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My cat is terminally ill and I am struggling to cope

(20 Posts)
shovetheholly Tue 13-Jan-15 15:00:49

I feel so guilty that I am struggling with this when others have much tougher problems to deal with.

I got my cat at the age of 7 when he was abandoned by neighbours. He has been with me for the last 8 years and is now 15. We have been through thick and thin together, good and bad, over those years. I know he is quite an elderly gent now and he had a horrible life before I got him, but I have not wanted to face the fact that he is getting older.

At a routine checkup with the vet last week (he has some thyroid problems that are under control) they found a small lump in his tummy. An ultrasound and aspiration biopsy show that it is large cell lymphoma. There is no point putting him through surgery, because the vet says that it will most likely have spread (and the surgery has a very high complication rate at his age). I could opt for chemo but the vet has again dissuaded us saying that he is probably too elderly and weak to take it. I don't want his life to become miserable. It seems like the best option is a corticosteroid treatment, which will let him fade away painlessly.

He probably has 3-6 months left.

I just can't cope with this emotionally at all.

At any time, I would find this hard but I have been challenged by some health problems of my own over the last 5 years. I am full of drugs that are reducing my emotional as well as my physical resilience. I am 37 and facing the fact that I have probably lost the chance to have children because of these problems.

I have cried for hours every day since I found out. I just can't imagine what life is going to be like without him there. He is a very physical cat who always wants cuddles, and I can't deal with the embodied sense of loss, the idea that I'll not be able to hold him soon. The house is going to be so very bare and empty and lonely without him.

I know that I have to go through this. I know that I will get through it somehow. I just don't know how I'm going to do it.

chockbic Tue 13-Jan-15 15:05:35

I'm so sorry you are dealing with this.

My beloved girl had lymphoma and she was put on steroid treatment for a while.

It's an incredibly hard time so hugs and chocolate coming your way.

LastingLight Tue 13-Jan-15 16:16:18


RubbishMantra Tue 13-Jan-15 16:51:54

Oh bless you. What an awful time you're having. I think I'd feel similar to you, faced with the thought of losing mine.

I don't know what to say, apart from cherish the time you have left with him, and make some lovely memories for when you're feeling sad and lonely without him? Remember, you've given each other 8 lovely years.

jaspercat2002 Tue 13-Jan-15 16:52:33

So sorry for you and your boy. Sounds like you are doing the very best for him.

Andthen Tue 13-Jan-15 17:00:13

How dreadful for you. Sending you lots of love. You will get through it and one day you will take comfort from the fact that you gave him a wonderful life.

It's too soon to think about this now I know but please consider offering a loving home to another cat when the time comes. Both you and they will get so much from that. Your current cat is irreplaceable I know but it would be a shame to waste all the love you have to give.

My parents lost their puppy in very harrowing circumstances a few weeks ago and immediately gave a home to the puppy's younger cousin. The puppy we lost is irreplaceable and will be remembered forever but the new puppy is bringing so much joy and that's helping to ease the pain.

All the very best.

timtam23 Tue 13-Jan-15 17:48:13

So sorry, how sad for you. It is incredibly hard to face losing our cats, they are such companions.

One of my old cats was on steroids in the last few weeks of his life (he had tongue cancer) and it did give him the "quality of life" that we had hoped for before having to make the very hard decision to let him go.

Having had both of my old cats put to sleep over the last 18 months, the one which was less upsetting was the one where we were able to plan and make decisions about what to do & when to say we'd reached the end (this was the one with tongue cancer). With the other cat it was obvious she was very ill but I tried a bit too long to "treat" her when in fact she was terminally ill, then left it a bit too late and ended up having to do a semi-emergency dash to the vet. I still occasionally cry about it now.

Best wishes for whatever you decide to do

EleanorAbernathy Wed 14-Jan-15 08:13:18

So sorry to hear - I'm going through similar at the moment with my 15 year old girl, she's just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer in her jaw.

She is also a very physical cuddly cat - and the thought of never being able to look into her beautiful big green eyes again makes me crumble a bit.....

I'm taking it day by day at the moment, and trying to enjoy whatever time I have left with her the best we can.


shovetheholly Wed 14-Jan-15 11:12:53

Thank you all for your kind words and your support. It is good to hear from others that are going through it or have been through it in the past. A number of people have said that having time to plan and say goodbye is actually good in the long run, and that has been very comforting to hear.

