Spending time with animals and developing life-long bonds with them is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We took our two kitties with us to our land in Idaho to start a new life and they couldn’t have been happier. But back in October the time abruptly came to say goodbye to one of them… our dear, sweet Malek.
Both of our kitties (Malek and Nikolai… or commonly referred to as “Bugaboo”) really brought our property to life.
When we were out working, they were often right there beside us getting into trouble, and then would race off chasing one another where they would both end up 10′ high in the same pine tree. It was quite the sight.
I’ve had them both since they were kittens… cute little buggers they were! They finally grew into their ears, but over the years I’ve built a bond with them that I can’t describe in words… but I’m sure you other pet owners can relate to the bond with a pet… not just any pet, but likely the best pet(s) you’d ever have.
You know, those ones that are really extra special because they have a personality that is so unique and could never be replicated.
Malek’s Appetite Started Dwindling
Weeks before we had to say goodbye to Malek, I noticed that his appetite wasn’t very strong. Quite a few days went by where he really wasn’t interested in food and I would have thought he may have been getting food elsewhere, but his backbone seemed more defined than usual.
Other than a small appetite, he was acting like his normal self. He was hunting, playing, hanging out with us, and even being extremely affectionate.
Decided to Keep an Eye on Him
Since we don’t like to rush to the doctor or vet for our every need, nor do we always feel such things are necessary, we decided to just keep an eye on him.
During that time, I tried feeding him a variety of meats (I’ve made my own cat food since they were kittens) and even bought him some cat crack… you know, commercial canned food. He would pick at each new food for a while and was even enjoying the commercial cat food for a while, but he even lost interest in that.
Not only that, but he was getting progressively less and less interested in going outside. He would sit in the trailer all day crouched up, staring at a wall or corner which is unusual for him.
He slept with me under the covers for nights in a row, all night long, which is also uncharacteristic of him.
After my desperate attempts to try to get him to eat an actual meal, and after him losing quite a bit of weight in a short time, and after seeing his spirits dwindling, I decided it was time to take him to the vet.
Sometimes, we as humans just have gut feelings about things, and the night before I took him to the vet I cried myself to sleep because things just didn’t feel right.
To top it off, Jesse was in Oregon while I ran the homestead solo so I felt I might be faced with a tough decision on my own.
Vet Time: A Blockage in His Stomach
When I took Malek to the vet, he had no fever (I didn’t think he did since I tried to take his temperature and it seemed normal) but the vet felt a huge lump in his stomach so he ordered X-rays immediately.
The X-rays revealed an abnormal amount of mass in his stomach so the vet gave him some barium. He wanted to see if anything was able to get through his digestive system, and this would be visible on an xray.
When they did a second xray, a huge mass was visible in his stomach. The vet said that this was likely either an object or more realistically just a really large hairball.
He said that sometimes cats might swallow a piece of string and it can get hair all tangled up into a ball that they can’t get out on their own, but it seemed odd to me that it would be a hairball even though that was my hope. He did throw up A LOT of hair a week prior, so it seemed feasible.
He said there was no way he’d be able to pass it on his own and the only option was to go in and remove it, but that he would heal just fine and go on to live a normal life.
More unlikely, he said it could also be a tumor in which case based on its location, it would be inoperable based on its location, but since Malek was only 5 years old and healthy, he said this was a pretty slim chance.
Surgery First Thing in The Morning
Because Malek was just so dear to my heart and to our tiny family, I decided to go through with surgery to remove the mass, even though it was going to cost around $800 in addition to the other fees associated with the visit.
I decided to leave him at the vet overnight since he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink before surgery, and I didn’t want to withhold food or water from Bugaboo, and I wanted them to be able to operate on him as soon as they could. I also thought it might be less stress for him than taking two more car rides.
It was a long, sleepless night for me and all I hoped was that I would have my Malek back by noon the next day as they said I probably would. I knew it would be a rough couple weeks of recovery for him, but I was prepared to do what I needed to do to help him heal.
