NOTE: To prevent confusion, this was written yesterday morning while I took a break during cleanup. He fought death valiantly all day, then died overnight. Since he was still alive, I waited before publishing, hoping for a miracle that never came.
I sit here alone, wet and cold, as the smell of bleach permeates my nostrils. It is raining, but I don’t care. It is a good time for bleaching my porch and decks so there are less environmental effects, as the rain will help dilute this potent chemical as I scrub and rinse. I have no choice, for I must sanitize away this virus to protect my inside cats if it’s not already too late...
A couple months ago, a sweet stray kitty showed up. He stayed. We got attached. Then, ‘Shadow Moon’ got a sudden cold, far more severe than any I’d seen with strays I’d rescued in the past (or in mine who reside indoors). I rushed him to the local veterinarian for medicine and to schedule a neuter in a few weeks. I've never liked having outdoor cats, there are so many ways to get hurt or die. The plan was to bring him inside and keep him safe.
For any stray or newly introduced cat, bloodwork and shots are always recommended before introducing them to a household of healthy cats. I anxiously awaited the results in a depressing room with a stainless steel exam table, concrete walls painted white and a cabinet of medicines next to a stainless steel sink. It was so clinical and serious. Nothing to provide comfort for my worry. For the full, agonizing. 10 minutes required to develop the chemical, I waited and tried to think happy thoughts. Then, instantly and as permanent as a glass shattering on the floor...heartbreak. I heard a voice say, “he’s positive for feline leukemia”. It meant his sudden ‘cold’ was symptomatic of late-stage illness and he’s dying. Only a small percentage recover and survive, though require permanent quarantine to protect non-FELV+ cats and immune support the rest of their lives. This morning, Thursday, March 1st, he’s out of ‘nine lives’ and is in the process of dying.
Earlier this morning, he wasn’t waiting for us at the door upon opening it. No cute Batman ears to greet us. I found him motionless and barely alive inside his box right before my children’s school bus arrived. In tears, but trying to keep their perfect attendance, they chose to get on the bus. I feel bad and am worried about them considering Loki’s injury and surgery in November (which we monitor daily for another possible surgery due to a hernia that developed) and Sphinx’s passing in December was so recent. I’m an adult, but still very much not over it and remain an internal mixture of tears and trauma, so can’t imagine the feelings and confusion a child's mind has. Hopefully, they calmed a bit on the bus, but they’re probably as jaded as I am.
Since they left, I have been systematically sterilizing each of my three entrances. Leaving his favorite, the concrete front porch, for last so he can have the quiet and not smell bleach as he slips farther away. I frequently check on him. He’s so weak, I hold his head up for him as I stroke his face and chin. He stares into my eyes as if staring into my soul. I see him. He sees me. He tries to speak, but his mouth barely moves. Nothing comes out. Only the silence of death that is waiting for him. He fights to hold on when I am there. I tried to comfort him and be with him, but it’s hard knowing I may instead be prolonging the process.
Despite his illness, his rapid decline and death was a sudden and unexpected shock. For just the night before, he had been acting totally normal and ran happily to see us. I can only assume that the sudden shift back to cold overnight was too much for him after a week of warm weather.
Death is so hard to watch. Yet, in its own way, is almost beautiful. In the final moments, there is this calmness. This stillness of time. The body and mind finally relax and become one again. There is no longer this feeling of rushing and finally, life truly matters as it should’ve all along. Only in death, do we see the truth of how we should live.
A Farewell Letter to Shadow Moon
"Dear Shadow Moon,
You were our friend, for a short time. You arrived one strangely sunny and warm day in November. You meowed so frequently, we were instant kindred spirits. You talked more than me! You arrived with burrs and many ticks and a slightly feral distrust, but with time you allowed me to touch you and get those nasty ticks off you. You used to run if we walked too fast, but would watch us and return if we stood patiently. Then you started following me everywhere. You’d once gotten on the roof and made the most mournfully spooky cries until Brandon climbed up and got you down. We still don’t know how or why you were up there. As time passed, you learned to trust us giant adults and our hyper and noisy kids. You brought us ‘presents’ in the form of a mole and a bird. It was gross and sad for the creature you’d killed, but I knew it was your way of showing us love. You stayed on our front porch in the box we made you lined with straw and Brandon’s thick old (washed lol) socks. So many days, you sat at the front door, visible only by your ears, looking a lot like Batman. Other days, you relaxed on the back deck in the sun or pawed at the door, meowing at us and teasing the dog. One day, you scared me by standing on the railing on the other side of my kitchen window. I dropped a glass, but the condition of the dishes didn’t matter as much as how cute you were. Once you even got on my car to say “welcome home”. I never wanted you to be outside, but I knew for the safety of my indoor cats, I had no choice. Then a time came where you needed my help, so I rushed you to the vet. I’d thought it was a cold. Something simple and easily treatable with antibiotics. Something I'd handled many times over the years. It ended up being a diagnosis with minimal hope for your survival. The veterinarian told me to euthanize you, but I wanted to give you a chance. A few manage to go into remission as carriers. I had hoped you might survive, recover and could be rehomed to be quarantined indoors with some kind soul who could care for you like I was. I am sad, but there is comfort in knowing you felt love and had a family, though but only for a short time. It’s not fair and I don’t understand why you came into our lives only to leave it so soon, but I am forever touched by the honor you gave us in giving you a safe place to leave the world with love in your heart. I’ll never forget you."
P.S. >> More Info on Feline Leukemia <<
#felineleukemia <- There is no cure. 😢 This is an unfair virus that is highly contagious, sometimes showing no symptoms. PLEASE test ALL cats, get them vaccinated and follow up with regular boosters. Don't allow shoes indoors. Wash hands when touching strange cats. Be cautious! Please don't euthanize because of a FELV+ test unless too severely ill. Many go into remission as carriers, are fine for years with supportive care. Must be quarantined indoors, but can live with other FELV+ cats. Immune support + high-quality food required.