My Cat Almost Died Because I Was An Idiot

shadow cat sick

Six years ago when I adopted Bailey I had zero knowledge of dog training, but I did have my intuition and compassion. Unfortunately, in the first year of my life with her, I often listened to all the wrong people who were so very eager to give me advice. Sometimes I listened to them, sometimes I didn’t - but all the while I felt like the most stupid and incompetent person on the planet. Should training my dog really be this hard and complicated? Is it my fault that Bailey is so afraid of everything? Am I really too soft with her? These were the questions that were keeping me up at night but eventually I found incredible resources on positive reinforcement and my education started to match what my intuition was saying - that raising dogs should be done through compassion and patience, not painful and repressive “techniques.” Six years later, I like to feel that I’ve learned from this experience. Never listen to people who aren’t credible, do your own research and always trust your gut.  

 

Apparently, I didn’t learn this lessons as well as I had hoped. The universe has served me a very big lesson by bringing Shadow into my life and instead of doing a better job at following my principles than I did 6 years ago, I failed the test - and as a result, I went through one of the most painful experiences I had ever gone through as a pet mom. 

 

When I found Shadow, I thought she’s going to be a normal stray cat that only comes by to be fed once in a while but otherwise roams freely in the environment. But with her, it soon became clear that she has become very attached to me and the home. She belonged with us almost instantly. I wrote a special blog post about this, introducing her on this platform for the first time and talking about my transition from dog-mom-only to dog-and-cat mom. At the time of writing that post, I was trying to adjust to having Shadow as an indoor/outdoor cat. This arrangement has felt uncomfortable for me since day one, but I was told that “this is a cat. They need their freedom. We’ve had cats all our lives and they’ve all been outside throughout the day. They are cats! This is not a dog!” I’m not going to make excuses as to why I didn’t listen to myself (or did more extensive research that went beyond “how to take care of a stray cat”), other than the fact that I was completely burnt out and going through a billion changes in my life. It was the worst time ever to get another animal, so I figured these people must be right and even though it went against every single cell of my existence, I kept letting Shadow roam outside. She was an exceptional huntress and caught a rat or a bird every single day. She always kept near the house, but I was never ever relaxed when she was away. Eventually she started journeying further away from the house and my anxiety kept deepening. But hey, this is a cat, not a dog Luna. You can’t tame her or train her. She needs her freedom. Right? 

 

Wrong. Luna of the past, you were so wrong and look what it almost cost you. The week before my birthday (which falls on the 25th of June) Shadow became completely lethargic and stopped eating. She was fine in the morning but by evening she wasn’t herself anymore. She was roaming around all day, so obviously I had no idea what could have happened that made her this way. I figured maybe she just ate a giant rat again and needs some more rest. The fact that she wasn’t eating was alarming because she has an insatiable appetite, but I figured I’d wait and see. This was Tuesday. The next day I was home alone all day, babysitting Ursha, so I didn’t have too much time to pay attention to where is Shadow. She remained near the house, but still refused to eat and her movement was extremely slow, her eyes unfocused. When my family came home in the evening I broke down in tears because I couldn’t ignore my intuition anymore. I knew it in my gut that something was wrong - very wrong. The vet clinic that works after-hours wasn’t available for walk-in patients, but I did talk to the vet on the phone and he said to wait until morning and then take her to my regular vet. We did that. That morning she threw up and my vet gave her anti-vomiting medication as well as some anti-dehydration liquid. She said it looked like Shadow has eaten something bad but should be okay once she starts eating again. I was instructed to keep giving her this liquid with a syringe and was also given special food for stomach issues that should have gotten her through the weekend. That was Thursday. 

 

On Friday, Shadow still refused to eat, drink or move. I tried with the anti-dehydration liquid and a special gel paste that gives a dehydrated animal the necessary ions. She refused to be fed whatsoever and it took me a while to master the syringe but I want to say that even though Shadow resisted against it, she never once scratched or bit me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: she is the most gentle animal I have ever had. At that point, I have cried every single day of the week. Hoping and praying that she’s going to be okay. Wishing on every single star that exists that on Saturday morning I wake up and she starts eating again. 

 

On Saturday morning, I woke up to her throwing up all of the liquid she has been given in the past two days. I called my vet and she told me to immediately bring her in for an IV. I was then told that if a cat doesn’t eat for 2 days it’s extremely dangerous for them and potentially lethal - at that point, Shadow hasn’t eaten in 4 days going on 5. They took her in for the IV and I was sent home for a few hours. I started to break the second I got back into the car, but once we made it to our home driveway, I had a complete meltdown. I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. My whole body was hurting and I was choking on my own snot. What have I done? What the fuck have I done? How could I have let this happen? How could I have been this irresponsible? If she dies, it’s on me.

