how much time do we have?

July 8, 2011 |  Category:   family life

Our 14 year old cat, Tobi, was diagnosed with cancer in his liver and intestines today. He is home now from the vet and seems comfortable, though he is not eating much. He used to be a large, fat orange tabby but has lost 35% of his body weight. He is nearly skin and bones now. We have decided not to do any more tests or treat his cancer. He is acting fairly “normal” – that is to say, he doesn’t act like he’s in pain, but my question is this: how much time do we have with him? Anybody out there with similar experiences who can share?

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  • Kim July 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Jenna, very sorry to hear about Tobi. One year ago we had to put our 18 year old cat to rest. It was a very hard decision and made even harder by having 2 kids aged 8 and 5 who couldn’t quite understand that she was ‘suddenly” sick. I was giving shots to her daily and she was not in control of her body and it’s functions any more. My decision to put her to rest came by going to bed one night and saying to myself… 3 signs, 3 signs she’s ready to leave us and I’ll be ready too. The next day she gave me 3 very strong signs, one of which was her falling to sleep on my 5 year olds bed as we read. She’s NEVER done this before, and Boo and the 5 year old had a special bond. She stayed long enough for me to get my camera and tripod to take pictures.
    You’ll know when it’s time. Just give Tobi lots of love now.
    My heart is with you on this one!

  • chloe July 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    something similar happened with my cat this year, and you really do wonder how much time there is left. we were heartbroken to lose her and though we knew it was coming we were truely caught by surprise.

  • Lil July 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Oh Jenna, so sad. As a vet I can tell you that you may have anything from days to months, just make sure he keeps eating – if he won’t eat anything I think it’s fair to say he feels rotten. They can’t talk, and some cats are so stoic, they just keep on truckin’ and purring even when they are feeling horrible.

  • lilcg July 8, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I am so sorry. I grew up with a cat, my parents got him as a wedding present. when I was in 3rd grade we were told that he was sick and we should put him to sleep. my parents didn’t believe it–he seemed fine. and he lived for another 3 years. for the first 2 he was completely himself, but then he did start to get really sick. he lost a lot of weight and hair and developed cat alzheimer’s (he would get lost and cry until someone rescued him). I am glad that we kept him alive for the first two years, but I can’t help but wonder if the last year was more for us than for him. he can’t have been happy or pain free.

  • melissa July 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Jenna,

    Never commented before, but I love your blog. I noticed my cat Lulu’s weight loss and lethargy in January of this year. The vet did a bunch of tests, none of which were conclusive, but she suspected it was cancer or something as serious. My poor kitty ended up living another 5 or 6 weeks. She was 13 years old. It was very tough on us. But had we known for sure that it was cancer we would have done the same thing as you — no treatments or surgery, etc. We did try giving her fluid shots and other meds just to keep her comfortable. Anyway best of luck, best wishes, enjoy your time with him, perhaps it will be longer than what we had with Lulu. I hope your girls will be okay, too.


  • Leah July 9, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Oh, so sorry to hear about your cat. I have two of my own so I can only imagine how tough this is for you. Hang in there!

  • Audrie July 9, 2011 at 3:18 am

    I’m so so sorry to hear this. I suppose you’ll know when it’s time to say goodbye when he stops eating completely and his quality of life starts to suffer. My ex had the same experience with his beloved cat and he said he just knew when it was time.

  • L.M July 9, 2011 at 9:55 am

    hi Jenna– i am saddened to hear about Tobi. Seven years ago we had a similar experience with our beautiful, orange tabby Rocco, except he was barely four years old (so be grateful you got to have Tobi in your life for so long). Rocco was diagnosed with Feline Lymphoma which caused his lungs to fill with fluid and made it necessary to have them drained every few days. I was inconsolable, but the reality that he was dying was impossible and cruel to ignore. My husband and i also refused any further treatments like chemotherapy, there was no point.
    So instead, we focused on keeping him as comfortable as possible which mostly meant keeping him hydrated (IV everyday) and as well fed as possible (mostly by way of a “food shake” administered by dropper). Cats lose their sense of smell when sick, therefore they have no interest in food, however Rocco did respond to the odd sardine!
    About six weeks from his diagnosis, it was impossible to ignore that it was time to let him go. He could no longer “get comfortable” and his sad eyes told me everything i needed to know.
    Making the decision to euthanize him was the most heartbreaking decision we’ve ever made in our lives, but also one we made without a doubt. As pet parents you will know when it’s the right time.
    My advice to you is to love him lots, keep him well hydrated through food and liquids( eating and drinking on his own is a huge sign that he is feeling ‘ok’) and be very observant of his body language (he will most likely retreat to a quiet and perhaps unusual place if he’s not feeling well).
    Like i said, you WILL know when it’s time to let him go, it will be unmistakable.
    Good luck and i’m sorry.

  • Bruna July 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hello, dear Jenna. First of all, I’m so sorry about your sweet cat. It’s very hard to say how much time he has. My dog, Carlota, had lung cancer and melanoma. She stayed with us for 4 more months. I miss her so much.

    I know everything about the subject. If you have any questions or want to talk about it, feel free to email me and add me at facebook. I would love to help.

  • C July 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Reading some of the other comments made me tear uncontrollably. Our 10 yo black cat, Moses died 2 years ago from liver and intestines cancer. We put the poor kitty through surgery and chemo, and on hindsight, we would not do that again. Moses started losing weight and when we brought him to the vet and got diagnosed, we were told he had 1-2 mths w/o treatment and maybe 6 months+, if he went for treatment. We decided to put Moses down 6 months after he got diagnosed, when he just looked skin and bones and pure misery.To this day, I wish I never put him through the surgery and chemo.

