A few weeks ago we had to put one of our cats, Jokulhaups, down. He was only 3 years old, but he had developed FIP. From what we understand through the vet and some Googling, there is a common virus that many cats get when they’re young, but all it really does is give them some diarrhea before they get over it. However, in some cats, it then mutates into FIP, and there is no known cure for FIP at this time. Cats usually affected by FIP are on the young end or the old end, and the vet said Jokulhaups was on the upper edge of the young end that get it.
After we put him down we had him cremated, and we got him back yesterday. They put him in a nice wooden box and printed a shiny gold sticker with his name on it – unfortunately it was spelled wrong, but it’s on the back, and I’m considering ordering a plaque for the front. We put the Jokulhaups Magic the Gathering card (which he was named after) next to him.
Jokulhaups was such a smart and determined kitty. We got him along with Dragon in 2011, and from the beginning he was finding ways to rebel against us. When we first got them we kept them shut in our bathroom so they could become more comfortable before we released them into the apartment. Jokulhaups was always eager to explore more and kept trying to escape the bathroom, so soon we decided to expand their area. It’s a bit hard to explain, but basically across from the bathroom door was the door to our bedroom. Standing at the bathroom door looking at the bedroom door, there was a wall to the right, then a sort of open frame to the left that led to the rest of the apartment. What we decided to do was take a folding table and lean it on its side against the open frame, so that the cats could travel from the bathroom to the bedroom but couldn’t get to the rest of the apartment. It was at a height where we could just barely swing our legs over it to get back and forth when we needed to. Jokulhaups decided that wasn’t enough – the tiny 2-month-old kitten jumped high enough to just jump over the table! No matter how many times we put him back, he would just jump back over. At that point we just gave up and let them explore the entire apartment.
Jokulhaups had crazy energy and loved to play. He also got into everything, though. He chewed through a laptop cable once, and he would chew any paper or pens he found, so we learned to keep everything shut away. That wasn’t quite enough though – he learned to open the drawers and cabinets in our desks and in the kitchen. We ended up velcroing them shut, but he was so strong that sometimes he was still able to pull them open, as they all had handles. It was pretty amazing to watch – the kitchen cabinets had vertical bar handles, so he would just stand, place his left paw against the left cabinet door for stability, and use his right paw to pull on the handle just like a human.
At our second apartment, he was also able to open the kitchen cabinets – these cabinets were the kind with a little indentation at the bottom for you to pull with your fingers, and he figured those out, so we would often come home to random cabinets open. We were able to reorganize to keep important things where he couldn’t reach though, so we left them. At this apartment we discovered another amazing thing he could do – when we first moved to this one, we kept them in the bedroom only, to make it easier for us to unpack outside. Again, this was not good enough for Jokulhaups. He apparently watched us enough to figure out how to open doors – the doors at this apartment were light and the hinges were loose, so all he had to do was pull down on the handle and he was out. It was pretty scary the first time we were in the living room and all of a sudden heard the bedroom door opening. We ended up having to keep the bedroom door locked until we were ready to let them roam free.
As I mentioned before, the doors at this second apartment had loose hinges – the bathroom door would naturally swing almost shut. Opposite from Jokulhaups, Dragon decided it was fun to shut doors, so she would go into the bathroom and lean a bit on the door so that it would shut completely. The first time she did this, I watched Jokulhaups open the door for her again from the outside. However, he wouldn’t open it for her after that all the times she decided it was fun, so after coming home to her shut in the bathroom a few times, we just had to get a door stop to keep her from shutting herself in.
When we got our condo, we actually decided our kitchen cabinet styles based on Jokulhaups – what would be the most difficult for him to open? We settled on flat cabinets with a round knob. He couldn’t possibly open those, right? …Wrong. We once again came home to random open cabinets. Jack told me he witnessed him open one once – he actually wrapped his little paw around the round knob! How did he know to do that?! We also came home to some open closet doors a few times, but I guess they were too boring for him, as he eventually stopped opening them.
Jokulhaups grew up to be a very large healthy kitty, ending up around 16 pounds as a 3-year-old. Dragon is only around 9 pounds. When we first got them Jokulhaups would be pretty aggressive, and would win any play-fights. Over time though it seemed that he would let her win – we would watch as he would lay on his back with his belly wide open, and allow Dragon to just pounce at him. He loved to play and didn’t use his weight as an advantage. He was also so very friendly – a friend brought her cat over once and that cat and Dragon were terrified, but he just wanted to play! He excitedly went right up to that cat to investigate, and tried to play. We also brought them over to another friend’s place that had two cats, and Dragon and those cats were terrified, but Jokulhaups just kind of took the entire apartment over, investigating everything. He loved to say hello whenever anyone would come over.
