Emotional Roller Coaster
Effects of CRF on the Cat Caregivers
for a CRF cat takes a very strong commitment from the caregivers.
You must understand that you may be caring for this cat for years.
This takes patience, dedication, time, money and, most importantly,
a lot of love. It's a lot of work. As cruel as it sounds, extending
the cat's life through constant care and vigilance may not be
the right decision for some people, especially those who travel
progression of feline CRF has been compared to an emotional roller
coaster ride by those who have gone through it, and, indeed it
is. As time goes on, the sloping hills become steeper and closer
together. There are up days and down days. Taking care of a CRF
cat can be emotionally stressful, extremely frustrating and time-consuming
for all involved. Your cupboards may be full of food your cat
won't eat. You may wonder how much you are hurting the cat by
giving sub-Q fluids. When the time comes for medication and then
even more medication, you may agonize over how much more the cat
can possibly bear. Our experience with Avatar has taught us that
cats can, indeed, put up with quite a bit. After two and a half
years of sub-Q fluids and two years of three pills twice a day
and the loss of more than a third of his body weight, he remained
the lovable, affectionate cat he had always been.
spite of your best efforts, your cat may become withdrawn and
depressed. The first few times this happened to Avatar, we tried
to steel ourselves for the worst. Each time, though, he bounced
back (at least part way) and stayed at the new 'plateau' for weeks
or even months. Each crisis plunged us into gloom. Each minor
recovery elated us. Watching Avatar groom himself for a few minutes
after recovering from one of his bad spells brightened our whole
week. At first we considered each additional month as a gift,
then each week and finally each day. Our efforts were focused
on quality of time rather than quantity.
effects of caring for a CRF cat will eventually hit and you may
feel exhausted and, occasionally, even angry at the cat. These
are normal feelings. A caregiver's life is not easy. Be sure to
take some time for yourself.
and relatives may insinuate that you are quite mad to have chosen
such a course of action. Only a true cat person will understand
completely. The loss of respect from those who are judgmental
is a small thing. The love you receive from your cat is unconditional
and will more than compensate for any small-minded opinions from
financial impact can be substantial if the cat is able to maintain
a reasonable quality of life for a long period of time. This is
particularly true if you have sub-Q injections done at the veterinarian's
office (as we did) rather than doing them yourself. Medication
can also be expensive. If you are financially able to afford the
expense, then it is well worth continuing on. We put off buying
a new car for more than a year. If you examine the situation,
you come to the realization that your money is buying life. What
else could be so precious?
of Mobility-Curtailment of Activities
for a CRF cat can mean no extended periods of time away from home
at all unless arrangements are made with a competent person to
care for your cat while you're gone. When the condition is advanced,
the cat will require some sort of special attention almost every
day. This is not meant to imply that caring for a CRF cat is a
constant vigil, but regular sub-Q fluids or regular medication
regimens definitely limit your freedom of action. Since CRF cats
urinate frequently and in greater volume, the litter box must
be changed more often. If you must go away, you will have to make
arrangements for someone to administer the sub-Q fluids and/or
medications in your absence. This is not a casual cat-sitting
situation. Check with the technicians at your veterinarian's office.
Perhaps one of them would like to earn some extra money on the
side and be willing to come to your home daily, if necessary,
to care for your cat while you're away.
Burden of Making the Final Decision
either you or your cat will have to decide that the time has come
to put an end to your efforts to prolong the cat's life. Since
most cats in CRF rarely show signs of agony, or even severe discomfort
until the very end, trying to judge the way the cat feels will
become a constant preoccupation. You can expect to project your
own anxiety onto the cat and try to read the cat's actions and
expressions through the filter of your own distress. Most people
who have made that final decision say that the cat let them know
when the time had come. They are unable to explain exactly how
this worked. In any case, the close relationship between a CRF
cat and his caregiver does lead to a level of communication that
is more profound than the usual cat-human interaction. As a caregiver,
you will become attuned to tiny variations in the cat's attitude
and health, so it is not unreasonable to assume that you will
know when further efforts will be more deleterious than helpful.
you may anticipate an enormous amount of guilt over making the
final decision, you should keep in mind that some people have,
in retrospect, experienced guilt at having prolonged an uncomfortable
existence for too long. If your efforts on your cat's behalf are
based on love, it's unlikely that you will make a serious error
in judgment when the final decision must be made. There is no
quantifiable measurement of the optimum time to end a life. It
will be tough enough just to make the decision without agonizing
over it after the fact.
