My cat Geumbi has passed on, which isn't exactly true , because I faced the end of life decision that all pet owners. The trouble started on Sunday when my cat sitter, Brundha, sent me a message that she didn't want to eat. Brundha told me that she had followed Geumbi around until she finally ate.
I was at the farm taking care of the horses. Even had I been home, I might not of have thought much of it. Geumbi was a perpetually sick cat and didn't always feel good. But I had ways of enticing her. I might mix up her food with warm water, or mash it or both. I had a lysine jelly that helped mask her medicine. The list was long, but I knew my cat and her moods. And sometimes it was just letting her get hungry enough to eat.
But on Monday she didn't anything. And on Monday night, after she tried to eat, she vomited what little she'd eaten. She also retreated to a draw in my wardrobe. I never let her sleep there. In the past she's peed on my clothes but this time I let her. I don't know why, I just did. When I got home from work she had not moved from her spot.
Sometimes, snuggles made her feel a lot better, so I sat down and waited for her to jump into my lap. She didn't and this from a cat who jumps into my lap at every opportunity. I couldn't even pee without her jumping up. As the evening progressed she still didn't want to snuggle and, more importantly, didn't demand her tuna. Bear was beginning to get whine and he is a quiet cat so I opened up the food.
The sound of the can top being popped drew her into the kitchen and she sat in front of her bowl staring at it. Finally she took a bite, but vomited. Sometimes, when she hasn't had her medicine for a while, she gets into a slump. She was on a daily steroid dose along with something to keep her stomach from bothering her. I hated to force her to take her medicine because she was a worried and stressed cat and forcing her to take her medicine her exacerbated her problems. Still, I occasionally had delivered it by syringe and she'd start to feel better once the medicine kicked in.
This time however, she not only drooled, a normal reaction for cats to bitter medicine, but vomited again. I didn't push the medicine again.
I'd been worrying about a yoga mat she'd chewed one weekend while I was at the farm. But that had been more than a month ago and she didn't eat stuff so much as chew them. My shoes, anything Styrofoam, twisty ties and anything plastic drove her mad.
The next day, my vet thought she'd eaten something too based on the x-rays. She was dehydrated so she was stabilized with an IV and I had to leave her over night to see if it would pass. But on Thursday all signs of obstruction were gone despite her not having passed anything. The vet felt she would be fine to go home, but I arranged for her to stay in the hospital one more night. Friday the movers were coming. I was moving back to Yeongju and taking up my old job at the English Center. My time there had been one of my strangest jobs ever, but the horses were in Punggi and I ever wanted to ever get The Thing (horse riding/ESL/ Farm/ whatchamacallit), I needed to in Punggi.
I held Geumbi at the vet's office that Thursday night before the move. She curled up in my lap and snuggled, and when she was relaxed I opened up a can of her favorite food from home. She got really excited. She was hungry I could tell, but three bites and she was done. I had a thought then. I thought, 'it's cancer." Her belly had felt hard, like the overfull belly of an animal who just gobbled all of their food. It hadn't taken on that placid jelly state in weeks.
But I could no longer think that perhaps she'd eaten more than I suspected or worry that she'd ingested something she shouldn't have. She hadn't eaten anything substantial since Sunday and the vet had ruled out foreign objects. So i went home thinking she was full because of the IV and the next day she would eat.
I had plans to pick her up after work, then get Bear from the old apartment. I would take them via bus to the new house, and the transition would be better because Geumbie would not have been exposed to the stress of the movers. But my vet had bad news. She'd vomited again that day, wasn't eating. She'd become dehydrated and had to be put back on the IV. Her blood-work wasn't exactly bad, but there was some indication that it might be cancer or liver failure or FIP. She saw something on ultrasound but coudln't be sure if it was a tumor. Geumbi would need to go to a specialist vet and have more tests.
The joy and excitement-- all the good things that could come out of this move-- dissipated. It was like have the life sucked out of me. I thought about how sick and stressed she'd been when I had relocated to Seoul. I thought about how stressed going to the vet made her and how it took days for her to recover. And I thought mostly how long I'd known she was in a general state of discomfort all the time... that her snuggle times with me were the bright spots of her day. How holding her made her feel better for a little bit, but when I put her down and she stopped purring she felt that dull, constant ache strongly.
In the States any number of vets would have recommended putting her to sleep, perhaps long ago, but certainly on that day. But in Korea, the vets offer specialists, tests and scans. They'll import experimental treatment from abroad. I never knew how much easier it was when the vet recommends terminating a pet's life. It's never, ever easy, but it's so much harder when you are offered more tests, more treatment, more, more, more.
But I had promised Geumbi, because I knew she had a certain level of PSTD from all the times she had been at the vet's office. All the times she was sent home with me when she should have stayed in the hospital for observation because the stress of being there was enough to kill her. So I'd promised her after having all her teeth extracted that if the day came that she needed tests and tests, and tests I wouldn't do it to her. I'd let her go.
The thing I didn't know was how much guilt I'd feel. What if I was wrong?What if I'd just taken her to the cancer specialist? What if it was treatable? And then, I remember all the things... I know I made the right decision but I miss her, deeply, terribly and Bear... he loves me but it's not the same. Sometimes I want to hold him to me and other times seeing him makes it all hurt more. He doesn't miss Geumbi. He misses company, but not being hissed at all the time. And he's happy to have me all to himself.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and 17 chickens.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018