Along with my kids and my husband, Oakley is one of the great loves of my life. We have many cats here at the sanctuary and I love them all but my relationship with Oakley was different. He was my heart cat.
Oakley arrived to us back in July of 2020. From his early days of seizures and tremors as a tiny 6 week old kitten, to the loss of his eyes, to his IBD diagnosis, we went through so much together in only 2 years. I imagined a lifetime with this amazing boy.
This was not to be. I’m in shock. I’m devastated and heartbroken beyond words.
Yesterday morning Oakley was fine. We had our usual cuddle and he was running around playing with Jeb and his ball. Oakley had been doing great and was down to only one medication to treat his IBD. He was eating well and gaining weight and muscle back. His fur was becoming soft and silky again. He was healthy and was back to his old, playful self. I had left the house for an hour in the early afternoon to take the baby kittens to the vet for their vaccines. I came home and happened to see Oakley sitting upright on the floor with half of his face covered in wet litter. He was awake but non responsive. I scooped him up and I realized he was surprisingly cold. He was also fairly limp in my arms. When he didn’t lift his head to lick me or even look up at me, I knew it was bad. I rushed him to the vet immediately.
Despite emergency measures at the clinic, he very quickly deteriorated to the point he could not breathe without oxygen. His lungs were filled with fluid. As we discussed next steps, trying to figure out what was happening, he grabbed my shoulder, rose up in a panic and collapsed. He was gone. While I cried oceans of tears and it was incredibly traumatic, I am grateful I had the chance to cuddle him and be with him before and during the time he passed. I had whispered to him it was ok to go if he needed to. That I loved him and wanted him to stay with me forever but I could see he was suffering. I cuddled him close. And then he left. My heart will never ever be the same.
These are the challenges of loving special needs cats. Anything can happen. We never know how long we have with them. With Oakley in particular, he was always with me. I was alert for any changes, especially in the last few months. And yet there was nothing. No warning. He was doing great, until he wasn’t. From the time of his initial event to when he passed was less than 3 hours. It all happened so fast. Possible causes are lymphoma or heart failure. He has had bloodwork and exams so frequently over the last few months and most recently nothing was alarming. The meds were working. All signs pointed to him being stable and recovering well. Would it be easier if we had definite answers? Probably. But I would still be standing in my kitchen without my boy in my arms. We are waiting on some test results that may give us answers, but we might never know.
I’ll forever miss his constant shadow. The jumping up into my arms every chance he could get, the obsessive face licks, his need to rub his face all over mine, his paws so gently patting my face while he licked me, his head turning to find me as soon as he would hear my voice. The gentle paws on my face and around my neck in a hug. The thought of that causes me to break down every time I think of it. His attachment to me was unusual. He would go to Gary and the boys asking to be picked up some times but the minute he sensed I was in the room he would struggle to get out of their arms to get to me. Like a baby. We noticed my presence could calm him. All of his tests and bloodwork recently were completed with him in my arms. I’m so grateful to his veterinary team that recognized what he needed. Being out of his element and having super senses made vet visits so disconcerting for him. He’d be distracted and startled by a paper being shuffled in the next room. But in my arms, he could stay calm and focus on me.
One of the most amazing things about Oakley was the way he navigated our home without his eyes. It was fascinating to watch. He was so resilient. He was truly the most amazing cat.
His love was always surprisingly intense.
I can’t help but wonder if somehow he knew his time with us would be short so he filled it with as much love as he could.
When I woke up yesterday morning, I felt really off. There was this darkness and anxiety I couldn’t shake. I couldn’t explain why but I felt a sadness that was extremely distressing. I now don’t think that was a coincidence. It may sound silly but Oakley and I were connected in a way I’ve never been with any animal in my life and my heart feels broken beyond repair.
I know how much you guys loved him too. I’m so sorry. I never once imagined I’d be sharing this news with you so soon. Even during his recent health issues, I was worried but felt hopeful. We weren’t there yet. But I was wrong.
Thank you to Dr Rachel and the team at Pet Hospital on Main. Drs Lee and Ryder were also significantly involved in Oakley’s care over the last two years. I know all of the staff loved him. Thank you to Rachel, Sam and Eva who were by my side yesterday and doing everything to save our little man.
I will forever be grateful that he came into our lives. With everything that happened in his journey, it feels like we lived a lifetime in 2 years. It wasn’t long enough and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this loss. He was so unbelievably loved.
I need to take a little break.
Thank you all for being here.