Our precious Henderson died on Tuesday, a week shy of the fourth anniversary of him arriving here. When we picked him up back in 2017 he was seriously dehydrated and collapsed. We believe he’d been dumped at the side of the road as there was no sign of an accident and he wasn’t strong enough to have walked there. He was taken immediately to the vets and was named on the way after the old Henderson’s factory that we passed, because he needed to be a someone by the time he arrived there and not just an unwanted poorly old cat.
He laid on the examination table, unable to stand, but purring so loudly. In a rush of emotion I said to Dr Tim that if he survived the night he would be staying here with us. I like to think that he recognised that he was being offered a good deal. I stood by my promise and he stayed around for another four years to fully take advantage of it.
Dr Tim guesstimated him to be fourteen when he arrived, though he could well have been quite a bit older, or maybe it was just having a rough life that had aged him
The other residents here decided that they liked him immediately, and all subsequent guests and residents have loved him too. There are always some squabbles and factions in a multi cat household, but Uncle Henderson was everyone’s friend. Everyone wanted to sit with him and do head bumps with him. He was a great favourite with any small kittens that we fostered, a lovely steady furry presence to snuggle up to.
After a few months here he was diagnosed with hyperthryoid and then a couple of years ago with chronic kidney disease. He steadfastly refused to read the text books about either of these conditions and resisted conforming to any expectations of the courses they would follow or the impact of the various medications he was given.
We celebrated Christmas 2019 believing that neither he nor his friend Jango would be with us for Christmas 2020. Henderson pursued a new lockdown hobby of collecting diagnoses and early in 2020 he added high blood pressure to the list. He started to drink more and more during lockdown (only water – unlike the rest of us!). We feared his kidney disease was getting the better of him. Then one dreadful week in May he was very poorly and we decided that despite the vets only being open for emergencies, he needed to be seen. The next day Jango died very suddenly. The following day Henderson was admitted as an inpatient and we thought we were going to lose him too.
The next day was Flipper’s birthday and we usually make a bit of a do of it because she’s the only one of the residents who’s birthday we know for certain. The celebratory ham was put on hold in the freezer and we sat and waited for news. We had that awful conversation with the vet about needing improvement in the next 24 hours or we’d need to be thinking about saying goodbye. Hendo had other ideas though … as usual. Instead of saying goodbye he had a nice week being pampered by his favourite nurse, Sam, and arrived home for a delayed birthday party … with a diagnosis of diabetes.
Of course he didn’t read the textbook about diabetes either. His blood tests (both the blood glucose ones we did at home AND the more comprehensive tests done at the vets) were all over the place. I suspect he simply didn’t revise properly and then just guessed at random numbers when it came to the test. The vet team have been brilliant with him but often the interpretation of the results just seemed to be that he shouldn’t actually be alive with whichever levels he was running. He was though … and we adored him for it.
He chose the anniversary of my father’s death in July to throw himself at death’s door again, occasioning yet another sleepless night on the sofa with him, followed by another inpatient stay. He returned from that one with a diagnosis of anaemia ticked off in his collection.
We bought a heat pad at the beginning of last year mainly to help with Jango’s achey joints. It was so popular that we bought a second one, and Henderson claimed that. He found he had lots of friends keen to share that with him.
As he became more frail, he spent almost all his time on the heat pad, only leaving it for food and litter tray. When it got too difficult to jump up onto the sofa where his heat pad was, we put a footstool there to give him a step up. When it got too difficult to get onto the footstool we put some boxes there to give him a step up to the footstool. When he started to get a bit muddled (or maybe his eyesight was failing) and sometimes set of over the side of the footstool rather than down the step, we set up a crash pad of blankets on the floor. By that stage I spent most of my time sitting next to him and lifting him up and down as required.
Each day for many months has brought it’s worries about him. Each day has largely revolved around him. Each morning we’d be up in time for his injection and each evening not settle down while he’d had his second injection. As time has gone on I’ve found that I’m watching him and checking on him most of the time: lifting him, cleaning him, doing medication, injections, blood tests, eye drops, encouraging him to eat, taking him to the vets, making and keeping him safe and comfortable. It’s completely been worth it, I don’t regret a minute of it. I wasn’t on my own caring for him … the others sat with him, purred to him and washed his head.
His popularity within the family soared as we fussed around him, opening one pouch after another to tempt him to eat. He liked to take just one or two mouthfuls before moving on to the next dish. We called it the ‘Hender-buffet’ and the others flocked behind him to eat what he left. I’m amazed by how generous they were. They waited while he’d finished before tucking in, and if he wanted what they were eating they dropped back and let him. You could knock him over with a friendly head bump so it would have been no effort to stop him if they’d wanted to. We established a family tradition of serving chicken or other treats after his evening injection. Very soon, like Pavlov’s dogs, a queue of hopeful cats began to form at the sight of syringes and insulin bottles.
We were amazed and delighted to still have him with us for Christmas 2020, though I wept when I saw the difference between his Christmas photos of the two years.
On Tuesday morning he really wasn’t himself. He’s gradually got more and more frail to the point where it’s hard to imagine how much more frail he could be whilst still staying with us. He refused to eat at all, not even his favourite foods, not even when they were hand fed on his heat pad. Thankfully that day I could just bring work downstairs and sit with him on the sofa. Although we called the vets for advice we decided not to take the appointment that was offered. There was no treatment that was going to make him well again, he was warm and comfy on the sofa and showed no signs of distress. I’d said to him a couple of days previously that if he wanted to go and be with his friend Jango that that would be ok. I think he’d decided now was the time.
He passed to rainbow bridge lying on his heat pad on the sofa next to me, with some of his feline friends around him. We cleaned him up and wrapped a blanket round him and he stayed here overnight for lots more cuddles and so that the rest of the fur family could visit him and pay their respects. Then a final journey to the vet and a tearful handover to nurse Sam on the car park. He’ll be home next week and sitting on the shelf with his mate Jango.
Thank you the team at Millhouses Vets4Pets for your care of him (and us!), especially nurse Sam and Dr Tim. Huge thanks to my lovely friends who have dared to ask regularly “How’s Henderson today?” Thanks also to our wonderful supporters who enabled us to give this lovely old boy some love and happiness in his twlight years.