I think it will be a while before I take on another cat. It's not just that my cat is irreplaceable, it's that I think it will take me a while to be OK with the obvious biological fact that they just don't live as long as those of us who love them would like. sad

cozietoesie Wed 14-Jan-15 11:22:04

I used to think that once but these days I think differently. I mourn my boys intensely for a few days when they go - head out to bay at the moon with a large glass of whisky, usually, to toast them on their way - and then go a-looking. The cat-shaped hole in my life is just too big to live with for more than a few days and I've always felt that if someone comes to lve with me and has a happy time, even if it's shorter than I would like, then all is well.

Different strokes, though. It's very hard to handle.

shovetheholly Wed 14-Jan-15 11:25:47

I love the idea of you baying at the moon cozie! It sounds like you have helped so many cats to have a wonderful life with you. flowers

cozietoesie Thu 15-Jan-15 16:45:03

How are you doing, holly ?

SunshineBossaNova Thu 15-Jan-15 17:06:55

holly I'm sorry you and your kitty are going through this. I lost one of my boys to cancer a few years ago.

The charity below offers an email counselling service. They were so amazing when Jasper was diagnosed, and I was in bits.


SunshineBossaNova Thu 15-Jan-15 17:12:30

I've just looked at the page again and have seen that they're not taking on new clients - my apologies.

shovetheholly Thu 15-Jan-15 18:23:57

Thank you for thinking of me anyway, Sunshine.

I may see a proper counsellor face-to-face. I am dealing with this very badly. I burst into tears on my way home from the hospital today, and loads of people just stared at me. It was awful.

I am a very 'cat' person anyway, so this would be devastating at the best of times. The fact that this is happening at the same time that I'm realising I probably can't have children, and am chock-full of hormones for an upcoming op, is definitely making it worse.

shovetheholly Thu 15-Jan-15 18:25:39

So an update: we went to the vet this morning and had a final discussion about treatment options. The vet pulled up lots of data from different cats that the practice has treated to show us the difference between chemo and steroids in cats of a comparable age. It looks like he would only get a couple of extra months with chemo, at most. I don't want him to struggle through the side-effects for just a few weeks. He is not even symptomatic (the tumour was found on a routine check) so I want him to keep feeling good for as long as possible. So the decision we have made is for steroid treatment and to make his life as brilliant as we can. The good thing about my being unwell is that I can be with him at home the whole time, so he will have plenty of hugs and attention, and I can take action if he feels unwell.

chockbic Thu 15-Jan-15 18:27:52

Steroids do perk them up for a while and give them an appetite.

We didn't go for chemo either as felt it wasn't worth the trauma for a negligible benefit.

tabulahrasa Fri 16-Jan-15 00:11:55

The chemo...was it chlorambucil? (Leukeran).

timtam23 Fri 16-Jan-15 21:36:58

shovetheholly, there is another charity which offers support for the loss of a pet - the Blue Cross

They have a pet bereavement support line which I almost called after my 2 old cats died.

Glad to hear you have a plan to keep him happy & comfortable

Corygal Sat 17-Jan-15 22:00:51

Holly - how absolutely horrible for you to be facing a bereavement at such an awful time. I really feel for you and wish you all the extra strength you can get over the next few months. Look, the rest of the world might not get that it's the cruellest blow, what with him not being a human, but we do. Most people will be sympathetic too.

If it's any help, when my first cat died I was a mess. I cried all day at work, sobbed hysterically through a management meeting, and lay on his grave that evening (it was pouring with rain and the rest of the family thought I had gone nuts). I thought I could never love again. Then something happened. I went to Battersea Cats Home 'to have a look only' and came back with a terrified, abused, skeletal and dirty tabby. That was 6 years ago. The tabby has doubled in size, is sleek, shiny and bright-eyed, purrs non stop, talks constantly and is the funniest, kindest and cleverest person I could ever hope to meet.

I utterly adore him and, like you, feel the risk in that for when the time comes, as it will. But, cliche as it is, real love does not come without risks.

Most of all, enjoy the next few months with your darling cat. He will have what he wants - you and a peaceful loving home - until the end of his natural life, which is the best gift you could ever give anyone. Your real love for him, no matter how painful his loss will be, has given him a wonderful life. That matters way more than grief.

So be kind to yourself. When you're ready, look to the future. As cozie says, and my tabby will testify, fill the hole - get another cat. There will be happiness ahead.

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