My year with Sidney: a special connection with a senior cat

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My beloved Sidney

Sidney, until recently, was my beautiful and beloved senior cat with whom I was lucky to share one very special year. Its taken me some time to be able to write about this because I wish it had been more than a year, because its emotional, close to my heart and a little more personal than I’d like to get on this blog. It devastated me when she passed away in December. Even now, it is difficult to write.

My beautiful Sidney came into my life unexpectedly. I have been a great animal lover my whole life, but there is something so special I love about cats. I always wanted one. But between moving every couple of years and being a student, I was never able to adopt a cat of my own because I believe in forever homes and being financially capable of supporting a pet.

One of her favourite past-times was snuggling in bed, especially with mom.

Sidney was 12 when I met her, or about 65 in “human years” and had hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid. We adopted her from a neighbour and I was utterly happy. Even though I know how much I love cats, I never expected this little tuxedo cat to steal my heart the way she did.

Sidney was a true people cat. She loved the company of people and soon enough, she followed me around the house and was always in the same room as me. One of her favourite past-times was sitting on laps. She would sit on mine for hours if I let her and sometimes we just sat together, her and I. She would purr happily as soon as she was in my arms and, unlike most cats, loved being picked up and cuddled. She was so different from every other cat I’ve known and I don’t expect to meet any like her again.

Her beautiful and wise green eyes held a deep understanding.

Her eyes held this wisdom in them, like she completely understood me and sometimes I would just talk to her and she would patiently listen. When I was sick, she laid on my bed with me all day. When I was sad, she would snuggle up to me. During some tough times and periods of unemployment and the anxiety that comes with it , she was a constant in my life and she gave me a much-needed sense of purpose. We developed quite a bond, and our neighbours told us she was a calmer, happier cat around me. It seems we both needed each other.

Her hyperthyroidism would qualify her as a “special needs” cat to most, but to me, she was just special. Its a common ailment in older cats and we managed it by giving her anti-thyroid pills (Felimazole) twice a day. If it sounds challenging to give a pill to a cat, I can honestly tell you it really wasn’t, but she was pretty agreeable. We gave it to her in a tiny bit of yogurt or rolled up in a bit of wet food, or the easiest of all, in a Greenie’s Pill Pocket.

Exploring outside, she was like a kitten again following mom around the yard and playing in the sun.

However, in November last year, she had lost noticeable weight and was eating much less. Food was one of Sidney’s great loves in life, so I knew something was wrong. The vet found her thyroid was still too high, so we increased her medication. But they had also found a lump in her abdomen and we scheduled a followup in another week.

I could never have prepared for what happened. During that week, we rushed her to the hospital when she started open-mouth panting (a critical sign to go to the vet NOW for any cat), we found out she had cancer that had spread to her lungs. It broke my heart, both knowing it was terminal and fearing she was in pain.

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Sidney often curled up and slept here at the foot of the bed with mom and dad. Here she is modelling for me in one of our many photoshoots.

Sidney stayed in the hospital overnight so she could be stabilized and have fluid drained from her chest cavity, which had caused her difficulty breathing. The next morning, we picked her up and spoiled her extra, and started prednisolone treatment for palliative care. It was suspected lymphoma, and this treatment often slows the cancer and gives them more time.

Unfortunately, Sidney did not have much more time. A week later, she was having breathing difficulty again, and I knew what it meant. I’d pre-planned a list of possible vets who perform at-home euthanasia and reluctantly called. We had a vet come to the house and Sidney passed away at home, in my lap, a very favourite spot on December 21. It was, quite literally, the darkest day of the year. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get over her loss. She was one extraordinary cat.

My dear cuddlemuffin and best friend, Sidney, I hope you are running free in the sun now. You will be forever in my heart.

Sidney was my best friend, my little shadow who followed me around and my cuddlemuffin. Words don’t express how much I loved her. She brought us so much joy, happiness and love and we were so very lucky to share a special year of our lives with her. Senior cats are very special and need loving homes, too. I realise it is kitten season, but please, please consider giving a loving home to a  senior cat who desperately needs comfort, happiness and love in their last years of life. If they have special needs, find out what needs to be done. It could be as easy as a pill pocket once a day. You, too, may end up with a beloved friend like Sidney.


Important Resources for Pet Loss Grief:
Washington State University Veterinary Medicine Grief Phoneline: 1-866-266-8635, talk to a veterinary medicine student who is trained in grief counselling for free.
The Pet Loss Support Page: if you prefer to write rather than talk about your experience and feelings to seek support from others who have lost a pet, too. There are many websites out there dedicated to pet loss, do a google search to find the right one for you.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-784-2433, if you are unable to cope and having thoughts of suicide, please call this number or go to Suicide.org to find a local number to call in the U.S. or internationally.
Other ways to cope may include writing a blog post, making a scrapbook, creating a video of your pet or holding a memorial service. If you know of other good resources, please leave a comment with a link.

Remember it is perfectly okay to grieve for your pet. Don’t let those who don’t understand bother you. It can be extremely difficult to lose a pet because, unlike a person, they love us unconditionally no matter what, they do not judge and they are big part of our daily routines. Its a special kind of love not found in other relationships.