Did Vincent “know”?

The house feels so empty without Vincent.

I took a nap yesterday afternoon and when I woke up, instinctively, I thought of feeding Vincent. Is Vincent hungry, would he like some food? Then, I realised he was gone.

Also, instinctively, I woke up at 3am today, as I had been doing for the past few months now. Every day at 3am, I lay in bed, hoping Vincent would still be alright when I came downstairs.

And he would be.

Right from the time he was diagnosed, I was told to prepare myself as his condition was already at a “very last stage”. I did. And every morning, he would greet me and I would be so, so relieved.

Until yesterday.

When I found out that Vincent had chronic kidney failure and was at a very last stage (some cats are just so resilient, they show no signs until it’s near the end, Vincent was one such cat), I set milestones.

Will we get to see Christmas? Yes, we did!

New Year’s? Yes, we did!

Chinese New Year? Yes, we did!

Chap Goh Mei? Yes, we did!

And this time, two Saturdays ago, the vet already told me Vincent wouldn’t last throught the night. “Take him home, he would be more comfortable at home”, she said. I did, and he pulled through the night. That was not surprisingly because the moment they took him out of the cubicle, removed the drip and put him into our carrier, he had already perked up. Even the vet assistant was surprised and said, “Sekarang, dia bangun?”

And I silently hoped, please, Vincent, it’s just two more weeks until my semester break. Stay….until I am able to be at home without having to go to work.

He did.

Sometime at the end of last year, in my research to help Vincent, I found out that a local vet was bringing in a revolutionary stemcell treatment with the potential to reverse kidney failure. I spoke with the vet and was told it IS for last stage kidney failure. Of course I was very interested in it.

Never mind if it is revolutionary, at least there is some hope. What is the worst that could happen? It doesn’t work, that’s all.

But it was costly. VERY.

It is okay. Money can be earned back. I’m still working. What is the use of having money if your loved ones do not have quality of life?

I waited for that stemcell treatment to arrive on our shores.

Did Vincent “know”?

After all, don’t cats read our minds?

We will never know what they know, how much they know and HOW they know.

But I think they know more than what we give them credit for.

Was Vincent waiting for the stemcell treatment too?

Then, it was just about two weeks ago that the vet informed me that the company managed to develop the treatment for dogs, but not for cats. Apparently, the cat formula was too costly, even for the company. My heart sank.

I did not “tell” Vincent about all these, of course. But do we need even to speak to convey our messages to our pets?  I don’t think so.

But all this while, I only had one aim, I knew chronic kidney failure was terminal (that was a fact I accepted right from Day One) – I just wanted Vincent to be as comfortable and pain-free as possible. I wanted him to be carefree and to be reasonably happy.

I’m glad he seemed to be. Remember how he ate and ate? I think instinctively or intuitively, his body knew the massive protein loss had to be compensated, so he ate like a horse. In the whole house, Vincent became the biggest eater!

Remember the time his mouth ulcers were so bad (July and August 2018) and he managed to “tell” me that all he could eat was chicken fillet and raw liver cut to a specific size? He managed to make me understand that, and that was his food until his ulcers healed.

It is amazing how Vincent was able to tell me so much, so that I could help him.

I would like to think too, that raw food helped Vincent and maintained him for longer than he was expected to have lasted. Maybe the holistic vets are right – I don’t know for sure, but Vincent had quality of life in the last 9 months. Maybe it was the raw food, which he himself had chosen. He rejected all kibble, he didn’t want cooked food as far as possible. He only wanted raw.

I know there is the other school of thought that prescription diet is the way to go. I don’t doubt that this works for some too – there IS anecdotal evidence that it works for some kidney patients. Maybe we should let the patient choose, just as I did, for Vincent? Maybe their instincts are still very primal and basal, they just “know” what is good for them? Raw food, is after all, not “high protein”. It’s only 10-15% protein, but it is high quality protein, which is what holistic vets recommend for kidney disease (based on my readings and research). Vincent chose raw food. I couldn’t have had it any other way. He would only eat raw food. I bought him the renal diet (both kibble and wetfood), but he refused to eat it.

Throughout our journey, Vincent’s kidney readings were never alarming. His BUN and creatinine were elevated, but not alarming. In fact, toward the end, his creatinine reading actually came down. Was it due to the diet he had chosen for himself, I will never know. But his kidneys had failed – that we knew for sure. The proteinurea was high. He was leaking protein. And his body compensated by making him eat like a horse. I knew he had to keep eating to continue living. It was so obvious that he “knew” this.

His survival instincts were so primal. So strong. Our soldier. Our brigadier general.

And I am almost sure that Vincent “knew” I was very worried about the final stage where kidney patients can no longer produce urine. This would mark the end and it would be a “horrible end” where water retention would make the body bloated. I had found out that diuretics might provide some comfort for this and I was determined to give Vincent everything possible to relieve him of this pain if it happened. So every day, I would look out for his urine. That was one of my main concerns. And Vincent “knew”, so he decided to urinated into the blue litter box which I had placed vertically to dry in the bathroom one day. He decided that was the “best” way to let me know that he could still produce urine. Instead of urinating into the cat litter, he urinated into this empty vertical litter box  – that remained his litter box until the very end. Every day, I would be so relieved to see urine in that blue litter box, standing vertically in the bathroom. Vincent even urinated on me on the bed, I think he wanted me to know – I’m still okay, I can still urinate. We “solved” this by placing a tarpaulin sheet under our bedsheet so that the bed wouldn’t be soiled.

