Mia was, until earlier today, our cat. My wife, Dana, and I were forced to put the little girl to sleep after she became tremendously ill last night.
Back in February, Mia clearly wasn’t feeling well—she was lethargic and refused to eat. A trip to the vet revealed that she had hepatitis, which attacks the liver. She was given some medication, and after a while, she was back to her old self.
Dana and I recently noticed that Mia was showing those same symptoms again. She was less active than she usually is, and her food dish would be left untouched. Yesterday, I took Mia to the vet while Dana was at work. Mia was given the same diagnosis as before, and I took her home with a fresh batch of medicine. Shortly after returning home, however, Mia took a turn for the worse. She began having difficulty breathing and she could not move on her own. She had a similar reaction to her first dose of medicine back in February, though, so we weren’t too concerned.
As the evening went on, however, she was clearly having more and more trouble breathing. Dana and I became so concerned that we rushed her to a 24 hour emergency vet at around midnight. The vet stabilized her with and IV and an oxygen tank and kept her overnight so that he could give her an X-ray and an ultrasound. At around 8:00 this morning, the emergency vet told us that she was stable enough to be moved to her regular vet. We transported Mia and left her with the vet for a couple hours.
The vet called us with terrible news. With a new X-ray of Mia in hand, the vet was able to compare it with her old X-ray taken back in February. A giant tumor was growing out of Mia’s liver. Although it wasn’t noticeable from outside of her body, the tumor was massive. The vet explained that Mia most likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer that sadly, isn’t all that treatable in cats.
This is what Dana and I had feared, and we had discussed our options while waiting for the vet’s call. We rushed to the vet where we made the decision that Mia would have to be put to sleep. The poor thing was in terrible shape when we arrived. Her breathing had become so strained that her teeth were bared (which is something she never did) as she struggled for breath.
After a brief discussion with the vet, Dana and I opted to be with Mia when she died. We went into a room and Mia was placed on a blanket on the table. Dana and I each took turns holding her one last time, and we wept openly. We told Mia that she was a wonderful cat and that we loved her.
With that, the vet placed the syringe in her leg and prepared to give her the final injection. Dana stood near Mia’s head and scratched it as our cat passed. Mia loved to get head rubs from Dana. I, meanwhile, stood behind Mia and gave her a tummy scritch, the term we used for when Mia would flop on the floor in front of me as an invitation to scratch her belly. The vet slowly injected the fluid, and within seconds, Mia was gone.
As I type this through tear-blurred eyes, I know that it might seem somewhat grim to recount our beloved cat’s final day. To be honest, though, we’re both in a world of shock still, and this is helping me deal with the situation.
It’s hitting Dana and I so hard because we loved—no, we love—our cat. I’m going to argue that you can continue to love something that is not around anymore. We got Mia from an animal shelter in Illinois back in January, 2001, and she has been an important part of our family ever since. When I moved to California with my Ziff Davis job, Mia stayed in Chicago with Dana as Dana completed law school. Dana fully credits Mia’s companionship with giving her the strength to finish her classes. When I would fly back to Illinois to visit Dana, it would always strike me as amusing that Dana seemed to treat Mia more like a roommate than a pet, something that I’ve told her in the past.
I’ve posted videos on YouTube of Mia’s odd drinking habits. I don’t know why, but I was always amused by her love of a tasty beverage. Whether she was drinking water out of her bowl with her paw, standing up to grab an ice cube that we would drop into her water or simply licking condensation off of one of my drinks, Mia wouldn’t let anything get between her and refreshment.
In recent months, Mia has taken to sitting on my lap, which is something that she wouldn’t do in the past. Occasionally when I would be sitting at my computer desk, I would feel a light tapping on my thigh. When I looked down, Mia would be standing on her hind legs and tapping me. As I noticed her, she would look up at me with a look of, “Why aren’t you petting me?” If I just scratched her head for a bit and returned to my computer, she would start tapping me again. Eventually, I would pick her up and drop her on my lap. Nine times out of ten, she would delicately cuddle up on my leg and chill out for a while. When Dana would be in bed, Mia would use the tapping technique to get Dana’s attention, usually with the intent of wanting some petting.
Mia also got into the habit lately of climbing up onto my stomach as I lay on the couch watching TV or playing a game. She would perch on my stomach and proceed to do that cat kneading thing for up to 10-15 minutes at a time. It kills me to know that I’ll never feel that again.
Yes, Mia was a wonderful, beautiful cat, and we are heartbroken that she is gone. Although the place that we adopted her from didn’t know her exact age, we estimate that she was probably about ten years old (or perhaps slightly older). It’s a relatively early age for a cat to die, but even so, she had a fantastic life. She was loved and comforted right up until the end.
So for you regular listeners of the podcast, if you don’t hear a familiar, faint bell jingle in the background anymore, you’ll know why. Dana and I already miss that jingle.
We miss our Mia.