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Oscar was my first kitten. I had always been a dog person growing up, as had my boyfriend, Greg. We had just moved to Bushwick, and one night while Greg was still at work, I went to the pet store with our roommate to pick up some food for her cat. When I arrived, I instantly noticed a cage full of 5 beautiful little kittens. I asked if I could hold one, and that’s when it happened. I found myself holding the most beautiful little grey kitten I had ever seen.
The first week of having Oscar was filled with mice on strings and chasing his favorite ball. His big personality really started to show as he started to experience life outside the little cage from the pet store. I’d never had a cat before, but at the end of the week something seemed off; Oscar was lethargic, and one night he wouldn’t eat. Unsure what else to do, we took him to the emergency vet.
At the vet, they did some tests and agreed that something was not right. After the doctor recommended we keep him there overnight to do more tests, I immediately began to worry. The next day, I called as soon as I woke up. They told us the results had come back and for us to come in to talk to them. I immediately had a horrible feeling; something was obviously not right. We raced over to the vet and that’s when they told us: Oscar had lost most of his white blood cells, and he was suffering from a disease called panleukopenia (FPV). It is a highly contagious and life-threatening disease in kittens.
The options we were then given were to either give Oscar a full-blood transfusion, which would cost thousands of dollars and only had a 30% success rate, or to put him to sleep. My heart sunk. I had just moved apartments in New York City, and although I had a savings account for emergencies, I was not financially prepared for this, especially the first week in. Still, any amount of money that could save him seemed worth it; in the eight days we’d had him, he became a part of our family, and we couldn’t give up just yet.
Frantic and crying, I called the rescue agency we had gotten him through to get their opinion on the situation, especially after the vet recommended to put him down. They agreed to cover some of the costs, and knew of a vet that had successfully treated a kitten with this before. We immediately got Oscar transferred to the vet right near Coney Island, and the operation was completed. All we could do was wait. The vet was an hour and a half train ride from my job in Jersey City, so every night for two weeks after work I went to see Oscar for only a half hour before they closed for the night. I would stand there and hold him as he was attached to all of the machines, praying he would get better and make it through.
Every day he seemed to get better. He slowly started eating again on his own, and after two of the longest weeks of my life, the tests came back: the operation was a success, and we could take our little guy home with us. I was elated; I really couldn’t believe everything worked out. Though it was a horrible experience to go through, it created a bond between us that was so special. Soon enough, things were back to normal at home. We had Oscar back with us, and a few months later, we decided to get Oscar a little sister. We named her Zoe. At first Oscar was a bit confused as to why there was a little kitten running around, but by the second day they were inseparable.
Oscar did not let Zoe out of his sight. He was a true big brother in every sense of the word. They were constantly napping, playing and running around together. Zoe was the opposite of Oscar; she wasn’t interested in affection unless it was on her terms, but Oscar was the one exception. I was so glad they had each other while we were at work during the day, and always looked forward to seeing them when I got home at night.
In the fall of the same year, we decided to move to a different apartment in Bushwick. At first, everything seemed to be going smoothly; moves can be stressful for cats, but a week or two after moving, Oscar’s mood seemed to shift. He started hiding under the table and in the closet, and we thought he was maybe just a bit depressed and missing the old apartment. One night when I came back from work I noticed that he hadn’t eaten his breakfast, so we decided to take him to the vet the following morning. Every worry from the last time we went came rushing back, and once again I was in instant panic mode, hoping that nothing was wrong.
The vet determined he had a fever and prescribed him an antibiotic. He regained his appetite, but after a couple of days he was still acting a bit funny and stopped eating once again. We decided to not take any chances and took him back to the vet and had him stay the night so we could get more testing done. The next day was probably one of the worst days of our life. Greg called me at work. He said the vet had poked into Oscars belly because it seemed to be filled with fluid, and something yellow had come out, which the tell-tale symptom of Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP. For anyone who doesn’t know what FIP is, it is an incurable virus, with most cats succumbing to the disease in a month or less.
The vet told us that cats with FIP are likely to have random seizures. He might have more fluid buildup, or have his ability to walk and see affected. His quality of life would be very low. The vet also explained that FIP does not have a cure. We then had to make the hardest decision of our lives. We didn’t know what to do. I’ve had family pets before that we had to put down because of old age, but nothing could compare to this. Oscar had just turned one. Of course I would’ve loved to keep him alive for weeks, even months, but the last thing I wanted to do was be selfish.
After hours of agonizing, and out of respect for Oscar, we decided the best thing to do was to put him down that night as he had already started to show extreme signs of fatigue The only thing we could do was cherish our final moments with him. Oscar had overcome the odds once, and we knew we were still fortunate to have the year with him that we did. I gave him one last nuzzle with my beard, and he gave me one last purr. It was something I will honestly remember the rest of my life.
It’s been almost a year since we put Oscar down, and I miss him just as much as I did before. A couple of months after everything happened, we noticed Zoe was extremely lonely, so we decided to get her a little brother, Charlie. It turns out Charlie and Oscar share the same birthday. I’m not a very spiritual person, but something about this gives me comfort. I took it as a sign from the universe that even though Oscar is gone, he is still with us.