 

When the vet asked me if Shadow ate something bad, I couldn’t give an answer. When she asked me where Shadow has been, I couldn’t give an answer. When she asked me if something has happened to her, I couldn’t give an answer. I couldn’t tell them anything that would help her because I didn’t know anything. I let my damn cat roam free - you know, like I DON’T do with the dogs! My dogs have all of their primal instincts satisfied, their nature is incredibly respected AND YET, they aren’t outside on the street alone all day. Somehow, this is completely logical to me when it comes to dogs - they don’t belong on the street. Just because they can survive as stray dogs, doesn’t mean they should be forced to. I would never let Chilly roam around to find his own food, I would never just open the doors for Bailey to go out into the world when we are literally surrounded by roads and live right next to a damn highway. Honestly, why do we understand this about dogs, but completely flip the script when it comes to cats?

shadow cat outdoor cats

In that moment, in our driveway, it dawned on me that I’ve made a huge mistake by not trusting myself. By not trying harder. By allowing people to say to me that she’s “just a cat, not a dog” - just like they were saying to me about Bailey 6 years ago, “she’s just a dog, not a child.” Honestly? Fuck those people. And fuck me, too! The fact that six years later I was still willing to listen to people who obviously don’t see or understand animals in the same way that I do is absolutely shameful. The fact that I couldn’t be bothered to do more research into cats because boo hoo my life is a mess right now and I really don’t know if I can handle another animal, is seriously idiotic.

 

I mean, why did I come here on this planet if not to make it a better and safer place for animals? Why did I create this platform if not to raise awareness about responsible pet ownership? 

 

I wish I could say I cried out my heart in that driveway but I didn’t - I proceeded to cry all four hours that she was getting the IV. When we picked her up, she got painkillers (because they didn’t know if she’s vomiting because she ate something bad or was she hurt and that triggered the symptoms), I got syringes and food that I was instructed to forcibly feed her no matter what, and she got super strong anti-vomiting medication. My vet said that if all these meds don’t work on her, something is seriously wrong and she may have pancreatitis. We came home, I put Shadow in her crate (she was completely high from the meds) and cried cried cried some more. 

 

On this note, I’m not usually the quickest to cry. I usually exhaust all other options of dealing with life until I hit an absolute wall. When that happens, my heart is usually so broken and exhausted at that point that the tears just won’t stop. So I hit a wall on Saturday and will probably always consider it one of the worst days of my life. Force feeding Shadow was horrific. Shoving a syringe in her mouth as gently as I could while she was trying to wiggle out of my hands and then squeezing the food into her mouth and holding her mouth closed so she doesn’t spit it out … all this a couple of times a day because we couldn’t do more than two or three syringes of food at a time. It was hell. My hell, her hell. Just looking at her felt like she's not really here anymore. Wherever I put her that's where she stayed until I picked her up and moved her again. She felt so far gone. 

 

I've been obsessed with the universe since I was a child. For me, it represents a higher power of choice. I talk to the night sky a lot - the stars and the moon have always been where I place all of my wishes and gratitude and worry. I'm not sure if that counts as an equivalent to praying, but it has gotten me through life so far. On Saturday night I felt so empty and devastated. I was sitting outside and I felt a feeling of complete surrender. All I could do was look up to the sky and make a promise to the universe: if Shadow survives, I am not only going to become the cat mom that she deserves to have, but I will also change the mission of Mother of Rescues. I swear to the stars that if my baby makes it, I will not only raise awareness about compassionately parenting traumatized dogs, but also about claiming full responsibility for the safety of our cats. I will make it my mission to teach humans that cats deserve to live a life of integrity where all of their instincts are satisfied and they are kept safe. I will socialize my reactive dog to this cat so well that I will shut everybody up. I will train this cat and prove people wrong. I am going to turn my stupidity into a learning experience for the masses - I promise. Just please … let her live. 

 

Come Sunday morning, last day before my birthday. She still wasn’t eating on her own or moving much. I took her out into the sun. I figured it could only help her, but another part of me thought that if she dies, at least she’ll have spent her last day in the sun. I would wish the same for myself. That’s when I felt that I had no more tears left to cry, not even one. I held her in my arms and we just sat in the sun. Even the syringe-feeding wasn’t so bad anymore. Afterwards, she went to a glass where I had water (that I was just about to put into the syringe) and she started drinking by herself. It felt like a miracle. It was a miracle. I have never loved the sound of an animal drinking more than in that moment; it was the most beautiful music. Later that day, another miracle. She took a few bites of food on her own. I made sure she had food available throughout the day, so by the evening she actually ate a respectable amount on her own! I was overjoyed but still worried that she might throw it up, because if she did, it would point towards a serious illness. 

