Eratosthenes 1993-2007


RIP Big Guy

Our cat Eratosthenes passed away at home today. We never called him that though. We always called him Big Guy, Guyben, Biggest Guy, or Erryl, if we wanted something derived from his full name. Eratosthenes was a scientist in ancient Greece and at the great Library of Alexandria. It was the perfect name for a cat who was always poking his nose into every nook and cranny of our house, being all adventurous, exploring everything he could see. Eratosthenes will be sorely missed.


When we merged our cat families in Brady-Bunch-like fashion just about three years ago, Erryl wasn’t the happiest kitty and was having a hard time adjusting. He doesn’t get along well with other kitties, and prefers a cat-free home if he had a choice, excepting him of course. There were a few fights with Tucker our resident fuzzy bully. However, the worst problem was his marking issue, which wasn’t acceptable. Fortunately, we were able to consult a behaviorist and got him on some meds to help him cope. After that he was better and started to mellow out and tolerate the other cats more, although Tucker would still bully him from time to time. Mostly though, Erryl was very happy and enjoyed his favorite sleeping places, getting his catnip, and watching the wildlife out the window.

Being on meds though required some vigilance as far as getting blood and making sure everything was normal. We hadn’t done that since last April and a few weeks ago it seemed that he was a little more lethargic and had less than normal appetite. Tina wanted to check him out, and so last week we took him to the clinic to get some blood, and to give him a general exam. Tina palpated him and noticed some lumpiness near his liver. Lumps are never a good sign, but we needed to do some more tests, namely an ultrasound, before we would know what the exact problem was.

His blood work came back fine. Tina said was it was “totally boring” so we needed to do the ultrasound to see if there was anything that could tell us. We took him in for that last Thursday, and the good news was that his liver and kidneys looked fine. The bad news was that there was a large mass near his pancreas. It didn’t look good so they aspirated to examine it further. All signs pointed to pancreatic cancer, and the lab confirmed that to some degree, but they wanted to do a biopsy to be certain. The prognosis for pancreatic tumors isn’t good. Basically, surgery isn’t really an option because it’s almost impossible to cut everything out. Moreover, tumors of the pancreas are very aggressive so a decision had to be made very quickly.

The Last Week

Given the poor probability of success and the poor quality of life for Erryl if we elected to do surgery, we decided not to operate on him. We didn’t even want to do the biopsy, because we didn’t want him to have to leave the house ever again. It just didn’t feel right putting him through a traumatic operation and a long recovery, and then have the tumor come back. Even worse, they could have started operating and we might have to had to put him to sleep right there on the operating table if the tumor looked really bad after the surgeon opened him up. Of all possible options, the best one seemed to be taking him home and doing our best to make him comfortable.

The last week of his life was a challenge. Mostly for him, of course, but with his appetite being so poor, we had to resort to giving him appetite stimulants to get him to eat something. I hated giving him the pills but it improved things somewhat and he was always interested in food when I put it out, even if he didn’t eat much. He also wasn’t drinking much, so we had to give him subcutaneous fluids, which he also didn’t like. However it seemed to help and he was pretty comfortable and still had a surprising amount of energy, even if that wasn’t at his normal levels.

The tumor progressed though and his abdomen started to get distended from the tumor and the fluids that were filling his belly. Even so he was pretty steady for the last week. He would get on the bed without any problems to snuggle with me, and he would meow his sweet meow at me when he wanted his food, even though he didn’t eat a lot. We tried a lot of different things: fresh Fancy Feast or Friskies, Tuna juice, and baby food. Often times it was a buffet where we’d try one of everything until I gave him something he liked. The other cats were into this as they’d usually get the portions that he didn’t eat.

He was doing OK until yesterday, when he started to decline very quickly. He had eaten his usual small amount in the morning, but when I got home from work he was definitely a lot more lethargic, and not interested in food at all, including tuna juice, which was his favorite until now. At that point, we knew the end was near and we gave him some more fluids and some pain meds to make him comfortable until the next day, when we could say our last farewells.

The Final Day

Erryl didn’t sleep on the bed for the first time that last week, deciding to spend time in the closet on some fleece we had put down for him after he got home from the ultrasound a week ago. Even though we didn’t need too many more signs that the end was near, it just affirmed our decision that it was time to help him on his way. We cleared the other cats out of the bedroom, to give him some peace and quiet. I had to do some work in the morning, but my mind was never far away from Erryl. Our friend Laurie had stayed the night because she had a class at the local college, so we waited until after she left. Also, we canceled the painter who was coming to paint our door that day so we’d have some time to spend with the big guy.

Once we were ready we gave him a sedative to relax him and some meds to help his pain. He was such a trooper, purring while we reassured him and stayed by his side. After a bit we let him go back into the closet on his fleece until the sedative kicked in. It was pretty hard to see him like he was, obviously in some discomfort and not himself at all. However he would purr a little when I checked on him to see if the sedative was working.

Finally it was time for the final injection. We put him on his favorite afghan and fleece and hugged him, balling our eyes out at the same time. He was still purring even after we gave him the injection. Because it wasn’t intravenous, but in his abdomen, it was going to take a little longer. However he was calm and he slowly drifted off to his final sleep with both of us holding him and petting him and telling him how brave he was and how much we loved him, all the same time while we were crying because it was the final goodbye.

Goodbye Big Guy

We’ll miss the big guy. Not doing the surgery and having him spend his final moments in our home where he was comfortable was the right thing for us to do. I’ll always remember him purring softly while he drifted away, and I was crying because I was sad but also happy that he wasn’t going to be suffering anymore. Au revoir, Big Guy.


November 2013

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