On the morning of Saturday 13th May 2017 at 5:30 after fighting for life for most of the night my dear little cat Dora died. She will be sadly missed. Originally one of the two cats my late wife Carol bought to our marriage, she outlived her best friend Ally, and my own cat Badger who died last year. When we had the three of them together we called them the three mouseketeers – “Arsehole”, “Porthole” and “Duffhole”.
Dora was 17 years old and had a good life but her death was not so good. She died unable to walk, twitching uncontrollably, and struggling to breathe. Just before she died she let out a cry of misery that sounded just like a young child. I broke down and cried like a baby. Dora was my last link to Carol who died last October and because of this Dora’s death had great significance for me.
Of the many pets that I have had that died (4 cats and 3 dogs) this was the only one who died at home and it was a difficult experience. I stayed up with her all night stroking her and talking nonsense in what I hoped was a soothing voice, but all I saw was a tiny creature struggling for life and probably not even aware that I was there. It was truly heartbreaking. If her symptoms had started earlier in the day I would have taken her to the vet and had her painlessly euthanized. Watching her die slowly over several hours I wished I had the moral strength to end her life myself, but I couldn’t do it. She was fighting so hard I thought she had the right to keep trying.
Carol and I met late in life, she was my second wife, I was her first husband. We had known each other on-line for several years as we both had joined a web design forum of which she was one of the experts and I was there to learn.
In 2005 the UK members of the forum decided to meet in real life and Carol and I fell in love. Dora was very wary of me at first because she was used to Carol who was quite small and quietly spoken and suddenly there was this big loud fat person disturbing her tranquillity. It didn’t take long before she started to get used to me and maybe even like me a little bit.
In 2006 we bought a new home together and moved in with our three cats. On the vet’s advice we kept them indoors for 2 weeks then let them out into the garden. Dora promptly absconded and lived wild for two years. We searched for her, put ads in the paper, Carol built a website, and we put leaflets through every house in the area, but there was no sign of her.
We were married in November 2006 and Dora was still missing, we thought we would never see her again. Then one morning in 2008 as I was going out the door on my way to work Carol said “I wonder where Dora is or if she is still alive”. I replied “don’t worry I have a feeling we will hear something today”. Carol used to tell me that I said that every day, but I’m sure I didn’t, I like to think I was a bit psychic. Anyway that afternoon we had a message from the Vet saying that they had Dora having just scanned her chip. She had been stealing food put out for hedgehogs and a kind lady had tempted her with more food and eventually caught her and took her to the vet. We picked her up that evening, and she went to Carol straight away as though she had never left.
The vet had found an airgun pellet lodged up against her spine so she had to have an operation to remove it. We surmised that some sadist or stupid boy had shot her soon after we first let her out and that in panic she had run off and couldn’t find her way home. Then a few months later we found a lump under her arm and she had another successful operation to remove it. After that the vet said we should check her regularly in case it came back. I assumed that duty and from then onwards every time she asked to go out I gave her a quick feel under the armpits before I opened the door. This became so routine she eventually waited for me to do it assuming it was normal behaviour. Luckily the breast cancer never came back.
The next big thing in little Dora’s life was in 2016 when Carol became ill and was hospitalised. Carol was found to have lung cancer which had metastasised and the diagnosis was terminal. This was a big shock to all of us including Dora who couldn’t understand why Carol hadn’t been around for a couple of months. The sister at the ward Carol was in was kind enough to let me bring Dora in to see her, and Dora curled up on the bed with Carol and stayed with her for several hours. The nurses all came in to make a fuss of Dora and this gave Carol a boost, so much so that after a few days Carol was allowed to come home. Something that hadn’t seemed possible before because she was so ill.
Carol came home on a Monday and initially she was bright as a button, sitting up in bed and planning what TV to watch but in the evening she quickly deteriorated and I had to call in the district nurse and the on call doctor. They told me this was the end stage and it was just a matter of hours. She died later that night.
After Carol died Dora and I became closer probably because I was now officially her main food provider. Dora’s presence helped to mitigate the absolute despair I felt at losing Carol and she became more cuddly and almost a lap cat which she had never been before. I would often sit with her and say “it’s you and me against the world now Dora” and she would purr away as though in agreement.
Then on 11th April she didn’t come home. I was worried that she was lost again and I spent the next two days searching the local area and leafleting all my near neighbours. Then the vet phoned, Dora had been found curled up in the corner of a gravel car park in the New Forest and bought in by a kind lady. That car park is about a mile as the crow flies from our garden. I spoke to the lady afterwards and she said that a little girl had told her that there was a cat that was asleep in the corner and had been there since the day before. So Dora must have gone straight there and stayed.
After the vet had checked her out and put her on a drip to rehydrate her I went to pick her up and she behaved as though she didn’t know me. The Vet advised me to keep her in for a few days then let her out gradually for short periods. I did that allowing her supervised visits to the garden, but when I finally thought she was OK on her own she was gone again.
Luckily later that evening I had a call from one of my neighbours who had trapped her in their kitchen. I went straight over to collect her and she acted as though she didn’t know me again. On the advice of the vet I decided that her future was now that of a house cat. Dora didn’t seem to mind this arrangement and after three or four unsuccessful attempts to take her into the garden with a harness and lead, Dora decided that she didn’t want to go outside after all, running away when ever I showed her the harness.
We had a few good days together like this then she started having seizures, and as I had never seen this before I was horrified and took her straight to the vet for a check up. The vet said it was possibly a brain tumour or it could have been a form of dementia. The only way to tell for sure was with a CT scan which was out of the question because of her age and frailty. Her heart was failing, and the general anaesthetic that was required would kill her. So she was prescribed pain killers which I gave her in her cat milk every morning. This seemed to help and I found that by watching her closely I could see the twitching that preceded her having a fit, and if at that point I picked her up and cuddled her stroking her back and speaking softly to her the fit never happened. She seemed to understand this and would cry out if she had the symptoms and I was in another room so that I would come and calm her down. This system worked well and for a long period she had no seizures.
Last Wednesday I noticed she seemed more lethargic and her belly appeared to be swollen, so on Thursday I took her into the vet and they examined her belly with an ultrasound scan and took a sample of the water from her belly with a syringe. The water was clear so the diagnosis was that it was caused by her weak heart and not due to a cancer. She had a diuretic injection and I had diuretic liquid to give her twice a day and tablets for her heart condition.
Thursday night and Friday morning she was almost back to normal and I was hopeful that she would live a bit longer and in relative comfort but alas it was not to be. Late on Friday evening she started having trouble walking and looked nervous and worried, she didn’t seem to know where she was and when I attempted to comfort her she tried to get away from me. This got worse and then she started to twitch uncontrollably. She just wanted to be on her own so I left her alone; checking up on her every few minutes. I knew this was probably getting near the end but it was too late to take her to the vet by now so I sat up with her trying to sooth her and giving her water with a syringe because she was too weak to stand up and drink. Then at 5:30 am she died and was at peace.