It was one week ago today that I put my baby boy to sleep. His name was Mucha, and he was the best cat I could ever hope to have in my life. Letting him go was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and a week later my heart still hurts. I found this forum, and I thought that sharing his story might help me start to heal. 

Mucha was 10 1/2 years old, we adopted him and his step brother at a shelter in upstate New York when they were kittens. Over the years Mucha became my shadow, he was such a sweet, gentle, lazy boy. All he wanted was to be near me. The last few years especially we grew so close - his favorite thing in the world was to lay on my lap and have his belly rubbed. He would mash his face into my stomach and just purr and purr, the happiest cat in the world. When I wasn't there I would leave a sweatshirt I had been wearing, and he would snuggle up with it, happy just to have my scent around him. He loved me so much, and I loved him with all my heart.

When he was only about 2 years old he hurt his back leg, the vet I saw said he had torn his ACL. I couldn't afford the surgery at the time, but he healed up pretty well, though he always had a little bit of a limp. 

My husband and i went away for Thanksgiving for 4 days. We had a sitter coming by to take care of the boys, and they did fine. When we came home on Friday, I noticed Mucha was moving a little more slowly than usual, and seemed a little stiff on his back leg. I thought he had just aggravated his bad knee, and decided to give him a couple days to rest and see if it got better. Through to Sunday afternoon he seemed the same, maybe a little worse. I decided to call the vet first thing in the morning. Then that evening, he got out of his bed and was dragging his back right leg under him, pushing himself with the other. I panicked, and we took him to the emergency vet. She did an exam, and told us that he had ruptured his CCL, and would need surgery. I still felt anxious, but we were determined to get him through it. The next day we saw our regular vet, and he said the joint didn't feel like a rupture to him, but he wasn't certain, so we scheduled an orthopedic consult for Wednesday. Mucha came home and we built a little pen to keep him from moving around too much. He didn't seem to want to, mostly just lying in the makeshift shallow litter pan I put together for him. It was heartbreaking to see him lying there, though he didn't seem to be in much pain, and was happy and purring whenever I sat with him.

But when we saw the orthopedist, she discovered that there was no problem with his CCL (and he had never in fact torn his ACL) there was evidence of an old injury to his right hip instead. He had also partially dislocated his left hock, and that joint was in very bad shape also. He also had bad arthritis in both his back legs. The vet also found out he had a urinary blockage - they were able to clear him with a catheter, but then he had to stay at the vet for the next two days. On Friday, with no improvement to his legs, we made an appointment with a neurologist. 

And it was at that appointment, at the emergency vet facility again, that my heart broke. The neurologist confirmed that he was now completely paralyzed in his back end. It was most likely a herniated disc, though that is apparently very rare in cats - when it does occur it is in large, long bodied cats like Mucha. It could also have been a tumor in his spine. But either way, it meant the same. We would have needed an MRI to confirm, which would have pushed our budget to the limit, and all it would have told us is what we couldn't save him from. She said spinal tumors almost always come back after surgery, he would have needed chemo and radiation and even then there was good chance it would be back. Also this had been affecting his spine for over a week at this point, so there was a good possibility of some degree of permanent damage. We couldn't afford the surgery anyway - all in we would have been approaching $10,000. The only affordable option was, if it was even a disc, to treat with large amounts of steroids/anti-inflammatories, and hope it would resolve.

I knew then that I couldn't do it. I couldn't ask him to be in pain and fear, for two weeks, on the small chance that this treatment might temporarily grant him some movement. And even if it did, he would need to go through painful therapy to be able to walk again, and all only to hope that this didn't happen again. Through the whole appointment he was subdued, and when they were done with the exam they put him back in his carrier - I had brought a sweatshirt I had worn all week and tucked it in with him, and he immediately buried his face in it. The vet left to give me time to think, and I patted Mucha, and cried, and asked him if I was doing the right thing. And he just lay there, with his face buried in my sweatshirt, and wouldn't purr, and didn't want to look at me. I think he was trying to tell me he was ready, that he was too hurt and too tired to go any further. So they put him to sleep, and he never looked up, just pushed his face tighter into my shirt, but he knew I was there - in the end he was surrounded by my scent, and my love.

