening. Eric had put her on the counter. Her head started lowering to the counter. I felt like ol’ Shirley in Terms of Endearment: She’s in pain! She’s in pain! Could you give her her fucking medicine? Could you? She needs her fucking medicine!
The attending vet came in and saw her and yelled to the other vet, “She’s reacting!”
The other vet walked in and just stood there and watched Lillith’s head bob up and down. Her neck seemed limp. Then she put her face on her paws and sat there. She was calm.
“I think she’s just a little stressed out about everything. She seems okay. Better get her home.”
She had loosened up and Eric was petting her now. I looked up at what the vet had in front of me.
“For her eyes, put these drops in twice a day. For the other infection, take this antibiotic twice a day. Leave it in the fridge. Here’s the pill pusher. We’ve got a bag of saline, that’ll last you ten days. Here’s six needles. Sterilize them if you have to. The pills are three times a day and do the saline at least twice a day and she should be fine with twice a day. Your total is one twenty-three fifty.”
I looked at this bag of meds and my kitty cat. She was already starting to look a little better.
“Thank you,” we said.
We got her in the car. I put her in the back seat again because she seemed to like it. On the drive home, I brought up the sensitive subject:
“Baby, this isn’t going to cure her, you know. It’s just going to prolong her life.”
“I just don’t want you getting hurt.”
“This cat is expensive.”
“She’s killing our sex life.”
Eric parked the car and I got out and carried the medicine. He had Lillith in his arms.
What happened next happened very fast.
As we were walking up the steps to the apartment, I saw Lillith raising her head up to Eric’s. He was cooing and ahhing to her. I was in front of them on the steps. Eric called out, “Oh, sweetie, she’s doing it again!” and I turned around to see Lillith in full spasm. Her arms were stiff again and her mouth was open. Her eyes were wild.
“Get her up the stairs!” I shouted. “We need to get her home so she’ll calm down!”
We rushed up the stairs. I opened the door and put down her medicine.
“Oh, God, sweetie!”
I turned around. Lillith was on the ground. Her legs and arms were out stiff. Her head kept clicking. She seemed to be having some sort of seizure. NO, NO, NO, NO this isn’t right! NO! Please, God, please. I’ve never seen anything die and I don’t want the first thing to be my lovely beautiful kitty please no not now please. she was doing so well. she was getting better. please, this is going to crush eric, please make her stop.
Another seizure hit her body. Eric was calling her name. She was suddenly still. I put my head on her chest and I could hear her heartbeat… very faint. Taylor was standing behind us as we were yelling Lillith’s name and trying to get her to respond and at this point he couldn’t take it anymore and pushed past me and started sniffing her face and her arms.
“Oh, God, Taylor, no.” I picked him up and moved him away. I couldn’t let him see it. She’s his best friend.
I called the vet.
“Bring her back.”
“I don’t think she’s going to make it. Isn’t there anything we could do here?”
“No. Try and get her back.”
“Hurry up, baby, we’ve got to go! We’ve got to go!” I picked Lillith up. She was heavier. “Get the bag, get the bag!” I shouted at Eric.
“The bag of medicine?”
“Yes! Get it!” What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re worried about the bag? You’re so sure that she’s not going to make it that you want to return the medicine when you return your cat? You’ve got no time, bitch! You’ve got to go! Get out of there! MOVE! She’s dying on you! She’s dying!
“Oh, baby, she’s dying! She’s dying!”
Eric sprinted past me to the car. He got in to pull it around closer to me. I looked down at Lillith. She looked at me. Then, suddenly, her entire body went limp. She just melted in my arms. I had to hitch her up to hold her, but she kept falling through the cracks in my arms. I sat down on the corner of the lot, holding the body of my kitty. I let out a sob. “No, Lillith, no!”
A neighbor had gotten out of her car. “Are you okay?” she called out.
I must have looked horrible. “Um… my cat just died. She just died. I’m sorry.”
She came running over. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Eric pulled the car around. “Get in!” he shouted.
I opened the back door. “Baby, she’s gone. She died. She’s dead. I’m sorry.”
The sound that came out of Eric at that moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. The car was running but we weren’t going anywhere. He was alone in the front seat sobbing and I was in the back with my dead cat sobbing and my neighbor was trying to act like she didn’t see two hysterical people and a dead cat in the parking lot.
“We’ve got to take her back to the vet. They’ll know what to do with her.”
“I don’t believe this. Are you sure she’s dead?”
I don’t know if it was the tears or the hysteria or what, but at that moment part of me was sure that she wasn’t yet dead. She was almost dead. There was a part of her hanging on. “I don’t know,” I said to Eric, “I’m not a doctor. She could be alive still, I don’t know. I just felt that– let’s go.”
That was enough for him to drive to the vet. I was in the back seat petting her. I pet her because she looked so peaceful. I pet her because part of me wouldn’t accept that she might be dead. I pet her because I couldn’t believe that all of this had happened in less than an hour.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” I just kept yelling.
“It’s not your fault. It’s okay.”
