When we moved down to the ‘country’ we were faced with a mousing dilemma. The weather was cooling down, and the local mice deemed our house a better alternative than the outdoors. We started with traps, which worked for a while, but when we found our dishwasher had been destroyed by rodents (yep, a DISHWASHER) we decided to bring in the big guns. That’s when we found Daphne.
She was the one single kitten, surrounded by other litters at the local animal rescue shelter. Both Jeremy and I saw her, and wanted her because she reminded us individually of cats we’d grown up with. As soon as we put her in the car she snuggled in close, and that’s the way she stayed her whole life. Snuggled in close.
Daph loved Lior. If cats could laugh, I know she would have been giggling and squealing with as much delight as her boy, as they chased each other round, hiding behind the couch, jumping out at each other. And their outdoor adventures were a daily occurrence; slowly, almost methodically exploring the backyard together, finding bigger and better places to hide. And then at night, Daphne would want to snuggle. Like ALL the time. So often we’d be trying to do some uni work and she’d come and sit on our hands, stopping our work and demanding some loving. Ahh she was the perfect cat, affectionante yet feisty loving and spirited.
About a month ago, one of her eyes started swelling up and she stopped eating. We took her to the vet, who expected that she’d had some sort of injury (I blamed my toddler’s curious fingers), she got an anti-inflammatory shot, some mushy high protein food and off we went. The swelling went down, her appetite returned and life went on as normal. Her eye remained a cloudy blue colour, and we suspected she might have been having trouble seeing out of that eye, but we just decided to give it time. Our little ‘Crazy Eye’ seemed just as happy as she always had.
Then last Friday, we noticed her crazy eye was starting to swell, big time. Then her good eye began to get puffy as well, and before we knew it it was happening again.
And I knew. I knew that it wasn’t an injury that caused it, just like it wasn’t an injury last time.
We took her to the vet who wanted to remove her bad eye, but was reluctant to do it before being confident the ‘good’ eye (which was also bad, but in a different way) would be functional. The official diagnoses was glaucoma, but the vet was baffled as to why a 7 month old cat would be struck with a disease that wasn’t seen until the other end of life. We decided to reassess on the Monday, gave Daphne another anti-inflammatory shot which relieved the immediate discomfort and went home armed with lots of cat medicine and hopes for a good outcome. Over the weekend we played, we snuggled, we fed her all of her favourite foods, and she seemed to pick up. Except she was blind. Her ‘good’ bad eye opened up to reveal a second milky blue pool of nothingness, and we spend the day cringing (and maybe guiltily laughing, just a little bit) each time she ran into something. Monday came round with no change, and with extremely heavy hearts, we said our goodbyes, went for a family walk around the backyard (completely disregarding Dr’s orders to not take her outside) before taking her into the vet, prepared for the worst.
But it wasn’t time. The vet decided that he would talk to some of his colleagues and see if any suggestions were offered regarding treatment. We were happy for just a little bit more time, scooped up our cat and went home. Logistically it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, we were travelling to Queensland the next day, which is challenging enough with a toddler, let alone a blind kitten. But we grabbed emphatically at the hope that was dangled in front of us, made Daphne a comfy little bed next to Lior in the car, and set off on our 15 hour journey at 4am the next day.
Daphne was always such a good traveller. We’d done a few trips to Canberra and she would just sleep the whole time. Her favourite spot was on Lior’s lap or on the back of his chair, draping herself around him like a scarf. But this time, blind and probably a little confused, she was less tolerant of wandering fingers. She spent the entire trip, save a few breaks (one romp in the park at Dubbo for a wee and a second stop in a friend’s laundry in Narrabri) snuggled up in her green blanket on top of our uni books. Despite all of her discomfort, she was still a brilliant traveller, a testament to her lovely nature.
Then this morning, I woke up, and I was tired of the waiting. I looked over at Daphne, with her two milky eyes, one bulging uncomfortably, and told her today was the day.
Jeremy rang a local vet and told them, giving little detail, that we’d like to bring our cat in to be put down. Thirty minutes later, we were at the vet filling out paperwork. It felt fast, but in the face of constant procrastination, fast was welcome. They asked if we wanted to talk about it. We said no. They asked if we wanted to be with her. We said yes. He took her to put a drip in before we started ‘the process’.
We heard yowling.
‘It’s probably another cat’ we reassured each other.
Then we heard it again, this time more impassioned. Then the vet emerged, his hands covered in blood.
‘She’s really fighting it, so we’re going to have to sedate her’.
We said ok. He left. We cried. It felt like our cat, our little kitten, knew what was coming. It was so unlike her to fight. She’d been to the vet many times, and always sat quietly, calmly while poked and prodded. But death was different, she fought that.
Eventually, we were asked to come in. She was sedated, stretched out on a metal table. Ready, however unwillingly.
We nodded, not convincingly.
He inserted the needle, I watched her chest the whole time, waiting for the last breath. In no more than 30 seconds, it was over. Her life finished. Just like that.
For a process that had been so dragged out, it was such a quick ending.
And it was sad. It is sad. We loved our cat, and she loved us. Our Daphne, who snuggled so close whenever she could, our Daphne who would go on adventures round the backyard, following her boy wherever he would go, our Daphne who would fart, right in your face and walk away.
We buried her in Mum and Dad’s back garden, on top of her favourite green blanket, wrapped in a towel covered in dogs from the vet. She would have hated the irony.
It’s only been a few hours, and the pain is raw. Lior is too young to understand, but I hope he can remember his cat, his cat who we thought would grow up with him, but instead was only granted a short solace. Already, I’ve looked up a few times, thinking I’m hearing her meow; that microsecond of forgetfulness quickly being flooded with the sorrow of realisation.
But soon we’ll move on, we’ll no doubt love another animal, and we’ll no doubt have our heart broken by another animal. But they’re the high stakes that come with love.
Miss you Daph.
These photos were taken during our last garden romp together on Monday. She loved it.