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Goodbye, Ella

Posted by tinako on May 11, 2011


Our cat died two weeks ago.  Ella had just turned 17 and had had cancer for a year and a half and kidney failure for two and a half years.  She was healthy and happy up until her last week, when she stopped eating and drinking.  The same thing happened two years ago and it turned out to be a urinary tract infection making her feel ill.  We nearly lost her that time but with a few days at the vets and a few weeks of antibiotics she went on to have two more quality years.

This time the vet could feel her tumor, her blood tests indicated the cancer was causing havoc, and when we got the test results that she did not have a UTI, we knew that she was not going to get better.  We had had years to get used to the idea, thought of it as a long goodbye, and were ready to let her go, but nothing you do can make that day easier.

You can learn at this post, Vegan Cats, my thoughts on the subject and what I did when I learned she had liver cancer.  That site tells what proportions of vegan to prescription food I was giving, though starting this year I had to cut her back to one to one (only half vegan).  I never held too tightly onto the idea that this would be a cure, and, at least as I implemented it, it seems clear that it was not.   Beyond being sad about my cat, it was personally discouraging that a tumor continued to grow on a diet I hoped would stop it.

I couldn’t feed her all-vegan food because there is no vegan kidney-failure prescription food, but I thought it would be enough, <10% animal protein – would her cancer have grown on 0% animal protein?  Did her cancer grow more slowly on her mostly vegan diet?  Her vet had given her 3-12 months, saying it was a toss-up whether her kidneys or cancer would take her, and yet she lived 18 months; the vet was amazed at how well she was doing, both in lab tests and in appearance, but it’s my understanding that prognosis are difficult to make and notoriously inaccurate, so maybe the diet had no effect at all; we just can’t know from this case.

We were able to keep her kidney numbers in the good range until earlier this year, but even to the end the vet said the kidney numbers were not that bad, and that didn’t seem to be what was making her ill.  Everything indicated it was the cancer.

So while we have a lot of questions, we did learn that: 1. a cat with serious health problems can be healthy and happy on the diet I fed her for quite some time.  2. It does not stop kidney failure or liver cancer.  3. It doesn’t seem to accelerate them, either.  4. It seems to have delayed them.

I would have loved to have fed her a 100% kidney-friendly vegan diet.  What could we accomplish, what could we try, if we thought rationally about the issue of vegan cats, and explored it as an option, instead of just dismissing it as crazy?  I’m grateful my vet was willing to work with me, but it would have been even better if there had been a food I could turn to.


3 Responses to “Goodbye, Ella”

  1. Rob said

    How wonderful to have shared seventeen years with Ella!

    We also lost a cat friend Winston to cancer recently. I was struck by his ability to maintain his composure and live his normal life right up until his last two weeks. Cats achieve this with no understanding of zazen, perhaps because they live without all the crutches we humans use to reduce suffering. They have no expectation that an aspirin or doctor or hospital will provide relief. Free from that expectation they accept their suffering and are then able to find happiness in a sunny window, a string, or the company of a friend.

    I’m glad that Ella had a caring friend like you.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I know you love Ella very much, and she knew that. How great that you two shared 17 years together.

  3. tinako said

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Rob, it was one of the points I made to my kids, that as sad as we were, Ella wasn’t. As you suggest, she wasn’t feeling entitled or grumpy, she just accepted it. “Yes, this.” Though on her last day she seemed sick of our attention, wanted to be alone. I told my kids I could relate, that when I give blood and the tech is about to poke me, often she tries to distract me by asking friendly questions, but I really just want to deal with it in my own way. With Ella, I took it as one sign that things were becoming uncomfortable for her, and she was turning inward (or outward, beyond us, if you will). I’m sorry about Winston.

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