Of course, it might have been something else. Luther was the sort of kitten who would eat anything off the floor, lick whatever if it looked interesting, and this very thing happening had been a constant worry in the back of my mind since we allowed them to go out.
Well, I say allowed. We couldn’t have stopped them if we tried. Luther, in particular, knew how to open doors. This is him caught in the act.
And Bella, his sister is so fast, she’d streak through your legs the minute the door was open. So, in the end, we gave in, and let them go. Besides, I firmly believe that cats are meant to explore outside. To hunt, to climb, to do all the things that cats do. It’s part of their nature, and seeing our two Houdinis that determined to get out... it would have been cruel to keep them in.
I didn’t like it. We’d lost two previous kitten, five years ago due to accidental poisoning, and it had taken us that long to pluck up the courage to try again. Just like Luther, Eric, who was our seven-year-old cat’s littermate, was an affectionate, inquisitive little soul who would eat anything. Erica, the cutest little kitten we took in when a friend’s cat had kittens also went the same way. She was even younger when she passed, and the whole thing was just horrendous.
We’d just started to relax about Luther and Bella going out, when Sunday morning, Luther fell off the bunk on top of my bed. He crashed into the ladder and lay there seemingly stunned on the floor.
At first, I thought, he’d just stunned himself. He responded to me, purred slightly when I picked him up and went back to sleep on my bed by my feet.
But something about him was niggling at me. He was too sleepy, too lethargic when I picked him up. He would always demand attention, and, usually, the minute Bella appeared at the food bowl, he’d be there too.
Not so on Sunday. Even Bella seemed surprised that he wasn’t trying to shove her out the way as he was want to do. She came looking for him, nudged him and he ignored her.
Yet more alarm bells went off in my head, especially when I picked him up, and he was inching away from me. Luther loved his cuddles. From the first moment I saw him at his mum’s house, he came running over to me and settled in my hands when I picked him up.
You could say it was love at first sight for both of us. As he grew, he’d follow me around the house, cry for me when I wasn’t there, come looking for me when he came in and demand his cuddles. He was always by my side when I was writing, usually half buried under the laptop like this
Or on my lap demanding cuddles like this
I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it has been for me to just write this post. My lil buddy should be here right now, nudging my hands, purring in my ears, and sticking his butt in my face obscuring my view of the screen, so that I HAD to give him attention.
Anyway, back to that fateful Sunday. In the back of my mind, the awful suspicion set in that this could be history repeating himself, but I desperately clung onto the idea that he’d hurt himself in some other way. Especially as he favoured one leg and would only lie on one side.
His breathing was getting fast and it was pretty damn obvious that he was not right.
We rushed him off to the emergency vet, still hoping it was something physical, but she couldn’t find anything obvious, and I knew deep down what the diagnosis would be. He was too quiet in his basket, not making a sound at all.
Fast forward a half hour wait to get the blood test results, and I broke down when I saw the vet’s face. His BUN numbers were off the scale(went off scale within 15 minutes, so they couldn’t even get a reading) the other one, who for the life of me I can’t remember was in the 700s and it should have been in the max 100s range.
Our darling boy was in acute kidney failure. At that point, we still had a slim hope that he might recover with fluids to flush through his kidneys. They would repeat the blood test and we were to go home and wait to hear. No news meant he was stable and we were to ring before bed to check how he was.
After an emotional farewell, at which point our 11-year-old, who had insisted on coming with us broke down in uncontrollable sobs, cue the three of us, hubby was with us too, holding each other in the vet’s carpark and crying our eyes out.
Like I said there was a slim chance, and while, mentally, I was already preparing for the worst, we stressed the positives to the rest of the kids once we got home without him.
An anxious wait followed, and I have to give huge thanks here to all my friends on Facebook who held my virtual hand through all off this. All the prayers, private messages and the support you gave me and us a family at that time and since has been nothing short of amazing. It did help, to know that folks were thinking of us and lil Luther.
In the end at half past nine in the evening my mobile rang and I swore out loud.
The vet was on the phone and I knew straight away this wasn’t good news. He was worried about the repeat blood test.
