10 years ago I moved cross country and into my first apartment. Missing the love of growing up with pets my whole life I immediately started looking for a cat to adopt. I found an ad on Craigslist where a woman was selling kittens that had been born in her backyard and she was just looking for help with the cost of food/litter. Perfect. When I got there to pick up a kitten she asked if I wanted to take two. There were two brothers who were incredibly attached so of course I said yes.
Winks and Butterball were attached at the hip. They slept on top of each other and never left the other's side. They tolerated me and let me pet them and give them treats :)
Winks has always been a little sickly. About 6 years ago I noticed he wasn't using the letterbox and wasn't eating so I took him to the vet. He had crystals forming in his urethra and surgery was needed or he was going to die that night. $2000 later he was a brand new cat and I had to give him prescription food for the rest of his life. A year or so later the symptoms returned and we were back at the vet. Another $1500 later and he was great. He stayed on the food and has not had issues since.
Throughout his life he would get bumps under his chin the size of marbles but they always went away. His mouth and lips would swell all the time, sometimes pretty bad, but the vet couldn't give me a reason and they always went down.
About two months ago he developed this large lump on the left side of his neck. It was the size of a small tangerine and literally appeared overnight. With his history of strange growths around his neck, head and mouth I assumed it would go down on its own. He let me touch it, squeeze it, play with him. His appetite was completely normal and there was absolutely no change in his behavior. I had also just lost my job and just come out of bankruptcy. I had no credit and very very little money.
This is where my guilt comes in. I waited too long. I hoped it would go down on its own and I was afraid that if I took him in I'd be told that another $2000 surgery was needed. I could not bare to say in essence "he's not worth it". I would move mountains for my pets but I just did not have that money. Plus, he showed no signs of distress at all so I prayed every night I would wake up and it would be gone.
Then two days ago he stopped eating. Winks does not just stop eating and I knew something was wrong. I immediately took him to the vet where they gave me an estimate of $200 to drain the growth or $600 to drain and biopsy whatever they find. I had barely scraped together the $200 and asked them to drain it and see if that helps. The vet at first thought it was an abscess but when she drained it, there was no puss, it was all blood. I was told this was not a good sign but he may improve just by getting the growth drained (and in turn give me more time to get the money for the biopsy/treatment). I went to pick him up about 6 hours later and his condition had gotten worse. He was severely anemic and would now need a blood transfusion on top of everything else. I asked if he could regain his strength with rest/food and they said possibly. However, they also told me a transfusion would only buy him another day or two before he would need another...he was just bleeding out and it wouldn't stop.
I took him home, held him in my arms, begged him to eat. I tried bargaining with him, pleading with him to just give me more time, but I could see in his eyes that he couldn't. My friend offered to lend me the money if I needed it so I took him back for a second opinion with a different doctor. She was so kind and honest and said that he was just at the point of no return and even if we did all of the transfusions and surgeries, his prognosis was very poor. I made the hardest decision of my life and said goodbye to my baby. I scratched his ears and told him I loved him until he took his last breath. I know, based on his condition at that moment, it was the right thing to do.
What I am struggling with is not knowing exactly what was wrong with him (vet couldn't say without the $600 in tests). Knowing I should have taken him in immediately when the bump appeared but didn't. its my fault my baby died and had I taken him in sooner maybe I could have gotten him treatment and he'd be ok. How do I live with myself knowing this is all my fault? I should have brought him in sooner and I didn't. One of the techs said that by the time the growth appeared it was probably too late but I can't handle the "probably". What if it wasn't too late and my baby is dead now because I was too poor/stupid to get him seen sooner?
It also doesn't help that Butterball (his brother) is now searching the apartment and crying out all day and night. I have never experienced such gut wrenching heartache and I can't stop crying. My life has come to a standstill.