A couple of days before Christmas, we had to take Batfink to the vets for what, at the time we thought would've been something mundane. He'd somehow developed a bit of a bloated stomach over a couple of days and we wanted to get him checked out before the Christmas shut down and get him something to sort his little podge out.
What transpired was news that I hoped I would never have had to hear.
Christmas has always been one of those holidays that I've never taken much enjoyment from. It's usually cold, wet, miserable and in my experience, everyone's pretending to be in a good mood because it's what you have to do. Don't get me wrong, we have family traditions that would be a shame to leave behind but other than seeing friends and family, eating decent foods and having some free time away from my desk; Christmas is a big write off for me before it even begins.
I've always taken my pets to Ribble Vets in Preston. They've always shown me and my cats a level of love and compassion that I've not seen elsewhere. This is before you've entertained the fact that they have a veterinary centre that rivals some hospitals. The vet we had this time was lovely. She took a look at Batfink and said that she wanted to complete some blood tests and ultrasounds on him to find out what the cause of his bloating could be.
At this point, I was expecting to return to the news that he'd eaten a Christmas tree decoration (which wouldn't be the first time) and that all he would need is some diuretics to flush him out... job done. What actually came to light was the vet telling us that his liver enzyme levels were so low they weren't even registering on the scale. She then proceeded to tell us that his liver was heavily scarred and pretty much at the point of complete failure and that his intestinal walls had thickened and that (if his already shitty diagnosis wasn't enough) this could be down to form of cancer.
Batfink was just stood there in front of me, half his belly shaved, looking me with the saddest of sad eyes. He knew what we'd just been told.
Broken doesn't even come close to how I was feeling.
I tried to pull myself together after what felt like an age of tears and complete sadness and asked the question of what we could do to potentially treat any of the diagnosis. To our complete destroy, the vet told us that there wasn't anything that could fix him and that, at best, he'd have a few weeks (a couple of months at best) left to live. There aren't any words that express the amount of absolute pain and upset that we both felt.
We were crushed.
The vet said asked us what we wanted to do and despite our judgement potentially being upside down, we decided to take the big guy back home and spend as much time as we could with him, loving him, comforting him and making him as comfortable as we physically could for the foreseeable. We returned home after the worst visit to the vet that I could possibly have imagined and Batfink was pretty much ready to go to get into his bed.
We laid out his radiator bed and just let him get settled.
We spent the following couple of days monitoring him pretty much 24 hours a day. We'd noticed that the bloating by this point had become more or less the same size as a small football (no exaggeration). Despite the crazy upset that we were feeling, we were both slowly coming to the conclusion that we might have to make a painful phone call to the vet in the coming few
weeks days. We were told at the initial consultation that he wasn't in any pain and would just be feeling uncomfortable due to the mass of fluids in his abdomen. This was the only thing giving us even a slight amount of comfort in keeping him at home with us.
At this point, it was only a couple of days before Christmas day and we'd realised that we couldn't keep him feeling this discomfort any longer. He'd stopping eating, drinking and using his litter tray the night before, so we made the call and arranged the vet to come out.
Batfink went to sleep, quietly, painlessly, wrapped in his favourite blanket, warm and loved in his front room on the 23rd December 2016. He was the single greatest cat that I've ever had the pleasure of being around and I genuinely loved him with everything I had. His little face and amazing character had been by my side for nearly 7 years and knowing that he wouldn't be around anymore was hard to stomach.
We had him cremated on that day and a box of ashes is now standing proudly on our front room window sill. It's weird because even though I know it's only a box, there's some comfort knowing that he is inside it, in one form or another.
I'm writing this nearly 3 weeks since the date and it's as hard now as it was then. The house feels like there's a hole in it. It's quiet... too quiet and coming home knowing that I won't be pestered within an inch of my life, drowned in affectionate meowing and shouted at till he went to sleep is difficult to come to terms with.
I suppose this is the downside to having pets... they'll never outlive you and all you can do is give them the best life they can have. I hope I did that.
Love you buddy...
16th April 2010 - 23rd December 2016