 

Come Monday. My birthday. Shadow pooped first thing in the morning, after a whole week of nothing moving through her. I’ve never been so happy to see poop, let me tell you. No throwing up. She looked happy, responsive. She started climbing everywhere again, didn’t want to be carried all of a sudden, wanted to walk on her own, she was interacting with the dogs and we were outside together almost all day. She was awake, happy … herself. I have gotten some really good birthday gifts over the years, but this was by far the best one. My baby staying with us.❤️ I still thank her every single day for staying. I’ll never get over this, or not very soon anyways. And I know that I have a job to do now.

 

This platform is dedicated to raising awareness about compassion - for traumatized dogs and cats alike. For normal dogs and cats too. For any animal that needs your patience, care and devotion, when your environment thinks you are crazy. This is who this platform is for. I re-wrote the mission statement and I would love it if you took a minute to read it; you can find it here!

 

I feel compelled to say that throughout this whole week, Bailey and Chilly have been the source of my greatest emotional support. They have been with me every step of the way, looking at me with big eyes and showering me with love, patience and understanding. Shadow was with us in bed almost all the time and even though she peed in it twice, nobody seemed to mind. This week has truly bonded us even more as a pack. 

sleeping baby cat

So here you have it, my story. Our story. The story that almost didn’t have a happy ending - the story that universally definitely doesn’t often get a happy ending like this. Whether you are considering having a cat, have found a cat, could possibly one day find a cat or adopt a cat, have friends who have cats … here is what I want you to take away from this post: 

 

Outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats aren’t safe. PERIOD. If you don’t let your dog roam free all day long, don’t let your cat do that. If you do let your dog roam free all day, you need to sit down with yourself and reassess your priorities and projections. Allowing our animals to be unsafe in the name of freedom is a paradox. An animal that is not safe is NOT free. An animal that belongs to somebody but isn’t under the protection of that somebody throughout the day is NOT free. An animal that dies 10 years before her time because a human being couldn’t honor her instincts within the realm of safety is NOT free. Freedom and safety go hand in hand. Committing to an animal means committing to satisfying her instincts and this does NOT mean forsaking your responsibility to this animal and letting her roam free in an environment that is not only unsafe, but often very actively rigged against her. 

 

I understand that there are many stray cats who have been spayed and neutered and checked by vets and they are living the stray life, staying away from humans or only coming by to be fed every now and then. I understand that capturing (and taming) them is often a big challenge, I understand that shelters sometimes can’t take them in, I understand stray cat problematic is heavy. But I’m not talking about this right now. I’m talking about adopting an animal, buying an animal, committing to an animal … and then refusing to take responsibility for her safety. I’m talking about cat ownership that by default allows cats to roam free throughout the day. If you currently have an indoor/outdoor cat and are reading this, this post is probably pissing you off. GOOD. If I had read this post before all this happened I would be hella triggered. It sucks when someone challenges the beliefs you are passionately defending even though you’ve never rationally examined them. And that’s exactly the point - you cannot rationally justify allowing your cat to roam free because all statistics, environmentalists and other experts can easily prove you wrong. When I was finally educating myself from the proper sources, I was blown away by the information that nobody has ever told me about before. I was emotionally justifying my previous decision, probably because I was projecting a lot of my own shit onto Shadow. As humans we feel trapped a lot, so hey, why not project some of that onto our animals, let them irresponsibly roam free and call it a day? 😉 OR … we could call ourselves out on our own bullshit, admit we’re not perfect, cry a lot when shit hits the fan, educate ourselves from people who actually know what they are doing … and snuggle with our babies at the end of the day, fully knowing that they are healthy, safe and happy.

 

Since Shadow became an indoor cat we’ve gotten so much closer through my making sure that her predatory nature is honored. But this is a topic for another blog post. For now, I want to end with this: I hope that you can learn from my mistake so that you never have to live through this story yourself. I hope that you can admit to yourself your own mistakes, whatever they may be. I hope that you can forgive yourself for them, too. Personally, I’m still working on that last one, but I know that if all this had to happen in order for me to wake up and expand this platform to the point where it makes an even bigger impact than before, then I can make my peace with it. 

 

Shadow is right next to me as I am writing this. She is sleeping and there is something about her peaceful breathing that swells my heart. She is a gift. All of this, a gift. Life, a gift. Death, a teacher. The prospect of death, a perspective. All we ever have is now. And right now, we can choose to be better than yesterday. I know I am. Are you? 

Sleepy shadow cat