They had been pumping Luther full of fluids, and he had yet to produce any urine at all. Far worse his levels were still going up. That dreaded BUN test went off scale in 10 minutes this time, his other level was now in the 800s, potassium was rising, which was affecting his heart rate. It was getting dangerously slow.
I didn’t hear anymore, simply passed the phone to hubby and cried. The vet did suggest taking a biopsy oh his by now tiny, shrivelled kidney to get a clearer idea of what was going on and if he stood any chance of recovering at all, and there was the possibility of referring him to a specialist centre where they’d put him on dialysis over the course of three/four day to completely replace his blood levels etc… all covered by our insurance, but I simply couldn’t stand the thought of putting him through all that.
With his heart already failing there was a real chance he’d die on the table, and I didn’t want him to be on his own for that. In the end, it was my decision to have him put to sleep. He was in pain, and while they dosed him up with painkillers, I couldn’t stand it.
We rushed back down there to say goodbye. Our eleven year old once again came with us, because she wanted/needed to see him one last time. Poor Gabs was in as bad a state as I was. These are the last pictures we have of him before we put him to sleep. They tell their own story.
Seeing his sister nudge him all confused when we showed him to her was awful, but it was important for her to see him. All our animals said goodbye and in particular, our German shepherd Kiyo, who has seen a fair amount of our pets die over the last 7 years we’ve had him, wouldn’t leave my side. Harold, our new dog also hovered, licking me and Gabs, and even Sookie, our adult cat, who is not the most demonstrative of cats was right there, letting me cuddle her.
It truly never ceases to amaze me how animals sense when they're needed. Never let it be said they don’t feel things. I know, all of you who have pets will know this already, but when you lose one of them, it affects the whole tribe, human, and animal alike.
I spend the night crying my eyes out with Luther in his box in my room, and his sister hovering next to him.
Come morning we had to tell the two little boys, who had been asleep. While they’d known Luther was at the vet, they hadn’t known he’d passed. Again they said their goodbyes, and our youngest, who’s only five, saying, “Good night, Luther,” before he sat off for school…
Well, you get the picture. We buried our darling boy in our back garden that afternoon, together with his blanket, and notes from us, and he’s now at peace, never to be forgotten.
As for the rest of us… the kids have bounced back as only kids too. Gabs, who was the hardest hit had the day off school on Monday, and we held each other and cried a lot. I can’t even remember the last time I cried as much. It got easier when the lil boys were back from school, because a) I don’t really want to cry in front of them and b) they’re so wonderfully pragmatic and life-affirming in their insistence to go trick and treating and for life to carry on, it helped.
The nights, however, when he should be sleeping in my bed, the days, when they’re at school and Luther ought to be right here sitting at my keyboard, the empty food bowl, the empty house... I could go on but I shan’t. It’s all just incredibly raw and very hard to deal with.
Hubby did suggest very, very tentatively on Monday that we could get another kitten. I’m afraid I bit his head off to start with, but as the idea took hold, and we discussed it as a family, and most importantly seeing Gabsy’s hopeful expression and the first genuine smile we’d seen since Sunday… well, it wasn’t a hard decision to make it in the end.
We would adopt a kitten or cat from a rescue. It would let us all heal. When I said this on Facebook a friend mentioned that another friend, who fosters rescue cats and dogs out in Spain was looking for a UK home for a cat.
Well, I went to find out more and cutting a long story short these two lil guys, called Cuddles and Brownie will be joining our family at the end of November.
The timing of this is uncanny, and like I said in my reader group, I can’t help but feel that lil Luther had a hand in this. It almost feels as though he’s looking down on us and smiling in approval. He was such an affectionate, loving cat, I just know he’d want us to give these two lil boys a loving home. Already the atmosphere is lighter, more hopeful, and while I still and always will miss him, his legacy lives on.
Am I utterly terrified that history might yet repeat itself again? Of course, I am, but, like hubby said, you can’t live your life like that. These two will be kept indoors for a long as we can, made much easier by the time of year, when we only have to police the opening of the back door, and everyone in the family is uber-motivated to be on kitten watch.
So, if you’re still reading after all those ramblings, hug your furry friends close and treasure every moment with them. I take great comfort in the fact that Luther’s life, albeit cut tragically short was a very happy one. RIP, my darling boy.
Hugs and love