My heart has hurt ever since, like a piece of it is missing. At home I miss him all the time, my lap is empty and I keep thinking he should be there.  It all happened so quickly, I think I am still in shock. We went from having a solution in sight, to no hope, all so fast. One day he was healthy, and a week later he was gone. I feel like I failed him, like there should have been something more I could do, but we just couldn't afford it. Even if we had all the money in the world, there was only a slim chance for him to have a good, pain-free, happy life like he had before. But I still feel guilty, and heartbroken, and lonely without him. I wasn't ready for this, I thought he would be with me for at least 5 more years. I just can't understand why he had to go so soon. I don't know how to get past the pain, I feel like it will never end. He was the best cat, my soul-mate, and I know there will never be another like him. 

I miss you Mucha, my big boy, my love.

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So sorry for the pain you are going through.  You have come to the right place because all of us are heartbroken over the loss of our babies.
You say that you feel guilty, well honestly we all do, always wondering if there was just something else we could have done.  You loved your baby and gave him a happy home.  When he got to the point where he would have been in pain you loved him enough to let him go.
If he could speak to you now he would tell you "Thank you Mom for loving me for all these years, I loved you too.  I do not have any pain or problems now, not even that old limp.  Try not to cry, you were the best MOmmy I could ever had hoped for."
The grief we have is the price for the love we had with our babies.
I too am missing my Shanti, the best cat I ever had and one that I had a deep bond with, he has been gone for 6 weeks.  I am heartbroken and grieving but thankful I had him to love as long as I did.

Marlene Wagner
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Thank you so much for your response. It helps to talk to people who understand.

I'm sure you are right, we were so happy together and I just wish we had had more time together. I've never had to put a pet to sleep before. We had lots of cats, and a dog when I was a kid, and I loved them and missed them when they were gone, but it isn't the same. Mucha and his brother Barsten are the first pets of my own, in my adult life, and losing my baby Mucha has been harder than I ever knew it could be.  

Barsten mourned deeply for his brother for several days, and that was so hard to get through also. He has been sticking close to my side, I know he still misses his buddy - we are getting through this together.

I put some pictures of Mucha up on the wall, so I can feel like he is still here with me.
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Sometimes I feel lost for words when I read of a newly lost and much loved little one as I do
understand only too well how it feels.  Mucha was a big and beautiful gentle boy, and to have your hopes dashed like that is beyond heart-breaking.  But I have to say you did right, for what it's worth.  Even if you could have afforded it he would have suffered greatly post op and maybe for the rest of his life. [There just comes a time when our own devastation has to be put aside so that our little ones can find rest and find peace.  Only we can do that for them.  This year I have lost two sweet dogs and still mourn.  But through the tears I do know I did right by them.  I am so sorry you are going through this
most saddest of times.   I wish for you healing and peace in time to come,
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Thank you so much Kate for your very kind words. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your puppies, I can't imagine how difficult that has been for you. The affirmation does help so much, just this morning I woke up, again wondering if I should have done more, if I should have at least done the MRI. But it only would have meant he had to stay in the hospital for at least another day, and it wouldn't have helped him, or changed the situation.

I am trying my best not to dwell on that last week, but instead to remember how he lived in good and happy times.

He loved cardboard. If it was a box, he was in it, and tearing the edges to little pieces with his teeth. If it was flat, he was lying on top of it.

He loved when I put on my shoes. He'd come over, flop down around my feet and grab onto them, purring all the time. I never understood why.

He loved to be near me. Whether cuddled close on the couch, or in my lap while I sat in my desk chair. And the best was when I then rubbed his big belly, he purred and kneaded like the happiest cat in the world.

He loved his brother Barsten. When it was cold they would sleep curled up together. They would groom each other, cleaning ears and hard to reach spots. And grooming always turned into a little gentle wrestling match, it was so much fun to watch them.

He loved catnip. It never did much for his brother, but Mucha always went batty for it, rolling around and licking all over on a new toy.

And he loved me. And I loved him. I loved him so much I decided to let him go, to give him peace, instead of asking him to go through more pain and fear with little hope of a good life. 

I miss you baby, you know your mommy loves you.
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