Avatar, we tried to set markers to take the burden of making the
final decision away from us. For example, we told ourselves that
when his weight dwindled to a certain point or when he became
too weak to jump onto his favorite perch, the decision would be
made for us. In the end, though, the burden fell entirely on us.
After closely watching the progression of his CRF for so long,
we knew that Avatar would not be able to weather another crisis.
The choice became one of waiting until he was suffering or acting
to prevent that suffering. We opted for the latter.
with your veterinarian in advance about euthanasia so that you
are fully informed and can make decisions early. It is a difficult
choice, but one that must be made when your cat is in end-stage
CRF. When the time actually comes, you will be emotionally overwhelmed
and that's not a good time to try to make rational decisions.
Your veterinarian will explain what options are available. You
may or may not want to be present during the procedure. If you
do, some veterinarians will consent to come to your home. Ask
your veterinarian about giving a tranquilizer to the cat prior
to the intravenous injection to reduce stress.
rituals are for the benefit of the living. This holds true for
the loss of any loved one. Doing right by the deceased is a way
of getting your own life in order and dealing with the loss. You
will need to decide on either cremation or burial. In the first
case, you must also decide if you want a private cremation (your
cat only) or a communal cremation (several pets) and make your
wishes known to your veterinarian. Private cremation is slightly
more expensive but ensures that you will have your own cat's cremains
returned to you, if you so desire. If you decide to have your
cat buried, know in advance where pet cemeteries are located in
your area and gather information on memorial stones and pet coffins.
As with communal cremation, a communal burial may also be a suitable
alternative. Cremains may also be buried. You also may decide
to have a favorite toy or blanket buried or cremated with your
loss of a beloved cat can be devastating and the deep pain and
grief may last a long time. No one can take the hurt away for
you. But celebrating your cat's life may help. Remember your cat
with a memorial garden. A photo collage can be comforting. Write
down memories of the good times you had with your cat. Have a
portrait done of your cat from a favorite photograph. Make a scrapbook
full of memories and pictures of your cat. If your cat has been
buried in a pet cemetery, visit occasionally.
number of pet-loss hotlines are available for counseling and support.
to find links to pet loss pages and Rainbow Bridge. Seek out friends
who have gone through the same thing and can understand and sympathize.
Although no cat can ever replace yours, eventually you may want
to have another join your home and this is probably the best therapy
you have more than one cat in your home and one dies, the others
may grieve. Some cats are very close companions - they eat together,
sleep together and play together. The
remaining cat(s) will not understand what has happened, only that
their close friend is no longer there. It is impossible to know
what they are feeling but many do react to a loss and may go through
the feline equivalent of the human stages of grief. Some may stop
eating and/or appear depressed, restless, hostile or lethargic.
They may hide or look and call for the missing companion. Some
may become more demanding and vocal and want affection and attention.
cats have domination conflicts and when one dies, the surviving
cat(s) may become more active and, in a multicat household, the
hierarchy may be rearranged over time. Grieving cats should be
watched carefully and be given a lot of attention and love. In
time, they will understand that the missing companion is not coming
back and gradually adjust.
long as there is no danger of contagious disease, it can be helpful
to allow the surviving cats to see and sniff the deceased cat.
Sometimes introducing another cat into the family will help cats
(and their people) to recover from a loss more quickly. For more
detailed information on Feline Grief, we recommend the following