Thank you for allowing me to share my feelings here. I am actually a licensed clinical social worker so I spend most of my time making other people feel better. I now am asking for some words to help me through this.
Two and a half years ago, I adopted a kitty with special needs. Marmalade, a huge orange Maine Coon that tested positive for feline leukemia. At the time, I was reminded that regardless of whether I adopted a "normal" kitty or a FeLeuk+ kitty, I would have to go through the loss of mourning because I would most likely survive it.
Well, a few months ago, Marm started to develop a problem. He started by losing a small patch of hair on his neck. Pretty soon it got larger and he scratched at it a lot. He did not have fleas and was on flea preventative at the time. Took him to the vet and they gave him some antibiotics and steroids. It did not get better; it got worse. Marm did not handle all of this very well; he was hell to get a pill down (my husband and I both could barely get it down him with a pill gun and restraining him in several towels). The spot continued to enlarge and pretty soon he had a terrible red rash on his neck; looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to him.
I took him to a couple of vets at that point. He was barely eating when one vet decided it was his diet (allergies) and put him on a kibble that was hypoallergenic. He wouldn't eat it. I called back because I'd read that if a cat goes 48 hours or more without eating he can develop fatty liver and die from it. They told me just to wait; he'd eventually eat.
I might mention that at that point he had lost at least half his body weight (he was quite chubby to start out with). After him not eating, and being told not to feed him anything else, I did anyway. I started him on tuna, which had never been problematic for him. He started to eat a little. I went back to a different vet, who pretty much ignored my comment that he wasn't eating but put him on steroids. I went online, desperately searching for help and began syringe feeding.
In the meantime, he started eating clay from the litter box. I went online and found out that was a sign of anemia, which is a major problem for feline leukemia kitties. Changed him to a wheat litter (less harmful to eat) and took him back to the vet who took his blood cell count and said he was a little anemic but not to worry. Over time, long story short, he started to really deteriorate. Took him back to the vet who put him on a B-12 injection and pro-crit to see if he could get his red blood cells going again. Gave him a week to see how that would work. He started eating me out of house and home (thank god) and I no longer had to syringe feed him, which he had hated at first but began to enjoy.
The neck got worse and I cleaned it a couple of times a day with pure aloe vera and then put a prescription cream on from one of the vets. I also cut some cuffs off of my husband's socks and would slip them over his head so he couldn't scratch too hard.
Friday night, we went back to the vet and his blood cell count had dropped two more points and was heading into an extremely dangerous range. The vet recommended putting him down. I might also mention he had lost the ability to use the litter box (he was so tired all he could do was lie in bed under covers to stay warm) unless I roused him and carried him to the litter box. I also did this to feed him. He had several accidents on three beds and a futon, all because of the steroids making him drink water and pee and no get up and go. However, despite all this, he kept his strength up to some extent and I took him outdoors on a lead whenever I could as he loved it outside.
In twelve weeks time from when the neck started getting bad to last week I slept only one night through the whole night: the night the vet kept him overnight for some tests. In my exhausted state this past week, I fixed him a lovely spot on our sun porch where he could sleep under two quilts on a recliner and food and water and litter box were all right there. Sadly, most mornings when I went out there he would be lying in the litter box (clean or dirty did not matter).
So Friday night the vet recommended putting him down. I was with him when he did this and I could not believe he was gone. I have loved this kitty more than any kitty I ever had, though I know the life was being sucked out of him by his illness.
I feel like I am a basket case. I keep crying whenever I walk in a room and think of him there; when I walk in the bedroom and the "bump in the bed" where he was sleeping is gone...when I walk on the sun porch and he is not there. My heart just aches so bad. I miss him...oh God I miss him so much.
Now I am second guessing my decision to put him down and I am guilt tripping myself for not doing more for him. My husband and I have a fixer upper cabin 90 miles away and most weekends last summer when we went up to work on it, we left him home (with plenty of food and water, etc). He was always so happy to see me. This summer we started to take him up with us (as the house was now completely enclosed and safe for him to be in) and he loved it up there and I am guilt tripping myself for ever leaving him home on weekends. I feel like maybe the stress of being apart from us triggered a stress response that made his feline leukemia worse.
On the one hand, I know that it is best for him to be gone, on the other, I miss him so bad. Even in his sickly condition, he did not appear to be in pain. The two days prior to his being put down, however, he did not purr and kept his ears back a lot (like he was annoyed). He did purr in the vet's office after the vet took him back to the lab for the blood draw and brought him back to me.
Please, if you have any words of wisdom, please share them. My heart aches missing this kitty. I miss him so much. I have three dogs and I really haven't been able to pay much attention to them, I just cry and miss my Marm.