    Spend as much quality time with Tobi as you can. I am so sorry to hear that.

  • ariel July 9, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    we just lost one of our family cats a couple of weeks ago to esophagus cancer…i was lucky to be able to spend her last day together with her and my parents. she was as sweet as ever, but could not eat and could not even swallow her own saliva. it was so hard to watch, but she was noble about dealing with her suffering. she has been sweet, loyal, and noble…all qualities i hope to carry on in her honor. thinking of you and tobi…as many say, you will know when it’s time.

  • m July 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

    He will eat less and sleep more and even drift away at times in the amount of attention he requires. But that doesn’t necessarily its “time”.
    When he no longer has a good quality of life ,he will let you know. You will see it as everyone says, you will know it.
    Its also a great time to warm kids up to the idea of this natural process of change. Animals have a way of accepting the natural transitions of life better than humans sometimes and can be excellent teachers.

  • snaily July 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm


  • gracie July 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Aw I feel so bad for you, my beloved first cat died at 15 of liver failure, possibly cancer, I think they degenerate very fast, she only had a few days after diagnosis, it was quick in the end, which was good for her obviously. Let the kids be involved if you can, my mother wouldn’t let me come to the vet and it broke my teenage heart at the time, I wanted to be with her till the end.

  • Marisa and Creative Thursday July 11, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Oh Jenna. I’m so sorry. We went through this exactly with our cat Riley just a few months ago. In about a six week period of time he seemed to have had a sudden drop in weight. We took him into the vet where an x-ray showed a mass in his liver. At 17 yrs. of age, we too decided not to pursue any further testing or treatment, making sure he was comfortable in his last days with us. He stayed with us for 3 more weeks after that. From one day to the next he stopped eating and drinking and this is when we decided to make an appointment for the vet. As I’ve often heard before, somehow they know and he decided to leave on his own at home a few hours before the vet appointment. Sean and I sat with him for 2 hours and were there when he took his last breath.To be with him was heartbreaking and incredible all at the same time. I can’t even begin to describe the experience here, but if I can be of any comfort or additional help to you during this time, let me know. Thinking of you. Sending you, Mark, Claudine, Mia and Tobi lots and lots of love.

  • Joanna July 14, 2011 at 10:10 am

    this is late in responding but how is Tobi doing? I lost my Choco Kitty 3 years ago to liver disease and she fought to live when the vets said she wouldn’t last long. loved pets try hard to stay in this world with their human families as long as they can b/c they know their days together are numbered. her last days, i fed her fresh organic salmon every day and it gave both of us innumerable joy. it is almost a blessing to know, in a way, that the end is near. make them count. and yes, Tobi will tell you when he’s ready to go but it really does depend on the cat. Choco was always “talking” to me about everything but some cats are quiet and reflective and he may try and hide before he passes. be well..(weepy as i write this)

  • The Lil Bee July 14, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    This broke my heart. I feel for you and hope you have more time than expected and can fill those days with as much goodness as possible. Thinking of you. xx

  • mara July 15, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I’m going through something similar with my ginger cat at the moment. He has skin cancer and horrible crusty growths growing on his paws and face. One of his paws is two thirds covered in the growth. My only option when he was diagnosed was to amputate his paws and cut away half of his jaw. We decided that his quality of life with our two paws would be none existent so he is living his life hopping around on three legs. It is obvious that his one paw is causing him pain but he still enjoys to sit in the sunshine, cuddle up in bed, and eat like a mad man even though he is only skin and bones. I don’t know how much longer he can put up with this for but the vet told me I will know when its time. I’m not sure if that time is now or not. Its a terrible responsibility having to choose when to end your pets life.

  • Truly Smitten July 15, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Oh Jenna, that is so sad about Tobi….I hope that he’ll hang around for a good while longer. I have two mini doxies and I just cannot, CANNOT bear the thought of not having them around one day…*tearing*. Stay strong!

  • Megan July 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I have not been able to stop crying or to let go of my orange best friend, Oliver, since I started reading this post over an hour ago. Although he is only a year old now and extremely healthy, it absolutely breaks my heart to imagine the day when I will have to lose him after spending fifteen years together. My thoughts are with you during this time.

  • TammyR July 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I am very sorry about your cat’s diagnosis. My cat went through the same thing 2 years ago. We found a tumor on his leg, had it removed, only for it to start growing back as soon as the stitches were out. We removed that tumor once again before amputating his leg (after many tests at Auburn University’s vet hospital to determine that the cancer had not spready anywhere else). About 4 months later, another tumor appeared on his body. We had that one removed and he started declining within two weeks. I made the decision to have him put down since he was not eating or drinking, had lost 3 lbs in one week and his eye started glazing over. It was apparent that we had done all that we could do and the time was right. So, he passed about 6 months after we discovered the cancer. Best wishes for you and your cat. I know how difficult it is to go through this.

  • cheryl July 18, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    So sorry about your kitty. We lost our darling Ashley to cancer after 14 years together. She lost a lot of weight but didn’t suffer. We kept her at home and spent her last moments together.

  • eBridge advertising July 19, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Really heart touching one……..God bless this cat..Thanks for sharing your experience with us…We feel obliged.

  • angie July 21, 2011 at 12:35 am

    i’m so sorry to hear about your cat, jenna. this is one of the things i’m afraid of when i decided to get a pet of my own for the first time. he’ll be in my thoughts.

  • Manya July 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I know how much it hurts…I do feel for you Jenna, it’s hard

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