When we moved to our condo in January, we noticed that he became a little more reserved – we figured he was growing up and maturing. We no longer needed to keep our pens and papers hidden away, and he did not open the cabinets as often as at the last apartment. However, a few months after that we noticed that he slowly stopped eating. We couldn’t figure out why, as we didn’t change anything around that time, but after a while he started eating again, so we didn’t think much of it after that. A few months later we noticed that he seemed to be losing his balance. When he was on the couch, he was very unsteady, and he quickly got worse – he didn’t have the strength to jump up onto the couch when he wanted to snuggle, and would fall back down and give up. We took him to the vet and they could see he was unsteady and that he had lost 6 pounds, but couldn’t find anything obviously wrong with him, so they took some blood for testing and let us know they would get back to us.
When they did get back to us, we found out that he had FIP. It was uncertain how long he had. At the vet appointment they had injected him with some fluids, and we got some liquid medicine to give him that would make him a bit more comfortable, but not cure him. He wasn’t happy with the medicine though; the first day he took it fine, but the next few days after that he would throw up the morning dosage. We went back to the vet and they gave him some long-term antibiotic shots (long-term meaning a few weeks) so we could stop giving him the liquid medicine. They also showed us how to inject fluids into him, so that if the fluids helped and he felt better, we could give him fluids weekly on our own. It kind of freaked me out – I don’t do well with needles, and the fluids also cause a hump under his skin when injected that also freaked me out, so I couldn’t really watch and Jack had to take the responsibility of learning how to do it.
The shots and fluids seemed to help him a bit – he was much more awake and aware, and was hungrily eating the liquidy food they gave us for him (he was too weak to eat the chunky food we usually give them, so we mixed the liquidy food with some water, heated it in the microwave, and spoon-fed it to him multiple times a day). However he was still very weak. We had to go out of town for a wedding and had my brother watch the cats, but by the time we came back he could no longer stand. We found him laying under the couch in our second bedroom, and we didn’t want to disturb him so we didn’t move him, but we became very concerned that night. Every night since we’ve had the cats they always join us for bed – Dragon always sleeps on my pillow and eventually migrates to snuggle with Jack, while Jokulhaups would often sleep on different spots on the bed. Even if he didn’t sleep on the bed, he would always be in the room. However that night he did not join us, and was still in the exact same position under the couch the next day. It seemed that his legs were slowly becoming paralyzed; his little feet got colder and colder.
At that point we knew we didn’t have much time left. He could not get up to eat or go to the bathroom. We put a towel under him, and spent the next few nights next to him on an air mattress in that second bedroom. He’s always squeaked rather than meowed, and whenever he squeaked at us we would lay him in the litter box in case he needed to pee. During the day, the sun shines directly into that room, so we placed him in front of the window so he could enjoy it while we were at work.
The day before we were scheduled to put him down, we bought some rattly mice. They have always been his favorite toy, but he would always lose them under things when he played with them. I figured I would give him one more. However, I couldn’t get just one, in case Dragon took it from him because she didn’t have one. So, we gave Dragon one of them outside in the living room where he couldn’t see, hoping that it would make him less upset that he couldn’t play. We gave him his in the second bedroom – I thought that it would make him feel better but it was so heart-breaking. He immediately grabbed it in this mouth and tried with all his strength to get up and play with it. When he couldn’t, it just dropped it and lay there.
The day of, we took the day off work to spend time with him in the sunny second bedroom. Dragon joined us, and we spent a lazy family day in the sun. When we put him down, they let us leave that rattly mouse with him.
We’ve tried to keep an eye on Dragon since then to make sure she is okay. Thinking back on it, she did become very clingy a little while before Jokulhaups got really bad, perhaps because he stopped playing with her. She started following our schedule very closely – when we went to get ready for bed, she would follow us and sit on the edge of the tub waiting. Then, once we were done, she would follow us to bed and fall asleep with us as usual. She was always there when we woke up – and she still does all that now. She was never that close with Jokulhaups; the very few times I caught them snuggling, I could tell it was Jokulhaups that snuggled up with her, and she never really paid much attention to him even at the very end, other than some play-fighting. She seems okay now, but I think she still misses him, and she had never been home alone before that day. Now she is all alone by herself all day when we are at work. After a few more months, I think we may get another kitty to keep her company.
This got really really long, but I wanted to remember Jokulhaups. Goodbye, Jokulhaups – we love you.