Being one of life’s worriers, as soon as I got my cat Henry fifteen years ago, I started worrying about the inevitable day when we’d have to say goodbye to him. Henry seemed quite keen to start using up his nine lives almost straight away by developing a chronic illness which included crystals in his urine (lovely), meaning within his first few years he was put on a prescription diet (needless to say, much more expensive than Whiskas or Felix).
Then when we moved house and he was finally allowed outdoors he was attacked by a fox and nearly had his beautiful eye gouged out. Then another time he ripped open his leg on (we think) barbed wire. Then another urinary tract infection or three, and I was starting to believe that the veterinary practices of north London were using me to fund their summer holidays.
But for all the expense and hassle (taking him to the vet was never a fun experience as the motion from the car without fail caused him to evacuate his bowels and bladder quite explosively – exceptionally horrific when he was sharing the cat basket with our other cat – the white furred Alfie), he brought such joy to our lives.
Henry probably thought he was human, or at the very least a dog, and used to play fetch with us. Many a time did I get home from work to our flat in Arsenal only to discover he’d tipped open a box of tampons and for fun had batted them all under the gap in the front door into our communal hallway (the neighbours never asked what was going on).
He would eat cat treats with a greediness that I could only admire, gulping them down without chewing them, then vomiting them back up before eating them again with gusto.
Henry demanded any food from our plate (I gave in every time, creating a feline monster), but was especially fond of ham and mushy peas (he would literally eat anything we gave him though, unless medicine was hidden in it).
He would sleep between us on the bed, demanding our attention with a gurgling miaow (the only time he miaowed like a proper cat was when he was being shipped off to the vet), and licking our noses to say hello. Then after a cuddle, he’d position himself next to Andrew, in front of the fan, ready to settle down for the night.
Three years ago this week Henry suddenly became very ill, and I thought he’d had a stroke, as he couldn’t raise his head. After an emergency trip to the vet and a week’s stay in (unbelievably expensive) cat hospital, he was eventually diagnosed with the very rare Conn’s syndrome. This illness causes muscle weakness in cats due to a lack of potassium, which is the result of tumours on the adrenal glands. Coupled with a huge hole in his heart (the size of which the vet had never seen in a cat before) we were sent home with piles of medicine for Henry to take daily, and the warning that he probably wouldn’t be with us the following year.
Despite regular trips to the vet to have his blood pressure monitored, blood tests taken, and more pills thrown down his throat, Henry stunned the vets by managing his illness well. His potassium levels remained stupidly low but he never showed the initial signs of muscle weakness again, and although we recognised he was on borrowed time, we were still able to enjoy time with our lovely boy.
Over the last couple of months we started to realise the inevitable end was drawing closer, as he stopped grooming himself properly, and we took him to the vet last Saturday for their diagnosis. The vet was initially optimistic as he was still eating as greedily as ever, and still came to see us for cuddles, even though he did drink lots of water and spend most of his time sleeping. However, various tests showed that the tumours on his adrenal glands were now a massive 5cm large – huge by any standards but especially for a cat – and the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.
As I type this now, a few days after saying our final goodbyes to Henry, I still have tears rolling down my face. It was absolutely the right thing to do but it was so hard to let him go. As Andrew and I wanted to see him together, we had to take Ioan with us, and – no doubt picking up on our emotional state – he spent the whole time crying unless we held him in our arms, so we had to tag team between holding Ioan and cuddling Henry.
Henry did manage a last gurgly miaow for us when we cuddled him, and also purred as we stroked him under the chin, which was heartbreaking. When we first brought him home with us as a little six week old kitten we had not long moved to London and were practically children ourselves – now the time had come to say goodbye to our lovely boy.
The house seems so much emptier without Henry in it, and we miss him such a lot. I think even the other cats are more clingy now he’s gone, although Ioan remains a great distraction by demanding our attention constantly! Unsurprisingly last week’s meal plan went slightly out of the window, but I am trying again this week as follows:
- Monday – homemade (veggie) pizzas bumped from last week, plus rhubarb crumble as our rhubarb plants are doing fantastically well in the garden
- Tuesday – curry bumped from last week, with pork leftover from today’s roast
- Wednesday – sausage, peppers, potato and tomato tray bake
- Thursday – bolognaise from my freezer stash
Andrew has to work all weekend so I will have to play it by ear for the rest of the week. But I can guarantee I’ll be spending a lot of time cuddling the other cats, and of course Ioan and Andrew.