Cat’s hospice care the happiest time of her life

For most of her life, the only thing Tessa wanted from people was to be left alone. She was brought to Best Friends after her caregiver passed away, and she immediately took to the rafters in the indoor/outdoor space and stayed there as much as possible whenever people were around. While Tessa was happy to have the constant company of other cats, she made it clear that she wasn’t looking for human companionship.

Cat World caregivers always let Tessa know they’d love to be her friend, should she ever decide she wanted that. But she always said no thanks in her own way — usually with a dramatic hiss and sometimes even by lunging forward to scare them away. But as she aged, her health became more fragile and she began to need more medical care.

That’s when she figured out that not only would people never hurt her, but they also truly wanted to help and care for her. After years of avoiding everyone, Tessa changed her mind and welcomed people into her life. And when she did that, her whole world got brighter.

Vet visit uncovers cat chronic kidney disease

Tessa’s change of heart started one day when caregivers brought her down from the rafters for grooming and a checkup. That’s how Best Friends vets discovered that Tessa had chronic kidney disease.

Tessa the gray cat in a green wooden bed, being scratched under her chin

The results weren’t surprising in that chronic kidney disease is one of the most common diseases in older cats and dogs, and Tessa was 14. But, because she wasn’t the kind of cat who would tolerate the handling necessary for vet techs or caregivers to administer fluids under her skin, there was little anyone could do except make sure she was drinking enough water and eating enough wet food to stay hydrated.

Learn more about chronic kidney disease in cats

A cat full of surprises

Tessa’s caregivers fully expected to be checking on her up in the rafters, where she’d always been before. But to everyone’s surprise, she didn’t flee from them this time. “She stayed down and was still apprehensive about us,” says Cat World caregiver Levi Myers, “but she didn't run or retreat to the rafters.”  

Instead, Tessa began to watch how other cats socialized and played with caregivers and volunteers. She seemed especially interested in play time, though no one could remember her ever playing with a toy. That didn’t stop Tessa from trying. Soon, despite her age and medical issues (including some arthritis in her back legs), she was chasing feather toys like a kitten.

Tessa then surprised everyone again by allowing caregivers to pet her. Soon, she was allowing them to comb her fur, which saved her a trip to the groomer (where she usually had to be sedated). She also discovered that she loved the feeling of being brushed so much that she began to ask for it. As she started seeking out people in the hope of being petted and brushed, Tessa began to look brighter and happier than ever before.

Tessa the cat surprised her caregivers by allowing them to pet her

Hospice care for a cat with terminal cancer

Just when things were looking up for Tessa, they changed again. She had only been down from the rafters for a few months when her caregivers noticed a lump on her hind end. The diagnosis wasn’t good. The lump was cancerous, and there wasn’t anything they could do to treat it.

That meant that Tessa is likely nearing the end of her life, but there’s a silver lining for her. Best Friends vets and caregivers know how to care for a cat with terminal cancer and will give her the very best kitty hospice care. Most important of all, they will make sure that every day Tessa has left will be her very best day.

Young woman sitting on the ground petting Tessa, a senior gray cat

“We will all miss this super sweet girl when she goes,” says Levi, “but for now, we just enjoy every moment we get with her.” And Tessa is still surprising people as she enjoys their company more and more.

How to walk a cat

One day Levi was preparing to take Tessa to a vet appointment. But instead of loading her into a cat carrier (which Tessa hated), he gently lifted her into a cat stroller and walked her outdoors along a path through Cat World.

“This was her first time in a stroller, so I watched her for signs of stress,” explains Levi. “Instead, her eyes lit up and she took it all in. Suddenly she had a whole new world to explore.”

Tessa the cat getting a stroller ride

Now, along with daily play time (when Tessa chases feathery wand toys around), she goes outside at least once for a stroller ride, now that the weather is warm and pleasant. She gets hours of time with volunteers, who are more than happy to give her some extra time and attention when they hear her story.

These compassionate volunteers take Tessa out to a peaceful spot at a gazebo on Cat World’s path and sit quietly with her while she takes in the scenery of the Sanctuary and the scents around her. In this place, where she will live out the rest of her days, Tessa is truly at home, truly loved and truly happy.

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Photos by Molly Wald