Today we had to put our five year old girl tortoiseshell cat down. She was in liver failure caused by precisely what, we don't know. She may have had an intestinal blockage or or could have been liver cancer or any number of other things. We took her to the vet several times and they couldn't give us a clear diagnosis without spending more than we have to spend on a kitty - even a well-loved kitty.
She had been losing weight since December and despite several courses of drugs had become very unhappy in the last week or so and it was apparent to Mr. Lawyer and I that the benefit of prolonging her life was outweighed by the ethical duty to let her go with dignity when when was past the point that recovery was likely or even possible. Cats don't show pain - I think it must be a survival technique. But she had become extremely withdrawn over the last week and we had resorted to syringe feeding and watering her, which she couldn't keep down.
So the kids... The kids are at that age where death is still rather abstract. After much thought, I told them after preschool that I had taken her to the vet and that she was so very very very old and very very very sick that Mommy and the Doctor tried to fix her, but she died at the Vet's office. The 5 year old took it pretty hard. And then he asked if she was just bones now, like dinosaurs. The 3 year old wanted to know what happened to the body. Because I'm a big chicken, I told them I didn't know and that we could call the vet and ask next week. I'm hoping they forget by next week.
She was as old as my 5 year old, which is not old at all for a cat. Actually, she was probably born right around when I became pregnant with him. We got her in October 2003, right before his birth. She was starving, pregnant, miscarrying due to a severe infection, had intestinal parasites, and ringworm. Per the vet, she would not have lived but a few more days had we not taken her in. She not only recovered from all that but went on to become the fattest smooshiest kitty I've ever had. She had a good, extremely spoiled life here - that much I know.