For those who don’t know, I have two cats. While I don’t usually write about my pets on this blog, I want to share this personal story. This information needs to be out there. People need to understand the risk of rabies shots. This is not to scare people, but certain cats should not have these vaccines. If your cat is older, has a compromised immune system or is a ragdoll, you should know about this. After this journey, I will never look at veterinary medicine again without a layer of skepticism. I know there are good vets out there. Some things can not be predicted and most vets care a great deal about their patients. I have come across several who have cared for Diamond and Mellow as their own over the years. That being said, I will always be much more careful now.
Disclaimer: This story is about death and may be a trigger for some people.
I have two ragdoll cats. Diamond is 12. she’s nothing short of a princess. She’s a little snobby, but is loyal and sweet to those she cares about. She comes when you call her name. She loves things that crinkle, chasing string and naps in the sun. Mellow is 10. He loves to be patted, has a motor boat purr and also enjoys naps in the sun. He loves chasing feathers and will even play fetch if you have the right ball.
Mellow’s End Of Life Story
I can’t believe I’m writing this. Even though I’ve had to say it several times today, I’m still in shock. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. My Marshmallow is gone. Last Thursday morning, he was a happy and relatively healthy cat and by Thursday afternoon after a routine trip to the vet’s office, that all changed. He had his routine vaccinations. Rabies and Distemper. Everything always went fine before. There were never any issues or reactions. I had always assumed that they were no big deal. Just something that animals had to get to stay safe and healthy. So like any good pet owner, I agreed to get his shots done, but there’s one thing that I missed.
Last year, Mellow was diagnosed with an unknown auto immune disorder. There are several options, but none of the doctors could narrow it down. Stomatitis was one possibility, but according to a couple different vets, he didn’t have the right kind of markings inside his mouth. Feline herpes was another likely option as Diamond has this. Her symptoms are all in her eyes, but they can also manifest in the mouth. Mellow never responded to the normal treatments that help feline herpes symptoms. There were other rarer diseases, but nothing was ever established. What I do know is the disorder had something to do with the proteins in his body and he was put on a low protein diet. What ever the case was, he had a compromised immune system.
Questioning the Rabies Vaccine
During my research over the weekend, I found sources that said in many cases, cats shouldn’t be given the rabies vaccine if they are over ten years of age or have compromised immune systems. I also discovered that in the case of ragdolls, they recommend only giving one shot at a time and some breeders advise against the three-year rabies shot. Mellow fits all this criteria, so why was there no red flag on his records? Why are these vets not digging into the files? Why do they not know of the risks or at least share these risks with pet owners? I understand that Google is not necessarily a reliable medical reference, but I read so many stories about people’s cats dying after getting the rabies shot. People need to hear about this! One source has a list of possible side effects, but the most disturbing thing is the comments. There are so many people who have had experiences like mine.
On the way home Tuesday, he started vomiting. At first, I thought it was motion sickness, but when he continued to do it at home, I knew it was something worse. Friday came and went and he was still not better by Saturday morning, so I took him back to the vet. They gave him some fluids and Antinausea medication. They said his blood work was normal and that he’d probably be fine in a couple of days. They gave me some free cans of food and said they’d be surprised if he didn’t eat that. I brought him home and the day dragged on. On Sunday, things appeared to be worse. He had stopped using the litter box and seemed weaker, so I started giving him water through a syringe almost every hour. That evening, he seemed to perk up. He started moving around more, drinking on his own and was purring again. He was no longer hiding and kept sniffing at his food, but wasn’t ready to eat yet which was still very concerning because not eating for days can be dangerous for cats. When he wanted to go up or downstairs, he’d meow and I would help him. He was still having difficulty climbing or walking longer distances. On Monday, I felt hopeful that he would pull through. The vet wasn’t open over the holiday, so I had talked with another vet over the phone. I described everything that was going on and she said that it sounded like he had turned the corner. Throughout the day, he still was quiet, but would purr when we talked to or pat him. He continued to drink on his own and didn’t mind laying out in the open. He seemed more comfortable than before. He still hadn’t eaten which worried me, but I figured he’d start eating that evening. He seemed well enough to pull through and I’d be taking him back to the vet on Tuesday to be checked. I planned on taking him first thing in the morning.
Before I went to bed, I brought him upstairs with me. He settled near my bed and I fell asleep. A couple hours later, I heard him cry out in pain, but I wasn’t sure where he went so I checked the bathroom. He followed me there and basically fell over on the floor. Then I noticed that his breathing was rapid and loud. My heart dropped and I just knew everything had gone too far. I sat in there with him for about an hour while I waited for my mom. I didn’t want to do this alone and she was my only way of getting to the emergency clinic. I was prepared to take him there.