The vet said they would call me if anything came up or if they found anything during surgery.
The Dreaded Phone Call
I was talking on the phone with Jesse at around 10:30am the next morning when I saw that the vet was calling. I immediately felt a lump in my throat and a feeling of sorrow wash over me. I answered the phone.
The vet said that they were in the middle of surgery and that the mass was indeed a tumor the size of his entire stomach.
Not only that, but all of his lymph nodes were huge yet he didn’t have a fever, so there was a 99% chance he had full blown lymphoma and that the tumor was cancerous.
I knew what this meant, yet I asked questions anyways to understand and confirm what he was saying. He said again that the tumor was inoperable based on its location, and that removing it would mess up his entire digestive system, so at best he could stitch him up and send him home to die over a couple of months where he would be unhappy and continue to lose weight, when he was already a frail 8.5 lbs (normally 11 lbs).
We both knew that the only humane thing to do was to euthanize him.
Days of Sadness, Hurt, Guilt & Confusion
So that was that. No final goodbye, no more watching Malek run up and down pine trees, no more being greeted by him every time we came home, I would just never see him again.
I cried my eyes out the entire morning as I slowly felt a pounding headache taking over me. Both my kitties mean / meant so much to me, and I couldn’t believe Malek was gone, just like that.
I went into the vet later that day to get settled up and talk to the doctor again in person. There’s something eerie about going into the vet office after your pet is put down… the looks of the office, the smells, picking up your cat’s box, everything can just get to you all too easily. Scent and memory are definitely linked.
I also asked for copies of the xray. Some people would rather just have been done, but I wanted to show Jesse what was happening in our furbaby’s belly and also, I think studying the xrays helped me to cope with what happened and help me to see further proof that he was ill.
Appreciating Life & Moving On
The days and weeks following Malek’s death were very emotional for me. I have lost pets before but none were I as close to as I was with Malek and even Bugaboo. I still feel sad when I watch videos of him such as the one below.
I think it’s normal to feel a sense of guilt even when logically you know you did everything in your power to give a pet the best life possible.
I do cherish the times we had with Malek being part of our family and I have peace in the fact that he had the best life a cat could possibly have his last year, and both of the boys absolutely loved moving to our property, although I was really hoping he would live to be sitting by the fire in our new house with us.
I do try to be accepting of the circle of life and let nature take it’s course somewhat. For example… both the cats HATED being locked indoors, so despite knowing the risks of letting them out, I let them out because they were happy outside, even if that meant that their life would be shorter and they would end up getting taken by a coyote or another animal.
But cancer… I guess it’s a little harder for me to deal with because I tried to keep them in a healthy environment and feed them the best diet possible and Malek’s fate was still out of my control… and I don’t think a cat dying of cancer at age 5 is natural.
All that said, I’m trying to be accepting and really cherish the time we have left with Bugaboo. So far, he seems to be doing okay despite losing his brother that he’s been close to since birth.
He’s been A LOT more loving, has been sleeping with me close every single night, and has been sticking around home quite a bit more.
Here’s a Bugaboo montage I put together a while back!
Life is Unpredictable So Make the Most of It
I guess in the end, I want to sum up this post by focusing on the idea that life is unpredictable, so make every day count.
Jesse and I are frequently so wrapped up in working and trying to make progress that it’s easy to not take time to just sit on the deck together, walk with the kitties through the forest, or take time to simply catch up with a family member.
While we can do our best to stay healthy and keep our pets healthy, life really is something to be cherished.
If you made it this far in this post, I hope you take time today to tell someone that you love them, give your pets an extra few pats on the head, call up someone you haven’t talked to in a while, or just take some time to yourself to enjoy everything you have ALREADY accomplished in your life.
That’s it for now… this is a heavier post than what we normally write but this is just part of life, and I’m sure we have a lot more of this type of stuff to deal with as our homestead grows and we eventually take on farm animals.
Life will go on… I am strong. But emotions get the best of all of us sometimes and I think that’s okay because in the end, we’re just human.
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