This went on for the excruciatingly long drive towards the vet. I kept feeling her body. It was warm. Her paws were sort of cold. I kept looking for some sign in her eyes, but I didn’t see anything. My shirt smelled a bit like the vet’s office and cat urine. I think she had peed on me when she went limp. I started replaying all of that in my head. Me walking down the stairs. She looked up at me and then she just went away. Her body just became like a rag doll. She just–
Eric slammed on the brakes. A cat had darted in front of the car. I looked down at Lillith. If there was any doubt before there wasn’t anymore. The force of the car stopping had snapped her head in the other direction without hardly an effort. I had most definitely been sitting next to a dead cat.
I’d never really had hysteria like in that moment before. Eric couldn’t do anything from his position in the driver’s seat, and I was going out of my mind in the back. I was screaming and crying and I was scared and I wanted to get that image out of my head and I couldn’t believe my kitty was dead and it was all wrong. It was all so wrong and it had happened so fucking fast it wasn’t fair.
Eric pulled into the vet’s drive and yelled, “Just get out of the car, baby.” and I sobbed my way to the vet’s door and banged on it, sobbing. They took her into the same office and he listened to her chest.
“Yeah, she’s gone,” he said. “I think it’s a blessing in disguise. She was pretty sick.”
He left us alone and we held each other and cried for a while. She looked so pretty. She wasn’t draining anything, and she was so still, she looked like what she did three weeks ago, before all of this stuff happened. She just was there. She was quiet. She even looked happy.
Eric left to use the restroom. I sat on a chair by the door. I looked into the lobby. There on a chair was a perfectly happy cat. She looked like Lillith. The same color, the same fur. Except someone had put Lillith’s fur on Taylor’s body. She was chubby and she had a squished in face. I had to laugh.
And then I looked back at my kitty. From my position in the chair I was sort of looking up at her. For the first time I noticed that her eyes weren’t going the same direction. I could see her teeth coming out of her mouth. She looked scary. I couldn’t look at her anymore. OH, GOD! It wasn’t supposed to happen like this! Oh, Lillith! I’m so sorry! I just wanted to make you better! The only thing I wanted to do was make you feel better. I’m sorry I took you here. I’m sorry they put so many drugs in you. I’m sorry I gave you that Pounce three weeks ago that made you sick. I’m sorry for whatever it was that happened that knocked you out of remission. I’m sorry you didn’t get to tell Taylor goodbye. I’m sorry you had to die outside our house. I hope you really died on the living room floor. Before you really left your body. I hope everything shut down when all three of us were around you for that moment, calling your name and petting you. I hope that’s your last memory of us. We love you. I love you. I love you so much. I’m sorry I couldn’t fix what was broken. I’m so very sorry.
When they took her away, something felt missing. Something was gone. But there was also a very real feeling that something was over. We weren’t going to have to stick more needles in her or pills in her or liquids in her. She was in peace.
They couldn’t reimburse me for the meds. Some law. They could only give me partial credit on some things. After the charge for them to cremate her, I owed another fifteen dollars.
We paid in a daze. We walked to the car in silence. As we got closer to home I got more and more upset. Everything happened so fucking fast I don’t even know. She’s just gone. I’ll never see her again. Ever. Ever.
We drove up to the apartment. I saw the spot where I was sitting when I said for the first time, “My cat just died,” and my heart started breaking. I made it up the stairs but I felt worse. My stomach was clenching. I couldn’t breathe. There’s the spot where I yelled, “She’s dying, baby!” There’s the spot where I felt her seize up. Eric opened the door. There’s the spot where she left us.
I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I threw up while having an asthma attack. I was a fucking mess. I threw cold water on myself and started to calm down. I wandered into the living room. Eric was smiling.
“She took all our money before she left, didn’t she?” Eric asked.
“I don’t think she liked that sex life comment you made,” I said.
We held each other and missed her. Quietly. Taylor looked around the house like he misplaced something. We went to bed, but neither of us went to sleep for a little while.
Just about an hour ago I woke up to the sound of Lillith having another hairball. “Don’t puke in my bra again,” I thought, when I bolted upright. It can’t be Lillith. It’s Taylor. He never has hairballs.
I turned on the light and saw Taylor throw up on the carpet. He never throws up. I think he just ate himself sick. He looked at me and let me pull him into bed with me. He stayed there and let me pet him. We were three sad sad creatures. I couldn’t go back to sleep. It all started coming back to me. It all came back so hard and so fast. It all happened so quickly.
I miss her. I miss her horribly. It still feels like she’s here. Somewhere. She’s in the house, I know it. She’s in a hiding space. She’s hiding from Taylor. She’ll come out soon. She’ll go back to kneading our stomachs when we’re trying to sleep (“making biscuits” as we called it). She’s run up and jump in my lap and rub her head on my chin. She’ll sleep between Eric’s legs.
But it’s the waiting for her to come out that’s killing me.
Sleep well, Lillith. I hope the kitty god knows what a great cat he’s getting. I hope there’s always a table corner for you to scratch your chin on, and you just make sure the kitty god knows that you get to sleep in the crook of his arm. if he doesn’t let you, just do what you did to me– knead him right on the edge of his nipple. He’ll be in so much pain he’ll let you sleep anywhere. But you already knew that, didn’t you?
We love you and we miss you.