I was screwed though. She has bad eyesight for driving at night. The emergency clinic is not close and it had just snowed, so the back roads we’d have to take to get there wouldn’t be cleared. We’d have to take Rosebud there with us as well. I also wasn’t sure how well Mellow would’ve handled the long drive. Would he have made it? We’ll never know now, but if I could do it over, I would have brought him there. Even if all they could do is end his suffering because what I saw over the next few hours was gut wrenching.
It was wrong from start to finish. I brought him downstairs and kept him close to his water bowl and litter box. He’d try drinking from time to time, but other than that, I could not keep him comfortable. Every time he’d move, he’d cry out in pain. Eventually things got so bad that we brought him to the kitchen. He was losing fluids and didn’t realize it so at least in there, it was easier to clean up after him. There are little soft rugs in there that he could lay on, but he preferred to lay on the floor. I stayed with him for a while, but watching him was getting to be too much. All I kept saying was I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. That was all that was running through my head because this was all so unnecessary. I told him he was a good boy and tried to pat him, but it made him more uncomfortable. All I could do was watch as he screamed and paced the kitchen in unbearable pain. Eventually it became as if he was stocking me around the kitchen. He looked liked he was going crazy and I wasn’t sure if he was going to become aggressive. In reality, he probably wouldn’t have, but it was scaring me. I didn’t want things to end like that, so I left the kitchen for a couple minutes while I sobbed. Diamond went and sat by the door, but soon heard screams that sent her hiding behind the couch.
I was disgusted with myself for leaving him alone. I was a chicken shit who could’ve even handle witnessing my cat’s death. My mom went back into the kitchen to check on him so he wouldn’t be alone. I heard a few more loud meows and then a meow with a gasping breath and then he was gone. I sat with him. Patting him and telling him how sorry I was and what a good boy he had always been. She said he was dead, but I could swear I felt him moving ever so slightly. I hope he heard me and understood how much I loved him. Eventually the movement stopped and after a while we wrapped him up and put him into his carrier. I regret that his end was not peaceful. He wasn’t warm snug in his comfy cat bed. I wasn’t able to hold and comfort him like I wanted to.
The What Ifs
It was over. While I was relieved he was no longer suffering, I felt like a failure. I went over and over everything I should or shouldn’t have done. If I had changed his checkup date or have taken him separately from Diamond. Maybe we would’ve had a different doctor. Maybe someone else would have taken a better look at his records. Maybe that person would’ve been more knowledgable. I should’ve taken him to the clinic. I should’ve gone sooner. Maybe someone could’ve saved him. The fact is that if he hadn’t gotten that rabies shot, he’d still be alive today. If I wasn’t such a horrible cat parent, I would’ve done something sooner or differently. I would’ve or should’ve known. Is knowing all this medical information my responsibility or the doctors? I’ll never know if just changing one action could’ve saved him. I’ll probably torture myself with this forever and his screams will haunt me for the rest of my life.
I have wonderful memories. Mellow and I playing fetch with his favorite ball. Mellow and Diamond chasing each other around. Mellow meowing at me as if we are having a conversation. I will never again be able to touch his soft fluffy fur. I will never again hear his funny meows. At least not live and in person. I have some things recorded, but that will never be enough. I will never be able to hug him again. He used to annoy me by waking me up at night with his nonstop meowing. If only he could wake me up one more time. I didn’t get to see Mellow’s kittenhood. He spent it with his breeder who was going out of business. By the time I found him, he was being sold at a lower price because he as a year old. We’d often joke that we found him on sale. He was a bargain. He might have been half price, but he would’ve been worth every penny anyway. He was always there for me. He sat on my lap during one of the most life changing and heartbreaking conversations I’ve ever had. Thank you Mellow for never leaving my side.
I haven’t been able to spend as much time with the cats since Rosebud was born, but I have Diamond still with me and I’ll never take it for granted again. The people and animals you love can be gone in the blink of an eye. Rosebud loves Mellow and often tells me that he’s her cat and Diamond is mine. I have pictures and videos of them playing together that I will treasure forever. She might not remember Mellow, but I always will. We named him marshmallow because he’s so fluffy and white. He’s sensitive so we called him squishy like a marshmallow. At the same time he’s extremely calm and mellow, so it became Mellow for short. Diamond and Rosebud and I all love and miss you. You were our special sweet boy. Our Mellow the Marshmallow. Rest in peace. October 22, 2008 to February 19, 2019.