Vincent just knew. And he did his best to help me.

And finally, did Vincent “know” that he wouldn’t have survived this last planned surgery that I had decided to put him through, to relieve him of the toothache so that he could have quality of life even if it were for a few more days?  Did he “know” that if he had not woken up from the anaesthesia, I might feel guilty?

I gave it a thorough thinking-through and I decided quality of life was more important. I could see he didn’t have anymore quality of life in these last few days. I asked the vet for the possible reason, and she said it’s most likely due to the rotten teeth and also the anaemia. The Darbepoetin worked the first round in November, but Vincent’s body no longer responded to it this time. The body had developed a resistance to it, and that is known to happen sometimes.

The vet wasn’t keen to do the tooth extraction as the chances were only 50-50. As a vet, it was also her responsibility to give me the odds and she thought that the benefits Vincent might derive from the surgery might be less than the risks of the surgery, in terms on how much longer Vincent had. I totally understand this, but it did not matter to me, I told her, even if Vincent had a few more good days, it would be worth it. I don’t want him to be in pain.

So, it was all set to go. The vet had two standby blood donors – her own clinic’s resident cats. I was so, so thankful.

I told Vincent all about the surgery that night. I was so full of hope.

But Vincent passed on in the morning.

My very first thought when I discovered his lifeless body at the entrance of the bathroom was: Oh Vincent, you could not wait for the surgery? But very quickly, I told him, “It is okay, Vincent, you’ve been so, so brave, it’s time to rest. It’s time to be free from pain. No more pain. You are free now.”

Did Vincent decide to go partly because it was time, and partly because he did not want me to bear the dilemma of having to put him through a surgery which he would not have survived?  Did he “know”?

The vet had prepared me that the anaesthesia might cause a cardiac arrest – Vincent was an old cat (though his heart was still very strong, but it was an old heart) and his kidneys had already failed. That is why the surgery was a 50-50 chance.

Perhaps Vincent knew….

I debated over my decision with family and a close friend for half a day before making the decision. The surgery was to give him better quality of life – that was the intention. If we did not do it, he would be in pain until the end. He would just starve to death because he could no longer eat.

Maybe Vincent just knew….

Maybe he wanted to spare me from the dilemma and the possible guilt. Or maybe it was just coincidental.

Maybe he hung on even after the vet predicted he would have gone, because he just wanted to give me more time to spend with him during my semester break. I was able to do that in those few days. I got him all kinds of food (yes, very tasty food from the mixed food shop) and he was happy. And that made me happy too.

Our pets will do all they can to make us happy. That’s how much they love us…unconditionally.

I am personally extremely touched and moved by the outpouring of messages of kindness and condolences, in this blog, on Facebook and through whatsapp. Please know how much your moral support means to me. Thank you so, so much. Vincent and I are so blessed to have so many kind and thoughtful friends.

Vincent’s cremation was done last night by Pet Memorial Services. His remains will be brought back to us today. I know where to commit his remains – his favourite vegetable patch where he would hide whenever he wanted to play hide-and-seek with me. He would be totally camouflaged. I remember many times I went all over the house looking for him (and even outside the house, up and down the road, thinking he might have escaped) and he would just sit quietly in this vegetable patch, waiting for me to finally find him – that was our game.

In his final days, he would sit by this patch too. It’s where he was very comfortable.

Back to nature now.

Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweeps, come to dust.

But Vincent’s indomitable spirit will live on in the many lives he has touched.

Thank you so much for sharing Vincent’s life.

4 comments to Did Vincent “know”?

  • Amanda Coffin

    Kah Yein, your efforts to ensure that Vincent had a gentle, nourished (in every sense) journey out of this life were absolutely monumental. He was a very fortunate cat to have chosen you!

  • Loh Lay Peng

    Good morning Sis. Is very touching to read this. I followed almost all your writings. You are indeed very very strong. You need to love yourself to love them. Take a good rest Sis. MAY YOU BE WELL n HAPPY.

  • Hazel Lee

    Morning Dr Chan… I feel your loss.. after all we are all humans- we hv feelings n attachments and we treated all our furry friends
    As our family members- but trust me… time will heal all wounds/ hurt
    I too lost one of my pet dog abt 16days ago- till today still not found, I really missed
    Him so v v much- that why I know how u must hv felt with the passing away of Vincent (similar kind of loss)
    I guess we all need to let go as life goes on n only hope n pray for the best for all our furry friends… I hv been following ur blog ever since Vincent was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure, can see u hv done n try all ur best for Vincent
    Frankly- nobody comparable to u in the way u hv cared for Vincent… VINCENT KNOWS!!!
    U still hv other cats- to ease the pain, I suggest u spent more time with them so that the heart
    Will not ached so much n hopefully it will take ur mind off Vincent gradually… ur other cats still needs u
    Just as u too needs them- be strong Dr Chan.. like Vincent, u too are a brave soldier…💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

  • Lay Cheng

    Everything in its’ time…Vincent couldn’t be more grateful for the love and support poured out so unconditionally by you,Dr Chan.