My cat Salem died really suddenly this morning. I have no idea why, but the emergency hospital thinks it was a stroke. He was fine last night, running around, playing in a cardboard box and sitting on the back of the couch while Soren and I watched a movie. But overnight he started sounding extra sniffly and wheezy, which I didn't think much of at the time because he has bad allergies and always tends to sound stuffed up or snores.
Around 2am the wheezing was getting pretty bad, and occasionally he would meow in a frustrated sounding way. I picked him up off the floor and put him on the bed next to me to pet him and try to make him feel better. He seemed to relax at first, but then lost control of his bladder and began coughing blood everywhere. I panicked and called Soren to come and take us to the emergency hospital because I wanted to be able to hold him in the car on the way. As we were waiting, he started to scream and try to run to another spot in the room every couple of minutes, but he could barely control his legs. He could make it a few feet before he collapsed on his side panting.
By the time I met Soren outside, Salem's gums were pale and he was struggling to breathe. Soren drove us as fast as he could to the emergency clinic, but Salem died in my hands just as we were pulling into the parking lot. I ran inside yelling for someone to help me, but they weren't able to revive him.
Based on my description of what happened, the veterinarian guessed a stroke, possibly caussed by underlying heart disease. I just don't understand how that could happen. He had allergies and bad knees, but he was healthy otherwise. He was up to date on shots, and had just gotten a dental last year. I fed him the highest quality food on the market, and didn't give him any junk food except for the occasional bit of ham or tuna as a treat.
I had never really owned a cat before, and he was incredibly special. When I adopted him, I had been working at the vet's office where he had been living for about a year and a half. The office had taken him away from a little girl who had been throwing him into walls as a kitten. She had done it more than once, and knocked him unconscious. Sometimes his pupils would dilate differently from it. He had food allergies, but was living on a prescription diet for cats who are overweight because that's what the other cats roaming loose in the office ate. He was too skinny, and bright red and blotchy, and he walked with a swagger (I was told because his pelvis had been broken and healed on its own, but my vet later said it was just because he was born with bad knees). His tail was crooked at the tip from being broken. He hated everyone except one receptionist, and even she wasn't allowed to hold him.
I spent 4 months getting to know him and we became good friends. I never tried to pet him more than he was comfortable with, but I would leave treats for him where ever I went. After a while, he would wait for me to come to work and follow me everywhere. He tried to defend me from the dogs I walked by slapping them in the face, and would jump into the cages I was trying to clean and roll around in my way.
I finally decided that I had to have him. No one else was going to adopt him, but I was terrified that someone else would, and that they wouldn't love him as much as me. The office didn't even make me pay an adoption fee, he had been there so long. They just gave him to me with a bag of food, and I took him home. He hid under my couch for three days, and when he finally came out, he seemed amazed by the concept of carpeting. He rode 2,000 miles with me in an overheating Chrysler Lebaron when we moved from St. Louis to Seattle, howling and flinging cat litter at me until I finally agreed to let him out of his crate so he could ride on the back of my seat while I drove. He survived falling out a second story apartment window that had no screen, causing me to spend an entire day sobbing my eyes out and plastering my neighborhood in lost cat fliers until it finally got dark enough that he came out of hiding.
He was never a lap cat, but he loved to try and suck on my hair (I assume he was taken away from his mother too early). But the longer I had him, the friendlier he became, until eventually, in the past couple of years, he finally would sit in my lap and just let me pet him. He was always waiting by the front door when I came home and would follow me from room to room. He loved when we had company and liked to be part of whatever was going on. He would tolerate almost anything from me, even baths, when anyone else would have been torn to shreds. He made me laugh, and he always knew just what to do when I wasn't feeling well.
I think this may be the last photo I took of him, earlier this month.
He was by far, the greatest cat I have ever known, and there will never be another quite like him again. In 6 1/2 years, he never stopped saying thank you for bringing him home with me. He was the love of my life, and I wish so much that I could have done something to help him. It's hard to make myself believe that he won't be waiting for me when I come home today, or ever again. My heart is broken, and I miss my friend.