My cat Zoe passed away on Nov. 20th. It was unexpected and after nearly fifteen years together, I am left with a huge hole in my heart. Because it helps me to write, I want to share our story, even down to the painful part. If it’s too much for you to read, I understand. This post is really to help me in my healing and grieving process, so I don’t expect many to make it through the hard parts.
But let’s begin with some happy memories.
In 2005, I adopted a fuzzy black and white kitten from the Vanderburgh County Humane Society. I was twenty-one and it was my sophomore year of college. I really didn’t NEED a cat and I’d only gone to look, but you know how that goes. Zoe, who was named Josie at the time, stole my heart and I took her home that same day.
She instantly bonded with my roommate’s cat Socks and they lived together for about a year until Sarah moved out. At one point, Zoe escaped and our neighbors found her outside our door, so they scooped her up and took her in until one of us got home. Neither of us had any idea she’d gotten outside, but I’m glad she was smart enough to stay close to home.
As a kitten, she would often play fetch with twist ties off of bread – we’d play this game for hours while I was sitting at my computer working on homework. If I didn’t throw it right away, she’d let me know by trilling out a “brrrrr” sound until I caved. As she got older, she didn’t fetch as much, but a couple months ago, she got kind of lively in our old apartment and decided to do it one more time.
Zoe had many unique qualities about her. She was the most vocal cat I’ve ever met. Sometimes just looking at her prompted a conversation. She was also very loud and I once heard some neighbors talking outside who thought I had a baby, haha. Nope, just my cat talking in her baby sounding tone when she wanted attention.
In 2006, I also adopted her little sister Lilly. They were best buds from the beginning and Lilly would often give Zoe baths. They almost always curled up together in bed for afternoon naps.
At night, Zoe loved to get under the covers with me, often laying her head next to mine on the pillow and I’d wrap my arms around her. She loved to lick my face, purr and when she was little, she’d even sleep on top of my head on my pillow.
She also HATED closed doors. This never changed and honestly got worse the older she got. She was able to open all the doors in my old apartment that didn’t require you to turn the handle and I’d close them all before work, then come home to find all of them wide open. In our Indianapolis apartment, the doors to the washer and dryer closet drove her nuts and she’d yowl at them every night until someone opened them for her. And if I went to the bathroom and closed the door before she was able to run in there with me, I often saw a little paw reach underneath trying to get in. And let’s not even talk about what happened if I shut her out of the bedroom, haha. She’d throw herself at the door and cry until I opened it and she could hop up in bed with me.
We moved so many times, the three of us. From Evansville to Bloomington so I could get my Master’s. Then from Bloomington to Greenwood for a job a few years later, Indianapolis when Adam and I got married and finally, back to Greenwood when we bought a home. She never had problems adjusting as long as I was there, even if it did take some getting used to when she had to share me with another person.
They’d even go home with me on the holidays. One trip in particular was an adventure – we were almost back to Bloomington when both cats busted out of their carriers and Zoe stepped on the window button, rolling it down as I was driving down the highway. I thought they were both going to go out the window and panicked, finally getting it rolled back up and stopping at a gas station to coral them back in the carrier. After that, we drove with the child locks on during long trips.
There have been moments over the years when I thought they acted more like dogs than cats, including the times Zoe would play fetch and due to the fact that both my cats have almost always greeted me at the top of the stairs or the front door when I get home from work. Thursdays nights were always especially exciting for them because I worked really late and I’d often see one or both of them in the window watching for me to pull up in the parking lot, then they’d run to the door to see me as I got home.
This year, Zoe turned 14. In the spring, I had to take her to the vet because her joints were hurting her. They diagnosed her with arthritis, not too uncommon for a senior cat. Otherwise, she seemed healthy, active and I hoped for so much more time with her.
When we moved in the new house, she was nervous and didn’t come out of the bedroom closet too much. After a couple weeks, it seemed like she might warm up to things – she was coming downstairs at night, but she wasn’t really eating very well. Lilly had adjusted ok and I assumed Zoe probably would too, but she never really did.
At the beginning of November, I noticed she had lost some weight – we’d been trying to get her down a few pounds to help her joints, but I could feel her spine and her collar was too loose. So I switched dry food. She ate it for a few days, then went back to not really eating much at all. So I tried wet food. The first round, she gobbled down and after that, only ate it a couple more times.
She was still drinking and acting normal, except for staying upstairs so I thought it was just stress related. But when I came home on Monday, Nov. 19th and saw her ears and skin were yellowish, I knew something was seriously wrong.
We spent most of that night at the emergency vet running tests and waiting while they dealt with other traumas that came in. Her blood results showed elevated liver levels and that her gallbladder levels were ten times the normal reading. White blood cells were lower, but not too low, however the vet said she couldn’t completely rule out an overall infection or cancer. Her kidneys, heart, lungs, red blood count were all fine.
So she outlined a treatment plan for us, starting with something basic. A nutrient shot under the skin, plus three days of medicine to stimulate her appetite. They gave her one dose there and I brought her home around 12:30 a.m. I decided that we’d sleep in the guest bedroom with the door shut and brought food and water in in hopes she’d eat. She didn’t, never leaving the bed. And that night, she curled up on top of my head, just like when she was a kitten.
We only got about four hours of sleep and when Adam got up for work, I decided to give her some privacy in case she wanted to eat without me. I got up to get ready for work a few hours later, but she still wouldn’t eat and by this point wasn’t drinking. When I opened the bedroom door, she gave a little “brrrr”, jumped out of bed and headed for our bedroom closet, where she laid down on the floor with her head down.
I had a bad feeling when I saw this. I went ahead to work for about an hour and was texting Adam about her behavior. He said he thought I should try to get her to a vet instead of waiting for the medicine to work. So I called Lilly’s regular vet, but they didn’t do feeding tubes. My friend Rachael recommended the Franklin Animal Clinic and they were able to get her in by noon, so I ran back home and got her there as fast as I could.
She was considerably weaker by this point and her little head could barely stay up in her carrier and she was breathing weird when I left. That night, the vet called me to say he was really concerned about her. They had her in an oxygen cage because her breathing was shallow and were giving her fluids, but he was hesitant to put in a feeding tube because he didn’t feel she was strong enough for anesthesia.
They did manage to biopsy her liver, which was enlarged and based on that, he felt like something else might be going on that was causing problems. I kept my phone on all night in case something happened, but it was while I was on my way to work on Wednesday morning that I got the call.
She made it through the night, but her heart rate was very low and she could barely breathe. I asked if I could come be with her and the tech told me she wasn’t sure she’d make it until I got there and she was right.
I think I’ll keep what happened over the next couple hours to myself, as memories just for me, because if you’re not crying by this point, you definitely would be if I went into detail about the time I had with her just after her passing.
I decided to bring her home to bury her in our new backyard and once Adam got home from work, we both did it together. I think in the spring, I’ll get a stone cat figurine to put out under the tree to memorialize her in some way.
My heart hurts. I miss our early morning cuddle sessions and the house is extremely quiet without her. Lilly helps. She’s just a different cat, but I’m glad I have her there to love on while I get through the mourning period.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite pictures of us over the past 14+ years. Zoe, you were the best cat ever. I’m gonna miss you dearly and if there’s a pet heaven, I hope you’re running free up there with my buddy Wolf.