Cleo's Progress

One Cat's Struggle with Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

Sunday, August 17, 2014

RIP Cleo -- August 2000-August 2014

At the old (for her) age of 14, Cleo finally died yesterday.  After overcoming fatty liver disease in 2005, when she was only five years old, she lived for another nine years before a progressive paralysis affected her ability to function enough that we had to put her to sleep.

I'd had Cleo since she was just five and a half months old.  My neighbors at my very first apartment complex gave her to me back in the winter of 2000-01, so she was about 14 years old.  She nearly died when she was just five, when she stopped eating due to the introduction of a new dog and developed fatty liver disease.  I force fed her then until she started eating again.

She was a sensitive kitty, but she must have had a lot of spirit to overcome everything she did.  First fatty liver disease, and then the introduction of three more pets over the years: Grace the dog, Ivan the (really big) cat, and Izzy the barn kitten (a.k.a. hellcat).  She almost stopped eating again a couple of times, but never again with the same dire consequences to her health as the first time.

Then last year she stopped eating as much.  Always a fat cat, she slowly lost weight throughout the course of the year.  We assumed it was because her teeth were longer overdue for a cleaning and dental work, so we had it done last fall.

We still don't know what happened, but despite the timing, the neurologist said it couldn't have been anything caused by the dental.  Cleo started rubbing at the left side of her face all the time, until she rubbed the whiskers, hair, and eventually even the skin clean off.  Her left eye wasn't as open as the other, and was dilated differently, too.  We were in and out of the vet for pain meds and antibiotics, and then made the rounds through all the specialists: dentist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist (to check out a heart murmur), and finally the neurologist, who diagnosed her with some kind of spinal disease that was causing paralysis on the left side of her face (and to a lesser extent, the rest of her body).

Once on the right meds for the nerve pain, she did better for a while, but it was a definite downhill slide.  She lost control over the muscles that held her jaw open, and eventually it locked open from scar tissue caused by the atrophied muscles.  She took all of it in stride, though, learning to drink and eat despite her open mouth.  She always acted happy and greeted me when I got home.

The last week or two, though, she has been doing steadily worse.  She stopped eating a few weeks ago, either because her locked jaw was making it more difficult or because of some pain in her mouth from a broken tooth -- I'll never know.  At first she appreciated being syringe fed, reaching for the syringe like a bottle and purring the whole time, but gradually she stopped taking it as well.  Her mouth was obviously paining her more and more, and she had started behaving differently in small ways -- sleeping more, hiding more, greeting me less -- not all the time but with increasing frequency.

Both the neurologist and the dental specialist told me it was time, and so on Saturday, we said goodbye.  I was lucky to have the weekend off, perhaps the first weekend since the beginning of summer that I didn't have to work.  I slept in on Saturday with Cleo snuggled up under the covers with me -- her favorite place to sleep -- and spent the morning and early afternoon with her.  She slept in the window with the sun on her, then came back to the bed and spend a little time with me while I worked on my computer.  All in all, it was a good last day.

Letting go was still so hard, and I'm still not sure I made the right decision.  After her morning of rest, she perked up a bit later in the afternoon, shortly before we left for the vet's.  It was hard to see her so alert, especially since the other pets we've put to sleep have been visibly ready to give up.  But I was worried about getting enough food into her, especially if she continued fighting me and was so obviously in pain from her mouth, and I didn't want to have to watch her starve to death.

She was a good kitty, the best of kitties, right up until the end.  I was lucky to have such a loyal, affectionate kitty for most of my adult life.  And she was lucky to have me, too.  If I had not fought so hard to save her when she had feline hepatic lipidosis back in 2005, she would not have been with me these last nine years.

I'll always miss you, Cleo.



  • At August 24, 2014 at 8:45 PM , Blogger Mugs Stump said...

    RIP Cleo and thanks for your work on this blog.

  • At August 24, 2014 at 8:46 PM , Blogger Mugs Stump said...

    RIP Cleo and thanks for your work on this blog.

  • At September 26, 2014 at 10:22 PM , Blogger Katharine Swan said...

    Thanks, Mugs Stump. Losing Cleo was hard -- she'd been with me nearly all my adult life. Sometimes I just stop and wonder how I'm able to still be going about my life. I'm sure anyone who has lost a pet knows that feeling.

    In a way, though, I made Cleo immortal when I started this blog. Publishing her story and helping so many other owners of cats with FDL has made her live on. She had such determination to live, I think she would be glad if she knew her story has helped so many other cats over the years.

  • At October 29, 2014 at 8:25 PM , Blogger KK said...


    I wrote about my cat, Clifford, and how he died two days after starting esophageal tube feeding. I don't know why, but I didn't see Cleo's photos before I wrote to you. I looked at Cleo's photos since then and was astonished to see that Cleo looked so much like Clifford that I could have believed they were photos of him if someone showed them to me. They are not exactly alike as they are different individuals, but the eyes, the fur, the long fully bushy tail are so very similar.

    Clifford was 13 years and 8 months old when he died on October 2nd and I got him out of the pound when he was 6 1/2 weeks old in 2001. They were not so far apart in age. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Seeing that Cleo looks so similar to my Clifford makes the pain even more palatable. At least it seems that you did your best to take care of her and so I am hoping you know that is true. An animal that is fully loved is blessed and carries that love to whatever follows this life.


  • At November 11, 2014 at 2:30 PM , Blogger Katharine Swan said...

    Kate, thanks so much for this comment. I know that there wasn't much else I could do for Cleo. I've come to terms with the timing of her death. I think I chose right. I did as much for her as I could, gave her as much time as I could. Even at the end, I don't think she wanted to go, but I don't think she EVER would have wanted to go. I'm just glad I had as much time with her as I did.

    It's hard to think that way too soon after they pass, I think, but I hope in a few months you'll be able to look back on it and know that you did what you could.


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