Dealing with my pet sitting client’s cat that was put to sleep

How I dealt with my pet sitting client’s cat that was put to sleep

It’s only been 24 hours since I found out that he isn’t alive. My client Lyndsay responded to my email about letting me know if the animal hospital found out what was wrong with him. I sent the email about 4 pm on a Monday, and I saw her response a few hours later. It sounded like they were working on finding out what was wrong. I thought that he would be okay, but I emailed her to give me an update because I feared the worst.

She had asked me on Saturday if I could do a last-minute visit on Sunday. It had been a busy week of dog walks and pet visits and the previous Thursday and Friday were extremely busy. I would have said that I couldn’t do the visit if it had been any other client. But she watched my cats last year when I took my dog camping. I’m so grateful I said yes.

His name was Prince

Prince was an absolutely fantastic cat. So friendly and lovable. I would always hear him jump off the bed as I was unlocking her door. And there he was when I opened the door. Although I’m sure he was craving the can of wet cat food, he always wanted some attention first.

He would start to eat as soon as I put the plate of wet food on the floor, but he would take breaks to come back to me. Lyndsay also had some fish that I would feed. Plus I had to give Prince some treats, fresh water and scoop his litter. During all the other duties, he would come to me wanting some more attention.

I would do all that so that I would have 10 minutes or so just for him. After I was done with the chores were done, I would sit on the floor, leaning against the couch, and he would rub up against me. Then he would smell my feet, or he would climb up on my legs and walk all over me. He was one of my favorite cats. I’ll say it again he was so friendly, and I truly miss him. May his spirit, his energy, his essence be somewhere wonderful.

Finding out he was ill

I saw him on Sunday. On Monday Lyndsay called me while I was walking a dog. She wanted to know what time I had been there. She told me that she had found him having convulsions but otherwise not moving. My heart sank. The doctors wanted to know the last time someone had seen him. I said that my visit was around 8:30 am and that he seemed fine.

She immediately took him o the animal hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. The vets were trying to figure out what was wrong and knowing the time frame of events would help. I let her go and told her that I hope everything would be okay with him.

All day I was worried about him and I tried to think of anything out of the ordinary (cleaning supplies, strange behavior) but I couldn’t think of anything. I emailed her when I was done work to see how things went. I was getting ready to walk my dog when I saw her reply. That’s when I saw the first few words “…he had to be put to sleep.” I did not want to see that. Not Prince. He was fine the day before. How could this happen?

She also mentioned in the email that he was having seizures and that nothing the vets were doing was working. Lyndsay didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. And she kept thinking that maybe she left something out that he ingested. So easy for pets to get into trouble and for the owner to think they are to blame.

I have had two cats die suddenly in front of me, while I was trying to comfort them. They drew their last breaths while I was petting them. It’s very upsetting when your pet dies suddenly like that.

My Pets that died suddenly

My cat Charlie2
My cat Charlie

My first pet as an adult was my cat, Charlie. She had a growth on her stomach that was quite large. One of my cat sitting clients was a vet, and he took a look at her. I can’t remember all the details, but he wasn’t that worried about it. She had always had a lot of health problems.

It was almost Thanksgiving and I was swamped with pet sitting until after the holiday and I thought I’d take her to the vet after the holiday rush. I would have taken her in right away if my client thought it was serious – I regret that I didn’t. One day I woke her to find blood on her favorite sleeping spot. It seemed the sac or lump or whatever has started to bleed. My vet client came over but she went downhill really fast. Just like that, she was gone.

Pet Portrait of Squeeks
My cat Squeaks

Another cat I lost was Squeaks. He had gotten out my back door when I wasn’t looking, climbed a tree and couldn’t come down. A few days earlier my car broke down on the way to a camping trip. It had all my rope in it. I had dislocated my shoulder 2 years earlier and climbing would not have been easy, but I would have tried it if I had some rope.

I eventually found a bar owner who loaned me a ladder – it wasn’t tall enough. I called Animal Control the first day that he got stuck. They finally came five days later! They used a pole with a rope on it, and it caught him around the neck. I don’t know if that choked him or if he was weak from lack of food or water that caused him to die. And yes, I still feel horrible knowing that I let him get out.

My response to hearing Prince didn’t make it

So when I saw Lyndsay’s reply, I knew exactly how she felt. She had only written a few sentences in her email reply but I knew she was upset. I could tell because her sentences were hastily written. She mentioned again about wondering if she left something out that he ingested.

I called her immediately after reading her reply. I was hesitant for a moment thinking she may not want to talk but I called her anyway. We talked for 5 or 10 minutes. First about, what she thought happened, but she didn’t really know why he was sick.

Lyndsay adopted him a few years ago when he was maybe 3 or 4 years old. She told me that he had always been healthy without any issues. I shared with her that he was one of my favorite cats, mostly because “…he was so damn friendly.” She knew exactly what I meant and agreed. I got a little choked up by the end of the call. She thanked me for calling, and we said goodbye.

It’s about 24 hours since hearing the bad news as I’m writing this and I’m still upset. I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up a few times and immediately started thinking about Prince and Lyndsay. I’m so grateful that I said yes to the pet visit, as I got to see him one last time. I sincerely wish Lindsay could have seen him healthy one more time as well.

I emailed her back to see how she is doing and if she has any photos of him. I have Photoshop, and I offered to clean them up if need be (crop, contrast, color, etc.) and I suggested an online place where she could order prints.

I wrote this post mostly for myself, but if anyone happens to read it the online site is AdoramaPix. I had them print and mail photos of my cats Charlie and Squeaks.

For any pet sitters who experience this, my advice would be to do what you can. It depends on how well you knew the pet, how the pet passed away (tragically or from old age\sickness), and how well you know the owners. You can let them know you can help if they need. It’s more about communication and reaching out than anything else.

And on a final note: “Where ever you are Prince, Lyndsay loved you and so did I.”

Jim Kernicky

I have been a dog walker and pet sitter for my business Fairmount Pet Service in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia since 2008.